New Historians

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The New Historians (Hebrew: ההיסטוריונים החדשים‎, HaHistorionim HaHadashim) are a loosely-defined group of Israeli historians who have challenged traditional assumptions about Israeli history, including its role in the Palestinian Exodus in 1948 and Arab willingness to discuss peace. The term was coined in 1988 by one of the leading New Historians, Benny Morris. According to Ethan Bronner of The New York Times, the New Historians sought to advance the peace process.[1]

Much of the primary source material used by the group comes from Israeli government papers declassified forty years after the founding of Israel.[citation needed] Morris, Ilan Pappé, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev, Hillel Cohen and (retrospectively) Simha Flapan are counted among the "new historians." Many of their conclusions have been incorporated into the political ideology of post-Zionists. The political views of the group vary, as do the periods of Israeli history in which they specialize.


Main arguments

Avi Shlaim described the New Historian's differences from the "official history" in the following terms, however it should be noted that Israel has no official history and that the new historians do not represent a unified body of thought. In addition Israeli understanding of national history has changed over the years, partially incorporating the ideas of the new historians. According to Shlaim:

  • The official version said that Britain tried to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state; the New Historians claimed that it tried to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state
  • The official version said that the Palestinians fled their homes of their own free will; the New Historians said that the refugees were chased out or expelled‎
  • The official version said that the balance of power was in favour of the Arabs; the New Historians said that Israel had the advantage both in manpower and in arms
  • The official version said that the Arabs had a coordinated plan to destroy Israel; the New Historians said that the Arabs were divided
  • The official version said that Arab intransigence prevented peace; the New Historians said that Israel is primarily to blame for the dead end.[2]

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