Ilan Pappe. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

AuthorDa'Na, Seif

Ilan Pappe. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oxford: One World Publications, 2007. 313 pages. US $27.50.

A SOLE THOUGHT WAS STIRRING THE coarse mind of Israel's founders for the demographic woes facing the establishment of a Jewish state in a terrain predominantly inhabited by the Arabs; a solution compounded by mass expulsion and ethnic cleansing (Massalha 1991; 1997). Contrary to the myth of being the proverbial David of the 1948 events, Zionist forces with their overwhelming power (Morris 1987; 1988; Shlaim. 1999; Talhami. 2003), ethically cleaned almost 800,000 Palestinian Arabs (approximately 80% of the population living in the area controlled by Israel in the 1948 war, or half of the population of historic Palestine according to Pappe) from their homeland, in addition to thousands of Palestinians who were displaced within their homeland by the Zionists. Others were slaughtered in cold blood, usually execution style, after their villages were occupied and cleansed or after their houses were dynamited while they were asleep in the implementation of the fourth version of the ethnic cleansing master plan, the infamous Plan D. In less than six months, between the end of 1947 and mid 1948 "the Palestinian Arab community would cease to exist as a social and political entity" (Kimmerling and Migdal 2003: 135). Hundreds of villages- five hundred and thirty, together with twelve major urban sites, according to Pappe- would vanish and "urban life would all but evaporate- war and exodus reducing Jaffa's population [at that time one of Palestine's main urban centers] from 70,000-80,000 Palestinians to a remnant of 3,000-4,000" (Ibid.).

That much, and probably even more, was revealed by the Palestinian account, most scholars on the Palestine question, and the new Israeli historians. It is possible, thus, to quote copiously other sources on this matter informing of a similar, but more detailed tale. What, therefore, makes Pappe's The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine both necessary and singular is what I shall outline ahead. It is worth noting, however, that it would be impossible to summarize this book: it is full of information, most of which is unknown or hardly known, that Pappe very efficiently utilizes to reconstruct the events of 1948, to deconstruct the Israeli account on transfer, and to question the notion of the war as a proper description of those events. Ethnic cleansing, rather than war, seems, for sagaciously verifiable reasons, more appropriate to describe this highly documented narrative of the events.


Biographies of modern nations, we are told, are not only temporal in essence, but of necessity fashioned "uptime." Such an orthodox, and currently prevalent, insight articulated and made common by Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities illuminates much on the inventiveness of national memory and the nature of national accounts generally, as on the enduring reconsideration and ubiquitously unrelenting re-writing of history. But while Anderson's rule might be seen plausibly symptomatic to understanding the rise of the movement called the "New Israeli Historians", for example, it is inadequate to explain either Pappe's un-trivial dissimilarity with callow scholarship on the subject or his ostensibly stirring schism from the Israeli new historians with the writing of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.

It merits mentioning; that Pappe's text adeptly transcends structurally predisposed defects that vitiated the new historiography (the rise of neo-liberal Zionism to hegemony in Israel and subsequently...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT