Benny Morris’s nuclear blackmail scenario

For the Israeli government, using its very robust nuclear-weapons capability for purposes of blackmailing other parties– including, certainly, the US– is nothing new. (See my 1988 World Policy Journal article– PDF— on that topic.) However, that blackmail is usually carried out in a subtle and behind-closed-doors fashion.
But now, here comes Israeli citizen Benny Morris openly expressing (and expressing support for) the most blatant form of nuclear blackmail imaginable. In this op-ed prominently featured in today’s NYT Benny writes:

    ISRAEL will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months — and the leaders in Washington and even Tehran should hope that the attack will be successful enough to cause at least a significant delay in the Iranian production schedule, if not complete destruction, of that country’s nuclear program. Because if the attack fails, the Middle East will almost certainly face a nuclear war — either through a subsequent pre-emptive Israeli nuclear strike or a nuclear exchange shortly after Iran gets the bomb.

I have read and re-read Benny’s piece, and it terrifies me. (It also concerns me greatly that the NYT purveys without comment this extremely crude and mendacious endorsement of nuclear blackmail.) It is terrifying for a number of reasons, including the way it so easily reproduces some quite unsubstantiated claims about the status of Iran’s nuclear program and the status of current diplomatic efforts.
He writes,

    Every intelligence agency in the world believes the Iranian program is geared toward making weapons, not to the peaceful applications of nuclear power. And… everyone knows that such measures have so far led nowhere and are unlikely to be applied with sufficient scope to cause Iran real pain, given Russia’s and China’s continued recalcitrance and Western Europe’s (and America’s) ambivalence in behavior, if not in rhetoric. Western intelligence agencies agree that Iran will reach the “point of no return” in acquiring the capacity to produce nuclear weapons in one to four years.

None of these claims about what “everyone” or even just all “Western intel agencies” know or judge or agree to be the case can be substantiated, and in the case of all of them there is also some significant counter-evidence. (November ’07 NIE, Benny?)
The reason I mention Benny’s extremely sloppy (mis-)use of evidence is because he is a historian. He is not, actually, someone who has ever delved deeply into deterrence theory. So at least his historian’s skills regarding use of evidence should be of a decent caliber. But sadly, they are not.
(Personally, for me, this is all extremely sad. I’ve known Benny Morris for more than 20 years, and have liked him a lot even though in recent years we’ve disagreed more and more. But with this article he crosses a new bridge.)
But the main problem with the piece is the argument it carries, which can be broken down as follows:

    1. Iran is, without a doubt, pursuing a nuclear-weapons program which will achieve a capacity to produce NWs “in one to four years.”
    2. In an attempt to forestall that development, either the US or Israel must launch a “pre-emptive” attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities, using non-nuclear weapons. He completely rules out the idea that pursuit of negotiations or other non-military means might succeed in this.
    3. But the US seems unwilling to launch the necessary attack. “Which leaves only Israel.” And the period between the US election and the inauguration of the next president in January is the best time for this.
    4. And Americans should support this Israeli, conventional-weapon attack on Iran, because if it doesn’t, Israel will “almost certainly” have to use its nuclear weapons against Iran.

I do not have time right now to undertake the detailed critique that Benny’s article requires at so, so many points along the way.
For now, I just want to identify his article for what it is: the crude blackmail note of someone urging the use of nuclear blackmail.
One great relief: Benny is speaking only for his own fevered mind in writing this article, and thankfully not for the Israeli government. But of course we can also wonder what kind of communications his compatriots in government are having with their US counterparts on this topic, at this time of intense consultation among them.
I also want to note the arrogance with which this Israeli citizen effortlessly brandishes his country’s long well-known nuclear-weapons capabilities. In a way, this is a breath of fresh air within the US body politic (and within the pages of the NYT.) Israel’s long-pursued posture of deliberate ambiguity regarding its extremely robust nuclear arsenal– or, large arsenal of ten-minutes-to-full-assembly nuclear weapons– has been echoed, within most of the US national discourse, by a studied ignoring of that arsenal. That has led to repeated use of such blatant mis-statements of fact in the media and elsewhere as the allegation that Iran might be about to “introduce” nuclear weapons into the Middle East, etc etc.
At least Benny Morris– and along with him, the NYT– has now blown away all that miasma of long-maintained denial and obfuscation.
As a US citizen, I also want to note the breath-taking arrogance with which he minimizes the quite predictable jeopardy into which any Israeli attack on Iran– nuclear or “conventional”– would immediately place the US’s very vulnerable troop deployments in Iraq and elsewhere near Iran’s borders.
He writes quite blithely about the Israeli strike force being “allowed the use of Jordanian and Iraqi airspace (and perhaps, pending American approval, even Iraqi air strips)…” But he expresses no recognition at all that the use of Jordanian or Iraqi airspace, all of which falls within the US’s present theater of operations in the Middle East, would under international law justify Iranian counter-attacks against the US and its numerous long and vulnerable supply lines in the region.
He has a short reference to the “likely result” of the Israeli non-nuclear attack on Iran, that,

