Avraham Sela: Arab Historiography of the 1948 War: The Quest for Legitimacy

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Sela’s survey is unique for its breadth and analytical candor. He analyzes Arab authors, country by country who wrote about the 1948 Arab loss of Palestine. Sela reviews key books and articles that focused on causes, responsibility and blame for Israel’s success. He touches on the sensitive issue of self-criticism, and how the impact of the telling the Palestinian story of the 1948 War affected future generations in their interpretations of Palestinian history. A comparative analyses of how Arab writers wrote about their losses to Israel in the June 1967 War would show similar reluctance to accept Arab accountability for poor military preparations, inter-state jealousies, Israel’s preparedness, and genuinely more concern for perpetuation of selfish elite interests. One of the most penetrating and first hand accounts of Arab state losses in the 1967 War may be found in the first 86 pages of Mohamed Abdel Ghani El-Gamasy’s, The October War Memoirs of Field Marshall El-Gamasy of Egypt, American University of Cairo, 1993. 

This article by Sela, originally appeared in Laurence J. Silberstein (ed.) New Perspectives on Israeli History, New York University Press, Chapter 7, 1991, pp. 124-154; it was reprinted by the Truman Institute at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  Dr. Avraham Sela is a Professor Emeritus at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is a prolific scholar and was a superb teacher and academic colleague. Sela was Iraqi born. He specialized in modern Arab politics, inter-Arab affairs, and aspects of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict particularly surrounding the 1947-1949 period. Permission was provided by the author in February 2022. 

Ken Stein, March 14, 2022

Arab Historiography of the 1948 War: The Quest for Legitimacy

There is a widespread conviction among scholars of Arab civilization that history written by Arabs in modern times has been generally apologetic. Charged with strong emotion, its primary motivation has been to nourish and glorify a self-image in the face of frustration and a bitter sense of decline. As Wilfred C. Smith put it, “Arab writing of history has been functioning… less as a genuine inquiry than as a psychological defense. Most of it is to be explained primarily in terms of the emotional needs that it fulfills (and is designed to fulfill).”1 A selective and arbitrary use of the past for present needs and purposes is perhaps a universal phenomenon. It is, however, particularly striking in modern Arab historiography, which is fueled by the vast gap between reality and self-image, and between the memory of a glorious past and a  dissatisfying present that evokes neither pride nor self-esteem.2

This ideological approach to the past is nowhere more discernible than in Arab historiography of the 1948 war, a conflict which had a traumatic impact on the collective Arab memory. That impact is well encapsulated in the terminology used to describe its outcome: Nakba (catastrophe), Karitha (disaster), and Mihna (misfortune). Despite the Arabs’ apparent superiority in material and human resources, and contrary to the Arab states’ expectations of a quick and easy victory, the 1948 war ended in humiliating defeat for the Arab armies and in outright disaster for the Arab Palestinian population, about half of whom became refugees. Moreover, the Jewish state, the birth of which the Arabs desperately sought to prevent, gained international recognition and achieved territorial gains even beyond those that it had been allotted under the U.N. partition plan. The defeat was especially humiliating because it was inflicted by “armed Zionist gangs,” Jews whom the Arabs traditionally despised and held in contempt.3

The Arab defeat in Palestine threw the Arab world into turmoil, triggering a series of political assassinations and military coups in Egypt and in the Fertile Crescent states. The defeat fomented political extremism and revolutionary attitudes and contributed to further decline of the West in the Arab world. Instead of serving as a rallying point for the Arab states, the war for Palestine intensified inter-Arab differences and disputes. The Arab League, which had been responsible for formulating and implementing Arab policy on Palestine, suffered an irreparable blow to its prestige. Overall, the loss of Palestine festered as an open wound in the Arab collective consciousness. In the words of Professor Elie Kedourie, these Arab polities “tasted to the full the disappointments and the disasters of the life of politics. Autonomous political action coincided with and led to the disaster of Palestine, a disaster the like of which had never befallen the Arab world when it was governed by the Ottomans.”4

The Palestine war coincided with the struggle of the fledgling Arab states to build national institutions and to consolidate their authority in the face of economic crisis and political disarray. From the outset, the Arabs’ historiographical approach to the conflict was both emotional and practical. Indeed, even before the fighting ended, the desire for self-justification generated Arab histories of the Palestine war. Following the war, two basic modes of Arab historiography emerged: an apologetic mode, geared towards enhancing political legitimacy; and a mode of self-examination that sought to elicit historical lessons and motivate radical social, political, or ideological change in preparation for the “next round” against Israel.5

Even today, Arab historiography of the 1948 war consists predominantly of non-scholarly literature based more upon collective memory than critical historiography. This trend has been reinforced by two major factors. The first is the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, in which the Arabs persistently refused to recognize Israel, and in which each side has sought to establish its legitimacy and elicit the support of the international community. As a result, Arab historical writing on the conflict’s history has been colored by ideology. Second, none of the Arab states has yet made its official archives on the 1948 war available for study even to retired high-ranking officers who saw service at the time.6

More recently, the consolidation of authority in the Arab states and within the Palestinian national movement has given rise to greater openness and more freedom for critical research. Nevertheless, the number of critical studies on the war7 remains relatively small compared with the large number of first-person accounts, textbooks, memoirs, diaries, and polemics, many written by political leaders and senior military officers. Even these critical works, however, often relying on established myths and beliefs in Arab countries, consistently justify or disclaim particular war-time activity.8

Few of the new Arab historical studies of the 1948 war have made use of British, American, or Israeli archives.9 In addition, political and military memoirs and diaries, a primary source for the history of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, have been used rather selectively by Arab historians.10 However great the disposition of such memoirs to “apologize, or palliate or embellish or suppress,”11 their value as a historical source cannot be gainsaid. Historical research into the author’s role, his political and social standing, historical accuracy, and the purpose, timing and venue of the work’s publication are important factors for understanding the relevance of any particular work, besides deepening one’s knowledge of events.

One can treat Arab historiography of the 1948 war according to various motifs:12 explanations for the defeat; lessons to be learned from the war that can serve present needs and goals; and the regional and international impact of the war. In this chapter, however, we focus on the use of historiography as a means to legitimate authority and enhance collective self-confidence.13 Arab historiography is marked by a multiplicity of conflicting versions that have been evoked by the need felt to account for the Nakba. These histories are replete with mutual recriminations and the search for scapegoats. The centrality of the 1948 war in Arab political consciousness has thus transformed the historical discussions of the war into instruments of political legitimacy.


The earliest and most notable example of this kind of historiography is a semi-official booklet published in Egypt shortly before the start of the Israeli offensive in the Negev.14 Although acknowledging a few setbacks, this publication, on the whole, glorifies the army’s performance in Palestine and portrays King Farouk as both courageous and devoted to pan-Arab ideology. In particular, it stresses the efficiency of Egyptian military preparations as well as Egypt’s full coordination with other Arab armies.15 The booklet was obviously a response to the growing opposition to the government and indirectly to the king himself brought about by the unsuccessful and seemingly endless fighting. It also expresses strong criticism of the regime for accepting the truce called for by the U.N. Security Council on the eve of a purported Arab victory.

The acceptance of this truce became a key element in Arab historiography’s explanation for the defeat. The reason for the acceptance was alternatively explained by the international mediator’s promises, the low motivation for continue the fighting, and the Arab leadership’s treason.16 Indeed, given the uninformed public’s unfounded expectations of a quick victory, there seemed to be no justification for the Arabs’ acceptance of the truce. Thus, as the second truce took effect, on 19 July, without a specified time frame, Egyptian historians deemed it urgent to explain the situation in a manner that would preserve the king’s prestige, as he bore personal responsibility for deciding to send the Egyptian army into Palestine. The booklet under discussion is a telling indication of Egypt’s unrealistic expectations of a quick “disciplinary action” against the “Zionist gangs” and an easy “promenade” to Tel Aviv.17

From the outset, the Egyptian government adamantly opposed committing its regular army in Palestine, claiming that by doing so it would expose its rear flank to the British forces deployed in the Canal Zone.18 The government maintained this stance until three days before the end of the Mandate. However, from 12 April on, there was a growing indication that King Farouk intended to dispatch the regular army. When the king finally ordered Minister of War Haydar Pasha to activate the troops, Prime Minister Nuqrashi Pasha had no choice but to seek formal Senate approval for the army’s intervention in Palestine. Post-revolutionary writings criticize Farouk’s decision as reckless and motivated predominantly by the pressure of public opinion, by concern about Egypt’s position in the Arab world if it failed to intervene in Palestine, and by the king’s personal ambitions for Arab and Islamic leadership.19

We learn a great deal about the process of Egyptian decision making on Palestine from the memoirs of the then chairman of the Egyptian Senate, Muhamad Hussein Haikal. In these memoirs, Haikal describes the confusion and conflict among Egyptian policy makers and institutions regarding military intervention in Palestine; the pressure from the king to intervene; the influence exerted by public opinion on the government, which, although aware of the army’s unpreparedness, eventually succumbed to the pressures; and the Egyptian leadership’s underestimation of the Jewish military force and its perception of the invasion as a “political demonstration” intended to bring about the great powers’ intervention. Haikal’s version is largely confirmed by the protocols of the Egyptian Senate meeting during which the decision was taken to enter the war.20

The Egyptian government’s underestimation of Jewish strength became a major source of criticism by Arab politicians and historians, who cited it both apologetically21 and as a lesson for the future.22 However, Arab politicians were by no means ignorant of Jewish military might, certainly not by the eve of the termination of the Mandate. On 30 April, they had been informed by Arab military commanders that the minimum order of battle needed to defeat the Jewish forces—five divisions and six squadrons—was twice the size of the forces then available to the Arab states.23 Nevertheless, the continued use of expressions such as “gangs” (‘Isabat) or “flotsam and jetsam” (Sharadhim, or Shudhadh al-‘Afaq) by Egyptian politicians was meant to belittle Jewish military strength and overcome the politicians’ doubts and confusion concerning the possibility of a quick Arab victory. Moreover, such expressions did not indicate their actual assessment of Jewish military capability. Instead, their purpose was to enable them to attribute any future defeat to the great powers rather than to the Jews.24

A few years after the Free Officers’ Revolt in 1952, Jamal Abd al-Nasser published his own observations about the Palestine war, in which he accused King Farouk and his entourage of immoral and corrupt behavior. In particular, he charged that they had procured obsolete arms for the Egyptian forces in Palestine.25 In these observations, as well as in his posthumous memoirs of the 1948 war published by Muhamad Hassanein Heikal, Nasser’s description contradicted the one offered by the Farouk regime.

