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Benny Morris slams Finkelstein as a ‘notorious distorter of facts’

by Brad A. Greenberg

May 11, 2008 | 9:45 pm

After reading Norman Finkelstein’s claim that journalist Jeffrey Goldberg tortured Palestinians while serving in the Israeli military two decades ago, Gilead Ini from the pro-Israel media watchdog CAMERA sent me this story.

In it, Ini had referred to a speech in which Finkelstein’s misused Benny Morris, the dean of Israel’s New Historians, to validate Jimmy Carter‘s apartheid comparison. (Morris was, in fact, referred to several times Wednesday at UC Irvine.) Here was Morris’ reply to CAMERA, which sounds familiar:

Norman Finkelstein is a notorious distorter of facts and of my work, not a serious or honest historian.

Israel is not an apartheid state — rather the opposite, it is easily the most democratic and politically egalitarian state in the Middle East, in which Arabs Israelis enjoy far more freedom, better social services, etc. than in all the Arab states surrounding it. Indeed, Arab representatives in the Knesset, who continuously call for dismantling the Jewish state, support the Hezbollah, etc., enjoy more freedom than many Western democracies give their internal Oppositions. (The U.S. would prosecute and jail Congressmen calling for the overthrow of the U.S. Govt. or the demise of the U.S.) The best comparison would be the treatment of Japanese Americans by the US Govt ... and the British Govt. [incarceration] of German emigres in Britain WWII ... Israel’s Arabs by and large identify with Israel’s enemies, the Palestinians. But Israel hasn’t jailed or curtailed their freedoms en masse (since 1966 [when Israel lifted its state of martial law]).

[Morris later added: “Israel ... has not jailed tens of thousands of Arabs indiscriminately out fear that they might support the Arab states warring with Israel; it did not do so in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973 or 1982 — despite the Israeli Arabs’ support for the enemy Arab states.”]

As to the occupied territories, Israeli policy is fueled by security considerations (whether one agrees with them or not, or with all the specific measures adopted at any given time) rather than racism (though, to be sure, there are Israelis who are motivated by racism in their attitude and actions towards Arabs) — and indeed the Arab population suffers as a result. But Gaza’s and the West Bank’s population (Arabs) are not Israeli citizens and cannot expect to benefit from the same rights as Israeli citizens so long as the occupation or semi-occupation (more accurately) continues, which itself is a function of the continued state of war between the Hamas-led Palestinians (and their Syrian and other Arab allies) and Israel.

Coincidentally, Morris, whose latest book, “1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War,” has received a lot of attention, had an op-ed in today’s LA Times that began, “Israel at 60 is a sad place.”

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