The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

This article, excerpted and adapted from the early chapters of a new book, emphasizes the systematic preparations that laid the ground for the expulsion of more than 750,000 Palestinians from what became Israel in 1948. While sketching the context and diplomatic and political developments of the period, the article highlights in particular a multi-year “Village Files” project (1940–47) involving the systematic compilation of maps and intelligence for each Arab village and the elaboration—under the direction of an inner “caucus” of fewer than a dozen men led by David Ben-Gurion—of a series of military plans culminating in Plan Dalet, according to which the 1948 war was fought. The article ends with a statement of one of the author’s underlying goals in writing the book: to make the case for a paradigm of ethnic cleansing to replace the paradigm of war as the basis for the scholarly research of, and the public debate about, 1948.

ILAN PAPPÉ, an Israeli historian and professor of political science at Haifa University, is the author of a number of books, including The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947–1951 (I.B. Tauris, 1994) and A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples (Cambridge University Press, 2004). The current article is extracted from early chapters of his latest book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oneworld Publications, Oxford, England, forthcoming in October 2006).