Nasser was especially critical of the indeterminate nature of the “political war” which, he believed, lacked clear strategic goals. Nasser also complained about the lack of adequate preparation for war, the poor intelligence, the incompetence of the higher command, and the persistent feeling of the soldiers at the front that they had been abandoned by the country.26 Nasser’s criticisms, for the most part confirmed in the arms trials held in Cairo in 1953, as well as by later studies, provide a useful historical and social context for explaining the Egyptian army’s poor performance in the war.27 Nasser utilized the war to delegitimize the regime he had overthrown and to support his emerging pan-Arabic vision. His case was enhanced by his own combat record which included decorations for bravery and a series of victories. He also endeavored to use the collective memory of the Palestine war as a “battleground of aspirations”28 and a vehicle to promote his concept of national liberation and pan-Arab security.

The timing of the publication of Nasser’s memoirs in the mid-1970s by Muhamad Hassanein Heikal, the late president’s spokesman and confidant, is an excellent example of the use of historical memory for the purposes of political legitimation. Heikal’s introduction to the memoirs was an unabashed attempt to restore the luster to Nasser’s image that had been tarnished by the 1967 defeat and eclipsed by his successor’s victory in 1973.29 


Although Iraq’s armies achieved no major victories in the 1948 war, its expeditionary force, deployed in Samaria, sustained no major defeat. Indeed, in early June, the Iraqis repulsed an Israeli offensive on Jenin, and they continued to hold the area until their withdrawal from Palestine in April 1949. Yet, despite this record, the Iraqi army was already criticized during the war for failing to initiate any military operations, even though for most of the war it was the largest Arab force operating in Palestine. The Iraqi forces’ inactivity was contemptuously encapsulated in the phrase “no orders” (maku awamir), an apologetic catchword allegedly used by the Iraqi military command in Palestine during the war.30

Troubled by domestic unrest and disappointed by the Arab military failure in Palestine, the Iraqi parliament decided, as early as February 1949, and apparently with the government’s consent, to form a commission of inquiry to investigate the course of the war and the reasons for the military failure.31 The commission’s unpublished original report contains military and political documents attesting to Iraq’s militant stance on Palestine, especially its declared policies. Despite its obvious bias, selectivity, and strong tendency to present Iraq as the leading force in the pan-Arab effort to rescue Palestine from Zionism, the report is still the most comprehensive and valuable source regarding Arab deliberations and collective policy making on Palestine in the two years preceding the war as well as during the war itself.

The report’s overall finding is that, from the very beginning, Arab collective activity regarding Palestine was characterized by inter-Arab rivalries, conflicting interests, and disagreements. It shows, furthermore, that even a few weeks before the expiration of the Mandate, the Arab states were complacent about Palestine. The report confirms that the politicians decided to invade Palestine despite the Arab states’ inability to muster even half of the order of battle stipulated as necessary by the military commanders. Interestingly, the report does not entirely absolve Iraq of all blame for the Arab debacle in Palestine—which may explain why the document has never been published. Further, it discloses that Iraq persistently resisted assigning to the Palestinian leader, Mufti al-Haj Amin al-Husseini, any significant military or administrative role in the collective Arab efforts on behalf of Palestine.32

However, the report does emphasize that the Iraqi government repeatedly urged the adoption of two major measures by the Arab states: first, the necessity of deploying regular Arab armies; and, second, the use of oil as a weapon against Britain and the United States.33 With regard to the latter notion, the report leaves no doubt that the Saudi monarch consistently rejected Iraqi proposals, made in Arab League meetings, to use the oil weapon to further the Palestinian cause. However, the report does not address the question of Iraqi sincerity in this matter.

While stressing that none of the other Arab armies was willing to obey the joint command’s orders, the report leaves the impression that the Iraqi army was an exception, possibly because the commander-in-chief of the Arab forces in Palestine was Iraq’s General Nuri al-Din Mahmud.34  Interestingly, whereas most Arab states denounced the behavior of King Abdullah of Jordan during the war and labeled him a traitor to the Arab cause, the report is circumspect about the king’s role. Moreover, it ascribes no ulterior motives to Abdullah regarding Palestine and blames John Bagot Glubb, the Arab Legion’s British commander from 1939 to 1956, for changing the Arab invasion plan. The Legion, the army of the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan, was established by Britain to serve under the command of the mandatory government and was principally under the control of British officers until the mid-1950s.

The critical tone of the parliamentary commission’s report is best grasped when it is compared to the heavily apologetic memoirs of Salih Sa’ib al-Jubouri, Iraq’s war-time chief-of-staff. While referring to many of the same documents used in the official report, the memoirs do not always interpret them in the same way. Understandably, Jubouri’s memoirs reflect a much more defensive approach, possibly because during a part of the war, he served as commander-in-chief of the Iraqi forces in Palestine.

Besides rejecting the “fallacy of no orders” attributed by others to the Iraqi army, Jubouri argues that of all the Arab states, Iraq was the most dedicated to its military mission in Palestine and most willing to cooperate with other armies.35 Jubouri blames the Egyptian government for postponing the meeting of the first conference of Arab chiefs-of-staff, which finally convened at the end of April 1948, only two weeks before the end of the Mandate. He further maintains that the Iraqis sent the largest expeditionary force from the outset. However, the mechanized force that attacked Gesher on the first day of the invasion did not exceed 1,700 men.36 Only later was this unit beefed up with additional forces.

Understandably, Jubouri relates neither the painful failure of the Iraqi force to break through the Jewish defense line, nor the reason for the subsequent deployment of the Iraqi forces in the “Triangle” in the war’s second week. Jubouri assigned the blame for the fiasco at Gesher, where the Iraqi flank was exposed, to Glubb.37 In so doing, he ignores the rapidly changing military situation in Jerusalem that demanded the Legion’s deployment there.

Jubouri underscores the lack of arms and ammunition as the major limitation on the Iraqi army’s operational capability, criticizing the politicians for committing the army to tasks for which it was not prepared. Jubouri’s claims are party supported by the memoirs of another Iraqi officer, who served as his country’s military attaché in London during the Palestine war. While this officer blames Britain for denying to Iraq the necessary weapons and equipment, he holds the Iraqi politicians and the high command equally responsible for the lack of preparedness, arguing that had the army’s needs been recognized earlier, the arms could have been obtained from Britain or partly produced in Iraq.38 


Despite Arab Legion’s military successes in rescuing the Old City of Jerusalem and throwing back repeated Israeli attacks at Latroun, by the summer of 1948 the other Arab states found Jordanian policy in Palestine to be intolerable. This policy also aroused overt concern and suspicion among the Arab public. The immediate reason was the fall of Lydda and Ramle, portrayed ever since in Arab historiography as the result of the Legion’s abandonment of the cities to Israel as part of the ostensible secret agreement between the Jews and Abdullah on the partition of Palestine.39 Long before the end of the Mandate, Abdullah’s political and territorial aspirations in Palestine, a part of his “Greater Syria” scheme, were no secret to the Arab rulers. The doubts about the king’s faithfulness to the Arab cause were intensified by two factors: first, the king’s urgent requests for an end to the war during the first truce, which began on 11 June 1948, resulting from the U.N. Security Council resolution of 29 May; and, second, administrative measures introduced in Jordanian-occupied territory which were indicative of Abdullah’s plan to incorporate it.

As the Arab war effort ground to a standstill, Abdullah’s position in the Arab world, and even in his own kingdom, was gravely undermined. This was mainly the result of the growing inter-Arab dispute over the future of the Arab-occupied territories of Palestine and Palestinian aspirations for national sovereignty. At the end of the war, the king was isolated in the Arab world and attacked and denounced by his Arab neighbors as an imperialist stooge and an ally of the Zionist movement.

In light of Abdullah’s delicate position in the Arab world, one would expect the emergence of an official Jordanian history of the war stressing the major role of the Arab Legion, especially until the second truce, which took effect on 19 July 1948 as the result of a U.N. Security Council resolution ordering a cease-fire. During this period, the Legion constituted the main obstacle to an Israeli takeover of the entire city of Jerusalem and its strategic approaches. However, the quantity of such official literature is surprisingly meager.

