ONEWORLD £16.99 (331pp) £15.50 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, by Ilan Pappe

The borders of fact and myth

The war of 1948 created Israel and destroyed Palestinian Arab society. Argument over that destruction has never ceased - continuously, often directly, reshaped by contemporary political developments. Ilan Pappe is surely wrong to suggest in this important, provocative book that the Palestinians' fate has been "erased almost totally from the global public memory". Rather, some ways of seeing it have been blocked, for political reasons and with great, sometimes vindictive energy, in particular places. The kind of view that Pappe presents has been held or maybe even heard only by a very small minority, in Israel and the US.

The 1948 war had two main phases. First, it was mainly a civil war between irregular Arab and Jewish forces within Mandatory Palestine. Then it became an international conflict in which troops from five Arab states intervened. Israel was decisively victorious in both phases. During and after the conflict, most Arab inhabitants of the new Israeli state left their homes.

Ideas about 1948, among both Israelis and Palestinians, mingle historical investigation, popular and official "memory", political controversies and existential anxieties. For Palestinians, the events of 1948 have usually been called the nakba - translated as "disaster".

For the dominant Israeli self-understanding, both official and popular, 1948 was a tale of triumph. Yet victory was won at a high cost, with more than 6,000 dead. Increasingly, arguments emerged that that triumph had a high moral cost too. The dominant Israeli story saw the Palestinian flight as the fault of the Arabs themselves: it arose from a combination of orders to flee by their leaders, the cowardice and intransigence of those leaders, and panic among the peasant masses.

Younger Israeli historians - and, naturally, Palestinian ones too - have long since called all this into question. In the great majority of cases, they found, Palestinians became refugees because they fled actual or feared assault by Jewish armed forces, or because those forces deliberately expelled them during or after such attacks.

In a significant minority of cases, the capture and clearing of Palestinian villages was accompanied by atrocities: shootings of prisoners and civilians, widespread looting and some instances of rape. While the exodus was still in process, decisions were taken that the refugees would never be allowed to return.

These historians' semi-demolition of the official story was viewed by Israeli critics as undermining the foundations of the state. Pappe's new book, though, goes further. Far from the refugee crisis being an unplanned consequence of the war, he suggests, the war was the by-product of Israel's campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The latter was, in his view, far more completely pre-planned from the start than even the most critical historians had recognised. And atrocities were consciously integral to the whole process.

The successive, abortive peace processes since the 1990s have been based on undoing the consequences, not of 1948, but of 1967. The expected outcome among most key participants was the creation of a Palestinian state in at least most of the territories occupied by Israel in the latter year. Many Israelis and outsiders felt that to make the 1948 refugees and their descendants a part of the negotiations was to threaten, even destroy, any prospect of agreement.

Most Palestinians feel the opposite: the end of the conflict must be linked to acknowledgment of and recompense for what happened in 1948. Israeli recognition of past injustice must, some go on, imply support for the refugees' right of return.

Pappe has been among the most forthright advocates of this view. That conviction makes his book a slightly uneasy, if also often compelling, mixture of historical argument and politico-moral tract. His fervour also makes him rather less than generous in acknowledging others' work in the field.

Some commentators, most stridently the journalist John Pilger, seem to believe that Pappe's is the definitive account, the last word on 1948. It isn't: both his overall argument, and much detail, will undoubtedly be subject to sharp critique. And although some of that will be politically motivated, even malicious, some will be careful and honest. But if not the last word, this is a major intervention in an argument that will, and must, continue. There's no hope of a lasting Middle East peace while the ghosts of 1948 still walk.

Stephen Howe is professor of the history of colonialism at Bristol University; his books include 'Ireland and Empire' (OUP)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
    Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

    Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

    They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
    The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

    20 best days out for the summer holidays

    From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
    Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

    All the wood’s a stage

    Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
    Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

    Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

    Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
    Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

    Self-preservation society

    Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
    Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

    Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

    We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor