News, University News

Israeli historian talks Palestinian refugee crisis

Second Israel-Palestine lecture in multi-year initiative led by Professor of History Omer Bartov

By
News Editor
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Israeli historian Benny Morris addressed a packed room at the Joukowsky Forum Wednesday as part of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs’ new Israel-Palestine Distinguished Lecture Series.

The Israel-Palestine Distinguished Lecture Series is the brainchild of Professor of History Omer Bartov and is part of his multi-year project, “Israel-Palestine, Lands and Peoples,” which launched last semester. In addition to the public lecture series, the initiative sponsors two discussion workshops each semester among scholars in the area, which are open to members of the University community.

The initiative hopes to bring a range of perspectives on Israel and Palestine to campus and put them in dialogue with each other because “it’s very hard to talk across a wall or a fence,” Bartov told The Herald.

“The people that I invited are not only speaking only on the conflict,” Bartov told The Herald before the event, emphasizing that many speakers discuss Israeli-Palestinian coexistence as well.

Morris’ talk, titled “The Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949,” follows an earlier address delivered by Israeli historian Tom Segev March 16 on “The Price of Zionism.”

Morris argued that the “major cause of the Palestinian refugee crisis was the war itself,” rejecting traditional explanations that attempt to place blame on Arab leaders for encouraging Palestinians to leave their homes or on the Israeli military for expelling Palestinians. Morris characterized both those explanations as fringe movements.

During the question-and-answer session at the end of the talk, a student present at the event questioned Morris’ methodology and reliance on Israeli, British and American sources of information to frame his argument.

In response, Morris explained that “Arab states were all dictatorships” at the time and remain so to the present day, which limits his ability to access Arab records. In addition, he explained that he has little faith in oral histories. “Almost always you can find written records,” Morris said.

Bartov pointed out that a strict reliance on written records could end up “privileging the perpetrators” of historical injustices as victims might not have the ability or the expertise to leave written testimony behind. This resonated with students in the audience, who snapped along. Morris explained earlier in his talk that the refugee crisis occurred in stages and that the first groups of Palestinians to flee to Lebanon, Jordan and Syria in 1947 were the middle-class and the wealthy.

A student present at the event referenced a 2004 Haaretz interview in which Morris stated that “even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians” and that “there is a deep problem in Islam. … Revenge plays a central part in the Arab tribal culture.”

“You’ve essentially perpetuated acts of Islamophobia and, frankly, racist remarks,” the student said.

Morris claimed that he was misquoted in the Haaretz interview regarding Native Americans and American democracy but stood behind his statement that there is a “basic problem in Islam.”

“There are certain passages in the Quran which promote anti-Semitism; they call Jews the sons of apes and pigs … many Islamists — like Hamas and so on — quote that.”

Another attendee asked Morris if he could point to any “viable solutions” to the conflict. “I’m a historian, so I deal with the past, and I don’t have solutions,” he said.

Bartov has arranged for four more speakers to present their research on campus over the course of the next semester. The Distinguished Lecture Series lineup features no Palestinian speakers at present, though Bartov told The Herald that his workshops have featured Palestinian scholars. In addition, Palestinians may face “limitations on their travel,” he said.

Reducing diversity of opinion on Israel and Palestine to having Palestinian and Israeli speakers in the series is too simplistic, Bartov told The Herald. “I don’t think we should work according to these criteria” of representation, he said.

21 Comments

  1. Ron Ruggieri says:

    The Old Testament insists on this: ” Do not suffer a witch to live ! “. Sad to see so many well educated Jews no longer believing in God but worshiping Zionist, apartheid Israel. Is there the legal equivalent of ACLU for those oppressed and often smeared Palestinians ?
    Did working class Americans ever vote on this business of having ” a special relationship with Israel ” ? Why is it OK for Israel to have a Doomsday nuclear arsenal -but not Iran or North Korea ? Why not just organize a BAN THE BOMB movement ?

    • 1. . Jews do not live by what is “insisted” upon in the Old Testament. 2. Supporting Israel is not worshipping it. 3. Falling back on “apartheid ‘ Israel will not help your cause. 4 The Palestinians can establish any organization they want if they take time out from teaching their kids that the whole of Israel, will be theirs. 6. Who knows if Israel has a ” Doomsday” arsenal and in any case even you should spot the difference: “Which country Israel, Iran, or Northern Korea does NOT constantly threaten to wipe out their imagined enemies with a nuclear bomb?” Answer, if you don’t get it: Israel.

      • israel does have rabbi’s etc threatening to wipe out europe etc. as for iran threatening,thats a lie and has been proven. a lie.
        vanishing from the pages of time is not a threat ,its a factual statement that will come to pass. by the way,until 1948,terrorism was not well known until the terrorist state of israel began.until israel began we had no enemies in the middle east. israel is a cancer on the world.

        • Ron Ruggieri says:

          I find it hard to believe that Russia’s over-demonized Vladimir Putin had more influence in our 2016 presidential election than the Israel lobby. To be sure, there were pro-Trump Zionists and pro-Hillary Zionists. So THEY had no intention of being the losers .
          Hillary Clinton was THEIR favorite and the favorite of the Establishment USA: the CIA, the Pentagon, the FBI, corrupt labor unions, Wall St., the New York Times.
          Tel Aviv had more influence than Moscow !

