Thursday, November 18, 2004

Chomsky and Ben-Gurion

As is noted in the great article Chomsky’s War Against Israel Chomsky has a propensity to attribute statements to people, in particular Ben-Gurion, that they never made. For example:

[Ben-Gurion] who is supposed to have confided in his diary [as Chomsky claims]: “If we know the family – strike mercilessly, women and children included. Otherwise the reaction is inefficient. At the place of action there is no need to distinguish between guilty and innocent.” This is a interesting example of Chomsky’s technique: the alleged quotation is not from Ben-Gurion, but an adviser, Gad Machnes. And the latter’s comments were the opposite of Chomsky’s version: “These matters necessitate the utmost precision – in terms of time, place, and whom and what to hit...only a direct blow and no touching of innocent people!” Meanwhile, Ben-Gurion’s own views were clear and explicit: “There is no other way than by sharp, aggressive reprisal, without harming women and children, to prevent Jews from being murdered...”

Ironically I stumbled upon a similar quotation in which Chomsky attributes to Ben-Gurion which in actuality Ben-Gurion did not say. The quote comes from the afterward in his book Deterring Democracy. In it he states, “During the 1948 war, [Ben-Gurion] held that ‘To the Arabs of the Land of Israel only one function remains -- to run away.’” Anyone familiar with the idea of transfer in Zionist thought knows that this quote comes from Ezra Danin not Ben-Gurion [1]. Once I found this quote I emailed Chomsky and asked him what his sources were, he replied:

I don't know what you are looking at, but I've repeatedly cited the source in print, from the first time I mentioned it: Yossi Beilin, Mehiro shel Ihud (Revivim, 1985). Can add the page reference if you like. This is the standard scholarly source, in fact the only source for Israeli cabinet records from 67-77, the period he covers.

Even though the quote as Chomsky wrote it in the original himself attributes it to the War of Independence that would be 1948 which is not anywhere remotely near the time period of 67-77, I still decided to shoot an email down to Yossi Beilin and see if the quotation actually exists in his work. As I expected it doesn’t.

So much for Chomsky’s scholarly pretensions.

[1] Ilan Pappe no friend of Zionism and a Chomsky confidant writes, “Ezra Danin's words to Ben Gurion: 'The Arabs of the Land of Israel, they have but one task left - to run away'.”


UPDATE: Chomsky has written me back stating the following:

It's you, not me, who says that B-G "uttered those words." What I wrote -- as you repeat -- is that he held that view, as discussed in the source I cited. I'll grant you one thing, though. I should have realized that people who are really desperate to defend their own crimes would find some way of misreading something if they can, and should have spelled it out more explicitly.

The irony should be apparent here.

21 Comments:

At November 19, 2004 at 3:13 AM, Blogger benjamin said...

Nicely done, Dhimmi! I'd love to know what Beilin thinks of Chomsky, incidentally.

 
At November 19, 2004 at 3:38 PM, Blogger Dhimmi said...

Thanks Ben, but my articles are not nearly as good as yours. You should ask Yossi, he seems to be a very nice man, he answered my questions and that’s more than I can say about other politicians.

 
At November 21, 2004 at 5:47 AM, Blogger LukaB said...

Dhimmi,

it seems there was a misunderstanding between you and Chomsky.

I checked the link and the source for the 'dogs' quote is:

Shabtai Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs (Oxford, 1985), 187f., and Benny Morris, review of Teveth, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 11, 1985;

Check it to see if Chomsky quoted correctly. If the quote is mistaken in Teveth ...

Also, I would love to hear on what you conclude that Chomsky has a "propensity to attribute statements to people."

As for the 'great article'...

Don't have acess to the diaries either. Chomsky quotes the 'Independence War Diary' of David Ben-Gurion, January 1, 1948.
He adds after the quote that 'excerpts from these diaries, to be published, appear in Yediot Ahronot, April 17, 1983, the independence day edition.'

Again, I have no means to verify this but I will comment on Bogndanor's passage you quote.

He first says that the above entry was not Gurion's but that of Gad Machnes.

