Morris, Benny 1948–
Morris, Benny 1948–
PERSONAL: Born December 8, 1948, in Ein Hahoresh, Israel; son of Yaakov (a diplomat) and Sadie (a journalist) Morris; married Leah Efrati, May 1, 1973; children: Erel, Yagi, Orian. Education: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, B.A., 1972; Cambridge University, Ph.D., 1978. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Bridge, television.
CAREER: Writer. Jerusalem Post, Jerusalem, Israel, journalist, 1978–91; Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheba, Israel, began as lecturer, became associate professor, 1997–2003, became professor of history, 2003–. Also taught at University of Maryland. Military service: Military service: Israel Defense Forces, Nahal paratrooper, 1967–69.
(With Ian Black) Israel's Secret Wars: The Untold History of Israel's Intelligence Services, Hamish Hamilton (London, England), 1991, published as Israel's Secret Wars: A History of Israel's Intelligence Services, Grove Weidenfeld (New York, NY), 1991.
The Roots of Appeasement: The British Weekly Press and Nazi Germany during the 1930s, Frank Cass (London, England), 1991.
Israel's Border Wars, 1949–1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1993.
Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–1999, John Murray (London, England), 1999, revised and updated as Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–2001, Vintage (New York, NY), 2001.
The Road to Jerusalem: Glubb Pasha, Palestine and the Jews, I.B. Tauris (New York, NY), 2002.
Several of the author's works have been published in Hebrew, French, and Italian.
SIDELIGHTS: Benny Morris, a professor at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, is considered the most influential member of the New Historians, a loosely-knit group of Israeli scholars who have questioned traditional views of the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Morris is the author of a number of controversial books that examine Middle East politics, most notably the 1988 title The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949 and his 2004 revised version of that work, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited,.
In The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949, "Morris brings down to earth some of the myths upon which generations of both Israelis and Arabs have been nourished," according to a reviewer in the Economist. Morris argues that the exodus of 700,000 Palestinian refugees after the Arab-Israel War of 1948 was primarily the result of Zionist military action and not a voluntary departure under the instructions of Arab leaders, as had been maintained by Israel. "The reasons for Arab flight in 1948 were complex, motivated partly by intra-Palestinian disputes, economic collapse and an ordinary breakdown in order in Arab areas after the departure of British troops," observed Inroads contributor Gareth Morley. "However, large movements of refugees from Arab settlements generally occurred in the wake of Israeli attacks and were discouraged by the Arab political leadership." The author's findings were heavily criticized in Israel, especially by conservatives who branded Morris a traitor, though his work was hailed as "a milestone in the study of this strife-torn area" by a critic in Contemporary Review.
Morris also challenged prevailing views in Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–1999. In the work, the author "examines the events leading up to the establishment of the Jewish state and the policies the country has pursued since its inception," commented Sid Shniad in Canadian Dimension. "The result forces readers to come to grips with what it has meant to create and maintain a Jewish state." One of Morris's central tenets, noted a Publishers Weekly critic, "is that the very success of Israel as a state has allowed the Palestinians to appropriate the identity of history's victims"an identity once central to Israelis" view of themselves." In the words of Foreign Affairs contributor Yaron Ezrahi, Righteous Victims "provides a timely account for readers who have been learning to regard parts of Israel's past with ambivalence rather than apologetics."
In Israel's Secret Wars: The Untold History of Israel's Intelligence Services, cowritten with Ian Black, Morris explores the inner workings of the three Israeli agencies: Aman, Mossad, and Shin Bet. "By careful sifting of the available published documents, and conducting extensive interviews," noted a reviewer in the Economist, the authors "have nevertheless produced the nearest thing so far to a definitive history, reaching from the intentionally obscure present back to the somewhat better documented pre-state 1930s."
The Road to Jerusalem: Glubb Pasha, Palestine and the Jews concerns John Bagot Glubb, a British officer who led the Arab Legion against Israeli forces in the 1948 war. Library Journal contributor Nadar Entessar stated that Morris "gives a thorough account of Glubb's ambiguous political agenda and his involvement in the early years of the Arab-Israeli conflict."
