Dissertation's Abstract

The 1948 Palestinian exodus is the main historical event in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is the most important aspect of Israeli-Jewish society. Despite the importance, and recent centrality of the collective memory of conflicts – to date there are very few studies which have examined the Israeli-Jewish memory of the exodus (and the memory of the conflict). This dissertation fills the gap. It describes the way in which the causes for the exodus were presented in Israel between 1949 and 2004 in all publications of seven main Israeli institutions. Three are state institutions – the National Information Center, the Israeli Defense Forces, and the Ministry of Education; and four are Jewish societal institutions – the research community, 1948 war veterans, peace NGOs and newspapers. According to the findings, until the 1970’s, most of the societal institutions and all of the state institutions presented the Zionist narrative (willing flight of the Palestinians); since then there has been a split. The societal institutions changed and started presenting mostly, and later almost exclusively, the Critical narrative (willing flight accompanied with expulsion); while the state institutions continued to present the Zionist narrative, except the Ministry of Education, which since 2000 has presented exclusively the Critical narrative. The book also discusses the findings of interviews with senior figures in the seven institutions throughout this 56 year time period in order to understand the factors that shaped the way the causes of the exodus were presented. In this framework various phenomena are discussed, such as the intra-generation transformation process among the 1948 generation, the impact of the international community on Israel, the four aspects of controversies regarding historical narratives, and the impact of micro factors. All this is done from a perspective of collective memory since the examined institutions represent various types of sub-memories: official (the three state institutions), historical (the research community), autobiographical (the war veterans), and cultural (NGOs and newspapers).  

            Thus, the dissertation explores the dynamics of this central event in the State of Israel since its establishment. It also explores the modus operandi of the seven institutions (some of them not researched before), provides understanding for their approach to other events of the Israeli-Arab/Palestinian conflict as well as to non-conflict events, for example, the history of the Jewish nation, and it can also be read as the story of Israel and its Jewish society since 1949. Onwards, the specific empirical findings regarding the exodus and Israel are translated into a general-theoretical model of the fixation and transformation of the collective memory of conflicts, one which can be used to analyze the memories of other conflicts. This model can also be used to analyze transformations of social phenomena in general, such as attitudes towards women and ethnic minorities. The wide scope data on which the dissertation is based – all publications from 56 years of seven main institutions, in addition to the interviews – validate the dissertation’s findings.