King Abdullah’s war-time memoirs, the only published version by an Arab head of state at the time of the war, remain a leading example for the Jordanian-based history of the war. This might be explained first and foremost, by the continuity of the Royal Hashemite regime and the traditional values and symbols it espouses.

In the years immediately following the war, two publications appeared with the obvious purpose of enhancing the Jordanian image and legitimacy on both the domestic and inter-Arab levels. The first was the “completion” of the king’s memoirs—the pivotal issues of which were the Palestine war and Jordan’s relations with the Arab states. The book is marked by the king’s arrogance and his deep contempt for his Arab rivals, particularly the Mufti al-Haj Amin al-Husseini, whom Abdullah held responsible for all the disasters inflicted on the Arabs in Palestine.40 Abdullah describes the invasion as “the Arab military demonstration,” an “improvised” decision taken despite the knowledge that the forces available were insufficient.

Besides endeavoring to counter his sworn political rivals’ views on Palestine, Abdullah stresses his devotion to Arab unity as well as his historic role with regard to Palestine since the late 1920s. He also emphasizes his sincere and long-standing concern about the Zionist-Arab conflict, particularly in view of the ineptitude of the Palestinian leadership, headed by Al-Haj Amin. Abdullah documents this by citing his correspondence with Palestinian and Arab leaders, as well as with the British High Commissioner, about the political problems in Palestine. Abdullah’s interest in Palestine during the war and, more important, his move to implement the “unity of the two banks,” namely, the annexation of the West Bank, are viewed as a linear historical process.

According to this book, Abdullah, at a time when the leading Palestinian figures had reached a point of bankruptcy, came to the rescue of Palestine, while allowing its people the freedom to assert their own political wishes. The book also defends, on wholly practical grounds, Abdullah’s resistance to the Mufti’s short-lived, Gaza-base “All-Palestine government,” established by the League of Arab States in cooperation with prominent Palestinian leaders. Abdullah named it “the illusory government.”41 In contrast to the recklessness and total absence of statesmanship he attributes to the Palestinian leadership headed by the Mufti, Abdullah portrays himself as a reasonable and responsible leader who bases his policies on a realistic and astute study of the prevailing conditions. In this context, Abdullah candidly admits that he was willing to accept even a separate peaceful settlement of the Palestine problem inasmuch as “peoples are either in an active war or in peace and settlement.”42

In his memoirs, the king praises the Arab Legion’s glorious performance. However, while the British arms embargo was detrimental to the Legion, Abdullah fails to mention it. Abdullah also maintains that his title, Supreme Commander of the Arab Forces in Palestine, was devoid of practical meaning since each government preferred to direct its own forces. The Arab governments, he says, concealed from one another, and from his as well, basic information needed for cooperation, such as order of battle, military plans, and intelligence data. Even when the Egyptians came under heavy Israeli attack in the Negev, this pattern of behavior remained unchanged and the other Arab governments refused to cooperate with the king and come to the help of the forces under attack.43

The second postwar publication was a book by Mahmud al-Russan, the man who served during the battle for Latroun as operations officer in the Legion battalion in charge of this sector. The semi-official status of the book is reflected in the fact that its foreword was written by the Legion’s highest-ranking Arab officer. In both books, the role of the British officers in general, and of Glubb Pasha in particular, is minimized or utterly disregarded, while much attention and praise are heaped on the role of the king and the Legion’s Arab officers. This tendency is perhaps understandable in light of the anti-British mood among Palestinians in Jordan and elsewhere in the Arab world in the war’s aftermath. No less important, however, was the regime’s need to secure legitimacy in the eyes of young Arab officers in the Jordanian army, particularly in the aftermath of the attempted coup against Abdullah, led by the ex-commander and governor-general of Arab Jerusalem, Colonel Abdullah al-Tal, in 1949.

Although the main theme of Russan’s book is the tenacious fighting by the Arab Legion at Latroun, the author also attests to the Legion’s active support of the Arab inhabitants of Palestine during the last months of the Mandate.44 This took the form of training and the participation of senior Legion officers in actions of the local Arab militia. As a Legion officer in Haifa in those days, Russan painted a gloomy picture of the local Palestinian leadership’s performance; an extreme shortage of funds and military supplies resulted from the lack of preparations for the imminent showdown.45

Following his escape to Egypt, Abdullah al-Tal published his own memoirs in which he attributed the motivation for his participation in the war to his strong anti-British sentiment as well as his devotion to Arab nationalism. However, the book’s overt purpose was to expose King Abdullah’s treacherous role in the war as an agent of British policy that was practically implemented by Glubb.46 Tal suggests that Glubb, as part of the British plot to bring about the partition of Palestine, restrained the Legion from attacking the Jewish areas. He thus prevented the Legion from capturing the whole city of Jerusalem. He also refrained from sending reinforcements to the Egyptian forces under attack in October, exploiting the opportunity to re-deploy his forces in the Bethlehem-Hebron area instead.47 According to Tal, it was he, not Glubb, who initiated the takeover of the Etzion Bloc by the Legion as well as other attacks in the Jerusalem area.48 The inclusion of original documents from the secret armistice negotiations between the Israeli government and Abdullah lends credence to Tal’s book.

In light of Tal’s coup attempt, the publication of these documents was most likely meant to prove his faithfulness to the Arab national cause. Tal implies that, in spite of his knowledge of Abdullah’s negotiations with the Jews, he remained with Abdullah for so long to allow time to prepare an opposition movement that would put an end to Abdullah’s treason.49 Tal’s purported motivations notwithstanding, the book, which predated the availability of relevant British and Israeli archival material, serves as an invaluable historical source for Israeli-Jordanian relations during the war. The book also provoked accusations, first leveled during the war, of collusion between Abdullah and the Jews, a charge which became a major Arab explanation for the defeat and was later adopted by Israeli leftist historians.50

Responding to the denunciations of King Abdullah’s role in the war, Jordanian prime minister Hazza’ al-Majali published his memoirs in 1960 in an effort “to present to the Arab reader the truth” regarding the king.51 Majali, the chief court chamberlain and the king’s confidant during the war, defends Abdullah’s stance on Palestine and his army’s behavior in the war as motivated by realpolitick. Abdullah, Majali claims, was willing to agree to a partition as the lesser evil and as a tactical stage only. The king is portrayed as a pragmatic, judicious, and courageous statesman in contrast to those Arab leaders who, in spite of knowing the truth, misled their people with unrealistic promises.52

Majali, who was assassinated shortly after the appearance of his book, implicitly reiterates Abdullah’s argument that the Arab governments were responsible for the loss of Lydda and Ramle. Fearing domestic repercussions, the other Arab leaders decided not to prolong the truce, although they knew that their armies were incapable of victory given Israel’s increase in both arms and manpower achieved during the truce.53

However, although mentioning the king’s willingness to negotiate a peaceful solution of the Palestine conflict, the book is silent about the political contacts between the king and the Jews both preceding the war and near its end, including the secret armistice talks held at Shune. As for the surrender to Israel of the western slopes of the Jenin-Nablus-Tulkarm triangle, Majali blames the government and Abdullah al-Tal for misleading the king and showing bad judgment and poor knowledge of the terrain in the negotiations.54 Majali’s book is also critical of the Palestinian leadership for relying too much on Arab governments while doing too little itself. He also sees the Palestinians as partly responsible for the panic defeatism ensuing from the “improvised” and exaggerated propaganda following the 1948 Deir Yassin massacre.55

A research-oriented and relatively well-documented study of the role played by Jordan and the Arab Legion in the war is found in a book published in the early 1980s by the well-known historian of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Sulaiman Mussa. The book comes to grips with several problematic issues such as the secret talks between Abdullah and the Jews, the loss of Lydda and Ramle, and the failure to assist Egyptian forces under Israeli attack. Mussa’s book is the first Arab publication not devoted to vilification and denunciation that admits that diplomatic contacts took place between the Hashemite government and the Zionist leadership prior to the war. Although Mussa says nothing about the king’s direct involvement in the talks, the proximate timing he cites for the meetings and his descriptions of them coincide with those of Israeli documents describing the king’s participation.56 Nevertheless, Mussa’s book does not accept the contention that Abdullah at any time agreed to divide Palestine with the Zionists or Israel.

The book also seeks to explain the role of Abdullah and the Legion in the war. On the whole, Mussa maintains that limited military capabilities and political constraints lay at the root of the Arab Legion’s operational policy in the war. He thus accounts for the four-day delay in intervening in the battle for Jerusalem, even though the city’s Arab defenders were on the brink of collapse; the withdrawal of the Legion’s token force from the Lydda-Ramle sector in the face of a large-scale Israeli operation; and the failure to help the Egyptian forces in the Negev.57

Mussa also emphasizes the political constraints dictated by the British government, whose material and political support was indispensable to the king’s plan to take over the Arab part of Palestine. These constraints ruled out a possible Legion attack on the territory allotted to the Jewish state. In addition, Mussa refutes a central argument in Arab historiography that the acceptance of the first truce by the Arabs was a devastating mistake that turned the war in Israel’s favor by enabling her to acquire new arms supplies and manpower. Mussa contends that Israel would have acquired these reinforcements anyway. He further argues that their own limitation had already forced the Arab armies to adopt a noncooperative, defensive approach even before the truce.58

Syria and the Army of Deliverance

Despite Syria’s contribution to the Palestine war effort, it was not until the advent of Assad’s regime that publications appeared discussing Syrian activity in the war. This may be explained by the turmoils, revolts, and successive military coups that marked Syrian domestic politics for more than two decades following the Palestine defeat.

