[Marxism] Benny Morris op-ed piece

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Dec 30 07:53:45 MST 2008

As many of  you know, Morris was at one time a highly regarded 
"revisionist" historian with progressive credentials. In recent years 
he has lurched to the extreme right, justifying the treatment of 
Palestinians as in accord with how the U.S. became a great country by 
annihilating the Indians. This op-ed piece is mostly crapola but his 
comments on the demographics is quite interesting. He says that 
Israel will become majority Palestinian by 2040 or 2050. This 
"threat" will supposedly force Israel to adopt extreme measures that 
he implicitly defends. I should add that there is the same kind of 
anxiety in the U.S. among reactionary forces. By the time that Israel 
becomes majority Palestinian, the U.S. will become majority 
non-white. I only wish I could live that long. Maybe I should start 
drinking ginseng tea.

NY Times, December 30, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor
Why Israel Feels Threatened

Li-On, Israel

MANY Israelis feel that the walls — and history — are closing in on 
their 60-year-old state, much as they felt in early June 1967, just 
before Israel launched the Six-Day War and destroyed the Egyptian, 
Jordanian and Syrian armies in Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

More than 40 years ago, the Egyptians had driven a United Nations 
peacekeeping force from the Sinai-Israel border, had closed the 
Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and air traffic and had deployed 
the equivalent of seven armored and infantry divisions on Israel's 
doorstep. Egypt had signed a series of military pacts with Syria and 
Jordan and placed troops in the West Bank. Arab radio stations blared 
messages about the coming destruction of Israel.

Israelis, or rather, Israeli Jews, are beginning to feel much the way 
their parents did in those apocalyptic days. Israel is a much more 
powerful and prosperous state today. In 1967 there were only some 2 
million Jews in the country — today there are about 5.5 million — and 
the military did not have nuclear weapons. But the bulk of the 
population looks to the future with deep foreboding.

The foreboding has two general sources and four specific causes. The 
general problems are simple. First, the Arab and wider Islamic 
worlds, despite Israeli hopes since 1948 and notwithstanding the 
peace treaties signed by Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, have 
never truly accepted the legitimacy of Israel's creation and continue 
to oppose its existence.

Second, public opinion in the West (and in democracies, governments 
can't be far behind) is gradually reducing its support for Israel as 
the West looks askance at the Jewish state's treatment of its 
Palestinian neighbors and wards. The Holocaust is increasingly 
becoming a faint and ineffectual memory and the Arab states are 
increasingly powerful and assertive.

More specifically, Israel faces a combination of dire threats. To the 
east, Iran is frantically advancing its nuclear project, which most 
Israelis and most of the world's intelligence agencies believe is 
designed to produce nuclear weapons. This, coupled with Iranian 
President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's public threats to destroy Israel — 
and his denials of the Holocaust and of any homosexuality in Iran, 
which underscore his irrationality — has Israel's political and 
military leaders on tenterhooks.

To the north, the Lebanese fundamentalist organization Hezbollah, 
which also vows to destroy Israel and functions as an Iranian proxy, 
has thoroughly rearmed since its war with Israel in 2006. According 
to Israeli intelligence estimates, Hezbollah now has an arsenal of 
30,000 to 40,000 Russian-made rockets, supplied by Syria and Iran — 
twice the number it possessed in 2006. Some of the rockets can reach 
Tel Aviv and Dimona, where Israel's nuclear production facility is 
located. If there is war between Israel and Iran, Hezbollah can be 
expected to join in. (It may well join in the renewed 
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, too.)

To the south, Israel faces the Islamist Hamas movement, which 
controls the Gaza Strip and whose charter promises to destroy Israel 
and bring every inch of Palestine under Islamic rule and law. Hamas 
today has an army of thousands. It also has a large arsenal of 
rockets — home-made Qassams and Russian-made, Iranian-financed 
Katyushas and Grads smuggled, with the Egyptians largely turning a 
blind eye, through tunnels from Sinai.