    The Iranians will also likely retaliate by… activating international Muslim terrorist networks against Israeli and Jewish — and possibly American — targets worldwide (though the Iranians may at the last moment be wary of provoking American military involvement).

No, Benny Morris. It would not be “international Muslim terrorist networks” that would “possibly” retaliate against American targets worldwide. Much more likely, it would be the Iranian military, acting from its own homeland to respond to an attack on this homeland, that would launch a military response against the troops of Israel’s US ally that George Bush has seen fit to deploy in large numbers, in numerous very vulnerable positions that are extremely close to Iran.
And no. In the event that their homeland is attacked by members of the US-Israel alliance, the Iranians are not likely to be “wary of provoking American military involvement.” They have read the same US war-gaming reports that all the rest of us have, that say that any military attack against Iran would likely lead to consequences that would be disastrous for the US military (though also extremely costly for Iran.)
For Iranians, after all, Iran is their country. Of course, regarding the balance of interest and the balance of wills involved in any military confrontations along its borders, their will to fight and die would be 1,000 times as strong as that of the Americans. Especially given that the consequences of this war would also be devastating for the already deeply troubled world economy.
It ain’t going to happen, Benny Morris. Take your cheap but terrifying nuclear threats and stop trying to blackmail my country and the countries of all your neighbors in the Middle East.
Best of all, a note to Benny Morris and anyone else who thinks like him: there is an alternative to war. It is called negotiations. And it is starting to happen, just a little bit, right now.
So far, the US-Iranian-EU talks in Geneva are only about some details of the future negotiations over the Iran nuclear program. Talks about talks. But still, much, much better than the alternative..
In the future, the US-Iranian negotiations will need to go much further, and deal with a broad range of issues. But at the nuclear level, the single clearest way forward is to work aggressively for the creation of a Middle east that is verifiedly free of all nuclear weapons capabilities.
At that point, the world would no longer have to put up with all this tiresome and destabilizing instances of Israeli nuclear blackmail.

28 thoughts on “Benny Morris’s nuclear blackmail scenario

  1. Bob Spencer

    Well, at least I found comfort from reading the comments posted on the NYT web-site with the op-ed. Almost all of the people making comments are outraged.
    I wonder if he were floating an idea to find out if Israel would gain enough support, and somebody “convinced” the NYT to run the piece.
    If we stop and think about the consequences, the U.S. and Israel would be locked together in a do or die route with the only option being to conquer oil fields with the military. We would lose any hope of having friends or allies in the Middle East or elsewhere. Can you imagine how any potential support inside Iraq would react? I wonder how long it will take the NYT and CNN to convince the public that this is the safest and right thing to do? Remember—-No fact checking allowed!
    By the way, can anyone show when or where the Iranian leaders threatened to attack Israel? They no doubt support Hezbollah, but that is clearly a fight for a homeland.
    Bob Spencer

  2. Crimson Ghost

    Helena
    Interesting that this article appeared just when US policy on Iran is changing from threats to engagement.
    Do I detect a note of panic among Zionist extremists that their long hoped for US attack on Iran may be off the table?

  3. Crimson Ghost

    Helena
    Interesting that this article appeared just when US policy on Iran is changing from threats to engagement.
    Do I detect a note of panic among Zionist extremists that their long hoped for US attack on Iran may be off the table?

  4. Bob Spencer

    Add to the mix that Russia is talking to Iran about forming an oil cartel along with Libya. If the U.S. figures that they want to be a part of those talks, then Israel’s influence might be reduced.
    Bob Spencer

  5. Salah

    Helena,
    I have read and re-read Benny’s piece, and it terrifies me.
    Its very simple here, these behaviours by Israelis why they keep doing same and same each time and may be worse.
    If Israelis punished for their attitude from refusing to obey 99 UN resolutions to their crimes against Iraq in early 1980 of bombing a country and flee laughing to their secrets operations of killing dozen Iraqi scientists to their secrets operations killing German scientists in Egypt early 1950 simply Israelis backed and supported by US for their bulling in the region.
    If international community bush this bully small boy will restrained and respect other in the region. But in all case Israelis as spooling kid in hand of his big brother “US” so who can harm this spoiled kid will be crashed, killed and tortured as its God Will of harming the olders or the Chosen as we seeing what’s happening in Iraq like what’s happen to Iraq as a nation.