Syrian publications say little about Damascus’ role in the six-month “unofficial war” that preceded the invasion of Palestine or its political motivations for being the most active Arab state in organizing, financing, arming, training, and supervising the Army of Deliverance, an eight-battalion force of Arab volunteers.59 However, these publications do praise Syria’s leading role in defense of Palestine before the invasion as genuine evidence of the unique historical and geographical ties binding both these parts of natural Syria. (Natural Syria and “Greater Syria” refer to the Arab term Bilad al-Sham, which includes today’s Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and historic Palestine.)60 Regardless of the changing regimes in Damascus, Syria’s commitment to the cause of Palestine has always shaped its policies, ever since the Roman invasions. Hence, Damascus’ support for the Palestinian revolt in the years 1937-39 and her financial assistance to the war effort in 1947-48. It is further claimed that, unlike other Arab states, Syria sought no particular gains for itself in the war, perceiving it as a total effort to rescue Palestine in its entirety, and thus felt reluctant to follow the other Arab governments in signing an armistice agreement with Israel. Her ultimate decision to follow suit is explained as resulting from Husni al-Za’im’s military coup against the Syrian constitutional regime.61

Indeed, it is ironic that Syria’s role in this phase of the war has been used, under Assad’s regime, to legitimize its demand for a decisive role in the Palestinian issue. The concept of “Greater Syria,” which, under the aegis of King Abdullah in the late 1940s, was the driving force behind Syria’s preventive policy on Palestine, became a useful historic concept for present political aspirations.

The small output of literature on the Syrian army’s role in the 1948 war underlines the politicians’ mistrust of the army and the striking gap between the Syrian leadership’s vociferous enthusiasm to get involved in the war and the state’s meager capabilities.62 Amin al-Nafouri, a former Syrian general, whose article on the Syrian army in the Palestine war was published in an official Syrian military journal, focuses on such military aspects as tactics, order of battle, and capabilities. The article attributes the low level of preparedness at the beginning of the war to Britain’s refusal to supply the necessary arms. However, it implicitly blames the army’s failure in its first attack on the Syrian politicians’ delay in issuing orders and on their failure to provide the necessary means for the attack. Compounding the situation was the lack of coordination with the Iraqi force operating on the Syrian left flank and Abdullah’s last-minute changes in the Arab invasion plan, which took the Syrian forces by surprise.63

Fayiz al-Qasri, another retired Syrian general, also argues that the dishonest and deceitful behavior of Abdullah and Glubb was detrimental to the other Arab armies. Qasri is critical of all Arab governments for their reluctance to play an active role in the war—hence, their readiness to accept the U.N. cease-fires. He emphasizes in particular the inactivity of the Jordanian and Iraqi armies. These tended to support Abdullah’s desire to put an end to the war immediately after the start of the first truce.64

Regarding the Army of Deliverance, Syrian historiography has followed the path of general Arab historiography which, until the early 1970s, either ignored or deplored its role in the war. The army, which was established by the Arab League in late 1947 in view of the imminent war, served in Palestine during the 1948 war under Fauzi al-Qawaqji’s command. Overall, the army has been portrayed, particularly by the Palestinians, as an aimless mob which harassed the local Palestinian population and has been taken as evidence of the Arab governments’ insincere and improvised approach in the Palestine war.65

Perhaps in an effort to avoid responsibility for the Army of Deliverance’s failures, Syrian historical writings complain about the absence of coordination between Qawaqji’s forces and the Syrian army during the latter’s battles in Mishmar ha-Yarden. At the same time, however, Syrian historiography ignores the Army of Deliverance’s unheeded requests for urgent support when, in late October 1948, it was forced by a heavy Israeli offensive to withdraw from Galilee.66 Qasri, who served as an officer under Qawaqji’s command, underplays the role of the Army of Deliverance and its military capability. He argues that it was merely meant to demonstrate the Arab states’ resistance to partition and to exempt them from official intervention in Palestine. Basically, Qasri says, the idea of organizing a military force of volunteers from different countries in such a short time was utterly impractical, and Qawaqji had no experience in commanding regular forces on the scale of the Army of Deliverance.67

A critical study on the Army of Deliverance published in 1973 in a Palestinian periodical describes the military and political constraints under which it came into being: the shortage of arms and ammunition; the short time available to turn the volunteers into organized military units; Qawaqji’s controversial personality; the fractious discipline among the soldiers and officers of the force; the lack of staff routine; poor control of forces; and estrangement from the Palestinian population. The study, the conclusions of which are largely accepted by the Jordanian statesman Wasfi al-Tal, a former officer and a battalion commander in the Army of Deliverance, blames the politicians for not defining clearly the force’s operational goals, thus adding to its inherent weaknesses.68

Qawaqji’s own memoirs are marked by a strongly apologetic, if occasionally bitter tone and reflect a transparent effort to portray his army’s military record as heroic. In spite of the shortage of arms and ammunition, idifference of the Arab League’s military Committee in Damascus and the Arab governments as a whole, and provocations by the Mufti and his followers in Palestine, the Army of Deliverance was the only force that took the offensive initiative. Qawaqji’s main complaints are directed against the military Committee in Damascus and particularly against Taha al-Hashimi, the exiled Iraqi leader who served as the inspector-general of the volunteers. Hashimi was a confidant of the Syrian president and the main figure behind the irregulars. 

Qawaqji also accuses the Arab governments of being competitive, harboring unwarranted suspicions, misjudging the true capability of the Arab armies, and being inefficiently organized and unprepared. Qawaqji’s descriptions of the Mufti and his armed men, namely the Holy Jihad (al-Jihad al-Muqaddas), and the behavior of the Palestinian population as a whole are markedly contemptuous, emphasizing their defeatism and lack of will to fight.69 Although Qawaqji pays lip service to the argument that Britain and the United Nations enabled and encouraged the Jewish aggression and subsequently legitimized its consequences, he is certainly less bitter than his Arab compatriots about Britain’s role in Palestine.

Qawaqji assails the widespread contention in Arab historiography that the British withdrawal from Palestine was deliberately organized so as to enable the Jews to take over mixed or mainly Arab-inhabited areas. He records that, upon his arrival in Samaria, the British army recognized his force as responsible for this homogeneous Arab area. Qawaqji also refutes the contentions of both Arabs and Jews that the withdrawing British army supported the other side in supplying arms and providing defense, pointing to the British disposition to always back the stronger side.70

The Palestinian Dialogue with the Past

If the Arab regimes were sharply criticized for their inept leadership in the war, the Palestinian national leaders, headed by al-Haj Amin al-Husseini, were more strongly excoriated. The controversy surrounding the Mufti’s leadership and the personal responsibility imputed to him by Palestinians and other Arabs71 is indicated by the absence of any serious scholarly discussion of his role in determining the fate of the Palestine question, particularly during the crucial years of 1946 through 1948.

The results of the war and the consequent criticism against the Mufti and the Arab Higher Committee generated a few apologetic publications shortly after the end of the war.72 In the 1950s and 1960s, the Mufti was politically on the defensive. Arab and Palestinian efforts to bypass or dispossess the Arab Higher Committee as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinians culminated in the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964. Thus, the Mufti’s apologetics were intended not only to justify his past policies, but also to legitimize his continuing claim as chairman of the Arab Higher Committee to the official leadership of the Palestinian people. The Mufti’s struggle for leadership is reflected in the apologetic literature published mainly by his faithful lieutenant Emil al-Ghori describing his active role as leader of the Palestinian national movement under the Mandate and during the war.73

This Palestinian literature also aims at falsifying the allegations spread in the Arab world since 1948 assigning the Palestinians responsibility for their own tragedy. These allegations included the charges that the Palestinians failed to fight for their national cause, that they collaborated in selling their lands to the Jews and abandoned it without resistance, and that they were irreparably divided and “negative.”74 In the aftermath of the 1948 war, feeling an urgent need to counter these allegations, Palestinian writers emphasized the long-standing struggle of the indigenous Palestinian Arab population for its homeland and political rights. Thus, the Mandate era was depicted as one in which the Palestinians courageously challenged the mighty British Empire through repeated uprisings and willingly sacrificed their lives for the national cause. This behavior was carried on in the face of the activities of Arab “traitors” and the Zionist-Imperialist plot against the Palestinians.75

In these Palestinian writings, the Arab states are basically portrayed as indifferent to the Palestinian’s need for material support and lacking a strong sense of national consciousness. Arab governments, it is argued, abandoned the Palestinians, thereby contributing to the creation of the Arab refugee problem that they subsequently exploited for their own ends. In addition, they made possible the emigration of their Jewish populations, thus reducing the Palestinian refugees’ chances to return to their homes.

Above all, the Arab governments are accused of virtually implementing the British plans by preventing the Palestinians from assuming any significant political and military role in the struggle for Palestine. Indeed, this point remains a leading complaint against the Arab governments. Moreover, Palestinian writings implicitly criticize the Hashemite states for opposing the Mufti’s requests to establish a provisional Palestinian government which would bear sole responsibility for military action and civil administration, and for being content to merely provide material support.76 Palestinian sources also argue that, given the British control over the Arab Legion, the intervention of the regular armies in the war for Palestine was tantamount to reintroducing a British presence into Palestine. It is even argued that Britain encouraged the invasion of Palestine by the Arab regular armies. A further claim is that the mission of the Army of Deliverance was to undermine the Holy Jihad and that Qawaqji was a British agent.77

It is noteworthy that other sources, written by long-standing supporters of the Palestinian cause as well as by members of the Muslim Brotherhood who volunteered to fight in Palestine as a religious duty, support the argument that the intervention of the Army of Deliverance and the regular Arab armies in Palestine was fatal.78 In both Egypt and Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood, which maintained close ties with the Mufti, sided with the Palestinians and criticized their own government’s weak and insufficiently patriotic posture.

The literature sponsored by the Arab Higher Committee, as well as Palestinian historiography in general, sharply criticizes the Arab governments for acting during the war according to their own particular narrow interests. They argue that, while the Palestinians were in the midst of a desperate struggle for survival, the Arab governments were involved in negotiations with the imperialists over the building of new oil pipelines in Syria and Lebanon. Because of their subordination to imperialism, the Arab governments refused to invade Palestine before the Mandate terminated. Similarly, Egypt’s refusal to allow the Mufti to return to Palestine shortly before the end of the Mandate was an effort to assuage the British, who naturally objected to the Mufti’s presence in Palestine. Moreover, when the Mufti finally arrived in Gaza in late September 1948 to attend the Palestinian National Conference, he was forced by the Egyptian government to return to Cairo after a few days, despite his election to the council’s president.79

The Mufti’s memoirs focus on his own painstaking and thorough preparations for war—including the purchase and shipment of adequate quantities of arms and communications equipment. The Mufti also claims that he had sufficient troops and qualified commanders to win the war against the Zionists. Here he implicitly criticizes the Arab League, which forced him to accept the Army of Deliverance commanded by his sworn enemy, Fauzi al-Qawaqji.80

In a series of articles published by the Mufti in mid-1973 summing up his political career since the 1930s, he offers no response to the persistent complaints of leading Palestinian figures concerning their lack of success in acquiring arms during the “unofficial war” despite their repeated visits to Arab capitals in search of more military supplies.81

Since the revival of Palestinian nationalism in the 1960s, a new trend has been discernible in Palestinian as well as in general Arab historiography. Its basic thrust is to reestablish the Palestinian people’s history of Palestine. These writings seek to legitimate the very existence of the Palestinian people and their political rights in the face of “distorting Zionist propaganda” widely accepted in the West.82 Accordingly, these writings range over the whole period of the British Mandate and sometimes even reach back to the Canaanite era in an effort to link the present-day Palestinians to the original inhabitants of the country. Recapitulating the land and population situation in Palestine before the 1948 catastrophe, these writings seek to reassert the claims of the refugees and refute Israeli allegations that the Palestinians had left their country in response to calls from Arab states.83

In the 1960s and 1970s, a new thrust emerged in Palestinian historiography. Wishing to persuade Western public opinion of Israel’s illegitimacy, these writings describe Israel as a state born in sin on the wreckage of the Palestinian society.84 Zionism is presented as an ideology based on military power which was unjustly used against the unarmed and defenseless Arab inhabitants as part of a premeditated plan under the shield of the withdrawing British Mandate forces.

The role of the Palestinians in the 1948 war is generally portrayed as heroic and crucial to the overall Arab effort, with an emphasis on their struggle in the face of a shortage of arms, lack of military training, and poor command. However, their participation in Arab attacks on the yishuv is essentially ignored. Regarding the refugee problem, the more recent Palestinian sources argue that the Jewish offensive alone was responsible for the exodus of about 300,000 Arabs prior to 15 May, that is, before the invasion of the regular Arab armies.85 Also, the Haganah offensive is usually presented as an independent Jewish initiative, with no mention made of the threat posed by Arab irregular forces to the yishuv’s very existence. In other words, these accounts either deny the Palestinians’ responsibility for rejecting the U.N. partition resolution or entirely ignore that “unofficial war” engaged in by Palestinians and Arab volunteers alike.

Following the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), renewed endeavors were undertaken to commemorate Palestinian determination to remain and defend their villages.86 Integral to this effort was a systematic attempt to collect documentary material and to sponsor and publish research on the period in question. These studies, emphasizing the rich Palestinian heritage of pre-1948, are particularly attentive to criticism that the lack of a strong institutional infrastructure within Palestinian society was its main source of weakness during the war. The response to such criticism has been to emphasize the leadership and institutions in Arab Palestinian society, the destructive role of the Arab states in the Palestinians’ struggle to establish their national sovereignty, the short-lived “All-Palestine government,” and the usurpation of Palestinian sovereignty by Hashemite Jordan and Israel.87

The most contentious question in the historiography of the war remains that of the Palestinian refugees. Without delving too far into the historical debate as to why the Palestinians left, it is worth exploring Palestinian sources that offer reasons for their departure. The most comprehensive account of the war, written by the Palestinian historian ‘Arif al-‘Arif, attributes the departure primarily to Jewish military power. ‘Arif draws a clear distinction between cases of outright expulsion of Arab populations by Jewish forces and cases resulting from the ongoing hostilities.88 ‘Arif maintains that military and organizational weakness, combined with the early departure of Palestinian notables and political leaders, created an atmosphere of fear among local Palestinians. The ensuing sense of insecurity, heightened by Arab disunity and inept leadership, drove the population to seek refuge elsewhere.

In his memories, the Mufti stresses that he tried to halt the mass flight and that, at various stages of the “unofficial war,” he unsuccessfully asked Arab governments to turn away Palestinian males seeking refuge.89 At the same time, however, Palestinian Arab memoirs argue that the panic among the Arab population was aggravated by the ineptitude of local and national Palestinian leaders; their miscalculated propaganda concerning Jewish atrocities such as the Deir Yassin massacre; and their absence from the scene.90 Palestinian Arabs, particularly from the Jewish areas, tended to view their departure as temporary.

These explanations are heavily supported by other Palestinian and Arab memoirs and research. Although each of these sources accepts the predominant Arab argument that the Zionists expelled the Palestinians deliberately, each provides other reasons for the early collapse of the Palestinian community. These reasons include basic military weakness, an extreme socio-political fragmentation, the lack of an institutional infrastructure, meager military participation among the Palestinians, and above all, the damage caused by the Army of Deliverance, which tended to retreat in the face of Jewish military pressure.91

The most important Palestinian historian to take up the refugee issue is Professor Walid Khalidi. His numerous articles dealing with the refugee question try to refute the official Israeli claim that the Palestinians were ordered to leave by Arab broadcasts that promised them that they could return to their homes after the liberation.92 Significantly, the arguments that the Palestinians were told to leave, were encouraged to do so on humanitarian grounds, or were led to understand that their departure was only temporary are included in several Palestinian and Arab sources, including the Mufti’s memoirs.93 While this explanation neither lessens Israel’s share of responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem nor blames the Palestinians for bringing the tragedy on themselves, it is seen as necessary to any explanation of the causes underlying the Palestinian exodus.

However, these sources are almost entirely ignored by Khalidi, who nowhere comes to grips with the historical context of the flight. Moreover, Khalidi does not address the socio-political factors contributing to the Palestinian community’s weakness which rendered it totally unable to militarily support the posturing of its political leadership. Indeed, he even argues that the intention to systematically expel the Palestinians was an integral part of the Haganah’s “Plan D,” launched at the beginning of April.

Like Professor Edward Said, Khalidi argues vehemently that the idea of expelling the Arab Palestinians—the “transfer” concept—was deeply rooted in the ideology of the Zionist movement from its very inception. He thus criticizes Benny Morris for concluding in his book that the Arab exodus from Palestine was not the result of pre-planned Zionist strategy, but of complex factors resulting from the war. Khalidi’s contention, however, seems to be based solely on his assumption that a “connection exists between the imperative to ‘transfer’ the Arab population and seize its lands and the imperative to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of Jews it was planned to bring to the new Jewish state.94 This logic suggests that even if the Arabs had not resorted to arms in the six-month “unofficial war,” the yishuv would still have wielded the power to expel the Arab population.


A major characteristic of a democratic and pluralistic society is its ability to engage in an open and critical discussion of its own cultural and political legacy, undertake a critical inquiry into its past, and critically evaluate its historical myths. However, Arab historical writing on the 1948 war have been shaped by an ongoing concern with the fateful issues confronting the Arab world in our time: how to effect a break with centuries of political and cultural decline, and most of all, how to deal with the painful impact of the West on Arab society and culture. Accordingly, it is particularly difficult for Arab historians to treat the Arab-Israeli conflict in purely academic terms. Not only were the Arabs defeated in the crucial 1948 war, but the Palestinian-Jewish conflict prevents the wounds from healing. Moreover, in the period since 1948, the Arab world has neither been able to cope militarily with the Jewish state nor accomplish its pan-Arab goal of a collective commitment to the Palestinian cause. In short, the history of the 1948 war is an essential part of the “unfinished business” of Arab nationalism.

Recent studies by Egyptian and Jordanian historians may be indicative of a new political self-confidence, a more critical historiographical approach, and a more dispassionate attitude towards Israel.95 However, there is no reason to anticipate such a critical historiography in the foreseeable future from Palestinian writers. Insofar as the right of return of the Palestinian refugees and the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state is an essential element of Palestinian nationalism, an unbiased open academic debate of this painful chapter in Palestinian history may not be possible until the resolution of the Palestinian problem.


