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More Lies at Norwich PSC

Over the last few days, we’ve discovered some shocking material on Norwich PSC’s website

If you’re up for more, how about this “quote” from the home page?

This is a shockingly misleading quote. Not only that, Ben-Gurion never said it! As Camera has reported:

The Israelis as “brutal” theme appears again, as Walt and Mearsheimer inform readers that Israelis advocated and employed:

… brutal methods to remove huge numbers of Palestinians from the land that would soon be the new Jewish state. Consider what Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary on January 1, 1948, at a time when he was involved in a series of important meetings with other Zionist leaders about how to deal with the Palestinians in their midst: “There is a need now for strong and brutal reaction. We need to be accurate about timing, place and those we hit. If we accuse a family – we need to harm them without mercy, women and children included. Otherwise, this is not an effective reaction … There is no need to distinguish between guilty and not guilty.” (book, p. 99; emphasis added)

Now, for this quote Walt and Mearsheimer cite one of their favorite authors, the Israeli “new historian” Ilan Pappe, and his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. And indeed Pappe’s book contains this passage, said to be from Ben-Gurion’s diary (though Walt and Mearsheimer omit a few words). But Pappe says that this was Ben-Gurion recounting not his own words but those of (Yigal) Allon, a pre-state Jewish military leader and later a prominent Israeli politician. For some reason Walt and Mearsheimer leave this out, leading readers to assume the author of these words was Ben-Gurion himself.

But there are far larger problems here. First, it seems clear even from the passage cited by Walt and Mearsheimer that what was being discussed was not a plan to “remove huge numbers of Palestinians,” but a proposed “reaction” to Arab attacks, which would target a family if they were involved in those attacks (“if we accuse a family”). Clearly a program involving mass expulsions would not refer to reactions or accusations against specific people.

Second, Pappe omits a key sentence which completely changes the character of the passage. Here is the actual full translation from the primary source, Ben-Gurion’s diary:

There is no question whether a reaction is necessary or not. The only question is when and where. Blowing up a house is not enough, especially if it’s not the right one. There is a need for a brutal and firm response. We need precision in time, place and casualties. If we definitely know the (culpable) family – hit without mercy, including the women and children of this family who might be there. Otherwise the reaction will not be effective. In the actual place of action, there is no need to distinguish between guilty and innocent. Where there was no attack (ie. the family is innocent), we must not touch. (emphasis added; David Ben-Gurion, Independence War Diary, V1, p 97-98; in Hebrew)

Pappe deceptively omits this sentence, which gives a hint of his own credibility. With it restored the nature of the discussion is clear – retaliation against those who have attacked Israelis. If it is known that the attacker lives in a certain house, attack that house even if there are also innocents inside. But if all inside the house are innocents, then it is forbidden to attack. Admittedly tough sentiments, though in the context of a tough and bloody war in which Israel lost fully one percent of its population.

Third, Pappe is also wrong about whose words were being recounted. While he claimed it was Allon, Ben-Gurion makes clear in the diary that he was recounting the words of one of his advisers on Arab affairs, Gad Machnes. Pappe is evidently no more fastidious with quotes and documents that Walt and Mearsheimer.

But there’s even more to be said on this. After all, Ben-Gurion was recounting in his diary, in telegraphic form, discussions from an extended meeting on critically important subjects. An obvious question for the scholar studying this period would be: Was there a written record of the meeting itself, and if so, what did it say?

Indeed there was a written record of the meeting and it further undermines the Walt/Mearsheimer position. For here is how that protocol records Machnes’ words:

I think that today there is no question whether or not to respond. But for the response to be effective, it must come in the right time and the right place and take the form of a strong punishment. Blowing up a house is not enough. Blowing up a house of innocent people is certainly not enough! The response must be strong and harsh because it must create the [right] impression, must punish [the perpetrators of violence] and must serve as a warning. If our responses are not impressive—they will create the opposite impression. These matters necessitate the utmost precision—in terms of time, place, and whom and what to hit … If we operate against, say, a specific family in a known place, a known village [i.e., identified perpetrators of violence], then there should be no mercy! But only a direct blow and no touching of innocent people! We have already reached a position that necessitates a strong response. Today one should not even avoid hitting women and children. For otherwise, the response cannot be effective. (from Efraim Karsh, “Benny Morris and the Reign of Error,” Middle East Quarterly, March 1999; available athttp://www.meforum.org/article/466) (emphasis added)

Obviously, this passage only further undermines the claims of Walt and Mearsheimer that participants at the meeting discussed “brutal methods to remove huge numbers of Palestinians.” Nothing could be further from the truth – neither the diary they claimed to be quoting, nor the actual protocol, says anything of the sort.

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