Benny Morris: “Survival of the Fittest”

The work situation’s slowed down Proust a bit, but I wanted to give a mention of Benny Morris’s Survival of the Fittest interview with Ha’aretz, which has been making its way around the blogs.

(Though just linking to the thing is tough enough now that Ha’aretz has taken the original page down. Free Republic, Counterpunch, and LGF all have the original text, and I’m not keen on linking to them or most of the other places that have copied it.)

Aside from demonsrating that Morris has no career as a Likud PR man, it’s a very articulate depiction of the bunker mentality. I haven’t read all of Morris’s Israel history; I read excerpts for comparison while reading Avi Shlaim‘s book. Shlaim dabbled in counterfactuals on the order of, “If Ben-Gurion hadn’t done X, there might have been peace, but we’ll never know.” Morris, slightly to Shlaim’s right at the time, tended to stick with military history over politics and let whatever stains were there speak for themselves.

Now Morris is not so reticent, but I don’t see such a huge contradiction with his previous positions…it appears to be an avoidance of cognitive dissonance that leads him to dwell on those things that most partisans would gloss over or deny. For someone who wrote in English first and then translated his history into Hebrew, it’s a drastic turn inward. The polite but rather slanted interviews he did with Barak in the NYRB seem to be things of the past.

My own reaction: I can’t imagine the interview convincing anyone who wasn’t already convinced. It’s a portrayal of a state of mind, not an argument.

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