Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Maccoby vs. Maccoby

Deborah Maccoby is an anti-Zionist Jew. Her late father, Hyam Maccoby, was a noted scholar of the Jewish and Christian religious tradition and of antisemitism.

Efraim Karsh is Professor and Head of the Mediterranean Studies Programme at King's College London. Ten years ago he wrote a book entitled Fabricating Israeli History: The "New Historians"

Engage is a web site dedicated to combating left-wing antisemitism. In the comments box of one post, Deborah Maccoby wrote:
"Re Efraim Karsh - he has such a right wing axe to grind that h [sic] has little credibility in my eyes. His attempts to prove the 'New Historians' wrong about 1948 have failed entirely."
In a review of Karsh's book on the New Historians, Hyam Maccoby wrote:
"Efraim Karsh, whose scholarship in all the relevant documentation in English, Hebrew and Arabic far outweighs that of the New Historians, has delivered a crushing blow to them, revealing how hollow and superficial their thesis are.... He shows that so far from establishing a new level of objective analysis of documents, they quote selectively and misleadingly from the documents and have even omitted some of the most important of them from their analysis altogether, being unaware that they are available, or even asserting wrongly that they were being withheld."

Hyam Maccoby, "Pernicious Revisionism Exposed" Midstream Vol XXXXIV No. 3 (April 1998) pp. 40-41

Deborah Maccoby would do well to pay attention to the words of her late father.

15 comments:

Deborah said...

Dear Mikey,

First of all, I wouldn't call myself an anti-Zionist, because I am in favour of a Jewish national presence in the Jewish homeland, though I do think the best way to solve the Israel/Palestinian conflict is for Israel to abandon the outdated ethnic nation-state model and find a new model, such as a binational or federated state. I suppose this would make me a post-Zionist.

Secondly, are you really arguing that daughters should agree with their fathers' views? Isn't that a somewhat male chauvinist approach? I have the greatest admiration for my father's views on the New Testament and the historical Jesus etc, about which he was extremely knowledgeable. He didnt have the same knowledge about 1948 and, in my view, was regrettably mistaken about Efraim Karsh and the New Historians. But of course he was entitled to his opinions and so am I to mine.

all the best,

Deborah

Mikey said...

Dear Deborah,

Thank you for your comment. There is of course no specific need for you to agree with your father and because I made that suggestion, it does not make me guilty of male chauvinism. Had it been your mother who had written those words, I would have suggested you agree with her instead.

You have suggested that Karsh is wrong and also that your father was wrong to praise him. Incidentally, your father was not the only person to praise Karsh for exposing the New Historians, I just selected someone whose work I assume you would be familiar with and a review that you may have stored and hence can easily check.

You argued that Karsh "failed entirely" to prove the New Historians wrong, but you presented not a single piece of evidence for this charge. Dismissing someone as right-wing is simply not sufficient. Personally, I care little as to whether Karsh is right-wing or left-wing; what I do care about is his scholarship.

The so called New Historians do not even agree with each other. One of the harshest critics against one of them, Ilan Pappe, is another one, Benny Morris. In a review essay published in The New Republic, Morris demolishes Pappe's work. Specifically, he states:

"much of what Pappe tries to sell his readers is complete fabrication."

He goes on to state:

"Pappe...is mortally ignorant of the basic facts of the Israeli-Arab conflict. [His] book is awash with errors of a quantity and a quality that are not found in serious historiography. And, in Pappe's case, it is not just a matter of sloppiness or indolence in checking facts; the problem goes deeper. It can almost be called a deliberate system of error."

And so it goes on; Pappe is accused of having a "multiplicity of mistakes on each page," and Morris provides numerous examples to justify the claim. He also states that Pappe's book is "awash with errors resulting from the writer's ideological preferences." Moreover, "Where Pappe's ideological bent is not responsible for outright inventions and errors, it leads instead to narrative lopsidedness."

The conclusion is categorical:

"This truly is an appalling book. Anyone interested in the real history of Palestine/Israel and the Palestinian Israeli conflict would do well to run vigorously in the opposite direction."

But now we come to Benny Morris himself. Karsh is highly critical of Morris's The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem 1947-1949 and its follow up, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Karsh does not just criticise these books but provides examples with references of exactly where Morris is wrong.