This is a preliminary version of a larger research on Arab historiography of the 1948 war.

1. Wilfred C. Smith, Islam in Modern History (New York, 1957), 121-24; G.V. Von Grunebaum, “Self-Image and Approach to History,” in Bernard Lewis and P.M. Holt, eds., Historians of the Middle East (Oxford, 1962), 457-583; Yehoshafat Harkabi, Arab Attitudes to Israel (London, 1972), 362. For a similar approach, see Emanuel Sivan, “Modern Arab Historiography of the Crusades,” Asian and African Studies 8, no. 2 (1972): 142-43. As will become clear in the following pages, I am using the term historiography in its broadest sense to include critical and non-critical historical writings.

2. Elie Kedourie, Arab Political Memoirs (London, 1974), 177-78.

3. Ibid., 178; Muhamad ‘Izzat Darwaza, Hawl al-Haraka al-`Arabiya al-Haditha (Sidon, 1950), vol. 4, pt. 1, 

30; ‘Arif al-‘Arif, al-Nakba: Nakbat Beit al-Maqdis wal-Fardus al-Mafqud, 1947-1952 (Sidon and Beirut, 1959), 3-4; Hassan Mustafa, Mudhakirat Mulhaq Askari fi London Qabl Harb Filastin wa-Athna’ha, 1946-1949 (Baghdad, 1985), 9-10; Al-Sayyid Faraj, Jaishuna Fi Filastin, May-July 1948 (Cairo, August 1948), 39.

4. Kedourie, Arab Political Memoirs, 178.

5. The earliest and most prominent examples are: Kustantin Zureiq, Ma’na al-Nakha (Beirut, 1948); Musa al-Alemi, ‘Ibrat Filastin (Beirut, 1949). For an English version of Alami’s booklet, see his article “The Lesson of Palestine,” Middle East Journal 3 (October 1949): 373-405. See also walid Qamhawi, al-Nakba wal-Bina’ fi al-Watan al-`Arabi (Beirut, 1962).

6. For examples of complaints over this state of affairs, see Mustafa, Mudhakirat, 24, 35; Salah Al-Aqqad, Qadiyat Filastin, al-Marhala al-Harija (1945-1956) (Cairo, 1968), 111.

7. Such critical works are the comprehensive books of ‘Arif al-‘Arif and Muhamad ‘Izzat Darwaza, al-Qadiya al-Filastiniya fi Mukhtalaf Marahiliha (Beirut, 1951), pt. II; Walid Khalidi, “The Fall of Haifa,” Middle East Forum 35, no. 12 (1959): 22-32; Khalidi, “Why Did the Palestinians Leave?” Middle East Forum 34, no. 7 (1959): 21-24, 35; Khalidi, “The Arab Perspective,” in William Roger Louis and Robert W. Stookey, eds., The End of the Palestine Mandate (Austin, 1986), 104-36; Leila S. Kadi, Arab Summit Conferences and the Palestinian Problem, 1936-1950, 1964-1966 (Beirut, 1966); Bayan N. Al-Hout, al-Qiyadat wal-Mu/assasat al-Filastiniya, 1918-1948 (Beirut, 1981); Muhamad Fa’iz al-Qasri, Harb Filastin ‘Am 1948 (Cairo, 1961); Hani al-Hindi, “Jaish al-Inqadh, 1947-1949,” Shu’un Filastiniya, pt. I no. 23 (1973): 27-58, pt. II, no. 24 (1973): 115-32; Hassan al-Badri, al-Harb fi Ard al-Salam; al-Jawla al-`Arabiya al-Isra’iliya al- Uwla, 1947-1949 (Cairo, 1976); Abd al-Wahab Bakr Muhamad, al-Jaish al-Misri wa-Harb Filastin, 1948-1952 (Cairo, 1982); Sulaiman Mussa, Ayam La Tunsa, al-Urdun fi Harb 1948 (Amman, 1982); Nafez Nazzal, The Palestinian Exodus from Galilee, 1948 (Beirut, 1978).

8. See for example: ‘Arif, al-Nakba, 31, 33-34; Bakr, al-Jaish al-Misri, 116; Badri, al-Harb fi Ard al-Salam, 3-20; Anis Sayigh,  al-Hashimiyun wa-Qadiyat Filastin (Sidon and Beirut, 1966), 227-230, 235, 240-243,  247-248; Hout, al-Qiyadat, 637, 639; Khalidi, “Haifa,” 25-32; Mussa, Ayam La Tunsa, 77-79, 532: Kadi, Arab Summit, 51-52, 6O; Nazzal, Palestinian Exodus, 105.

9. Exceptions sporadically using British documents are Mussa, Ayam La Tunsa; Bakr, al-Jaish al-Misri; and Mustafa, Mudhakirat.

10. See, for example, Nazzal, Khalidi’s “Arab Perspective,” Bakr, and Mussa. None of them or other historians, such as Hout, al-Qiyadat, who uses relatively many Arab memoirs, used the diary of Taha al-Hashini, the prominent figure behind organizing and directing the Arab irregular forces in Palestine. See Khaldun S. al-Husri, ed., Mudhakirat Taha al Hashini, pt. II, 1942-1955 (Beirut, 1978).

11. Kedourie, Arab Political Memoirs, 178.

12. As presented in Harkabi, Arab Attitudes to Israel, 362-83.

13. Bernard Lewis, History, Remembered, Recovered, Invented (New York, 1975), 18.

14. Faraj, Jaishuna fi Filastin. The preface to the book is signed by General ‘Uthman al-Mahdi, the deputy chief of staff of the Egyptian army.

15. Ibid, 11, 13, 27-29, 55-57, 119.

16. Ibid., 97. For examples of criticism of the Arab acceptance of the first truce, see Badri, al-Harb fi Ard al-Salam, 79; and Bakr, al-Jaish al-Misri, 119. Jamal Abd al-Nasser, Falsafat al-Thawra (Cairo, 1956), 24, blames King Farouk for committing the “great treason” of accepting the first truce. For the perception of the first truce as a “Spectacular mistake,” see Sami al-Hakim, Tariq al-Nakba (Cairo, 1969), 65-66. For a caveat on this argument, see Mussa, Ayam La Tunsa, 298, 304.

17. Faraj, Jaishuna fi Filastin, 39.

18. “al-Jalsa al-Sirriya li-Majlis al-Shuyukh al-Ma’quda fi 11 Mayu 1948 ‘an Mas’alat Filastin,” al-Tali’a 3 (March 1975), 135.

19. For the Senate proceedings, see “Jalsa Sirriya,” 135-44; Badri, al-Harb fi Ard al-Salam, 40; Muhamad Hussein Haikal, Mudhakirat fi al-Siyasa al-Missriya, pt. III (Cairo, 1978), 41-45.

20. Haikal, Mudhakirat, 41-45. The concept of “political demonstration” is also approved by Taqrir al-Lajna al-Niyabiya fi Qadiyat Filastin (Baghdad: The Government Press, 1949), 34; Muhamad Faisal Abd al-Mun’im, Asrar 1948 (Cairo, 1968), 191-93; Qasri, Harb Filastin, 157. “Jalsa Sirriya,” 135-44. See also Fadel al-Jamali, Dhikrayat wa-‘Ibar (Beirut, 1965), 33.

21. Faraj, Jaishuna fi Filastin, 39.

22. Abd al-Mun’im, Filastin Qalbb al-‘Uruba (Dar al-Ma’arif, Cairo, 1968), 9, 15; Badri, al-Harb fi Ard al-Salam, 85.

23. Taqrir al-Lajua al-Niabiya, 34, 191; Salih Sa-if al-Jubouri, Mihnat Filastin (Beirut, 1970), 131-32.

24. I derive my interpretation from my reading of “Jalsa Sirriya,” 44.

25. Nasser, Falsafat, 24.

26. Jamal Abd al-Nasser, Mudhakirat Harb Filastin, ed. Muhamad Hassanein Heikal (Cairo, n.d.), 25-32, 34-39, 42-45, 62, 64, 68.

27. Badri, al-Harb fi Ard al-Salam, 45-46, 85, 232, 237; Bakr, al-Jaish al-Misri, 63, 65-66, 74-79, 117-18, 153.

28. Quoted from Von Grunebaum, “Self-Image and Approach to History,” 475. For examples of Nasser’s use of the history of the Palestinian war for drawing lessons and enhancing his pan-Arab nationalist ideas, leadership, and legitimacy, see Nasser, Falsafat, 103, 110-11, as well as, in his Filastin, Min Aqwal al-Ra’iss Jamal Abd al-Nasser (Cairo, n.d.), 12-13, 15, 34, 45, 51, 57, 60, 107-8, 120-25, 128, 131, 138.b

29. See Heikal’s introduction to Nasser’s war memoirs, Mudhakirat Harb Filastin, pp. 11-18, as wellas his concluding essay emphasizing the role of Palestine in the development of Nasser’s pan-Arabism, pp. 106-111.

30. Jubouri, Mihnat Filastin, 314, 435-44.

31. For the background to the establishment of the Parliamentary Inquiry Commission, see the introduction of Taqrir al-Layna al-Niyabiya. For a different version, see Muhamad Mahdi Kubba, Mudhakirati fi Samin al-Ahdath (Beirut, 1965), 267.