But he does not show this in any way. All he does is provide a quote from Machnes which is nowhere near the quote Chomsky provided. I then checked his reference for this claim and there is nothing on the 'dogs' quote there. We do find the Mechnes quote (from which Bogdanor conveniently excludes the sentence: 'Today one should not even avoid hitting women and children.') But that has nothing to do with what Gurion did or did not write in his diary. Was he counting on his readers not checking the sources?

Check the source yourself.

He then quotes Gurion saying that women and children should not be attacked. But not from the same diary or even the same meeting (on which the diary entry was based) but from a meeting some 8 years later. Which may very well be true but has little to do with the matter at hand.

So he proves or disproves nothing.

But since we have a scholar among us, perhaps he could check the 'Independence war diaries' on the above date and set the record straight. And while he's at it, he could check the Teveth quote also.

 
At November 21, 2004 at 12:06 PM, Blogger Dhimmi said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At November 21, 2004 at 2:49 PM, Blogger Dhimmi said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At November 21, 2004 at 2:52 PM, Blogger Dhimmi said...

Luka,

I think you’re a bit out of it. First of all the dogs comment was made by Dayan and is in the Yossi book not in Teveth’s, which is quoted correctly. Second the quote I am referring to is also NOT in the Teveth book. It might be in the Morris article I don’t have that but if you cared to click the link I gave at the bottom the Pappe piece cites another Morris article in which he says it was Ezra. Third have you read the Karsh article? It makes that statement mean something totally different when put into context:

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 [i.e. if they are guilty]. For otherwise, the response cannot be effective.

Fourth your claim does not hold any water. “All he does is provide a quote from Machnes which is nowhere near the quote Chomsky provided... Was he counting on his readers not checking the sources?”

A. What Chomsky said:
[Ben-Gurion] who is supposed to have confided in his diary [as Chomsky claims]: “If we know the family – strike mercilessly, women and children included. Otherwise the reaction is inefficient. At the place of action there is no need to distinguish between guilty and innocent.”
B. What Machnes said:
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.

I made part that Chomsky selectively quoted from bolded so that you can read it. As you can see Machnes said the exact opposite of what Chomsky is claiming (PS maybe you are expecting an exact word for word translation. Sorry I have to be the one to break this too you not all people translate Hebrew the same way). So checking the source makes no difference.

Go read the whole article it is quite good, debunks the myth that Morris is a standup guy.

 
At November 22, 2004 at 12:27 AM, Blogger LukaB said...

Dhimmy said:

"I think you’re a bit out of it."

Yes I was. Sorry for that. Will try not to post while under the influence anymore (a friend got a baby boy; you can imagine the rest).

On to our topic.

"Second the quote I am referring to is also NOT in the Teveth book."

So you checked this?
You checked and this quote is not on page 187?

"It might be in the Morris article I don’t have that but if you cared to click the link I gave at the bottom the Pappe piece cites another Morris article in which he says it was Ezra."

Yes. I saw that. That is why I was confused - why would Morris cite them differently?
(assuming the quote came from Morris' article above)

"Third have you read the Karsh article?"

A while back but didn't revisit now.


'"Fourth your claim does not hold any water. “All he does is provide a quote from Machnes which is nowhere near the quote Chomsky provided... Was he counting on his readers not checking the sources?”'

A. What Chomsky said:
...
B. What Machnes said:
...

OK. This was another thing I was confused about. So you are saying this is the same quote - i.e. the same entry from the same diary?

Because Bogdanor's article merely makes this claim but does not prove it. (if it does, where?)

"I made part that Chomsky selectively quoted from bolded so that you can read it. As you can see Machnes said the exact opposite of what Chomsky is claiming (PS maybe you are expecting an exact word for word translation. Sorry I have to be the one to break this too you not all people translate Hebrew the same way)."

OK. Not everybody translates Slovene the same way either but it's next to impossible to come up with translations as different as the ones above.

