The War for Palestine Rewriting the History of 1948 by Eugene L. Rogan and Avi Shlaim, eds;. Afterword by Edward W Said (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 234 pages.)

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Juliane Hammer

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Abstract

The events of 1948 mark the Palestinians' nakbah (catastrophe) and the Israelis' war of independence. The historiographies describing and analyzing these events have always been debated and contested. For instance, 1948 can be described as a founding element of Palestinian and Israeli iden­ tities respectively. A serious attempt to rewrite earlier historiography was introduced by the Israeli "new historians" in the 1980s. Based on documents and materials from recently opened Israeli archives, they set out to challenge Israel's founding myth and the lopsided description of the causes and events leading to the Palestinian refugee problem.
The volume under review moves the rewriting a step further by attempting to take a fresh look at the Arab states' and the Palestinians' involvement in the development of the 1948 war. The editors suggest that it is possible, as well as necessary, to deconstruct the myths surrounding the Arab armies' defeat in 1948 by finding its causes in the Arab states' politi­cal situation and with each one's internal situation.
The introduction explains the need for such a rewriting process and points out that much needs to be done, especially regarding the historiog­raphy of Arab states that stil I draw some of their legitimacy from their historical myths, often related to the 1948 war. Similarly, the Arab states' support for the Palestinians and their cause, as well as their participation in the 1948 war (to save Palestine), are almost always presented as inter­dependent and an example of high moral commitment. Opening Arab archives (civil and military) of this period seems to be a dream of histo­rians, rather than a realistic expectation, for the near future. Thus, the introduction concludes that much research in support of this critical tra­dition has yet to be done ...

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