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)

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
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.

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness