The War of 1948: Representations of Israeli and Palestinian Memories and Narratives

By Avraham Sela; Alon Kadish | Go to book overview

2
Israel’s Publications Agency and the
1948 Palestinian Refugees

Rafi Nets-Zehngut


Introduction

Nations involved in an intractable conflict usually present a biased official memory of the conflict. To fit their interests, such memory portrays these nations positively and their rivals negatively. As such, it plays an important role in the conflict by affecting the psychological and behavioral reactions of the parties toward their rivals. Therefore, such memory is of importance for scholarly research as attested by the blooming research literature in recent years on memory, especially in the context of conflict, war, and peace.1

Israel’s intractable conflict with the Palestinians and the Arab states is by no means exceptional in Israel’s quest for legitimacy and self-righteousness, among others, by producing and disseminating its own memory about the causes and development of the conflict. One of Israel’s major official institutions endowed with the production of such a memory for the Israelis is the Information Center (merkaz ha-hasbara),2 specifically the Publications Agency (sherut ha-pirsumim), one of the Center’s units. The displacement and exodus of more than half of the Arab population from their homes during the 1948 Palestine War has remained the core issue shaping the conflict and the identities and policies of the parties concerned with far-reaching implications on its possible resolution. No other issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has so strongly shaped the parties’ collective image of “self” and “other” and become identified with Palestinian claims of victimhood, injustice, and historical wrongdoing on Israel’s part.

This chapter differs significantly in both data and analysis from an earlier version of this study. See Rafi Nets-Zehngut, “The Israeli National Information Center and Collective Memory of the Israeli-Arab Conflict,” The Middle East Journal 62.4 (2008): 653–70.

1. Patrick Devine-Wright, “A Theoretical Overview of Memory and Conflict,” in The Role of Memory in Ethnic Conflict, ed. Ed Cairns and Michael Roe (New York, 2003), 9–33; Jay Winter, “Thinking about Silence,” in Shadows of WarA Social History of Silence in the Twentieth Century, ed. Efrat Ben-Zeev, Ruth Ginio, and Jay Winter (Cambridge, 2010), 3–31.

2. Apart from informative publications and movies, the Center also conducted national events and internal journeys.

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