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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

April 16, 2003

The Palestinian People: A History

Benny Morris reviews this book on the history of the Palestinian peoples--and finds that poll after poll shows they want Israel eradicated--and also takes a look at his earlier beliefs that he now disowns.
But even Kimmerling and Migdal, to judge by their tone at the end of the book, are far from sanguine. Recent Palestinian actions, it would seem, have managed to jar even their liberal moorings. They conclude rather grimly:

At this writing, it is unclear whether the Intifada can truly be a war of liberation—liberating Palestinians not only from Israeli rule but from illusions about what the future holds for them. If the war of liberation can be a step toward internal reconstruction and acceptance of two states in historic Palestine, it will have succeeded. But if it leads only to the glorification of death and to the illusion that Israel, like the earlier Crusader state, will simply melt away, then it will do nothing but prolong the Palestinians' bondage.

Speaking for myself, Palestinian behavior during the past three years has provided the unhappy ground for a serious re-examination of my own political assumptions. But, to be completely candid, it is not just the experience of the past three years that has provoked this reconsideration. I have spent the past twenty years studying the hundred years of Zionist-Palestinian conflict. At first I focused on the revolutionary events of 1948. Later I began to study the decades before and after the establishment of Israel—and this research, in conjunction with recent events, has left me profoundly unhopeful.

I have come away from my examination of the history of the conflict with a sense of the instinctive rejectionism that runs like a dark thread through Palestinian history— a rejection, to the point of absurdity, of the history of the Jewish link to the land of Israel; a rejection of the legitimacy of Jewish claims to Palestine; a rejection of the right of the Jewish state to exist. And, worse, this rejectionism has over the decades been leavened by a healthy dose of anti-Semitism, a perception of the Jew as God's and humanity's unchosen. [more]