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New Historians

The New Historians are a loosely-defined group of Israeli historians who have declared as their goal the reexamination of the history of Israel and Zionism.

Leading scholars in this school include Benny Morris, Ilan Pappé, and Avi Shlaim. They base their research on Israeli government documents that have become public since the late 1980s. Much of their work has been accepted by the Israeli public; other Israeli historians criticise their conclusions and methodology.

Although the New Historians' publications include a variety of views, they may be generalized to present the Zionist movement as aimed in such a way, that Jewish statehood could only come combined with the displacement of at least some Palestinian Arabs (as opposed to the creation of Israel neither necessitating nor desiring the displacement of Palestinian Arabs). Therefore, according to the New Historians, Israel has its own share of responsibility for the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian plight. In particular they claim that at least a part of the Palestinan refugees were driven away from their homes, rather than fled of their own choice, as had been previously claimed.

The writings of the New Historians have come under repeated criticism, both from historians who support a more traditional Zionist historiography and from Arab or pro-Arab writers who accuse them of whitewashing the truth about Zionist misbehavior.

Early in 2002, the most famous of the new historians, Benny Morris, publically reversed some of his personal political position (see [4]), though he has not withdrawn any of his historical writings.

Anita Shapira offers the following criticism:

One of the more serious charges raised against the "new historians" concerned their sparse use of Arab sources. In a preemptive move, [Avi] Shlaim states at the outset of his new book that his focus is on Israeli politics and the Israeli role in relations with the Arab world--and thus he has no need of Arab documents. [Benny] Morris claims that he is able to extrapolate the Arab positions from the Israeli documentation. Both authors make only meager use of original Arab sources, and most such references cited are in English translation...To write the history of relations between Israel and the Arab world almost exclusively on the basis of Israeli documentation results in obvious distortions. Every Israeli contingency plan, every flicker of a far-fetched idea expressed by David Ben-Gurion and other Israeli planners, finds its way into history as conclusive evidence for the Zionist state's plans for expansion. What we know about Nasser's schemes regarding Israel, by contrast, derives solely from secondary and tertiary sources. (Anita Shapira, "The Past is not a foreign country", The New Republic Online, 11/29/99)
Nevertheless, Shapira's judgement of Morris' work is that "In most instances, the result is quite balanced.".

Table of contents
1 Major Debates
2 Further reading
3 External links

Major Debates

On a few occasions there have been heated public debates between the New Historians and their detractors. The most notable:

Further reading

External links

  1. Review of the New Historians
  2. A critical Palestinan perspective
  3. On the New Historians
  4. Benny Morris clarified his position
  5. Editorial by Daniel Polisar in Azure