Thursday, April 19, 2007

The De-Zionization of Israel; An Interview with Ilan Pappe

April 17, 2007

by jon the antizionist jew

Of all the Israeli historians, academics, and activists that I have read, Ilan Pappe stands out as the one who has made the strongest impact on my understanding of Israel and Palestine. Why is that? Well, I'd say it is due to the way his research and morality have come together, quite unlike many others. But let's be specific, and compare him with Benny Morris. Benny made a landmark study, no doubt, with his book The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem. He helped dispell in the academic world, at least, the notion that Israel was blameless in the exodus of over 800,000 Palestinians during Israel's establishment. It took him until the follow-up to that study to acknowledge that Zionism, to some extent, had within it the seeds of the expulsion of the Palestinians in order to create a Jewish state in Palestine. But in an interview with Haaretz a few years ago, it became clear that whatever historical facts about Zionism and its crimes he had uncovered, his dedication to Zionism was unaffected;

Are you saying that Ben-Gurion was personally responsible for a deliberate and systematic policy of mass expulsion?

"From April 1948, Ben-Gurion is projecting a message of transfer. There is no explicit order of his in writing, there is no orderly comprehensive policy, but there is an atmosphere of [population] transfer. The transfer idea is in the air. The entire leadership understands that this is the idea. The officer corps understands what is required of them. Under Ben-Gurion, a consensus of transfer is created."

Ben-Gurion was a "transferist"?

"Of course. Ben-Gurion was a transferist. He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst. There would be no such state. It would not be able to exist."

I don't hear you condemning him.

"Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here."

Benny went on to acknowledge ethnic cleansing as something that was "necessary" to create Israel as a Jewish state, while also meticulously detailing the 24 massacres of Palestinians, ranging from 4 or 5 people up to 100 or more in places like Deir Yassin and others. The icing on the cake of his dreadful rationalizations is this chilling line; "Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians."

This is where Ilan Pappe comes in the picture. Dr. Pappe also has documented the many atrocities and offenses of Zionism, but when faced with this reality, he does not justify and approve of the wholesale slaughter and expulsion of another people; he condems it. And he does more than that, he works towards the correction and vindication of such crimes, by opposing Zionism and its racist foundation, and supporting the Right of Return for Palestinians, so that the injustice that they have been enduring for the past 60 years can be answered with the most simple of remedies; that they be able to come home, and welcomed doing so.

Unfortunately, Dr. Pappe has found it necessary to leave Israel for a teaching positon in the UK;

lan Pappe, a senior lecturer in the University of Haifa's Department of Political Science, says he is moving to the UK because it is "increasingly difficult to live in Israel" with his "unwelcome views and convictions."

In an interview in The Peninsula, Qatar's leading English-language daily, during a visit last week to Doha as a guest of the Qatar Foundation, Pappe said: "I was boycotted in my university and there had been attempts to expel me from my job. I am getting threatening calls from people every day. I am not being viewed as a threat to the Israeli society but my people think that I am either insane or my views are irrelevant. Many Israelis also believe that I am working as a mercenary for the Arabs."

Pappe is to join the History Department at Exeter University, in southwest England. He is active in anti-Israel academic boycott efforts.

So what follows is an interview of Dr. Pappe by email. I decided not to focus on the recent controversy of his leaving Israel, but more on the subject of his most recent book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, which I recently posted excerpts from here on Kos (with full permission, of course). Here is a short list of his other books, all of which I have read and gained much from;

The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951 (Paperback)

Book Description
Arabs and Jews describe the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948 in completely different ways. Among Arabs, and especially Palestinians, the events of that year are known as the "nakba" - the catastrophe, the trauma, the disaster. For Jews, and in particular for Israelis, their victory in the war of 1948 is a veritable miracle in which, against tremendous odds and through heroic military effort, the Jewish community succeeded in thwarting attempts by the Arab states to destroy it.This book integrates new archival material with the findings of recent scholarship to present the reader with a comprehensive and general history of the origins and consequences of the 1948 war. The author shows, in sharp contrast to the recollections and myths of both sides, that the military events of 1948 were not decisive. The victory of the Zionist organization and the fate of the Palestinians was determined by politicians on both sides - in the discussions and decisions of the United Nations in 1947-8 and in the Arab League - long before a shot had been fired. The author argues that Israel's failure to take advantage of the genuine opportunity for peace with the Arabs at the UN-sponsored Lausanne Conference in 1949 resulted in the prolonged and tragic conflict between Israel and the Arab states still very much alive today.

The Israel/Palestine Question (Rewriting Histories) by Ilan Pappe

a useful collection that offers a glimpse into one of the most collateral processes occurring simultaneously with the intifada and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
– Journal of Palestine Studies

...a more nuanced view of the power struggle between Palestinian Arabs and Jewish Israelis than any previous history of the conflict. Challenging the nationalist paradigms of both sides, it will lay the groundwork for future studies in Israeli and Palestinian history....
–Arthur Goldschmidt, Penn State University

Book Description

An explicitly revisionist collection that takes the ground away from pro-Israeli historians and suggests a far more nuanced view of the issue, The Israel/Palestine Question assimilates diverse interpretations of the origins of the Middle East conflict with emphasis on the fight for Palestine and its religious and political roots. Drawing largely on scholarly debates in Israel during the last two decades, which have become known as `historical revisionism,' the collection presents the most recent developments in the historiography of the Arab-Israeli conflict and a critical reassessment of Israel's past. The volume commences with an overview of Palestinian history and the origins of modern Palestine, and includes essays on the early Zionist movement, the 1948 war, international influences on the conflict and the Intifada.

