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[Script of Lec_11] The Emergence of the State of Israel.docx

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HIST 151
Paul Sedra

The Emergence of the State of Israel 5/15/2012 2:54:00 PM Today were going to speak at length about a particular trend of Israeli historiography. It is a trend that was developed by a contingent of historians known as The new historians. We will speak about this new historians at length not because were agreeing or disagreeing with their findings, nor because there is the most important or the most compelling or even the most interesting contribution to the literature about the emergence of the state of Israel. Were going to speak about the new historians because o Theyre the ones who had really set the concourse for debate as it exist at the moments. Debate about what happened in 1948. o And whether you disagree with them or not, you cant really as historians afford to ignore there work because, as we say, no creditable historian of 1948 can. o A knowledge of there work is one of those tools, that we mentioned earlier, that youre going to need to devise a position for yourself in this, which is really one of the most controversial debates that were going to encounter in this class. In an article that was called the debate of the 1948 Oxford professor Avi Shlaim, one of the four most new historians, provides a brief sketch of what he calls the traditional view of the 1948 for in the Israeli historiography Keep in mind that this is a view that Avi Shlaim and the rest of the new historians themselves vehemently apposed. But here he is simply describing what that view consist of. The infant Jewish state fought a desperate, heroic, and ultimately successful battle for survival against overwhelming odds. During the war, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled to the neighbouring Arab states, mainly in response to orders from their leaders and despite Jewish pleas to stay and demonstrate that peaceful co- existence was possible. o Now, as we say, this is how Shlaim and new historians generally would sketch the traditional historiography as it existed in Israel. o The most influential attach on this historiography, on these traditional premises was made by a historian called Benny Morris in a book that was called the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem 1947-1949. With that one book, Morris really managed to shake the foundations, not simply of the Israeli academic establishment, but really the political establishment as well. Because in birth, what Morris does, is questions The infancy. The desperation. The heroism. That is attributed to the position of Israel in 1948 by this traditional historiography. Notably he emphasizes the political origins, as he sees them, of this traditional account. In very provocative terms this is what Morris tells us. o He says, in very provocative terms The Israeli official version, that the Arabs fled voluntarily (not under Jewish compulsion) and/or that they were asked/ordered to do so by their Palestinian and Arab states leaders, helped leave intact the new states untarnished image as the haven of a much- persecuted people, a body politic more just, moral and deserving of the Wests sympathy and help than the surrounding sea of reactionary, semi-feudal, dictatorial Arab societies. o Now Morris venture so far, as to claim, that the official version that we presented doesnt even merit the label of history. In another essay Morris explains Israels old historians (those who wrote the traditional account), by and large, were not really historians and did not produce a real history. In reality, they were chroniclers, and often apologetic interested chroniclers at that. They did not work from and upon a solid body of contemporary documentation and did not normally try to paint a picture that offered the variety of sides of a given historical experience. They worked from interviews and memoirs, and often from memories. They had neither the mindset nor the materials to write real history o we quoted these comments because they offer, as much insight to the operation, the methodology of the new historians as of the old historians.
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