32. For example, Taqrir al-Lajna al-Niyabiya, 30, 36-37, 67, 69-70. See also Jubouri, Mihnat Filastin, 131-

33. Taqrir al-Lajna al-Niyabiya, 23-28. On the oil weapon, see Taqrir al-Lajna al-Niyabiya, 89-91, 116. See also Jamali, Dhikrayat, 116; Kadi, Arab Summit, 83-84.

34. Taqrir al-Lajna al-Niyabiya, 200; Jubouri, Mihnat Filastin, 189-201.

35. Jubouri, Mihnat Filastin, 311-19, 323-28, 440-41.

36. Ibid., 122, 439. Jubouri himself mentions much smaller numbers at another place in his book, p. 502. See Badri, al-Harb fi Ard al-Salam, 616; Bakr, al-Jaish al-Misri, 75; Mussa, Ayam La Tunsa, 9-10.

37. Jubouri, Mihnat Filastin, 173-79.

38. Mustafa, Mudhakirat, 26-30, 36, 55-61; Jubouri, Milanat Filastin, 141, 332-33.

39. ‘Arif, al-Nakba, 602, 607-9; Sayigh, al-Hashimiyun, 261-62; Aqqad, Qadiyat Filastin, 96-97. See Mussa’s explanation on these accusations, Ayam La Tunsa, 371-72.

40. Abdullah Ibn al-Hussein, “al-Takmila,” in al-Athar al-Kamila lil-Malik Abdullah Ibn al-Hussein, ed. Umar al-Madani (Amman, 1979), 295. See also 241-45.

41. Ibid., 263. On Abdullah’s position to the Gaza government, see 243-44.

42. Ibid., 242, 259-63.

43. Ibid., 321-22.

44. Mahmud al-Russan, Ma’arik Bab al-Wad (Amman, n.d. [1950?]), 30-32. See also Abdullah al-Tal, Karithat Filastin, Mudhakirat Abdullah al-Tal, Qa’id Ma’rakat al’Quds (Acre, 1958), 4, 19-22.

45. Russan, Ma’arik Bab al-Wad, 30-32.

46. Tal, Karithat Filastin, 21, 27, 35-36, 65-73, 100, 344-45, 432, 437-42, 473-97.

47. Ibid., 407.

48. Ibid., 4, 19-22, 31-35, 158-59.

49. See, for example, the author’s preface to the second edition, p. 7.

50. Sayigh, al-Hashimiyun, 261, 264-65; Israel Bear, Bithon Israel, Etmol, Mayom, Mahar (Tel Aviv, 1966), 125-35. For distorted and sometimes invented descriptions of the talks’ proceedings between Abdullah and the Jews, see Wahid al-Dali, Asrar al-Jami’a al-Arabiya wa-Abd al-Rahman Assam (Cairo, 1982), 259-88; Emile Tuma, Yawmiyat Sha’b, Thalathuna `Aman ala al-Ittihad (Haifa, 1974), 59-60, 63-64; Simha Flapan, The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities (New York 1987), 142-44; Avi Shlaim, Collusion across the Jordan (New York, 1988), 122-59, 220, 233-38. For a reassessment of the validity of the myth of “collusion” between Abdullah and the Jews, see my “Yahasei ha-Melekh Abdullah u-Memshelet Israel be-Milhemet ha-Atzma’ut – Bhina Mehudeshet,” Cathedra 57, pt. I (September 1990): 120-25, and Cathedra 58, pt. II (December 1990): 172-93.

51. Hazza’ al-Majali, Mudhakirati (Amman, 1960), 8.

52. Ibid., 52-55, 79.

53. Ibid., 77-79; Abdullah, “al-Takmila,” 261; Mussa, Ayam La Tunsa, 321.

54. Majali, Mudhakirati, 90-92. See Tal’s version about his own role in this regard, Karithat Filastin, 504-5.

55. Majali, Mudhakirati, 62. For a similar criticism, see Ahmad al-Shuqairi, Arba’un ‘Aman fi al-Hayat al-Arabiya wal-Dawliya (Beirut, 1969), 289; ‘Arif, al-Nakba, 174. See the critical response, representing the Arab Higher Committee, to Shuqairi’s argument about Deir Yassin: Emil al-Ghori, Al-Shuqairi fi al-Mizan: Abatil Tudhiduha al-Haqa’iq (Amman, 1972), 114.

56. Mussa, Ayam La Tunsa, 76-77.

57. Ibid., 127-44, 281-86, 345-72.

58. Ibid., 479-80, 298-302. Mussa raises the question whether Jewish Jerusalem could have sustained the siege without the truce.

59. For Syria’s leadership role in sponsoring the volunteers and the Army of Deliverance, see Husri, Mudhakirat Taha al-Hashimi, from p. 151 on; Filastin fi Mudhakirat Fawzi al-Qawaaji, 1936-1948, ed. Khairiya Qasimiya (Beirut; PLO Research Center, 1975), vol. II from p. 124 on; Amin al-Nafouri, “al-Jaish al-Souri fi Harb Filastin ‘Am 1948,” Al-Fikr al-Askari 7, no. 2-3 (1979): 11; ‘Arif, al-Nakba, 40; Hindi, “Jaish al-Inqadh,” 47. On abdullah’s aspirations for Greater Syria and its implications on Damascus’ rulers, see Najib al-Armanazi, ‘Ashar Sanawat fi al-Diblumasiya fi Samin al-Ahdath  al-Arabiya wal-Dawliya (Beirut, 1964), 125-29; Husri, Mudhakirat Taha al-Hashimi, 158, 166, 180, 182, 217.

60. Muhamad ‘Ismat Shikhu, Suria wa-Qadiyat Filastin (Dar Qutaiba, Damascus, 1982), 5-6; Nafouri, “al-Jaish al-Souri,” 1-2, 4.

61. Shikhu, Suria wa-Qadiyat Filastin, 287-90, 98-99, 141-42.

62. Nafouri, “al-Jaish al-Souri,” 8, 33, 35; Qasri, Harb Filastin, 155-56; see also his Ma’sat al’Alam al-Arabi (Damascus, 1959), 214-15; Husri, Mudhakirat Taha al-Hashimi, 151.

63. Qasri, Harb Filastin, 155-56; Nafouri, “al-Jaish al-Souri,” 13-16, 23, 38.

64. Qasri, Harb Filastin, 157, 169-71, 206-8.

65. See, for example, ‘Arif, al-Nakba, 459; Darwaza, Hawl al-Haraka, 19-20.

66. Nafouri, “al-Jaish al-Souri,” 38; Qawaqji, Filastin, 270-75. On the withdrawal of the Army of Deliverance, see Hindi, “Jaish al-Inqadh,” 118. Qawaqji himself argues that both King Abdullah and the Syrian leadership were responsible for the decision to withdraw his forces: Fauzi Al-Qawaqji, “Memoirs, 1948,” Journal of Palestine Studies, vol. 1, pt. I, no. 4 (1972): 14, and vol. 2, pt. II, no. 1 (1973): 13, 28. See also his Filastin, 194-97.

67. Qasri, Harb Filastin, 250-52. Hindi, “Jaish al-Inqadh,” pt. I, 38-39, 50, disagrees with Qasri on the level of the soldiers. Subhi Yasin, Harb al-Isabat fi Filastin (Cairo, 1967), 160, presents Qawaqji as a collaborator with Britain.

68. Hindi, “Jaish al-Inqadh,” 35, 42-44, 116-17; Wasfi al-Tal, Kitabat fi al-Qadaya al-Arabia (Amman, 1980), 256-57, 261-62; Qasri, Harb Filastin, 153, 206-9, 250-51; Husri, Mudhakirat Taha al-Hashimi, 185.69. Qawaqji, Filastin, 132-38, 146-49, 151-52, 172-77, 184-85, 233. See also his Memoirs, 1948, pt. II, 4-6, 27-28.

70. Qawaqji, Filastin, 149; Armanazi, ‘Ashar Sanawat, 208.

71. The most vehement criticism is found in Ahmad Farraj Tayi’, Safahat Matwiya ‘an Qadiyat Filastin (n.p., n.d.), 56-59, 65-68, 71-75, 87-88; and in Husri, Mudhakirat Taha al-Hashimi, 152-58, 181, 190-92, 198-202, 208-9. See also Abdullah, “al-Takmila,” 232, 295; Muhamad Nimr al-Hawari, Sir al-Nakba (Nazareth, 1955), 96-98, 127, 145-46, 346-50; Wasfi al-Tal, Kitabat, 260; Jubouri, Mihnat Filastin, 499-501; Qawaqji, Filastin, 123-24, 126-27, 236; Shuqairi, Arba’un ‘Aman, 290; Taqrir al-Lajna al-Niyabiya, 149-50; Darwaza, Hawl al-Haraka, pt. I, particularly 59-62, 74-83, 102-21; pt. II, 9-30.

72. Al-Haj Amin al-Husseini, Haqa’iq ‘an Qadiyat Filastin (Cairo, 1954), 5-6. The book was published under the auspices of the Arab Higher Committee. Darwaza, Hawl al-Haraka, pt. I, particularly 59-62, 74-83, 102-21; pt. II, 9-30.