  6. JohnH

    It’s desperation time for the L[ik]uddites. Militarist Israel is at a dead end. Dreams of a Greater Israel and of regional hegemony are dying, if not dead. All their major enemies, even Hezbollah, have deterrence. Wantonly trashing the neighborhood is no longer an option, except possibly in the Occupied Terroritories. Any future military action mean severe repercussions for Israel itself.
    To add insult to injury, the United States bluff has been called in Iraq and Iran, and the Bush administration is reluctantly reducing its ambitions, and starting to negotiate with Israel’s enemies. Iran with its enormous energy reserves is poised to eclipse Israel in terms of regional power.
    What will Israel look like with a military culture frustrated in its hopes and dreams? Will they turn upon themselves? Or will they have the wisdom to take advantage of a peace dividend to create a more just society? Or will they lash out crazily?
    Desperate people do desperate things. And Benny Morris sounds pretty desperate.

  7. azazel

    Helena, upon reading this post for a second time in the cold light of day (so to speak), I must confess that I fail to see the arrogance in Benny Morris’ article.
    Arrogance is, after all, a function of power, and that is something Morris doesn’t have. As you acknowledge, he isn’t associated with the Israeli government, and Israel’s military forces and nuclear arsenal isn’t at his command. He has as much power to attack Iran as you or I do.
    Crazy? Absolutely. Arrogant – not.
    And a “blackmailer?” To blackmail, one must have the ability to carry out one’s threats, and he doesn’t. You seem to have recognized this when you began writing, characterizing him in the first few paragraphs as an advocate of nuclear threats, but by the end, you’re calling his words one more “tiresome and destabilizing instance of Israeli nuclear blackmail.” Is Israel now to be held responsible for every threatening remark made by its private citizens, and if so, does that also apply if some Joe Average Iranian were to come out in favor of nuking Tel Aviv?
    Helena, from your words elsewhere, I’m certain that you don’t subscribe to a conspiratorial world-view in which every Israeli who speaks in public is presumed to represent his or her government. You’re slipping dangerously in that direction with this article, though, and in the process, you’re empowering Morris’ insane delusions far more than he or they deserve.

  8. bevin

    The point Azazel, is that the New York Times, a very influential newspaper (regarded as semi-official in some circles) gives this article prominent placement.
    It is that which makes the circumstances notable. Were these ravings/musings simply private they would, as you suggest, be of no real interest.
    In truth Morris is not to blame, in this matter, any more than the man in the Tehran omnibus, dreaming of a bomb being dropped on, let us say, New York is to be taken seriously.
    On the other hand if he were given space in Iran’s leading newspaper, beside the editorial, it would, quite properly, give the world pause. I’m sure that Helena would see it as being significant, I suspect that you would too.

  9. tc

    Benny Morris is a surrogate for a current of thinking within the US establishment that at the moment maybe on the defensive but not down yet. Its publication in the NYT should be read as a continued playing out of the policy debate within the US. As for Israel acting alone is such a gambit, the tail shall not wag the dog when the stakes are that high.

  10. Patrick

    Why assume that Morris is speaking just for himself.? The Israeli gov’t can’t make threats like this openly. But they may want to see them put prominently out there. Making use of Morris for this purpose would make sense. It will be interesting to see if the Israeli gov’t repudiates Morris’ threats, or not.

