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The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge Middle East Studies) 2nd Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521009676
ISBN-10: 0521009677
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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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Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Middle East Studies (Book 18)
  • Paperback: 666 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (January 5, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521009677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521009676
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #218,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
This is an impressive book, Benny Morris is one of Israel's great scholars. I am not sure I agree with the author but I am not competent to judge either the truth or the comprehensiveness of the book. From Wikipedia: Avi Shlaim, retired professor of international relations at the University of Oxford, and himself a New Historian, writes that Morris investigated the 1948 exodus of the Palestinians "as carefully, dispassionately, and objectively as it is ever likely to be", and that The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem is an "outstandingly original, scholarly, and important contribution" to the study of the issue.[3]
Many of Morris's critics cling to the tenets of "Old History", the idea of an Israel born untarnished, a David fighting the Arab Goliath, Shlaim writes. He argues that these ideas are simply false, created not by historians but by the participants in the 1948 war, who wrote about the events they had taken part in without the benefit of access to Israeli government archives, which were first opened up in the early 1980s. Another group of Morris's critics such as Avraham Sela, as well as historians on the left such as Ilan Pappé, argue that he has relied too heavily on Israeli sources and hardly at all on the Arabs. Norman Finkelstein, Nur Masalha and others argue that Morris has been too soft on the Israelis, often ignoring the force of his own evidence.[28] Efraim Karsh alleges that Morris has distorted source material, an allegation not accepted by other historians.[29][30]

Good books and other information about the Middle East can be found here:

mwir-middleeast.blogspot.com/
Midwest Independent Research
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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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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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