Last June, Israel and Hamas agreed to a six-month truce. This 
unsteady calm was periodically violated by armed factions in Gaza 
that lobbed rockets into Israel's border settlements. Israel 
responded by periodically suspending shipments of supplies into Gaza.

In November and early December, Hamas stepped up the rocket attacks 
and then, unilaterally, formally announced the end of the truce. The 
Israeli public and government then gave Defense Minister Ehud Barak a 
free hand. Israel's highly efficient air assault on Hamas, which 
began on Saturday, was his first move. Most of Hamas's security and 
governmental compounds were turned into rubble and several hundred 
Hamas fighters were killed.

But the attack will not solve the basic problem posed by a Gaza Strip 
populated by 1.5 million impoverished, desperate Palestinians who are 
ruled by a fanatic regime and are tightly hemmed in by fences and by 
border crossings controlled by Israel and Egypt.

An enormous Israeli ground operation aimed at conquering the Gaza 
Strip and destroying Hamas would probably bog down in the alleyways 
of refugee camps before achieving its goal. (And even if these goals 
were somehow achieved, renewed and indefinite Israeli rule over Gaza 
would prove unpalatable to all concerned.)

More likely are small, limited armored incursions, intended to 
curtail missile launches and kill Hamas fighters. But these are also 
unlikely to bring the organization to heel — though they may exercise 
sufficient pressure eventually to achieve, with the mediation of 
Turkey or Egypt, a renewed temporary truce. That seems to be the most 
that can be hoped for, though a renewal of rocket attacks on southern 
Israel, once Hamas recovers, is as certain as day follows night.

The fourth immediate threat to Israel's existence is internal. It is 
posed by the country's Arab minority. Over the past two decades, 
Israel's 1.3 million Arab citizens have been radicalized, with many 
openly avowing a Palestinian identity and embracing Palestinian 
national aims. Their spokesmen say that their loyalty lies with their 
people rather than with their state, Israel. Many of the community's 
leaders, who benefit from Israeli democracy, more or less publicly 
supported Hezbollah in 2006 and continue to call for "autonomy" (of 
one sort or another) and for the dissolution of the Jewish state.

Demography, if not Arab victory in battle, offers the recipe for such 
a dissolution. The birth rates for Israeli Arabs are among the 
highest in the world, with 4 or 5 children per family (as opposed to 
the 2 or 3 children per family among Israeli Jews).

If present trends persist, Arabs could constitute the majority of 
Israel's citizens by 2040 or 2050. Already, within five to 10 years, 
Palestinians (Israeli Arabs coupled with those who live in the West 
Bank and Gaza Strip) will form the majority population of Palestine 
(the land lying between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean).

Friction between Israeli Arabs and Jews is already a cogent political 
factor. In 2000, at the start of the second intifada, thousands of 
Arab youngsters, in sympathy with their brethren in the territories, 
rioted along Israel's major highways and in Israel's ethnically mixed cities.

The past fortnight has seen a recurrence, albeit on a smaller scale, 
of such rioting. Down the road, Israel's Jews fear more violence and 
terrorism by Israeli Arabs. Most Jews see the Arab minority as a 
potential fifth column.

What is common to these specific threats is their unconventionality. 
Between 1948 and 1982 Israel coped relatively well with the threat 
from conventional Arab armies. Indeed, it repeatedly trounced them. 
But Iran's nuclear threat, the rise of organizations like Hamas and 
Hezbollah that operate from across international borders and from the 
midst of dense civilian populations, and Israeli Arabs' growing 
disaffection with the state and their identification with its 
enemies, offer a completely different set of challenges. And they are 
challenges that Israel's leaders and public, bound by Western 
democratic and liberal norms of behavior, appear to find particularly 
difficult to counter.

Israel's sense of the walls closing in on it has this past week led 
to one violent reaction. Given the new realities, it would not be 
surprising if more powerful explosions were to follow.

Benny Morris, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Ben-Gurion 
University, is the author, most recently, of "1948: A History of the 
First Arab-Israeli War."

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