Past Events

Past EventsTuesday, February 26

The 1948 War

Benny Morris
Colin Shindler

Zionist historiography, written in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, was essentially mobilized, official historiography, which typically portrayed the war as a straight conflict between the sons of light and the sons of darkness, in which the Jews were always blameless and wise and the Arabs, evil and mindless.

The opening of major Israeli archives in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as the opening of vast amounts of state papers in the US and UK, and the UN archives, made possible a more objective and "scientific" look at what had happened and why. So did the maturing of a new generation of Israelis, whose life experiences did not revolve around 1948 but around 1973, the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and the First Intifada.

The New Historiography produced at the end of the 1980s, focusing in 1948 (after all, that was the revolutionary year), in fact served as the first generation of real, well-documented historiography of Israel's birth (all previous "history" had really been prehistory. Among the topics dealt with were Britain's role in 1947-1948, the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem, the agreement (or lack of it) between the Yishuv/Israel and Transjordan, how the war ended without Israeli-Arab peace, and why.

Benny Morris is considered to be the first of the revisionist Israeli historians and an internationally known critic of both Israeli and Palestinian policies. His most recent book isThe Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited.

Colin Shindler is Reader in Israeli and Modern Jewish Studies and chairman of the Centre for Jewish studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He was editor of the Jewish Quarterly (1985-1994) and of Judaism Today (1995-2001).His most recent books are The Triumph of Military Zionism: Nationalism and the Origins of the Israeli Right , What do Zionists Believe? and A History of Modern Israel .

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