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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Preface to the second edition


The first edition of The War for Palestine was published by Cambridge University Press in 2001. The success of this book surpassed all our expectations. It received considerable critical acclaim; it sold over 8,000 copies; and it was translated into three languages – Arabic, French, and Italian. The book was a first attempt to encourage the rewriting of the history of 1948 from Arab and Israeli perspectives alike. It originated as a series of lectures held at the Middle East Centre of St. Antony's College, Oxford, in the autumn of 1998. Its aim was to re-examine the role of all the local actors in the struggle for Palestine in the light of old and recently declassified archival resources. The contributors to this volume came from different backgrounds: some from Israel, some from the Arab world, and some from the West. Regardless of our provenance, we were all united by a commitment to explore, with the help of the best evidence we could find, the causes, the course, and the consequences of this fateful war. Our common purpose was to understand, not to impute shame or allocate blame.

It was Edward Said, a long-time friend of the Middle East Centre in Oxford, who first suggested to us the idea of bringing Arab and Israeli scholars together to rewrite the history of the Palestine War. Edward himself wrote eloquently, in his contribution to this volume and in other places, on the need for Arab intellectuals to come to terms with their history and on the importance of looking simultaneously at both sides of the hill, of writing history contrapuntally, as he liked to put it.