The history of state formation is filled with cases of population exchanges, expulsions, "ethnic cleansing" and forced transfers. Zionist leaders, as this carefully researched study shows, were frequently outspoken in their belief that the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine would be possible only if the existing Arab population could somehow be persuaded to leave. The debate over transfer, when it took place, was about feasibility and the effect that transfer might have on relations with other states. In light of the Turkish-Greek population exchange after World War I, few Zionist leaders questioned the morality of transfer. Instead, it was seen as a practical solution to an obvious problem of two peoples on one land. The narrative account of this debate, which peaked when the Peel Commission recommended partition in 1937, seems well-grounded. In a brief conclusion the author addresses the controversial issue of the origins of the Palestinian refugee crisis in 1948, and sees a clear link between the long-standing advocacy of transfer and the flight of the refugees. Whether or not one accepts this conclusion, it seems clear that the prolonged discussion of the merits of transfer that preceded 1948 convinced many Zionists that Palestinian refugees, whatever the cause of their departure, should not be allowed to return.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.