PALESTINE AND PALESTINIANS: A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples

By Smith, Charles D. | The Middle East Journal, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

PALESTINE AND PALESTINIANS: A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples


Smith, Charles D., The Middle East Journal


PALESTINE AND PALESTINIANS A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, by Ilan Pappe. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. xxi + 268. Notes to p. 277. Bibl. to p. 289. Gloss, to p. 318. Index to p. 333. $60 cloth: $22 paper.

This study is a highly ambitious, highly personal undertaking, brilliant in concept and in much of what is said, but also flawed in some of its details. Conceptually, Pappe's approach is reminiscent of Eric Wolfe's Europe and the People without History. 'Wolfe used a broad canvas to trace the history of interconnections between different civilizations over time, stressing the importance of the non-élites who did not write history but were always part of, and impacted by, its processes. Wolfe saw himself as including in his narrative "both the people who claim history as their own and the people to whom history has been denied" (p. 23).

Similarly, but with a much narrower focus, Pappe undertakes "a new approach to [the] history" of Palestine and the impact on it of Zionism, seeking to examine the interconnections of the "masses," the "local actors," whether Palestinian Arab or Jewish/Israeli, and stressing where possible their links to each other or efforts to cooperate. Pappe sees both sets of local actors as subject to the brutality of élites, their own or those of their opponents, each élite holding to a particular historical narrative that often denied that of the other. Pappe seeks to overcome that chasm of separate narratives by stressing the commonality to be found in the histories of the ordinary people, Arab or Jewish, stressing also issues of gender. Although he discusses Israel and Israeli society, "Palestine" for Pappe after 1948 remains what was Mandate Palestine, now including Israel and the West Bank.

Nearly half the book is devoted to Palestine before 1948, the creation of Israel, and the "ethnic cleansing" of the resident Palestinian population to make way for incoming Jewish refugees. His account tallies in some details with those offered by Benny Morris in the second edition of his The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, verifying the existence of the long -disputed Plan Dalet and its goal of expelling Palestinians from their villages; Pappe also offers conclusions drawn from his own research into the fate of Palestinians from Tantura during the 1948 Arab -Israeli War, the men massacred.2 This discussion leads Pappe to focus on the question of Palestinian refugees after 1948, their situations in different Arab countries, and their status within the refugee question in the negotiations of Camp David 2000. But he also pays attention to what occurred in Israel: the discrimination experienced by the remaining Palestinians, now Israeli Arabs, and by the "Oriental Jews," the Sephardim from Arab lands who were discriminated against by the Ashkenazi élite on racial grounds; and finally, the callous treatment given Holocaust survivors by militant Zionists because the former, unlike the Israelis, had not fought their opponents. Here, as elsewhere, Pappe challenges the official narratives. Some of this material has been discussed before in different contexts, as in the work of Sammy Smooha or Ian Lustick, cited in the bibliography.3 The value of Pappe's treatment is to present these issues in a new framework, linking together Israelis and Palestinians who exist outside the dominant historical narratives offered by their respective leaderships and by the historians who represent them.

Equally important is Pappe's presentation of the lives of Palestinians both in Lebanon, as well as in the West Bank under Israel's occupation. This treatment, along with his discussion of the nature of Palestinian resistance during the first intifada (1987-93), is excellent, bringing together the fruits of much research done on Palestinian society during the period and the role of women in the resistance. Finally, his account of the Palestinian experience during the Oslo process (1993-2000) is on target, depicting the creation of barriers and checkpoints after Palestinians were given control of their own areas. …

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