The 1948 War

Benny Morris, Colin Shindler

26/02/2008 2:45 pm

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

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

Colin Shindler is Professor Emeritus and Pears Senior Research Fellow at SOAS, the first UK Professor of Israel Studies. He has written seven books including The Rise of the Israeli Right and Israel and the European Left.