          • yep, aipac needs to be thrown out of d,c,

          • Israel is a sliver of democracy on an area that’s otherwise a hellish, theocratic swamp where free will and rational thinking go to die. In Israel the rule of law is set by institutions with democratically elected officials, not by religious scholars making decisions in accordance with holy books

          • what have you been smoking?

          • Your vapid words.

          • you must have been born vapid.

          • Did your father marry his first cousin?

            “Israel’s unique achievements in the area of health care were underscored in the Forbes June 2014 list of 10 health tech companies changing the world. Five of them were Israeli. “It’s amazing that Israel — a country of only 8 million people — produces so many leading health technology companies,” David E. Williams, president of the U.S.-based Health Business Group, told the Grapevine. According to Williams, “Israel’s highly educated technical and medical workers are reared in a society that prizes problem-solving and innovation, placing tremendous value on curing illness and saving lives.”

          • Ron Ruggieri says:

            Arafat :
            You sound like a highly motivated INFOMERCIAL-as sincere and honest as most infomercials- for Zionist Apartheid Israel. Your numerous comments are replete with gratuitous insults at critical ” liberals “.
            You must be a pro-Trump Zionist in contrast with the more popular Hillary Zionists ?
            I am something any Zionist cannot ever be : a DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST who believes in ” socialist internationalism “.
            There are Christian Zionists, of course, who only disgrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are also Christian socialists- who get it.

          • Not surprising you’re a socialist given your affinity for the Palestinians. Like many people of your ilk you live in a fantasy world. It is people like you who supported the fanciful and idiotic messaging from the likes of Hugo Chavez, Josef Stalin, Adolf H*tler, Mao Zedong and others who are responsible for tens of millions of deaths.
            And then there is Islam and its devout jihadists and its goal to build a worldwide caliphate where the typical socialist “peace” will prevail. Of course this is the same Islam motivating the deaths of tens of millions of Hindus during the past thousand years as the jihadists relentlessly purged southern Asia of Hindus, and the same Muslim jihadists who wiped out all the Buddhists of Afghanistan, the same Muslim jihadists who wiped out the Animists of Sudan and the same Muslim jihadists who are desperately trying to wipe out all the Jews from the Middle East.
            Like I said, it’s not surprising you embrace socialism.

          • Ron Ruggieri says:

            And any Brown University ” liberal ” would not be surprised that a privileged Jew -in contrast to socialist Jews- embraces Zionism. We call it ” The Arrogance of Power “.

          • “Arrogance of Power”? Perfect Marxist bullsh*t. It makes you think you’re smart even though it has no bearing in the real world. And therein lies the entire issue. You live in a make-believe intellectual world – an Ivy League world – where reality equals vapid words that sound impressive when strung together.
            What’s more, and is a manifestation of your stupidity, is your accusing me of being part of “The Arrogance of Power”. That’s awfully arrogant of you to accuse me and others of that, but that’s part of socialism: Being above it all, being judgmental, being superior, being arrogant like you.

          • Ron Ruggieri says:

            How many intellectual Jews embraced Marxism ? Many were persecuted in the notorious McCarthy Era in the United States. David Horowitz knows all about this . I cannot believe that they all now embrace arrogant Zionism. If ALL the honest socialists in the world cannot be ” friends of Israel ” – as it now exists – then Israel has a bigger public relations problem than Nazi Germany.
            I am not a ” loner ” here. Check out the World Socialist Web Site for a perspective on Zionism that is hardly anti-Semitic.
            Are you familiar with the work of Professor Howard Zinn ? He thought Zionist Israel was a tragic big mistake. He was also very much opposed to US imperialism as we presently see on display in Syria and the Islamic Middle East.

          • Of course you admire Howard Zinn. He could have been Hugo Chavez’s strategist. That’s exactly the sort of person I would expect you to embrace.
            Your a sad, demented, confused person. But, no doubt, you’ve heard this a good part of your adolescent and adult life and have never once listened. Instead you and your ilk shut-down, get defensive whenever confronted with the truth either about you or your sad, confused demented heroes.

      • Ron Ruggieri says:

        The conscience of the world – which cannot be corrupted by the Israel lobby- knows what Zionist, apartheid Israel is all about.
        No fervent Zionist can even pretend to be a democratic socialist or a ” socialist internationalist “.
        By the way, I find Saudi Arabia a far more unacceptable regime than present day Israel -which might evolve into a secular state with a Jewish majority.
        What if President Trump were to insist that the United States is a CHRISTIAN country ? ACLU would go berserk !
        And yes, there are many atheist Zionists – like the odious Ayn Rand- who despised the Palestinians as ” inferior ” to the Jewish settlers.
        Working class Americans do not think we have ” a special relationship with Israel “. They would cut off all funds for the Zionist trouble-making state.
        The Hillary Democrats have no quarrel with the arrogant ” settlements “in Palestine. Neither do the Trump Republicans.

        • The Yazidi in Iraq and the Christian Copts in Egypt are not “settlers” and “occupiers;” neither are the Jews in Israel. They are victims of a common enemy that seems to want a Middle East free of non-Muslims.

    • Well said

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