"Rewriting the history of 1948" is rather misleading, for the essays in question do not so much rewrite history but rather endorse the standard Arab narrative – the one in which Palestinians and other Arabs are on the receiving end of predatory Zionist aggression. Israeli academics and journalists who call themselves the "New Historians" have been pushing this theme since the late 1980s and The War for Palestine adds little new or original to these efforts except that they have invited some sympathetic Arabists and Arab academics, including Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi, to join in their efforts. The contributors whitewash the violent Palestinian attempt to abort the United Nations resolution of November 1947. They downplay the pan-Arab invasion of the newly-established state of Israel in May 1948 (euphemized as the "entry of Palestine" by Arab armies).

There seems to be a general consensus among the book's contributors (and also the publisher) that the Arab narrative needs no serious rethinking. Khalidi speaks for them when he justifies the absence of Palestinian "new historians" to shatter the "myths" on the Arab side: "It is not a myth … that as a result of [Israeli aggression] the Palestinian people were victims, regardless of what they might have done differently in this situation of formidable difficulty, and of the sins of omission or commission of their leaders."

Most of the contributors are oblivious to the Palestinian version having little to do with reality, as best that can be reconstructed through contemporary accounts and reaffirmed by the millions of records in Israeli and Western archives. While the declassification of those documents constitutes the alleged raison d'être of the entire genre of Israeli "new history," little of this large body of evidence is tapped by the volume's contributors. Khalidi and Said make no use whatsoever of archival source material and instead engage in sweeping and misconceived assertions about the origin and scope of the Palestinian exodus; others, such as Rogan and Fawaz Gerges, quote the odd document in support of their case.

Avi Shlaim claims to have "overturned the myth of the Arab Goliath" during the 1948 War but there is nothing here from the archives of the Israeli Defense Forces or its pre-state precursor, the Haganah. Benny Morris makes the IDF and Haganah foremost culprits of the Palestinian exodus but has not consulted the archives of these two military organizations.1

1 There is more than meets the eye here. In The War for Palestine, Morris concedes that "when writing The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem 1947-1949 in the mid-1980s, I had no access to the materials in the IDFA [IDF Archive] or the Haganah Archive and precious little to first-hand military materials deposited elsewhere. Nonetheless, the new materials I have seen over the past few years tend to confirm and reinforce the major lines of description and analysis, and the conclusions, in The Birth and in a subsequent volume, 1948 and After, published in 1990." Morris inadvertently reveals the falsehood of "new historian" scholarly pretensions. This group insists on tracing its origin, indeed its raison d'être, to the opening of Israeli state archives in the late 1980s but now its foremost member admits to having written the single most influential "revisionist" work without the use of the most important archives.

To make matters worse, Morris also admits that "some of the material relating to the [Palestinian exodus] may have been open to researchers in the early and mid-1980s, when The Birth was written, but I was not then aware of its existence." In other words, Morris made no use of the Israeli archives due to his own ignorance.