Origins of the Palestinian Refugee Problem: Changes in the Historical Memory of Israelis/Jews 1949-2004

Journal of Peace Research, 48 (2), 235-248, 2011

40 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2013 Last revised: 12 Sep 2013

Date Written: January 31, 2013


The major historical issue in the Israeli-Arab/Palestinian conflict is the causes for the 1948 Palestinian exodus. Among the Israelis/Jews there are two main narratives regarding this issue: the Zionist one – the refugees fled, for various reasons; and the critical one – some fled while others were expelled by the Jewish/Israeli security forces. This article explores the way the Israeli/Jewish historical memory (i.e. the Israeli/Jewish research community) related to this historical issue from 1949 until 2004. According to the findings, until 1957 this memory exclusively presented the Zionist narrative. However, from 1958 to 1976 this Zionist trend largely continued but was accompanied by considerable critical studies. Later, from 1977 to 2004, this memory was characterized by the almost exclusive adoption of the critical narrative (with major increase in its significance since 1988). These findings contradict the way the literature relates to this memory as almost exclusively Zionist until the late-1980s. Other aspects of this memory are also discussed, such as the explanations for its characteristics, the significance of non-academic scholars, the contribution of scholars who reside externally to the given country, state-research community relations, the influence of present interests on the portrayal of the past, and gender issues. The findings have theoretical implications for collective and historical memories.

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Keywords: Academia, history, collective memory, 1948 War, Palestinian refugee, Nakba

Suggested Citation

Nets-Zehngut, Rafi, Origins of the Palestinian Refugee Problem: Changes in the Historical Memory of Israelis/Jews 1949-2004 (January 31, 2013). Journal of Peace Research, 48 (2), 235-248, 2011. Available at SSRN:

Rafi Nets-Zehngut (Contact Author)

Hebrew University of Jerusalem ( email )


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