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Ilan Pappe: New book argues that Israel displaced a million Palestinians at founding

Historians in the News




The ethnic cleansing of Palestine, Publication date: October 19th 2006 Hardcover, £16.99, 336pp, 1-85168-467-0

The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.

-- David Ben-Gurion writing to his son, 1937

There is no such thing as a Palestinian people... It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist.

-- Golda Meir, statement to The Sunday Times, 15 June, 1969

As Israel stands accused by Amnesty International of committing war crimes in Lebanon following its almost 5-week bombardment of that country, which left over a thousand civilians dead and almost a million displaced, a prominent Israeli historian at Haifa University revisits the formative period of the State of Israel to investigate the treatment of the indigenous Palestinians.

In this controversial new book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappe uses recently declassified archival sources to investigate the fate suffered by the indigenous population of 1940s Palestine at the hands of the Zionist political and military leadership, whose actions led to the mass deportation of over a million Palestinians from their cities and villages, over 400 villages wiped from the map, and hundreds of civilians dead.

Exploring both the planning and the execution of the Jewish operations during the British Mandate period and the run-up to independence, Pappe focuses in particular on the activities of the Hagana, the Irgun, and the Palmach. Drawing on such meticulously-researched documents as the minutes from meetings of Ben-Gurion’s unofficial "war cabinet" as well as the personal diaries and memoirs of a large number of key officials in all sectors of the Jewish leadership of the day, Pappe pieces together and re-examines the attitudes and motivations that influenced the conduct of the Jewish community towards the indigenous population. He goes on to offer a detailed account of the events of 1947-8 that eventually led to one of the biggest refugee migrations in modern history. This is no moral rant against the past, but a passionate plea to acknowledge the Nakba, as Palestinians call the catastrophe that befell them in 1948, as the root cause of the ongoing Palestine-Israel conflict.

Many political commentators and historians trace the roots of the recent stages of the conflict back only so far as Israel’s occupation of the West Bank following the 1967 war, rightly regarding the occupation, the settlements and the Security Barrier as a violation of international law.

The first and second Intifadas may be seen as protests against the continuing occupation and a reflection of the deep despair of the Palestinians, who feel they have been severely let down by their own leaders, by Israel, by Arab states, by the United Nations, and by western powers.

Pappe argues persuasively, however, that the continued denial of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948 and the consequent dispossession of a million native Palestinians from their homeland represents a gross injustice that requires redress. The refusal to acknowledge this event, and allow those dispossessed the right of return to their ancestral lands and homes, are not only an abuse of their human rights, but a rejection from the peace process of the essential foundation for a lasting peace in the Middle East and beyond.

An incisive, important and timely book, on an issue of continuing global concern.

Advance praise for The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

Ilan Pappe is a senior lecturer of Political Science at Haifa University. He is also Academic Director of the Research Institute for peace at Givat Haviva, and Chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies, Haifa. His previous works include the bestselling A History of Modern Palestine, The Modern Middle East and The Israel/Palestine Question.

Ilan Pappe is Israel’s bravest, most principled, most incisive historian.

-- John Pilger

The first book to so clearly document the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in

1948 of which the massacre at Deir Yassin was emblematic. Political Zionism has always been premised on the elimination of non-Jews who even today account for more than half of the population living within the borders controlled by Israel. Will the West continue to ignore this textbook example of ethnic cleansing, a crime against humanity?

-- Daniel McGowan, Executive Director, Deir Yassin Remembered, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Ilan Pappe has written an extraordinary book of profound relevance to the past, present, and future of Israel/Palestine relations.

-- Richard Falk, Professor of International Law and Practice, Princeton University

This is an extraordinary book - a dazzling feat of scholarly synthesis and Biblical moral clarity and humaneness.

-- Walid Khalidi, Former Senior Research Fellow, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University

An instant classic. Finally we have the authoritative account of an historic event which continues to shape our world today, and drives the conflict in the Middle East. Pappe is the only historian who could have told it, and he has done so with supreme command of the facts, elegance, and compassion. The publication of this book is a landmark event.

-- Karma Nabulsi, a research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford University

If there is to be real peace in Palestine/Israel, the moral vigour and intellectual clarity of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine will have been a major contributor to it.

-- Ahdaf Soueif, author of The Map of Love

Fresh insights into a world historic tragedy, related by a historian of genius.

-- George Galloway MP

Groundbreaking research into a well-kept Israeli secret. A classic of historical scholarship on a taboo subject by one of Israel's foremost New Historians.

-- Ghada Karmi, author of In Search of Fatima

Ilan Pappe is out to fight against Zionism, whose power of deletion has driven a whole nation not only out of its homeland but out of historic memory as well. A detailed, documented record of the true history of that crime, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine puts an end to the Palestinian "Nakbah" and the Israeli "War of Independence" by so compellingly shifting both paradigms.

-- Anton Shammas, Professor of Modern Middle Eastern Literature, University of Michigan
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