73. For defense of the Mufti’s record, see Emil al-Ghori, Filastin Ibra Sittin Aman (Beirut, 1972), 235-38, 244, 247; Muhamad ‘Izzat Darwaza, al-Qadiya al-Filastiniya fi Mukhtalaf Marahiliha (Beirut, 1951), pt. II, 39. See also Emil al-Ghori, al-Mu’amara al-Kubra: Ightiyal Filastin wa-Mahq al-Arab (Cairo, 1955), 199-216, 238-39, 224-27; al-Mu’adhabun fi Ard al-Arab (Beirut, 1960), 38, 75-77, 86-87.

74. Ghori, al-Mu’adhabun, 5-6, 154-56; Husseini, Haqa’iq, 8.

75. Ghori, al-Mu’adhabun, 74-75, 156; Ghori, al-Mu’amara, 198-99; Akram Zu’aitar, al-Qadiya al-Filastiniya (al-Mamlaka al-Urduniya al-Hashimiya, Wizarat al-Tarbiya wal-Ta’lim, 1964), 69; Husseini, Haqa’iq, 9-26.

76. Husseini, Haqa’iq, 21, 61, 174-75; Ghori, al-Mu’amara, 209-12, 236-39, 244-49, 256-66; Ghori, al-Mu’adhabun, 80-87. Even Hout, al-Qiyadat, 637-38, who depicts the Palestinian national leadership’s policies as “negative,” joins the argument that had the Palestinians been left alone to tackle their problem by themselves, they would have succeeded. Yasin, Harb al-Isabat, 160; Dawraza, Hawl al-Haraka, 74-75, 104-5, 107; Mustafa al-Siba’i, al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun fi Harb Filastin (Dar al-Nadhir, 1985), 52.

77. Husseini, Haqa’iq, 21, 61, 174-75; Ghori, al-Mu’amara, 209-12, 236-39, 244-49, 256-66; Ghori, al-Mu’adhabun, 80-87. Even Hout, al’Qiyadat, 637-38, who depicts the Palestinian national leadership’s policies as “negative,” joins the argument that had the Palestinians have been left alone to tackle their problem by themselves, they would have succeeded. Yasin, Harb al-Isabat, 160; Darwaza, Hawl al-Haraka,  74-75, 104-5, 107; Mustafa al-Siba’i, al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun fi Harb Filastin (Dar al-Nadhir, 1985), 52.

78. Kamil Isma’il al-Sharif, al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun fi Harb Filastin (Cairo, 1951), 25-30; Siba’i, al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun, 48, 51-52; Muhamad Hassan al-‘Uraibi, Sira’ al-Fida’iyin: al-Fida’iyin al-Libiyin fi Harb Filastin 1948 (Tripoli-Libya, 1968), 92-94.

79. Husseini, Haqa’iq, 81-84; Ghori, al-Mu’amara, 236-38, 244-49; Kadi, Arab Summit, 53-55, 83-84; Mun’im, Filastin Qalb al-‘Uruba, 37-39.

80. Husseini, Haqa’iq, 92-93, 97; see also his memoirs in Akhir Sa’a 6, 20 June, 1973; 4, 18 July, 1973. See also ‘Arif, al-Nakba, 45-46, 73; Sharif, al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun, 74; Hawari, Sir al-Nakba, 119, 121-22.

81. Husri, Mudhakirat Taha al-Hashimi, 198-200; Wasfi al-Tal, Kitabat, 268; Abdullah al-Tal, Karithat 

Filastin, 14.

82. Sami Hadawi, Palestine: Loss of a Heritage (San Antonio, 1963), 4; and his Palestine: Questions and Answers (New York, 1966), 1-2; Ibrahim Abu Lughod, ed., The Transformation of Palestine: Essays on the Origins and Development of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Evanston, 1971), xi-xiii; Badri, al-Harb fi Ard al-Salam, 3; Hindawi, al-Qadiya al-Filastiniya, 6, 8, 11-13; Henri Katan, Filastin fi dhou’ al-Haq wal-‘Adl (Beirut, 1970), introduction by Akram Zu’aitar (this book is a translation into Arabic from an English version: Palestine, the Arabs and Israel: The Search for Justice [London, 1969]).

83. Hadawi, Loss, 4, 12-23, 28-29, 50-105; Hadawi, Bitter Harvest: Palestine between 1914-1967 (New York,1967), 111-15, 169-89; Hadawi, Questions, 24-27; Katan, Filastin, 57. See Also Khalidi’s first two articles cited in n. 7 above.

84. Katan, Filastin, the introduction, 53-54, 57; Hadawi, Loss, 1-4; and also his Bitter Harvest, 1-8; and his Crime and No Punishment: Zionist-Israeli Terrorism 1939-1972 (Beirut, 1972) 8-9, 20-23, 28-29; Izzat Tannous, The Expulsion of the Palestine Arabs from Their Homeland: A Dark Page in Jewish History (New York: 1961), 15-20. See also Hindawi, al-Qadiya al-Filastiniya, 56-68, 124-25, 139-40.

85. Katan, Filastin, 57; Hindawi, al-Qadiya al-Filastiniya, 139; Hadawi, Questions, 27; Hadawi, Loss, 4; Tannous, The Expulsion, 15-20.

86. For example, Khairiya Qasimiya, “Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini fi Dhikrah al-Khamis wal-‘Ishrin,” Shu’un Filastiniya 20 (1973); Nafidh Yousuf Abdullah, “Filastiniyoun Yatadhakkaroun: al-Qital fi Sabil al-Birwa,” Shu’un Filastiniya 21 (1973); Akram Dairi, “Suqout al-Nasira wal-Jalil: Dawr Fawj Hittin Ajnadin,” Shu’un Filastiniya 21 (1973); Muhmad Hisham al-‘Azm, “Suqout Safad,” Shu’un Filastiniya 46 (1975); Abd al-Rahman Ali wa-Abdullah Muhanna, “Min Dhikrayat 1947-1948: Hakadha Kunna Najma’ al-Silah,” Shu’un Filastiniya 21 (1973).

87. ‘Issa Shu’aibi, “al-Tajriba al-Kiyaniya al-Mahida,” Shu’un Filastiniya 90 (1979): 87-114; Hout, al-Qiyadat, pp. ix-xii; Samih Shabib, “Muqaddimate al-Musadara al-Rasmiya lil-Shakhsiya al-Wataniya al-Filastiniya, 1948-1950,” Shu’un Filastiniya 129-31 (1982): 72-87; see also his Hukoumat ‘Umoum Filastin, Muqaddimat wa-Nata’ij (Nicosia, 1988); Isam Sakhnini, Filastin al-Dawla, Judhour al-Mas’ala fi-al-Tarikh al-Filastini (Acre, 1986), 217-36. See also his “Dam Filastin al-Wusta Ila Sharqi al-Urdun, 1948-1950,” Shu’un Filastiniya 40 (1974): 56-83.

88. ‘Arif, al-Nakba, 178-79 for Jerusalem, 206-23 for Haifa, 259-63 for Jaffa, 300-311 for Safed, 420-23 for Acre. In the case of Beisan, he mentions expulsion, 312; Hout, al-Qiyadat, 623-37. Hawari, Sir al-Hakba, 312-14, argues that expulsion of Arabs from the territory allotted to the Jewish state started only after the first truce. Tayi’, Safahat Matwiya, 94-85.

89. Husseini, Haqa’iq, 63-73; Muhamad Nimr al-Khatib, Min Athar al-Nakba (Damascus, 1951), 167, 169.

90. Khatib, Min Athar al-Nakba, 202; Wasfi al-Tal, Kitabat, 260, 269; ‘Arif, al-Nakba, 174; Shuqairi, Arba’un ‘Aman, 289; Hala al-Sakakini, ed., Kadha Ana Ya Dunya: Yawmiyat Khalil al-Sakakini (Jerusalem, 1955), 379-89.

91. Alami, “The Lesson,” 381; Hout, al-Qiyadat, 623-37; Khalidi, “The Fall of Haifa,” 24-26; Wasfi al-Tal, Kitabat, 270-71, 273; Nazzal, Palestinian Exodus, 72-77, 79; ‘Arif, al-Nakba, 172, 627.

92. Besides Khalidi’s articles mentioned above, see also his “Plan Dalet: Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine,” Middle East Forum 37 (1961): 11. On the issue of Arab radio broadcasts to the Palestinians, see also Erskin Childers, “The Other Exodus,” Spectator, 12 May 1961, whose conclusions are consistent with Khalidi’s “Why Did the Palestinians Leave?” For a different view based on the same sources, see John Zimmerman, “Radio Propaganda in the Arab-Israeli War 1948,” The Wiener Library Bulletin XXVII (1973/74): 30-31.

93. Alami, “The Lesson,” 381; Zu’aitar, al-Qadiya al-Filastiniya, 212. Husseini, Haqa’iq, 66, complains about the Arab states’ call to women, children and the disabled to leave. Khalid al-‘Azm, Mudhakkirat (Beirut, 1973), pt. I, 386-87; al-Difa’, 6 September, 1954; ‘Aqqad, Qadiyat Filastin, 98.

94. Khalidi, “Plan Dalet,” reproduced in Journal of Palestine Studies XVIII (1988): no. 1, 5; Edward Said, The Question of Palestine (New York, 1980), 99-102.

95. See Bakr, al-Jaish al-Misri; and Mussa, Ayam La Tunsa.