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A too emotional account of the events of 1947-1949
on 1 October 2012
In "The ethnic Cleansing of Palestine", one of Pappe's main goals is to historically document that during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the simultaneous civil war, Israeli forces perpetrated an ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The book focuses mostly on the period 1947-1949, although the first chapters give an introduction to the historical roots of Zionism, and the final chapters present the current (2006) situation in Palestine.
Whether you will like Pappe's book or not depends on what you expect. I expected the following: A historian, having examined the facts, concludes that an ethnic cleansing has taken place, and presents his case clearly and objectively. This to a certain degree seems to be the case, at least if you exclude the "clearly and objectively" part. The fact is that there are periods throughout the book, particularly in the second half of the book, where Pappe, instead of delivering historical facts, loads his language with emotions and bias (for example going on about the natural beauty of palestine villages, while applying words with negative connotations such as "The consultancy" and "cabal" for jewish groups). These periods in my view clearly detract from the quality of the book and somewhat compromises Pappe's academic trustworthiness.
This does not mean that Pappe's work is mere fiction or pure anti-Israel propaganda, but I would personally recommend using a history book by someone with less of an axe to grind as supplementary reading. A great starting for such supplementary litterature is "The Israel-Palestine conflict" by James L. Gelvin (for the record, Gelvin clearly corroborates several of Pappe's main claims, but Gelvin doesn't take sides in the same way as Pappe does).
My personal conclusions from reading this book and Gelvin's book as well is the following: That a serious instance of ethnic cleansing occurred in the years 1947-1949. It appears to me that Pappe is right that not enough is being done to drive this point home, and his endeavours to do so are commendable. But the fact remains that in this book, he lets his emotions show. Therefore: If you are interested in the Israel-Palestine conflict, don't take it all in uncritically, and get a second opinion as well.