In 2004, Morris published The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, an expanded version of his seminal 1988 volume. "Morris's original position has not changed: direct expulsions carried out by Israeli troops, together with a number of other events, were at the heart of the exodus of the Palestinian population," observed Issam Nassar in Political Science Quarterly. "Whether or not transfer was more or less of an Israeli motive in the war, a massive involuntary transfer did take place," wrote Philip C. Wilcox, Jr., in Middle East Policy. "Moreover, as Morris describes in detail, Israel's leaders denied refugees the right to return after the war. They also destroyed hundreds of Arab villages and expropriated Arab land, both to discourage efforts to return and to provide land for new Jewish immigrants. This, it seems, is the best measure of Israeli policy, whether or not it was premeditated or planned." "This extremely readable book narrates a powerful story of the uprooting of a people," Nassar concluded.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Prospect, May 8, 2000, Bernard Avishai, review of Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881–1999, p. 46.
Atlantic Monthly, March, 2003, Benjamin Schwarz, review of Righteous Victims, pp. 97-98.
Booklist, September 15, 1999, George Cohen, review of Righteous Victims, p. 227.
Books and Culture, November, 2000, David P. Gushee, "All Things Jewish," review of Righteous Victims, p. 6.
Canadian Dimension, January-February, 2003, Sid Shniad, review of Righteous Victims, p. 43.
Contemporary Review, October, 2000, Charles Foster, "Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict," review of Righteous Victims, p. 244; July, 2004, review of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p. 64.
Economist, July 13, 1991, review of Israel's Secret Wars: The Untold History of Israeli Intelligence, p. 92; April 16, 1998, review of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949, p. 109.
English Historical Review, June, 1994, Lionel Kochan, review of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949, p. 813.
Foreign Affairs, March-April 1994, William B. Quandt, review of Israel's Border Wars, 1949–1956: Arab Infiltration, Israeli Retaliation, and the Countdown to the Suez War, p. 164; January-February, 2000, Yaron Ezrahi, "New History For A New Israel—Two Landmark Looks At A Sentimentalized Past," review of Righteous Victims, p. 158.
Guardian (London, England), February 21, 2002, Benny Morris, "Peace? No Chance?"; February 22, 2002, Avi Shlaim, "A Betrayal of History"; January 14, 2004, Benny Morris, "For the Record."
Haaretz, January 9, 2004, Ari Shavit, "Survival of the Fittest? An Interview with Benny Morris."
Inroads, winter-spring, 2005, Gareth Morley, reviews of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited and Righteous Victims, p. 118.
Library Journal, September 15, 2002, Nadar Entessar, review of The Road to Jerusalem: Glubb Pasha, Palestine and the Jews, p. 75.
Middle East, October, 2002, Fred Rhodes, review of The Road to Jerusalem, p. 64.
Middle Eastern Studies, October, 1995, Robert B. Satloff, review of Israel's Border Wars: 1949–1956, p. 953; March, 2004, Roza I. El-Eini, review of The Road to Jerusalem, p. 186.
Middle East Journal, autumn, 2000, Don Peretz, review of Righteous Victims, p. 659; spring, 2003, Charles D. Smith, review of The Road to Jerusalem, p. 336.
Middle East Policy, summer, 2004, Philip C. Wilcox, Jr., review of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p. 169.
Middle East Quarterly, spring, 2003, Rory Miller, review of The Road to Jerusalem, p. 92.
New Republic, November 29, 1999, Anita Shapira, "The Failure of Israel's 'New Historians' to Explain War and Peace," review of Righteous Victims, p. 26.
New Statesman, March 8, 2004, Stephen Howe, review of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p. 53.
Publishers Weekly, April 26, 1991, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Israel's Secret Wars, p. 54; August 23, 1999, review of Righteous Victims, p. 36; August 12, 2002, review of The Road to Jerusalem, p. 285.
Shofar, fall, 2000, Donna Robinson Divine, "Deconstructing Post-Zionism," review of Righteous Victims, p. 129.
Washington Monthly, June, 1991, Murray Polner, review of Israel's Secret Wars, p. 60.
History News Network, http://hnn.us/ (January 26, 2004), Baruch Kimmerling, "Benny Morris's Shocking Interview."