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Walt And Mearsheimer On The Road: More Distortion

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In 2004 Morris published a new book, with the same title but with the word “Revisited” added. In a January 14, 2004 article in The Guardian (“For the Record”) marking the publication of “Revisited,Morris wrote that his earlier book suffered from a “major methodological flaw” – the unavailability, at that time, of Israeli military and intelligence documents, which under Israeli law were sealed for 50 years.

During the late 1990’s, the Haganah and IDF archives from 1948 began to open up, and the 1948 Israeli cabinet deliberations also became available. Morris said the documents in this “giant declassification” – while not changing his main conclusions from 1988 – “shed a great deal of light on all major aspects of the creation of the refugee problem.” One of his conclusions was that “a far greater proportion of the 700,000 Arab refugees were ordered or advised by their fellow Arabs to abandon their homes than I had previously registered.”


It is clear from the new documentation that the Palestinian leadership in principle opposed the Arab flight from December 1947 to April 1948, while at the same time encouraging or ordering a great many villages to send away their women, children and old folk, to be out of harm’s way. Whole villages, especially in the Jewish-dominated coastal plain, were also ordered to evacuate.

There is no doubt that, throughout, the departure of dependents lowered the morale of the remaining males and paved the way for their eventual departure as well. [Emphasis added]


In his “For the Record“ article, Morris drew the following conclusion with respect to his revised findings, based on the more complete historical record then available to him:


Where do these new findings leave the question of responsibility for the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem? . . .

[T]he problem wasn’t created by the Zionists but by the Arabs themselves, and stemmed directly from their violent assault on Israel. Had the Palestinians and the Arab states refrained from launching a war to destroy the emergent Jewish state, there would have been no refugees and none would exist today. [Emphasis added]


In Ben-Ami’s book, there is a description of atrocities that occurred during the 1948 war, but Walt and Mearsheimer fail to note the following, found on page 44 of the book they recommended at the Hammer Museum:


The mass exodus [of refugees] was, however, inadvertently encouraged by the leaders of the Palestinian community when, in their eagerness to trigger the invasion of Palestine by Arab armies, they blew up out of all proportion the atrocities committed against Arab civilians. The Arab armies came in eventually, but by puffing up the atrocities, local leaders such as Dr. Hussein Fakhri Al-Kalidi, the head of the Arab National Committee in Jerusalem, who gave explicit instructions to the Palestinian media to inflate the reports, helped enhance the magnitude of an exodus driven by fear and hysteria. [Emphasis added]


Thus according to one of Walt and Mearsheimer’s recommended sources, the “mass exodus” was “inadvertently encouraged” by the leaders of the Palestinian community; according to the other, more than half the population in “a great many villages” were actively ordered to flee by Palestinian leaders, including “whole villages” in the coastal plain. And, as Benny Morris noted, the first cause of the refugee problem was the Arab decision in 1948 to wage war rather than accept an internationally prescribed peace.

Refugees are perhaps an inevitable consequence of war, as civilians flee military operations from all sides. But in 1948, the creation of Jewish refugees was in fact the intended goal of the Arab attackers, although they envisioned not a transfer to a neighboring Jewish country but to the Mediterranean Sea.

The basic moral truth is that every one of the refugees in 1948 resulted from the Arab decision to reject a UN resolution (and the Palestinian state it would have created) and initiate a war against Israel instead. Israel does not bear the moral responsibility for the 700,000 refugees that resulted, much less the millions classified today as “refugees.” On the contrary, Israel deserves praise for its integration – into a fledgling country in a continual state of war – of all the refugees expelled in 1948 from Arab countries, while the Arab countries deserve condemnation for placing the refugees they created into slums that they maintain to this day in lieu of integrating them into the societies in which they live.

About the Author: Rick Richman, whose work has appeared in The New York Sun, The Tower Magazine, and The Jewish Press, among other publications, is a prolific writer who appears regularly in Commentary magazine and its group Contentions blog, where this originally appeared. He also maintains the Jewish Current Issues blog (www.jpundit.typepad.com/jci/).

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