Revisiting the Palestinian exodus of 1948

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Over the years, the history of the Arab–Zionist conflict has undergone interpretative innovation. The massive declassification of archival documentation in the West and in Israel made possible the historiographic breakthrough of the late 1980s that is now commonly called the “new historiography.” And it is the further declassificatory initiative in Israel today that compels a fresh look at much of what was published in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I am speaking specifically of the opening of certain private and institutional papers, of the protocols of Israel's Cabinet meetings between 1948 and 1953, with additional years now in the works, and, most significantly, of the massive declassification of the documentation stored in the Haganah Archive in Tel Aviv and the Israel Defense Forces and Defense Ministry Archive (IDFA) in Givatayim. A certain amount of material is still being held back, but on average more than 95 percent of each file is being made available. The archive's small staff cannot meet the academic community's needs and, so far, less than 10 percent of the 140,000 files covering the years 1947–56 have been opened. But as most of the now declassified files relate to the 1948 War and, more specifically, to its operational side, it can be said that a great proportion of the important material on 1948 in the IDFA is now available.

Looking through these new materials, both military and civilian, has compelled a fresh look at the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. When writing The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem 1947–1949 in the mid-1980s, I had no access to the materials in the IDFA or Haganah Archive and precious little to first-hand military materials deposited elsewhere.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe War for Palestine
Subtitle of host publicationRewriting the History of 1948
EditorsEugene L. Rogan , Avi Shlaim
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781139167413
ISBN (Print)9780521699341
StatePublished - Nov 2007


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