Dayan Quotation:

In the comments to my post reconstructing a quotation, distorted by an ellipsis, attributed to Ariel Sharon, a reader wrote,"Next up, Prof. Bernstein explains the quote attributed to Moshe Dayan, 'we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave.'" Sure, why not. This quote comes up pretty often, and is a particular favorite of Noam Chomsky. It's generally attributed to Dayan as saying that this is what he said Israel should tell "the Palestinians" or "the Palestinians in the occupied territories."

The problem is that the original English source for this quote is Noam Chomsky, in his 1992 book Deterring Democracy. Not surprisingly, Chomsky provides no meaningful context; all he writes is "Dayan's advice was that Israel should tell the Palestinian refugees [note that even in Chomsky's original, Dayan is referring to "refugees" assumedly living in refugee camps, not Palestinians in general, something that Chomsky has conveniently forgotten over time] in the territories 'that we have no solution, that you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wants to can leave — and we will see where this process leads... [beware the ellipsis!] In five years we may have 200,000 less people — and that is a matter of enormous importance.'"

Chomsky's source is Yossi Beilin, Mehiro shel Ihud 42-43 (Revivim, 1985), a Hebrew book written by Israeli dove Beilin. If we have any Volokh Conspiracy readers who are fluent in Hebrew and have access to the book, let me know in more detail what specifically Dayan was referring to, what is missing via the ellipsis, and if, for that matter, Chomsky is indeed quoting accurately (which with Chomsky cannot be taken for granted), please write in.

UPDATE: In a debate with Alan Dershowitz, the cheeky Chomsky states: "Dayan was in charge of the occupation. He advised them that we must tell the Palestinians, that we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes, may leave. That's the solution that is now being implemented. Don't take my word for it. Go check the sources I cited, very easy, all English." Well, all English so long as you allow Chomsky to cite himself citing the Hebrew original!

FURTHER UPDATE: Here's a translation of the original Hebrew:

At this stage, there was, it seems, in Dayan's position, a willingness to go back to the international border in Syria and Sinai, to find a way to transfer the refugees from Gaza to the West Bank, to add Gaza, and to divide authority on the West Bank with Jordan.

The single voice that represented the dovish position in the internal deliberations in RAFI [a small center-left party] was Itzhak Navon. Three months after the war, he said, "Time is not in our favor but against us... the West Bank is tied to hundreds of thousands, we need to decide on policy based on coordination with the Palestinians and not with Hussein...! We need to reach a settlement with them, meaning building an independent country. Meaning, part of the West Bank, and the IDF will say... 'if we don't stand face to face with [occupy and confront] the Palestinians, we didn't solve anything, and we cannot keep our position as ruler of a million and a quarter Arabs... it's a different nation, a different people that you can't explain to them [the Arabs] why we're sitting there."

No one supported this position, and Navon himself didn't repeat his position in RAFI forums, and later in Labor Party forums.

On the other hand, the RAFI attitude became more hawkish, under the leadership of Moshe Dayan. Even his position became more extreme after the Fall of 1967.

In the RAFI secretariat meeting in September of 1967, Tvzi Shiloah, one of the Founders of the Greater Israel movement, said, "borders is the most delicate thing in world politics, and we need to expel 'arrangements' from our thoughts. Our job is to educate our party to the notion that there are no political agreements."

An argument between Dayan and Peres at the same meeting demonstrates a very extreme approach regarding the Palestinian refugees. Moshe Dayan states during this discussion "let's say 'we don't have a solution, and you will continue living like dogs, and whoever wants will go, and we'll see how this procedure will work out.' For now, it works out. Let's say the truth. We want peace. If there is no peace, we will maintain military rule and we will have four to five military compounds on the mountains, and they will sit ten years under the Israeli military regime. Whoever wants to go, will want. It's possible that in five years, there will be 200,000 fewer people, and that's an enormous thing."

RAFI secretary Shimon Peres retorts, "we could act like Rhodesia, but we need to avoid that. Putting aside our standing in the world, there is a problem for ourselves. We need to consider how to maintain Israel's moral status, and let's not ignore that." To that, Dayan replies, "Ben-Gurion said that whoever approaches the Zionistic problem in the moral aspect is not a Zionist."

So, first, the original Hebrew source is a secondary source that provides only the barest context for Dayan's remark--all the book tells us is that Dayan's comment illustrates an extreme attitude toward Palestinian refugees, and was made during a meeting with other leaders of the small RAFI party, which was composed of hawkish defectors from the dominant Labor Party. Apparently, Chomsky couldn't be bothered to look up the original transcripts, which are footnoted by Beilin.

Second, Dayan didn't make this remark in the "early 1970s," he made it in September 1967, just three months after the Six Day War.

Third, he didn't say it to his "cabinet colleagues," or in any official government capacity, but at meeting of the leaders of his small party, and his statement on that particular day may or may not have reflected his more general, or his longer-term, views regarding the Palestinians.

Fourth, according the book, Dayan was addressing the situation of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, not all Palestinians, or even all Palestinians in the West Bank.

Fifth, and by far most significant, Chomsky leaves out the next few sentences uttered by Dayan: "For now, it works out. Let's say the truth. We want peace. If there is no peace, we will maintain military rule and we will have four to five military compounds on the hills, and they will sit ten years under the Israeli military regime." Thus, rather than this quote reflecting a long-term "plan" by Israel, it reflected Dayan's view of the alternative if a peace deal with Jordan (Beilin notes on the same page that Dayan was willing "to divide authority on the West Bank with Jordan"), could not be reached. Moreover, even in the absence of an immediate peace deal, Dayan was not speaking of a permanent occupation, but of a ten-year Israeli presence.

Nevertheless, the quotes in the book don't make Dayan look good. Shimon Peres objects that the occupation proposed by Dayan would make Israel act immorally like Rhodesia, and Dayan responds that moral considerations should be irrelevant.

So, if you want to claim, as Beilin does, that Dayan was prone to adopting extreme views regarding the Palestinian refugees in September 1967, this certainly provides strong supporting evidence. You could argue, moreover, that this suggests a moral blind spot on Dayan's part, as Shimon Peres (whom Chomsky also despises, and also claims was not interested in peace) did at the time. But if you want to argue, as Chomsky does, that the relevant quotation shows that in the early 1970s the man in charge of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank was lecturing his cabinet colleagues (without apparent dissent) that they should reject peace, and mistreat the Palestinian population so badly that they will all want to leave, you are stretching the truth beyond recognition.