Pappe, the intellectually courageous Israeli "New Historian," has written a superb history for general readers. What's unusual about this book is (1) its attempt to present the histories of both peoples, (2) its effort to get outside the potted nationalist narratives of both peoples, and (3) its profound solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggles against expulsion and occupation. As Pappe says, "This book is written by one who admits compassion for the colonized, not the colonizer; who sympathizes with the occupied and not the occupiers; and sides with the workers not the bosses. He feels for women in distress, and has little admiration for men in command."
Pappe locates the struggle for land at the very center of this narrative, and he does not hesitate to call the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 an act of "ethnic cleansing," proceeding under the aegis of the Zionist "Plan D," which systematically drove 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from their villages. At the same time, he notes the chronically ineffective Palestinian leadership, from the clan rivalries of Palestinian "notables" that made any unified resistance to British and Zionist encroachments impossible, to the top-down rule of the Palestinian Authority, which cooperated in the disaster of Oslo and sidelined average, suffering Palestinians in Israel, under occupation, and in exile. He notes the complexities of opinion and experience among Jews in Palestine and Israel, including those early Zionists who hoped from the beginning for a binational secular state, and the Mizrahi or Arab Jews, who faced considerable discrimination at the hands of Ashkenazi or European Jews. And with a realistic but hopeful eye on Palestine's future, he highlights what "The Urge for Co-habitation" in Mandate Palestine, and even in Israel. He finds resources for hope in the history of his own Haifa during the 1920s, when it "became the site of the most exciting experience of class solidarity and bi-national, or even a-national cooperation." For instance, Jewish workers and Arab workers (Palestinian, Syrian, and Egyptian) came together in the first Palestinian trade union, which united workers in the railway, telegraphic, and postal services against their British employers.
Pappe's keen, historians' eye for the complexities of lived experience on both sides is particularly welcome today, when reductive scholar-warriors like Benny Morris are willing to present Palestine's past and future as a conflict between Zionist "civilization" and Arab-Islamic "barbarism," and when Ariel Sharon seems to see a wall of concrete tombstones festooned with guard towers as Israel's last best hope.