  11. JES

    Azazel, I agree with you. After all, who exactly is Morris? I think that the only reason that this OpEd (Note: The “Op” stands for “Opinion”) is published in a paper such as the NYT is that Morris was a “celebity” of sorts in certain intellectual circles (at least until he clarified some of his positions after the second intifada). Other than that, I don’t see why what he says now represents any particular “arrogance”. After all, he doesn’t really have any more in-depth knowledge than, say, I do as to what Israel may or may not have in terms of nuclear weapons. It is almost comical to assert that “The Israeli gov’t can’t make threats like this openly”, when the Minister of Transportation said pretty much the same thing publicly about a month ago.
    As for the point that others have made about this being some kind of a “plant”, I am quite skepical. Sure the Times is influential. So what? They give prominent space to all sorts of OpEd pieces all the time. As to the Times being “regarded as semi-official in some circles”, well I think those “circle” tend to lean toward the conspiracy view of the world. At any rate, I think there’s a difference between what is published, even by “semi-official” media in the US and what is published in Tehran. (Didn’t they just close down another paper a couple of weeks ago?)
    No, the issue with Benny Morris has much more to do with the fact that those who raved about him in the past got a cold shower a few years ago.
    What I find most interesting is that people like Helena would choose to point out his sloppy use of evidence now, while choosing to ignore similar lapses (as pointed out, for example, by Efraim Karsh) in the past.

  12. bb

    Azazel:
    My reading of Benny Morris’ NYT article is that he is expressing the classic jewish/Israeli reaction to fear of annihilation while the rest of the world looks away. Nothing more than that. As you point out, he is a private citizen.
    Helena Cobban, given her experience, knowledge and friendships with Israelis including Morris, would know this very well. Instead she chooses to beat up Morris’ article.
    She could have chosen otherwise.
    She could have chosen to post a considered analysis of jewish/Israeli past experience and perhaps opined that it would be a good thing after 6 years of EU diplomacy if Iran were to put the purposes of their nuclear development program beyond doubt? This is what one would expect of a self professed pacifist and Quaker. Perhaps Helena is different from the Quakers/pacifists that I know.
    But she didn’t? Instead she chose to exacerbate and up it into Israeli blackmail. Why? That’s the question. It goes straight to her credibility.

  13. lennybruce

    This is truly a frightening op-ed piece from B Morris. I would only add to your comments on the Morris’ litany about all these things ‘every intelligence agency knows’ or what ‘everyone’ knows:
    These are exactly the same lines and bits of generalized and largely contrived conventional wisdom that got us into Iraq, for example, in the first place.
    I also remember how those selling the war in Iraq would say, “If Saddam has nothing to hide why does he talk and act like he does.” Well, he did that because that is part and parcel of bluster and posturing as is often practiced not only in Middle Eastern politics but Middle Eastern culture.
    Our ‘Western minds’, at least those of our leaders and even people like Morris with an intimate knowledge of modern Middle Eastern history, look at what the other says and does through our own filter of Western style logic, reasoning and logic.
    We would all be wise to recall Sun Tzi’s adage about the various outcomes of conflict based on the level of to what extent we know our ‘enemies’. There is no greater risk of devastating consequences of not knowing one’s ‘enemy’ than in today’s Middle East.

  14. JES

    Yes, cultures and the reasoning they generate are “relative”. Understanding rationality in today’s world is a two-way street. Don’t you think that Middle Esterners have an obligation to understand the “filter of Western style logic” and, perhaps, phrase their messages accordingly? Or are Westerners just more capable of understanding other cultures?

  15. Frank al Irlandi

    Helena
    I wonder if you have got the wrong end of the stick.
    The op-ed piece is of course terrifying. But it is nothing more than the point of view expressed by the wise and cautious John Bolton and the esteemed and saintly Vice President.
    Of course the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen was in Tel Aviv not long ago explaining that he might have difficulty in finding enough soldiers to pick up the pieces if someone did bomb the iranians.
    The obvious erros of fact and the weak links in the reasoning that are manifested in the article and the fact that it is published in the NYT indicate that this may in fact be a balloon to draw out those who support the attack while the window is still open idea.
    Professors of anything don’t produce such a weak piece of work and then publish it. Not if they want to keep their jobs.
    There is a complete omission of delivery of the Russian S-300 and S-400 air defence systems that is the dead giveaway that this is not what it seems. If these systems are deployed to protect the new Gazprom partner and supplement the already deployed Tor systems that are designed to kill Tomahawk then the air assult is a non-runner.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHLN_0nalnY
    There is a link to a video of the s-400 Triumph beside the Tor video.
    So just as the process of canonisation of Saints requires a Devil’s Advocate to assert that the proposed miracles are a trick of the Devil to embarrass the faithful, let me propose that you draw breath and reread the article in the cold light of day.
    I would suspect that this Op Ed is not quite what you think it is.

