- Israeli and Palestinian Memories and Historical Narratives of the 1948 War—An Overview
This special issue of Israel Studies consists of a collection of studies of Israeli representations, both Jewish and Palestinian, of memory and historical narratives of the 1948 War. The studies map and explain some Israeli-Jewish and Israeli-Palestinian perspectives of the 1948 War as represented in literature, historical museums, art, visual media, and landscape, as well as in competing official and societal narratives. They are examined especially against the backdrop of the Oslo process, which had strongly brought into relief tensions within and between both sides of the national divide concerning identity and legitimacy, justice, and righteousness of “self” and “other”. Five articles represent varied aspects of Israeli-Jewish memory and historical narratives of 1948, while two others offer representations of Israeli-Palestinian memory of that cataclysmic event and its consequences.
Each study represents a particular version or expression of a sectorial memory of the war and its consequences, not necessarily identical with the single national interpretation the national institutions (Israeli and Palestinian) provided. The collection as a whole demonstrates how the diversity of the historical experience (as well as cultural legacy, ideologies, etc.) of different components of society is reflected in the diversity of memory. Moreover, most of the articles demonstrate how memory changes and evolves along with the historical changes within the various components of the national communities.
This collection is the first of its kind offering new perspectives of Israeli memory, both Jewish and Palestinian, based on in-depth empirical studies. Whether the case is myth construction by the religious Zionist movement, museum exhibitions by rival ideological groups, or drawings of the Nakba [End Page 1] by an Israeli-Palestinian artist, they all represent diverse layers of memory and carry a particular contribution to their specific discipline or field of research. We hope that the diversity of substance and form of groups’ memories of a supposedly unifying national event within the national community, and the dynamics of change presented in this issue will contribute to the development of theory of the nexus of memory, narrative, and historiography.
We offer a brief discussion on the dialectics of memory, narratives, and historiography as well as the main trends and characteristics of Israeli and Palestinian memory and historiography of the 1948 War. While Israel’s Palestinian citizens are historically part of the Arab world, including the Palestinian people at large, their post-1948 separation from other Palestinian and Arab communities coupled by their particular social, administrative, and political experience as an ethnic and religious minority in the Jewish state, shaped their consciousness and cultural world as a distinct Arab-Israeli identity group and memory community.1 The introduction explains these distinct characteristics of Israel’s Palestinian citizens within the broader Palestinian national context.
The Palestine war of 1948 remains a formative event in the Middle East and especially for the immediately concerned parties, Israelis and Palestinians. Notwithstanding the primary role of that war in shaping the contours of the Arab-Israeli conflict for generations and its impact on processes of socialization and politics in Israel and the Arab neighboring countries, the study of memory and historiography of 1948 is still in its infancy. The last three decades witnessed a major surge in the production by both Israelis and Palestinians of historical research and memory of the 1948 War along with the shifting focus of the Arab-Israeli conflict from one between Israel and its Arab neighboring states to its original inter-communal Arab-Jewish dispute within historic Palestine. Whether the result of intensified conflict or peace negotiations, or the timed release of archival documents, the dialectic of politics and self-legitimation accounted for mutually encouraged efforts to recover, rewrite, and disseminate particular historical narratives of the 1948 War concerned with issues of injustice, morality, and guilt, especially but not exclusively, the Palestinian refugee problem.
The increasing interest on both sides of the national divide in the background and consequences of the 1948 War parallels the incremental return of the Arab-Israeli conflict since the late-1980s to its origins as an inter-communal Jewish-Arab...