Historiography of the Arab-Israeli conflict

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The history of Israeli – Arab war has taken considerable twists rooting from the old historians of the pre-1967 and the New Historians of the post-1967 who identify themselves as the post-Zionists. Some authors have supported the New Historians for bringing new insight into the role of Israeli in the war with Palestine that led to the displacement of the Palestinians and created the new Jewish state of Israel. Any discussion on the Historiography of Israeli – Arabs war can never compete without mentioning of Benny Morris who is arguably the creator of the New Historian Movement. Benny rewrote the Israeli history claiming that, as much as the old historians were shielding the Israel from any blame for the past wars with the Arab nations and the Palestine, there was much to it than just self-defense.

The ancient historians also knew as the Zionist historians who were mainly Israelis argued that the action of their government of going to war was primarily for self-defense. In their view, the Israeli has never attacked or offended anyone but only work to ensure that there is safety for all. However, this history came to criticisms from the Post – Zionist historians led by Benny Morris who dug into the military archives of Israeli and argued that Israeli was to blame for most of the wars. He contended that as much as Arab states plaid a role in the Israeli- Arabs conflict, Israeli had a significant role. However, his work has solicited criticisms and support from various present historians. In 1991 for an instant, Finkelstein and Masalha accused Morris of leaning towards the Zionist perspective. Finkelstein argues that Morris’ reasonable conclusions in his research do not match his evidence which treat the discussion as if it was just among the Zionists and the Palestine had nothing to do with it. 

In the new development in the Historiography in Israeli, the New Historians have totally changed the perspective of most Israelis and Palestinians. Basing on the old history, the Israeli government and the Zionist Historians claims that the Palestinians displacement was out of the will. However, the New Historians like Morris and Avi Shlaim argues that the Israelis had the weapons advantage and the workforce that gave them an edge over the Palestine. The revelations of the New Historians have made most Palestinians to develop an interest in the Historiography of the Israeli – Arab conflict, and now they have developed a Historiography for the Palestinians.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the new developments in the History of Israeli – Arab war are facilitated with ever continuing debate among the various scholars both from Israel and Palestine. In the ongoing discussions among the researchers, it is still not clear which position to take to understand the History of the Israeli – Arab war. With the debates still on, there will be more of critics between the pro – Zionism and the Anti – Zionism historians. The most interesting turn in the shaping of the Israeli history is the change in perspective of Morris and leaning towards the traditional historians in the recent days. However, his book “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited” which was republished in 2004 will still stir a lot of controversies among the scholars.


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June 15, 2022


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