7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The canonical text on the refugee issue,
This review is from: The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge Middle East Studies) (Paperback)
Benny Morris is pretty much the only researcher to have bothered with the primary documentation on this issue. If you read pretty much every single other work - either serious or otherwise - you will see that the source is inevitably Morris's work. Even Pappe, Massalha and Finkelstein who attack Morris's thesis, in the very, very few sources they give for their contentions rely on a [distorted] Morris. As usual with history it is best to go to the source.
Morris presents a number of issues for propagandists of both sides. As is normal with history, there is no black and white and there is even more complexity in the Palestinian issue than in other wars due to the multilateral aspect of the war. Morris certainly DOES NOT accept Finkelstein and Massalha's thesis on transfer - anyone who has read this and other works by Morris will know he goes to great and unnecessary lengths to disprove what they say. Morris also reminds the reader that there was a brutal war going on, a war the Arabs launched and ultimately lost. Morris also DOES NOT shrink from calling a massacre a massacre but also does not shrink from calling a battle a battle. He also deals with the issue of Tantura - the "massacre" Pappe has been showcasing for years, a "massacre" where the people - Palestinian and Israeli - interviewed on tape deny happened, the tape of the interviews the researcher claimed demonstrated massacres "disappeared", where none of the contemporaneous documentation shows happened - the natives of the village complain about looting but not nearly a quarter of their village being "massacred" - a "survivor" has written a book denying the "massacre" ever happened and there are no missing people who could have been "massacred". Oh and the researcher who "discovered" it admitted he made it up.
Again anyone who actually read the book would know Morris does detail around a dozen atrocities - defined as deliberate killing of civilians and PoWs - resulting in around 800 dead. He also details a number of villages where the inhabitants were expelled but the vast majority clearly left with little or no encouragement from the Israelis but for a mixture of other reasons - such as the mass abandonment of the Palestinians by their leaders and upper classes, economical issues such as the shortage and price of food, fear of battles, fear of what they had been told the Jews would do to those who stayed behind, orders from the AHC - mainly to evacuate women, children and the infirm out of the battle areas(ie most of what was 1948 Israel) and drafting by the ALA and other Palestinian militia. He also documents the political discussions going on during the exodus on the Israeli side - and it is quite, quite clear that the exodus wasn't "planned" and that the Israelis were certainly taken by surprise as to the speed and size of the exodus and that for every person like Weitz - who anti-Israelis make much of - there are three other people running around trying to get arabs to stay. One of the reasons Pappe has resorted to claiming that the "plan for expulsion" is so top secret is because there is absolutely no evidence to back his argument up( it is like any decent conspiracy theory, it is the LACK OF EVIDENCE that makes it so compelling... ).
All in all, if your interest is SOLELY the Palestinian refugee problem then short of going to the archives yourself this is the canonical text. If want to understand the birth of the conflict then this is going to give you a very one-sided view. Morris is open about this, this is a book that is focused on one aspect of the 1948 war. You won't read here about the undeniable cleansing of 100% of all Jews from areas conquered by the arabs including tens of thousands from East Jerusalem(most of whom had lived there for centuries), you won't hear about the executions of those who stayed behind in Israeli villages or the massacre of 150 unarmed PoWs and civilians in Gush Etzion. Nor will you hear about the numerous attempts the Israelis made to head off the war. For that you may need to wait for Morris's new book...