Thursday, June 03, 2004

Chomskyites vs. anti-Chomskyites in Israel

There is an interesting article in Haaretz regarding a pissing match between Israeli Chomskyite historian Ilan Pappe and former Leftist historian Benny Morris:

"Pappe, too, is mortally ignorant of the basic facts of the Israeli-Arab conflict," Morris continues. "This book is awash with errors of a quantity and a quality that are not found in serious historiography.

"Pappe, like his mentor, Edward Said, believes that the only solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is a single bi-national state in all of Palestine;" Pappe believes that the outbreak of the second intifada "has, like a giant centrifuge, sent the New Historians spinning toward opposite corners of the political universe. It has separated the anti-Zionist goats from the Zionist sheep, and has accentuated their goatish and sheepish natures," Morris writes. The intifada pushed Pappe to take his place at the forefront of the struggle, together with pro-Palestinian academics in the West, to boycott the Israeli academic world and cut it off from research and investment funds, even though, "he has not declined to receive wages from a university subsidized by the government whose policies he finds so repulsive."

Pappe's new book, wrote Morris, "is a milestone in his evolution as an historian," as Pappe focuses in it on "victims" of "the invasions, occupations, expulsions, discrimination and racism" who are first and foremost the Arabs of Palestine, but describes the Zionist Jews as invaders, enslavers and banishers. "The Palestinians are forever victims, the Zionists are forever `brutal colonizers.'"; much of what Pappe "tries to sell his readers is complete fabrication," deriving from reasons of political correctness (for instance, his attempt to prove that there is increasing involvement of women in the Palestinian struggle, or his assertion that children influenced the evolution of the struggle). Morris notes that although there are mistakes in the book that derive from sloppiness "born of a contempt for that leaven of dullards, "the facts" (for instance, Pappe writes that Lehi [aka the Stern Gang] and the Palmah existed before the Arab Revolt of 1936, while both of these pre-statehood Zionist undergrounds were founded in 1940-41; Pappe writes that the Mufti fled Palestine in 1938, whereas in truth he left in October 1937), but the book is inundated with mistakes that stem from the ideological preferences of the writer," his interest in blackening the Zionists and whitening the Palestinians..."

"Morris' `review' consisted of a series of ad hominem attacks and outright factual distortions," reads the preface to Pappe's rebuttal. He initially attacks Morris for having alleged that the two "walked a stretch of road together as `revisionist historians.'" "This is a falsification of history as I could not be a partner to a person who had already in 1988 held views I found morally unacceptable," Pappe explains. He asserts that by their first meeting in the late 1980s, Morris let him know ("as he seemed to trust me") of his "abominable racist views about the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular."

Ouch. Pappe, by the way, was recently involved in a scandal in which one of his doctoral students, under Pappe's guidance and approval, accused the IDF of committing a massacre during the War of Independence which, in fact, never happened. I think this does say something about the Chomskyite mentality. Chomskyites believe that the superiority of their moral perception confers upon them the right to lie agressively in the service of a higher cause. Pappe probably knows that a lot of what he writes isn't true. He justifies it through his intrinsic sense of moral self-regard. This is essentially how Chomsky justified his denial of the Cambodian genocide. Nothing the Cambodian communists could have done could be worse, in Chomsky's mind, than the evil committed every day by the imperial United States. The slaughter of millions could thus be easily erased with the clearest of consciences. It is difficult to be sanguine about this phenomenon. It echoes the legions of beautiful minds who sang the praises of the most vile of history's tyrants, all in the name of the glories of revolution, utopia, peace, and human progress. If the intellectual history of the twentieth century teaches us anything, it is that, in the hands of intelligent people, this kind of moral hubris can be very, very dangerous indeed.