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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.
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on 25 January 2010
the reviews of 'Danny the Arabian' hits the mark, but i will add just a few additional remarks. While, Benny Morris maintains the was no systematic plan to expel all the Palestinians, he does acknowledge some villages were razed and Palestinians expelled, while other villages left intact and others fled in fear after hearing about Deir Yassin. However, Morris tries to attribute some of these atrocities to 'rogue elements' and responses to 'Arab attacks' that he claims were not dictated policy from the top. A major criticism of Benny Morris is his sole reliance upon Israeli archive sources, in the last few years he has publicly justified this by claiming oral testimonies are unreliable. As such, he tends to take Israeli archives at face value, and in this sense 'Jewish studies' remains light years behind other areas of serious historical enquiry.

Would we accept only German archives to document the Holocaust and deny the importance of oral testimonies from survivors? i hope not, granted there are little or no official 'Arab' - that is Palestinian documents available, but oral testimonies from Palestinians have been increasingly documented and should be used to cross reference Israeli state archives, to gain a fuller picture of events.

see for example, Susan Slymovic 'the object of memory' and Ahmad H. Sa'di & Lila Abu-Lughod (eds) 'Nakba: Palestine, 1948 and the claims of memory'
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on 23 July 2016
lots of real facts and figures a bit too much for me quite a lot of information but very detailed especially showing the destruction of Palestinins before israel officially got the keys to its new land , but great insight into what happened to cause all the refugees
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on 10 October 2010
Benny Morris's aim was to find out exactly what caused the departure of 700,000 Palestinian Arabs from areas of British Mandate Palestine and subsequently the State of Israel in the years 1947-9. By dint of painstaking, detailed research he has made as good an effort as anyone is likely to achieve. The years in question saw the British mandate draw to a close as the conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Jews intensified into low-scale civil war. In May 1948 the British departed, the State of Israel was declared and it was immediately invaded its Arab neighbours. Israel won its War of Independence at great cost, but many Palestinian Arabs abandoned or were forced to abandon their homes and they refer to this period as `al-Nakba' or `catastrophe'.

The author's sources were primarily the archives of the pre-State Yishuv, the Israeli, British, American governments and the UN. The expanded 2004 edition makes use of newly released information from Israeli cabinet protocols and Haganah / IDF archives. Documentation held by Arab states was not used as it's kept under lock and key due to the humiliating nature of their military defeat. Morris decided against using interview evidence from Jewish and Arab witnesses as decades had elapsed since the events and memories are often selected or distorted to fit a political narrative. The plentiful documentary evidence was deemed more reliable for the purpose of `establishing facts' and indeed this book is packed with detail.

The book is not a comprehensive history of Israel's War of Independence and you'll have to refer elsewhere if you're interested in the military operations. Also, the important historical context leading up to the events of 1947-49 is not covered. The focus is very much on the national and local decisions, operations and circumstances that led to the exodus of Arab town dwellers and villagers.

Ideally readers should be familiar with the geography of Palestine / Israel, because there are only three maps at the beginning of the book and it's difficult constantly to cross-refer to them from the text. Finding the location of an abandoned village involves searching through a long index in an untidy geographical order. This is the only practical weakness of the book. Small local maps should have been interspersed in the main body of text.

As someone from the pro-Israel side of the fence, this book often made uncomfortable reading, but it's better to know the truth about what happened than be ignorant. Collective self-delusion in politics means people fail to understand the other side. I for one now better understand Palestinian historical grievances. Interestingly, much Western anti-Israel sentiment relates to the military takeover of the West Bank and Gaza in June 1967. But it's abundantly clear that in Palestinian minds, the events of 1947-9 are what really hurt, hence their long-term and probably unrealistic insistence on the `right of return'.

For me, the biggest source of dismay was to read about the excesses of Jewish and Israeli forces during the war. Several small-scale atrocities and many other acts of brutality did occur in the course of the conflict. Sometimes the intention was to intimidate local Arabs into flight and sometimes revenge was the motive. There were also atrocities in the other direction, but generally the Israelis had the upper hand militarily and were in a position to expel Arab inhabitants from villages seen as a threat to Israeli forces and supply lines. Israel is a small country with long borders and few main roads so many villages fell into this category. That said, villages in areas away from the front lines, such as the western and central Galilee, were mostly left untouched. Often it depended whether a village was deemed hostile (usually, but not always Muslim) or friendly (often Christian, Druze or Circassian). For example, Nazareth back then was a Christian Arab town and was relatively unaffected by hostilities.

Overall, Morris concludes that the reasons for Arab flight were mixed. There were many instances of Arabs leaving their homes following orders from the Arab Higher Committee or local Arab commanders. In towns such as Haifa, wealthy Arab families left early in the conflict, followed by community leaders and this weakened and demoralised the remaining population. Economic hardship and food shortages were a contributing factor. Many fled following word of real or alleged massacres by Jewish / Israeli forces. And many fled simply to escape fighting as Israeli forces clashed with the invading Arab armies and bands of local and foreign irregulars.

