International Journal of Middle East Studies


The Debate about 1948

Avi Shlaima1

a1 Alastair Buchan Reader in International Relations University of Oxford and a Fellow of St. Antony's College, Oxford, U.K.

“Conquerors, my son, consider as true history only what they themselves have fabricated.” Thus remarked the old Arab headmaster to young Saeed on his return to Haifa in the summer of 1948 in Emile Habiby's tragicomic novel The Secret Life of Said, the Ill-Fated Pessoptimist. The headmaster spoke about the Israelis more in sorrow than in anger: “It is true they did demolish those villages … and did evict their inhabitants. But, my son, they are far more merciful than the conquerors our forefathers had years before”.