Benny Morris has a new book out where he examines the rise of the one-state solution in the discourse around the Israel-Palestine conflict. I review it here.
The review has much of what i would want to say about Morris. But I think it’s important to emphasize two things.
One is that Morris is clearly racist in his approach. While he’s certainly willing to be critical, even cynical about Israeli leaders, he seems to approach every statement by an Arab leader as being a lie until proven otherwise.
The second, however, is that despite this serious problem, Morris’ work has been groundbreaking and, though inconsistent, very important. This current book was foreshadowed at the end of his previous one, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. That book, which spiralled downward at the end, was perhaps Morris’ best and is widely seen as the best book yet written on the 1947-49 war (a view i tend to agree with).
Morris is, in many ways, the antithesis of Ilan Pappe. The latter embraces the futility of objectivity and writes
unabashedly from a particular point of view. The former strives to be objective and, while he often falls short like the rest of us, he often does overcome his own baises and produce important work that doesn’t necessarily support his own personal views.
That’s why it’s important to recognize the two Benny Morrises. One is a very poor polemicist whose racism often seeps through. The other is an excellent researcher who is often successful at getting beyond his own biases and prejudices and whose work merits the most serious attention.
Benny Morris is an enigma, but you can’t deal with one side of him without the other. His work should not be dismissed because of his views, but his work should also not give credence to his more base views. And, it should also be noted, that being an excellent historian doesn’t necessarily mean one is a good political analyst.
More in my review, published here.