This article provides a brief survey of the major works of the so-called New Israeli Historians. It attempts to explain what distinguishes them from mainstream Israeli scholars and considers the extent to which their writings constitute a unified school of thought. The article makes it clear that there are indeed various gradations of dissent. For one, Benny Morris, while basing himself on archival material that reveals unsavory aspects of Israel’s history, nevertheless remains faithful to the Zionist ideal. At the other end of the spectrum Ilan Pappé is far less interested in the veracity of his sources and is far more concerned to denigrate the entire Zionist enterprise by falsely accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing.
According to a frequently repeated story, during the early years of the Zionist movement a number of European Jews were sent to Palestine to investigate its suitability as a location for a Jewish state. They reported back, the story concludes, that "the bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man"—Palestine is an excellent land, but it belongs to others. While its details vary with the telling, the story’s central point is often the same: already in the early years of the Zionist movement, Jews recognized that it would be unjust and immoral for them to try to claim Palestine; despite this awareness, the Zionists proceeded with their plans for Jewish statehood there; from the outset, therefore, the establishment of the state of Israel was an act of severe and willful injustice.