A key question that Morris addresses is whether there was a `master plan' to expel Arabs from the territory of the future Jewish State. He concludes from the evidence that there definitely wasn't, but amongst most Israelis, including leaders such as Ben-Gurion, there was a tacit understanding that it was desirable not to have too large and threatening an Arab minority within the future state. Influential individuals such as Yosef Weitz, director of the JNF's Lands Department, argued for population transfer, but the final word usually rested with Ben-Gurion, who took a pragmatic line. He was mindful of world opinion and Israel's need for good relationships with the United States and other powers. Sometimes he gave verbal agreement to clearance operations like those at the strategic towns of Lydda and Ramle, but at other times he voiced restraint. When it came to decisions at the field command level, inconsistency ruled. There was no single, clear policy.

Readers should bear in mind that the Palestinian Arab leadership and Arab League rejected the UN Partition Plan of November 1947, so they bear primary responsibility for the war and subsequent dislocation. For Israel this was a war of survival in which one out of every hundred Jews was killed. It took place just three years after the end of the Holocaust and many of its participants had been traumatised by their harsh experiences in Europe. Some, particularly in the Irgun and IZL saw this war as an extension of the struggle against the Nazis. The fact that the leader of the Palestinians, the Mufti of Jerusalem, had been an active supporter of Hitler and the Nazis didn't help their cause.

If you're interested in this topic and are prepared for a long slog through detailed accounts of events, then this book is as thorough and authoritative as you can get.
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on 1 April 2008
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...
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on 24 September 2007
This is an update of Morris' groundbreaking 1988 study, which finally shattered the Zionist myth that Palestinian refugees left Palestine in 1947/48 because they were told to do so by their own leaders or by Arab leaders in preparation for a military invasion. In reality the myth had been nailed before this but Morris went through Israeli military archives to show that the standard myth could not be sustained even from within the Zionists own documents. Morris concluded that the exodus of the Palestinians from their land was `the result of war, not design.'

After 1988, however, Nur Masalha showed that the concept of `transfer' - the expulsion of all or most of the Palestinian people had always been at the centre of Zionist ideology.

In `Revisited', Morris accepts that Masalha was correct, that the concept of transfer has been central to Zionist ideology. However, Morris claims to see no link between this ideology of `transfer' and the fact of the dispossession of the Palestinian people.

Morris adds more research to flesh out his previous work. We see from the Zionist archives how pretty much every city, town, village, hamlet and farm that was cleansed, was cleansed of its indigenous people. It makes for a grim slog through over 600 pages. Numerous massacres are carefully documented, even though Morris shrinks from calling a massacre a massacre, preferring instead to call them `eliminations', `executions' and other such terms.

The evidence for a massive crime against humanity is there for all to see. Which makes Morris' conclusion, the same one that he offered in the first edition of this work, that the cleansing of Palestine was a result of `war not design', all the more surprising and, frankly, unsustainable. Morris's conclusion is made all the more unsustainable by the fact that a month after publication of this book, in an interview with Ha'aretz, Morris commented: "A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads."

What to make of such a conclusion and such a huge and glaring contradiction between what Morris says in a book and what he concedes in a newspaper interview? Is Morris simply spinning in order to promote the most favourable analysis for Israel? Is he a poor analytical historian but a good archivist - someone who, having found the evidence is weak when it comes to interpretation? Or seeking to have the most favourable interpretation to Israel accepted as historical orthodoxy when he himself knows better - in short has Morris sacrificed scholarly honesty for the sake of political propaganda?

Most supporters of Israel now realise that their old version of the Palestinian exodus, that it was largely voluntary, is unsustainable. This unsustainability is, in no short measure, due to Morris's work and, in the past, supporters of Israel have viciously attacked Morris for undermining their narrative of history. Now, however, the Morris conclusion that the exodus is the consequence of 'war not design' looks attractive for the supporters of Israel who now seek to establish this conclusion as the new orthodox narrative as it absolves Israel of the charge of ethnic cleansing.

I recommend that you follow this work up with Ilan Pappe's `The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine' which puts the events Morris documents so carefully into their political and historical context. Pappe produces the link between the ideology and practice of `transfer' in the form of detailed plans and orders for the Zionist forces which committed the cleansing of the Palestinians and undermines Morris's conclusion.
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on 30 December 2012
Morris became a leading "new historian" when he first published this book (c.1988?) but other Israelis were tolerant of what he'd done.

Other historians followed and got themselves into really hot water, one of them being forced to leave the country. Still, Morris bravely updated this book in 2004 and I'd recommend everyone buy a copy while they're available.

Under a barrage of criticism (and probably threats), Morris hastily re-invented himself as a hard-core, right-wing Zionist, fully supportive of transfer,

There are some flaws, he never mentions the "Village Files" or the planning of the ethnic cleansing. Of the 400 towns and villages he names, he can't account for about 40 of them, but almost every one of the rest were evacuated by violence or the threat of violence.

Morris claims that 5 villages and part of Haifa were emptied by the "orders of Arab leaders" (the Zionists used to make the ridiculous claim for the whole country). Nevertheless, Morris's claim for at least one of them (Sirin) is probably untrue - the villages may have left briefly in fear of an Arab "army" (band of robbers) but it was Israelis who destroyed this once beautiful village, which they've never re-settled.
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on 7 June 2014
A foundation for an urealistic understanding of the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Morris paints a poor picture of the war that lead to Israel's birth as well as the Palestinian problem. He has a bit of incorrect commentary too.
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