To clarify things (as I understand your arguments).
1. Chomsky made the above quote attributing it to Ben-Gurion

2. Bogdanor (and you) says that this quote was actually Machnes'

What is your proof of this?
(apart from a claim that this is so by both Bogdanor and you I have seen no evidence yet)

3. You claim that on top of that Chomsky quoted it selectively.

If #2 is true that this certainly is true.
If not, it would explain why the quotes differ so much.

"So checking the source makes no difference."

It might. What if there's another entry where Gurion makes the remarks Chomsky attributes to him?
[I know this would be giving the man a benefit of a doubt...]

"Go read the whole article it is quite good, debunks the myth that Morris is a standup guy."

Will do.

 
At November 22, 2004 at 3:32 PM, Blogger Dhimmi said...

“So you checked this?
You checked and this quote is not on page 187?”

Maybe I wasn’t clear enough before. NO IT IS NOT IN THAT BOOK OR ON THAT PAGE!! I own that book and have read it. Stop asking this question.

“Yes. I saw that. That is why I was confused - why would Morris cite them differently?”

The question here is not Morris who cites them differently but Chomsky who purposely cites him wrong as I noted. Also Chomsky has admitted that Ben-Gurion did not say those words, (see my update) but as is apparent from your reaction, believe that Ben-Gurion said those words, Chomsky is the one who is being less than honest here.

As for the Machnes that conversation has run its course. It’s obvious to me what is being said there and who said it. If anything the problem here is Chomsky sloppy scholarship that is to blame for any confusion.

 
At November 23, 2004 at 2:54 AM, Blogger LukaB said...

:)

Don't know now whether Chomsky or your interpretation misled me.

But technically speaking, he is correct.

He did not attribute those words to B-G, he said he shared the view or something to that effect. We can only find out whether this is true by seeing in what context Ezra made the comment and whether B-G agreed with it. [Can you find out?]
If B-G agreed with Ezra, then Chomsky is correct in the context he uses the quote in (though he should have been more precise - see below). If B-G did not agree with Ezra, then Chomsky's context is wrong.



But I will give you that I understood the excerpt the same way you did - that B-G said those things, not merely 'held' this view.

In my view Chomsky should have been more clear in his quote. The way he wrote it easily misleads people into thinking that B-G said those words, not merely agreed with them.
Though this doesn't affect the 'big picture' Chomsky is portraying - the positions of Israel's 'Founding fathers' towards Arabs and the issue of Jewish settlement and borders in Israel/Palestine.

A question for my education... Is the rest of the page and the quotes appearing there also 'unclear' or are the rest correct (to your knowledge, if course)?

What do you find wrong about the 'big picture' that Chomsky is portraying?

Thanks.


Would appreciate answers on the second quote, specifically to

2. Bogdanor (and you) says that this quote was actually Machnes'

What is your proof of this?

Does it rest on just the fact that the Mechnes and Chomsky's B-G quotes are somewhat similar or do you have additional evidence?

 
At November 23, 2004 at 8:49 AM, Blogger Dhimmi said...

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At November 23, 2004 at 8:51 AM, Blogger Dhimmi said...

Luka,

1. To me the subject is over. However one the other hand as you point out, there are flaws with the bigger picture in that article. The majority of Ben-Gurion’s statements are a reaction to the Peel Commissions recommendations. This is a key element in understanding B-G’s thoughts. I don’t think that he was pro-transfer. B-G believed that if transfer was to take place than the British not the Jews should have carried it out. As for his claims that “boundaries of Zionism are not to be fixed for eternity” that to was made in reference to the Peel Commissions recommendations. For further explanation this requires a bit more fleshing out of what the Peel Commission actually said, A. Arabs and Jews could not live in the same land so there needs to be a population swap B. Israel is to be only on 20 percent of the land – excluding the Negev. The Problem B-G had was with part B. He knew without the Negev that Israel could not survive. Also he did not want to seem like the one who would not compromise with Arabs so he accepted the deal even though he knew it would likely mean the end. But he said that the boundaries were not fixed because the Negev was sparsely populated and he planned to move in there.

Hope that makes sense.