In his book, Fabricating Israeli History: The 'New Historians' (Frank Cass, Revised Second Edition, 2000) Karsh provides a devastating critique of The Birth.

To provide one example that Karsh discusses. On Page 25 of The Birth Morris wrote that Ben-Gurion wrote to his son and said "We must expel the Arabs and take their places." An examination of the original letter by Karsh shows that what had been written by Ben-Gurion was "We do not wish and do not need to expel Arabs."

What Morris had done with Ben-Gurion's views on expelling Arabs was simply disgraceful.

Deborah, if you wish to say that Karsh has failed to prove the New Historians wrong, rather than just dismissing his as right-wing and saying that those, including your own late father, who praised his work are mistaken, then you must tackle head on his criticisms.

You will also have to explain what Benny Morris himself said about Karsh (Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2. [Winter, 1998],p. 83):

"Karsh has a point... It is true that my treatment in Birth of pre-1948 'transfer thinking' among the Zionist leaders was superficial and restrictive."

Regards,

Mikey

Deborah said...

Dear Mikey,

Despite all the differences betwen the New Historians, it is now becoming generally accepted that about 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were ethnically cleansed in 1948. Morris has disagreements with Pappe about the extent of pre-planning, but even Morris acknowledges that - even if the ethnic cleansing was not planned beforehand - during the course of the war the Israeli army drove out the majority of the Palestinian Arab population. This is why I spoke of Karsh's complete failure to argue convincingly against the New Historians.

best wishes,

Deborah

Mikey said...
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Mikey said...
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Mikey said...

Dear Deborah,

In a letter to the Irish Times published on February 21st this year and widely copied to the Internet, Benny Morris inveighed against those who he accused of mis-citing his work in support of their argument. Your own comment to this blog is a case in point.

Far from Morris acknowledging that "the Israeli army drove out the majority of the Palestinian Arab population" as you claim, Morris stated explicitly in his letter that "Most of Palestine's 700,000 'refugees' fled their homes," and that they had "the expectation that they would shortly return to their homes on the backs of victorious Arab invaders." This fleeing occurred not least due to the fact that "in dozens of localities around Palestine, Arab leaders advised or ordered the evacuation of women and children or whole communities, as occurred in Haifa in late April, 1948."

Regards,

Mikey

Deborah said...

Dear Mikey,

Many thanks for your link to Morris's letter. I note you leave out the highly significant words "because of the flail of war" in the sentence beginning "Most of Palestine's 700,000 "refugees" fled their homes because of the flail of war". In his book, Morris says that most of them left because of Jewish assault on their towns and villages. He puts the bit about their local leaders in brackets and it is not seen in his book as all that important a factor.

Morris argues that Plan D was not a political blueprint for expulsion, but a military one, but in practice it involved a lot of villages.

And the crucial point is: why was a return completely blocked? You can argue that it all happened in "the fog of war", but in that case, why not have allowed the refugees to return, in accordance with UN Resolution 194? Why were over 400 villages destroyed? Morris argues it was for security reasons, to prevent the presence of a fifth column, but surely it was in order to preserve a huge Jewish majority - and there is still a strong case for saying this was the aim even before the war started.

Deborah

Mikey said...

Dear Deborah,

I am not entirely sure why you are complaining that I left out the phrase "because of the flail of war" in my quotations from the following sentence of Morris: "Most of Palestine's 700,000 'refugees' fled their homes because of the flail of war (and in the expectation that they would shortly return to their homes on the backs of victorious Arab invaders)."

Yes, it is true that this occurred during a war and I was not trying to hide the fact. The fact is that it was the Arabs that started the war! You are now blaming the Zionists for the Arabs fleeing when their own leaders told them to leave in a war that the Arabs started. Morris makes this clear in his letter that I quoted from above. Towards the beginning of that letter he states explicitly:

"In defiance of the will of the international community, as embodied in the UN General Assembly Resolution of November 29th, 1947 (No. 181), they [Palestinian Arabs] launched hostilities against the Jewish community in Palestine in the hope of aborting the emergence of the Jewish state and perhaps destroying that community. But they lost; and one of the results was the displacement of 700,000 of them from their homes."

As a result of this Morris says that the Palestinian Arabs responsibility for their displacement was "very direct and simple."

I think you should decide whether you are defending Benny Morris or opposing him!

Regards

Mikey

Anonymous said...