  16. Tony C.

    For some interesting and illuminating background on the author this controversial Op-Ed, try this:

  17. azazel

    Bevin, you lost me at the point where you described the New York Times as “regarded as semi-official in some circles.” Which circles are these, exactly? We’re not talking about Fox News here: the NYT’s op-ed pieces tend to be anti-government more often than otherwise, and most of the Israelis who write for it are firmly in the peace camp. Benny Morris’ essay is actually very much an anomaly.
    I tend to agree with JES: Morris got the op-ed space because of his stature as a historian
    Patrick, I think you just proved my point. Why on earth would Israel have any duty to repudiate “threats” made by someone who has no connection with its government and, hence, no power to threaten?
    Personally, I’m waiting for the United States government to repudiate the threats made by my cousin Philip in Oakland, who recently told me over the phone, “we should wipe out all those bastards.” Of course, Phil has already been repudiated by his wife Tamar, who told him to stop talking like an idiot, so maybe the government has no further obligation in the matter.

  18. Shirin

    Given that the government of Israel has been threatening for some time in both word and action to attack Iran, why on earth would they be concerned in the slightest about Benny Morris’s rantings in the NYT, let alone repudiate them?

  19. azazel

    BB, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call Morris’ article a simple expression of fear. That may be one of the roots of it, but it’s also a prediction that violence, of the most extreme kind, is virtually inevitable. I am not a stranger to those fears either, but they do not inevitably lead to (or remotely justify) nuclear warfare.
    You raise an important point, though, when you mention the need for Iran to clarify its intentions – and it’s a point, I think, that Helena ignores when she mentions negotiations as an alternative to war. I completely agree that negotiations are better, but in order to talk, you need to have someone on the opposite side willing to talk to you. The Iranian government has, thus far, categorically refused to talk to Israel. It has thus left Israel no dipolmatic option for resolving the differences between the two countries (of which, when it comes down to it, there really aren’t any) and must bear its own share of the blame for the mutual escalation.
    That’s why we need more like these remarks by the Iranian vice-president, reported in the Israeli media. And we need more like this, in the Israeli and Iranian media. That sort of thing does a lot more to prevent war than any amount of saber rattling and attempts at intimidation.

  20. Shirin

    …the need for Iran to clarify its intentions
    What intentions? If you are referring to its intentions regarding nuclear weapons, I am not sure how much more clear they can be after Khamenei has stated repeatedly and explicitly that Iran does not seek nor does it plan to seek to build nuclear weapons, and even issues a fatwa stating categorically that nuclear weapons are unislamic. What would you suggest Iran could do that would be more clear than that?
    If you are referring to its intentions toward Israel, those seem pretty clear to me too. The Iranian government condemns Israel regularly, as do plenty of other governments and individuals. That is nothing new. And Iran has never, to the best of my knowledge, indicated an intention or a desire to attack Israel (correct me if you have information that contradicts this), so what is there to clarify?
    If anyone needs to clarify their intentions, it is Israel, which has repeatedly threatened Iran in both word and deed.
    The Iranian government has, thus far, categorically refused to talk to Israel. It has thus left Israel no dipolmatic option for resolving the differences between the two countries (of which, when it comes down to it, there really aren’t any)
    Then what, exactly is there to talk about if there are in reality no differences? Why doesn’t Israel just mind its own business and let Iran mind its business, and they can continue to go their separate ways. You see, you have just said, in a very few words, what I have been saying all along, This is a crisis manufactured out of thin air.

  21. azazel

    Shirin, whether manufactured or not, there is now a crisis. It exists, and all of us, Iranians and Israelis included, will have to live with the consequences if it isn’t resolved. So those in positions of power can do three things: quibble about whose fault it is that we got here, play along and escalate the crisis further, or expose it for a sham. I’ll go with option three, and that means that Iran (and, yes, Israel too) has to clarify its intentions.
    You say that Iran’s intentions are already clear and, as I’ve said before, I agree that Iran is not an aggressive country. The trouble is that Iran has never said any of these things to Israel. In fact, since 1979, Iran has never spoken to Israel at all. It has spoken at Israel and, indeed, often refuses to even call Israel by name.
    So what would it take? Very little. All that’s necessary is for the Iranian government to say all the things you just said, and to say “this means Israel too.” Or to say “Israelis, you will regret it if you attack us, but we have no desire to attack you.” Or “because there’s been some doubt over the translation, we just want to make clear that when our president talked about Israel vanishing from the sands of time, that didn’t mean that we plan to help things along.” Or, like the Iranian vice-president said today, “Iran has no enemies and we are friends of even Americans and Israelis.” Or even “stop waving your air force around and trying to intimidate us, because it won’t work, and let’s sit down like civilized countries and make clear that we have no differences.”
    And I agree that Israel needs to stop the childish saber rattling, but if Iran were to actually speak to Israel, I don’t think there would be much more of a problem from the Israeli end. As I mentioned on another thread, Iran was an object of curiosity rather than fear to Israelis before Ahmedinejad.