2. Because they sound extremely similar.

 
At November 23, 2004 at 9:23 AM, Blogger benjamin said...

Chomsky's response is fascinating, not only does he fail to note that B.G. in fact said the exact opposite of what he - Chomsky, and not you, Dhimmi - claims he said (not an unusual failing, but still, rather glaring in this case) but he manages to finish with one of the more bizarre sentances I've ever seen. Perhaps you should write and ask him what "crimes" he thinks you've committed. Needless to say, Noam ought to have his ghostwriters handle his email.

 
At November 24, 2004 at 3:59 AM, Blogger LukaB said...

"To me the subject is over."

OK. Perhaps you will care to comment on the non-subject parts of the post.

"However one the other hand as you point out, there are flaws with the bigger picture in that article."

So why don't you point them out (you only focus on B-G below, there were other quotations).

"The majority of Ben-Gurion’s statements are a reaction to the Peel Commissions recommendations. This is a key element in understanding B-G’s thoughts."

OK. So just because they were responses to the recommendations, he did not hold these views?

"I don’t think that he was pro-transfer."

Based on?

"B-G believed that if transfer was to take place than the British not the Jews should have carried it out. As for his claims that “boundaries of Zionism are not to be fixed for eternity” that to was made in reference to the Peel Commissions recommendations."

And this changes the meaning of the quote in what way?

"For further explanation this requires a bit more fleshing out of what the Peel Commission actually said, A. Arabs and Jews could not live in the same land so there needs to be a population swap B. Israel is to be only on 20 percent of the land – excluding the Negev. The Problem B-G had was with part B. He knew without the Negev that Israel could not survive."

OK. This is interesting (and I'm not being sarcastic).

"Also he did not want to seem like the one who would not compromise with Arabs so he accepted the deal even though he knew it would likely mean the end."

I have a bit of a problem with this. He accepted the deal even though he knew 'Israel could not survive' just because 'he did not want to seem like the one who would not compromise'?

I would assume he was either forced to sign or signed it knowing that he would not respect the agreement in the future.

"But he said that the boundaries were not fixed because the Negev was sparsely populated and he planned to move in there."

What I get from you arguments and Chomsky's is this:

The only disagreement you seem to have with him is that B-G only meant for the boundaries to be extended to include Negev (even though he signed a deal saying otherwise) while Chomsky claims he meant for the boundaries to be extended further.

Is that a correct assesment?


"2. Because they sound extremely similar."

OK. I thought you were actually basing this on something more tangible that 'sounding similar'.

What I thought either you or Bogdanor did was go through the diary on Jan 1 and look at all the entries and see which ones are similar to the one Chomsky quoted. You would then have found out that there is only one quote resembling what C. quoted and that it was actually Mechnes who said that.

Just claiming they are similar leaves us with the possibility that B-G said something similar and Chomsky quoted him saying that.

If only we knew anybody with access to his diaries :)


benjamin said...

"not only does he fail to note that B.G. in fact said the exact opposite of what he - Chomsky, and not you, Dhimmi - claims he said (not an unusual failing, but still, rather glaring in this case)"

I'm sorry, I must have missed something (and I'm not pissed this time.)
Since benjamin doesn't reply, perhaps Dhimmi can tell me what the 'exact opposite' is?

[To turn the phrase around, he would have to have said something like "To the Arabs of the Land of Israel only one function remains -- to stay."
Not very plausible, but I leave the possibility open for benjamin to show us the quote.]

"... but he manages to finish with one of the more bizarre sentances I've ever seen. Perhaps you should write and ask him what "crimes" he thinks you've committed."

Perhaps those being done in his (and your) name by your government and the Israeli government by proxy.

"Needless to say, Noam ought to have his ghostwriters handle his email."

:)

 
At January 12, 2005 at 4:46 AM, Blogger LukaB said...

Happy New year, Dhimmi!

May your posts in the new year be as plentiful as in the previous one.

 
At January 12, 2005 at 9:28 PM, Blogger Dhimmi said...

Thanks Luka, I wish you a happy new year as well.

 
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