Firstly i don't think it's right to bring up Deborah's late father in a debate. I remember Elf bringing up Deborah's father and thought it was wrong then.

Two questions for Deborah

1) Have you read Karsh ? If so what do you think is incorrect in what he says. Is it his use of historical archives ? Is it his interpretation of source material ?
What exactly is wrong with what Karsh says and why ?

2) Morris unlike Pappe shows that the Arab side in 1948 cleared every area that they conquered of Jews , that over 40000 Jews were forced to leave the area that was given to the Palestinian Arabs in 1947/48.
Like the Israelis , the Palestinian side were no angels.

The idea of a binational state is something that 99.9 % of Israelis will never accept. They will never feel secure. The only way is 2 states and
however difficult it is becoming with the settlements programme , with the power of Hamas , it is the only solution which has a chance.

BTW Deborah , calling "ENgage attack-dogs" was pretty childish and it's no surprise that you ran away from the debate on Engage.

Fabian from Israel said...

Hi, Mikey, Kol Ha Kabod for your new blog!

Dear Deborah:
I don't see any philosophical difference between post-Zionism and anti-Zionism, and I don't think that "leaving the Jews in place" is a serious proposition for a difference between the two of them. If it were, then we shouldn't talk of "anti-Zionism", and in that sense provide it respectability as an opposing thesis to a serious one, but of a desire for ethnic cleansing, which does not need any philosophical debate.

My preference is to use: anti-Zionist for people like you who oppose what the large majority of Jews decided what Zionism meant (a State for the Jews), and genocidal maniacs for the rest of the people opposing the right of the Jews to live in Israel.

To another point. Anti-Zionists usually waver between three ways to blame the Jews for the problem of the Arab refugees of Palestine. 1. They argue that Israel had a master plan for ethnic cleansing.
2. They argue that even without a master plan, the Arabs were expelled from their homes by the Jews.
3. They argue that even though the large majority of the Arabs fled without seeing a single Jewish soldier, not to let them come back is an example of ethnic cleansing.

As you see, the three arguments are not exactly compatible with one another, but they are presented sequentially, just to annoy a debateer who argues in good faith.

In your message of 15 October 2008 14:08, you seem to argue either 1 or 2, it does not remain clear.

However, in your message of 15:55 you seem to argue both 1, 2 and especially 3 ("the crucial point").

Regarding points 1 and 2, which are already discredited by modern serious historiography, I will tell you an example that should help you understand the issue. In the year 2006, one million Israelis left their homes in the north because of the rain of missiles. Was there an Arab (Lebanese) masterplan for this (point 1)? If there was no master plan, can we argue at least that the million Israelis were expelled by the Arabs (point 2)? Or is it more certain that, just as in 1948, civilians don't stay with their children to watch the battle from their roofs while doing a barbeque? People flee in wars. You don't need a Master Plan and you don't need the actual presence of enemy soldiers. When the fire gets close, people simply flee. And that is exactly what happened with the majority of the Arabs from Palestine (although the intelligentsia had deserted them before the war, and that surely helped to the chaos - that is one point Karsh makes in the book you are discussing, and he has evidence to support it). Imagine simply what on Israelis' moral would have caused to see that in the year 2006 most of the MKs had watched the Lebanon War from Brussels.

Now, to point 3. Certainly, 1948 is not the first nor the most important occasion in which large amount of people have become refugees. Now, why not accepting back? Well, their side started a very bloody war, against the will of the UN, which their side called "a war of extermination" (against the Jews). So they became the enemy. I don't remember any country ever giving the right of citizenship to an enemy population of comparable size. Israel would have to be the first.
But those Arabs that did not flee, because they spoke with the Jews and told them that they didn't want any trouble, are still in Israel and they are citizens. Hell, the Arabs of the friendly village of Abu Gosh live in great houses, much nicer than my three room appartment. So the issue is very simple. What made it complicated? Well, the refusal by the Arab countries (unique in History) to resettle the Arab refugees in their countries. And their explicit argument that the refugees were the new weapon against the existence of a Jewish state in Palestine.
At least 100.000 refugees however, were allowed to return immediately after the war, but as border breaches became more violent (many Jews were killed by the Arab infiltrators -if you want you may call them "refugees returning" but still the Jews who were walking in the fields remain murdered- the borders were sealed.
Just like in many other conflicts, the Israelis expected that the Arabs would behave like human beings and end the conflict by absorbing the refugee population. They were wrong, and it is already 60 years of unnecesary suffering promoted by the Arabs on their Arab brethren.

