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The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge Middle East Studies) Paperback – January 15, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0521009676 ISBN-10: 0521009677 Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Middle East Studies (Book 18)
  • Paperback: 666 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (January 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521009677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521009676
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #897,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, a book of extraordinary power and integrity written by a young Israeli scholar and journalist, Benny Morris, takes that great tale of flight and conquest and tells it as it has never been told before: with precision and moral economy, with awesome detail and honesty." The Washington Post Book World

"The book remains a seminal work on the evacuation of Palestinians between 1947 and 1949. this extremely readable book narrates a powerful story of the uprooting of a people, even if the very voice of the uprooted is absent from it." Political Science Quarterly

Book Description

This is a revised edition of Morris' earlier work which exposed the realities of how 700,000 Palestinians became refugees during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The focus remains the war and exodus, but fresh archival material considers what happened in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Haifa, and how events there led to the collapse of urban Palestine. It also sheds light on battles and atrocities that contributed to the disintegration of rural communities. The story is harrowing. The refugees now number four million and their cause remains a major obstacle to peace.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Smith on January 12, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The strength of this book lies in its meticulous detail and the thorough research of its author. Even after two decades this work still stands as one of the most important books to cover the beginnings of the refugee problem. It is authoritative and very detailed.

Whether you agree with Mr. Morris or not, his book is a must read for any serious student of Israel, the conflict or the Middle East in general. I also feel that it is a testament to the evenhandedness of the author that the work has been derided by both camps. Only an honest attempt at analysis could make both sides so unhappy.

The book starts out with a brief history of the region before partition, and then moves along chronologically from the early ideas of population transfer through the war and ends with the last cease fire and the following negotiations. The main chapters are based chronologically, but within the chapters they are broken up geographically. This allows the author to focus in on each location the experienced a demographic change. With great detail the author explains each transfer, and gives the reader a detailed analysis of why these people left. This is one of the big problems in trying to understand the birth of the refugee problem. There was a great variety of reasons why these people left their villages and cities. Some were told to leave by the authorities, some were explicitly forced out by the IDF, others left out of fear, and others left due to stories of atrocities and rumors of atrocities. This is the crux of the problem that was tackled by the author in this work, why each group of refugees left. The author structured his book perfectly to give readers the most detailed analysis of why each group left each specific area.
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49 of 69 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Waldron on October 24, 2005
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Review of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, by Benny Morris

Israeli historian Benny Morris largely succeeds in his intention to present a "complex and nuanced" history of the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem. His extensive research, which led to the first version of this work published in 1988, was derived from archived records in Israel, England, the United States and the United Nations. Given the lapse of time since 1948 he found oral recollections inadequate and of dubious reliability. There is a torrent of detail in the book and there are hundreds of endnotes following each chapter.

Many readers will be shocked by the numerous detailed descriptions of the violence exercised on Palestinian non-combatants by Zionist forces. Even the most pro-Zionist readers will no longer be able to deny that a massive ethnic cleansing occurred in 1948. In fact, there are repeated references to "cleansing" in orders given to Haganah units, sometimes explicitly giving instructions to kill adult males, expel the women and children and destroy their homes to prevent return. Often units were not faced with the onerous task of killing and expelling because the Arabs had fled in anticipation of violence. The infamous massacre at Deir Yassin was not unique; Morris states that there were some 20 massacres, two of which were revealed for the first time in the 1988 version of this book.

About 700,000 persons (Morris's estimate) were displaced beyond the boundary of the part of Palestine allotted to the new state of Israel and beyond the additional area taken by Zionist arms. Figure 2 in the book is a map with some 392 numbered dots representing the Palestinian villages evacuated and destroyed.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ron Tenenhaus on August 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
A very thorough and detailed examination of the events surrounding the departure of the Arab community from the British Mandate territory of Palestine. At times, this book reads like a diary with very specific references to dates and times when particular events occured. A knowledge of the geography of the area, and a background in the political events unfolding at the time would be helpful in deciphering the numerous figures and reference points. Morris does succeed in conveying the variety of conflicting forces at play during this time and how they converged to create what was truly a chaotic situation for all parties in nascent Arab-Israeli conflict.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dovis Miller on November 27, 2009
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This seminal book, an updated version of the original published in 1988, might have been better edited. It contains several repetitions, plus, weighs down the casual reader with far too many examples and details. Much better would have been to give the essential story, and to have added an appendix containing all additional examples and details that the more avid history buffs would indeed want included.

That said, the importance of this book simply cannot be overstated. It documents, with crystal-clear and unassailable clarity, what caused 700,000 Palestinians to be displaced in 1947-48. And no honest observer, after reading this volume, could deny the bone-fide case Palestinians have against Israel - even though, as the book also constantly points out, the fledgling Jewish state was emotionally and materially unable to carry out a more just policy.

This has much bearing on the political situation today. For one, it means it is totally unrealistic to look for a peace solution where Palestine formally recognizes Israel - a different model (perhaps along the lines of the Bermigo Plan) will need to be found. And second, the historical record, which this book so ably sets out, shames the kneejerk, self-righteous rightwing and center-right Jewish organizations who present the conflict as a tug of war between the eminently reasonable (the Israelis) and totally unreasonable (the Palestinians). The truth is far, far more complex.

Finally, let readers differentiate between this completely apolitical and superbly researched historical volume, and Professor Benny Morris's personal political views - some of which are quite whacky. He is certainly not the first professor or top-rank researcher to present his findings - and then advise on a policy that his own findings scoff at.
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