The Palestinian Exodus in 1948
The historical question of why the vast majority of Palestinians left their homes in 1948 is not only relevant as a problem of history, but has been given added significance by the protagonists involved. Rightly or wrongly, both Palestinian and Israeli spokesmen and adherents have sought to link the events of 1948 with their claims to the land today. In order to do this, each has come up with a different version of events and drawn its conclusions accordingly.
It is not the purpose of this paper to do anything more than examine the conflicting explanations of the exodus and attempt to offer a coherent analysis. It is not my aim to try to extrapolate from this analysis an evaluation of Palestinian rights. Indeed, if the fundamental question in the Palestine conflict is the Zionist presence in that country, this episode can at most be seen as an expression, in part, of Zionist thinking, and not the be all and end all that it is frequently touted as. For unless Israel can come to terms with the region in which she exists and be accepted by the native inhabitants, especially the Palestinian people, no settlement of the conflict is imaginable. Thus it is futile to hope that one episode in the seventy-year collision between Zionism and Palestinian nationalism can explain or justify arguments about the entire problem.
Steven Glazer is a Ph. D. candidate in History at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.