  22. Shirin

    Azazel, I believe that the Iranian government has more than once stated the clear equivalent of “you will regret it if you attack us but we have no desire to attack you”. It should not be necessary for them to sit down with the Israelis, look them in the face, and say it, and demanding that they do so looks a lot like an attempt to keep the conflict going rather than resolve it.
    PS Ahmadinajad did not say Israel should disappear from the pages of time. He referred specifically to the Israeli regime over Jerusalem, which is considered illegitimate and illegal by the overwhelming majority of the world. Further, he was merely quoting something that Khomeini said about once a year during his regime. Given that, why was Israel willing to ignore it year after year coming from Khomeini and now suddenly is thrown into a tizzy by it?
    Iran was an object of curiosity rather than fear to Israelis before Ahmedinejad.
    I don’t know why, given that there was plenty of anti-Israel rhetoric coming from the Iranians before Ahmadinajad, including from Khomeini, who could actually have done something about it. It is particularly curious given that, as I pointed out above, that “erased from the pages of time” remark was something Khomeini repeated on a regular basis when he was alive, and unlike Ahmadinajad Khomeini could have taken action to “help it along”.
    The timing of this “crisis” looks awfully convenient to me, Azazel.

  23. azazel

    “Further, [Ahmedinejad] was merely quoting something that Khomeini said about once a year during his regime. Given that, why was Israel willing to ignore it year after year coming from Khomeini and now suddenly is thrown into a tizzy by it?”
    I’m not privy to why Israel does everything it does, but I’d guess that (1) Iran was not enriching uranium at that time, nor did it have any missiles that could credibly reach Israel; (2) there was a lot of under-the-table dealing between Israel and Iran during the 1980s that made Iran seem less threatening; (3) Khomeini never made opposition to Israel a rhetorical centerpiece of his administration – as you say, he said that sort of thing “about once a year”; and (4) Khomeini did anything like sponsor a Holocaust denial conference that gave the appearance of being hostile to Jews as such. Under those circumstances, there was much more of a tendency to accept anti-Israel rhetoric as just being for show.
    And if, as we both appear to believe, it is still for show and Iran has no hostile intentions toward Israel, it would be remarkably easy for it just to say so. That’s such a non-onerous “demand” that it’s hardly a demand at all.
    It should, rather, be a natural step.

  24. bevin

    Azazel, I just saw that you had asked who, in my view, regards the NY Times’ foreign policy pronouncements (which would incude its selection of contributors and the editing of their views) as semi-official.
    Don’t you?

  25. rozele

    a few quick notes:
    the “op” in “op-ed” stands for “opposite”. as in “OPposite the EDitorial page”. it’s an alternative to calling it an “opinion” page, as some papers do.
    the NYT is seen as quasi-official by itself, and everyone else who refers to it as “the paper of record” – that including most u.s. media and politicians. it’s not, however, seen by anyone as quasi-governmental, in the mode of the BBC, say. it’s seen as the quasi-official news publication because it’s understood as the source of information most relied on by folks in power in the u.s., just as the WSJ is seen as the quasi-official economic publication because it’s understood to be where folks in power get their economic information. it’s also understood (in its editorial policy and statements) to be the mouthpiece of a specific, still quite influential, strain of right-leaning liberalism: that of ‘liberal’ cold-war hawks and incrementalist reformers. it’s the outlook depicted (quite accurately) in phil ochs’ satirical “love me i’m a liberal” – for which he presumably drew on his relatives in the NYT’s ruling sulzberger/ochs family…
    benny morris is indeed a fantastic and independent-minded historian, and all the more for being quite direct about his relationship to the implications of his research. when it comes to current events, though, what he has to say is no different from any other person from the israeli secular far right. i’m not sure we need to take this op-ed as anything more serious than a glimpse of what that political tendency is thinking these days. what (if anything) israeli and u.s. politicians say in response will be far more revealing and important… hopefully at least one of them will say “i don’t know why we should take seriously the political opinions of an admitted apologist for genocide”. (morris’ word was “haqkhada” – more literally ‘extinction’, as in dinosaurs – for the full context, see http://www.logosjournal.com/morris.htm)

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