Top positive review
Landmark scholarship which disproves the author's thesis
on 28 February 2016
This is a landmark study which killed off the old Zionist propaganda that the Palestinian refugee problem resulted from them following orders from their leaders to flee. No serious student of the Israel-Palestine conflict should ignore this work.
What Morris proved is that for a variety of reasons but mainly because they were under military assault or otherwise in fear of their lives, over half the Palestinian Arab population fled (726,000 according to the UN). They had good reason to flee: where they attempted to stay they were often slaughtered and rape, torture and looting were widespread (Morris recounts the grisly case of an Arab who was required to clean the house in which Zionist soldiers had based themselves; when she had finished they shot her and her baby).
However Morris claims that “The Palestinian refugee problem was born of war, not by design”. In other words there was no Jewish masterplan to expel the majority Arab population. What’s odd about this claim is that his book appears to prove the opposite.
There’s little doubt the Jews wished to get rid of the Arabs. Ten years before the fighting started David Ben Gurion said "I support compulsory transfer. I don't see in it anything immoral." When he was told how many had remained in Nazareth he asked "Why did you not expel them?” and promised that Galilee would be “clean, empty of Arabs”.
As Morris says “It was understood by all concerned that … the less Arabs remaining in the Jewish State, the better”.
So they wished for it and they had a plan to do it (called Plan Dalet) and they did it. Again Morris tells us that no town was abandoned by its residents until it was attacked and that "it was standard Haganah and IDF policy to round up and expel the remaining villagers (usually old people, widows, cripples) from sites already evacuated by most of their inhabitants”. The brigade which attacked Haifa was ordered to “kill all males”. The town was shelled by mortars, even though there were no fighters in the town and the Jews knew this to be the case. David Ben Gurion on seeing the civilian population fleeing under shell fire said “What a beautiful sight”.
Morris records all of this and yet concludes it was all a bit of a muddle in the heat of battle and no plan to expel Arabs ever existed. But those who left their homes were not permitted to return – surely expulsion by another name.
A senior Mapam official wrote that "a deliberate eviction [of the Arabs] is taking place. . . out of certain political goals and not only out of military necessity”.
A valuable book but one in which the author appears to (deliberately?) misinterpret his own evidence.