Best,
Fabian

Deborah said...

Dear Fabian,

There are just too many points here for me to answer them all, so I will confine myself to your slur against anti-Zionists. Though I do not regard myself as one, I cannot let that pass unchallenged. Anti-Zionists do not advocate ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel. They just don't see the need for recognition of a Jewish NATIONAL presence in Israel/Palestine, and don't see it as a Jewish homeland. I disagree with this, which is why I don't see myself as an anti-Zionist. But they do NOT support ethnic cleansing. I hope this is clear now.

best wishes,

Deborah

Fabian from Israel said...

Dear Deborah:

"Anti-Zionists do not advocate ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel."

According the opinion of most Israelis, an ethnic cleansing of Jews is exactly what would happen should a large mass of Palestinians come to live in Israel. But I will leave this point here.

"They just don't see the need for recognition of a Jewish NATIONAL presence in Israel/Palestine, and don't see it as a Jewish homeland."

I also don't see the need for recognition of a Greek NATIONAL presence in Greece, but in spite of its bloody history, the country is there, it is part of the European Union, and I don't think that I would do any favor neither to Turks, nor to Macedonians, nor to Slavs (all of whom have grievances against one or other Greek policy), and especially not to greeks if I were to devote my time "asagreek" to publicly denounce the existence of Greece.

The fact that you cannot leave Israel alone speaks, to my uncomplete understanding, of an unresolved issue you have of your identity as a Jew in the Diaspora (and I don't mean the identity of every Diaspora Jew, just yours).

When I was living in Argentina, I had several Armenian friends. Not one of them was troubled by the fact that Armenia exists (in spite of its history, and its present conflict with Azerbaijan). They devoted their time to useful Armenian things, like: Armenian dances, Armenian education, Armenian food and the benefit of all the "Gran Pueblo Argentino", including having the best Tango club in Buenos Aires inside the "Club Armenio".

I just don't understand why you can't be just like everybody else who lives in their respective Diasporas. Why does your identity is held in opposing what for the rest of the people is a large part of theirs. It is simply a negative undertaking.

Best,
Fabian

Roley Poley Dahl said...

Can I also wish you Kol Ha Kavod with this new blog Mikey. This post is absolutely fascinating and informative. Regards, Roley Poley Dahl.

TNC said...

It is obvious deborah has not read Karsh. Or, if she did, her ideological blinders were on so tight she failed to see the impressive body of evidence he has utilized against the "New Historians" and post-Zionists. People like this are so stuck in their left-wing version of history, they cannot address historical facts. Like the fact that the war was started by Arab governments, not Israel.

And it is simply not the case that most anti-Zionists do not want to see Israel wiped off the map. The vast majority of them (anti-Zionists) are either extreme leftists who view Zionism as "racism" and Israel as a "settler state" or Islamists who are explicitly anti-Semitic. All one needs to do is read the rhetoric these people produce to know where they are coming from and what would happen if they ever had power.

Anonymous said...

When someone criticises a historian as 'too right-wing to be believable' (or words to that effect), we know that what will follow will be a tendentious left-wing diatribe devoid of serious scholarship: lef-wingers like to get their retaliation in first, starting by flinging mud at their opponents before doing exactly the sort of thing thy accuse their opponents of doing. It's a well-known left-wing tactic, and it's utterly disgraceful.
Will D. Maccoby do this? She sure doesn't disappoint, for she uses the term 'ethnic cleansing' to describe the expulsion of 700,000 Arabs during the War of Independence. This is a mendacious term, and its use an indication of hysterical bias, not serious scholarship.
There was no 'ethnic cleansing'. The term is a euphemism for genocide (or a paraphrase, if you will: ethnic=geno-, cleansing an English euphemism for -cide).
There was, of course, no genocide, even though some left-wing propagandists, even shriller and more hysterical than D. Maccoby, have had even less shame and claimed that there has been one in so many words (even describing Cast Lead as 'genocide'). Using this term in this context pretty much exposes you as an Israel-hating propagandist rather than a serious debater or anything like a genuine scholar.
Yoni