A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples by Ilan Pappe

‘Pappe’s latest work will inspire ...’ James Cullingham, Seneca College

‘Along with the late Edward Said, Ilan Pappe is the most eloquent writer of Palestinian history. He is also one of the most scholarly ... here, for the first time, is a textbook on Palestine that narrates the real story as it happened - a non-Zionist version of Zionism ... To its credit, Cambridge University Press has published Pappe’s pioneering and highly accessible work as an authoritative history.’ New Statesman

'Ilan Pappe is a 'new historian' and this book is true to this label. It adopts a revisionist approach and it challenges the old ways in which the history of Palestine is written which makes it such an exciting read.' Ahron Bregman, King's College London, International Affairs

' ... Ilan Pappe has written a book that is lucid and forthright. It is a unique contribution to the history of this troubled land, and all those concerned with developments in the Middle East will have to read ... Ilan Pappe's book is a valuable contribution to the historical research of Palestine as a general survey for those studying the subject. Designed for students and general readers, the book's new approach to the analysis of well-known events will be of interest to academics, journalists, foreign-policy makers, and to all those concerned with Palestine's complex past and its uncertain future. The inclusion of illustrations, maps, short biographies, a glossary of terms, a bibliography, and a reliable index further increases the usefulness of the book.' Quarterly Journal of African and Asian Studies

Book Description
Ilan Pappe's book traces the history of Palestine from the Ottomans in the nineteenth century, through the British Mandate, the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, and the subsequent wars and conflicts which have dominated this troubled region. The second edition of Pappe's book has been updated to include the dramatic events of the 1990s and the early twenty-first century. These years, which began with a sense of optimism, as the Oslo peace accord was being negotiated, culminated in the second intifada and the increase of militancy on both sides. Pappe explains the reasons for the failure of Oslo and the two-state solution, and reflects upon life thereafter as the Palestinians and Israelis battle it out under the shadow of the wall of separation. As in the first edition, it is the men, women and children of Palestine who are at the centre of Pappe's narrative.

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In his latest work, renowned Israeli author and academic Pappe (A History of Modern Palestine) does not mince words, doing Jimmy Carter one better (or worse, depending on one's point of view) by accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity beginning in the 1948 war for independence, and continuing through the present. Focusing primarily on Plan D (Dalet, in Hebrew), conceived on March 10, 1948, Pappe demonstrates how ethnic cleansing was not a circumstance of war, but rather a deliberate goal of combat for early Israeli military units led by David Ben-Gurion, whom Pappe labels the "architect of ethnic cleansing." The forced expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians between 1948-49, Pappe argues, was part of a long-standing Zionist plan to manufacture an ethnically pure Jewish state. Framing his argument with accepted international and UN definitions of ethnic cleansing, Pappe follows with an excruciatingly detailed account of Israeli military involvement in the demolition and depopulation of hundreds of villages, and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Arab inhabitants. An accessible, learned resource, this volume provides important inroads into the historical antecedents of today's conflict, but its conclusions will not be easy for everyone to stomach: Pappe argues that the ethnic cleansing of Palestine continues today, and calls for the unconditional return of all Palestinian refugees and an end to the Israeli occupation. Without question, Pappe's account will provoke ire from many readers; importantly, it will spark discussion as well.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book Description
Since the Holocaust, it has been almost impossible to hide large-scale crimes against humanity. In our communicative world, few modern catastrophes are concealed from the public eye. And yet, Ilan Pappe unveils, one such crime has been erased from the global public memory: the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948. But why is it denied, and by whom? The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine offers an investigation of this mystery.

So, enjoy the interview, and I welcome any and all constructive dialogue that may follow.

Tell me why you wrote the ethnic cleansing of palestine?

With opening up of the military archvies in 1998, the accumalation of oral testemonies by Palestinians around the world and the passage of time provided a rare opportunity to go back and revist the event that shaped the conflict and which explains best why we are today where we are.

What should Americans, particularly those left-leaning politically, know about Israel and Palestine, and why is it important that they know it?

The conflict in Palestine erupted in the beginning of the 20th century and continues today because of the Zionist colonization of Palestine and the dispossession of the native population by Israel in 1948 and ever since. This policy is possible mainly because of the unconditional American support for Israel. And this is despite the fact that this unconditional support undermined American national interest: it alienates the Middle East and the Muslim world, it raises the prices of oil production and prevent the US for investing in its own domestic problems. But far more important probably this is a conflict that has always the potential of dragging the rest of the world into an insoluble

On a moral basis, it is shameful that American tax payers money has been used in the last 60 years to dispossess, occupy, exile and kill Palestinians wherever they are.

Finally, if Americans care about the Jews who live in Israel, and they should, for this Jewish community's benefit they should pressure it to cease its oppression of the Palestinians.

You mention in your book A History of Modern Palestine that the left- right political model doesn't work well in the case of Israeli politics- can you explain that?

I said with respect to the policies towards the indigenous population of Palestine. There is no left, namely soft and compromising, attitude and right, namely, inflexible and hostile, attitude. The Zionist consensus is that Israel needs be a state where Jews enjoy supremacy and preferably exclusivity. The left and right differ on how to achieve it, but no on the goal, which to my mind is morally unacceptable in the 21st century.

Tell me about the issue of destroyed Palestinian villages, the National forests and the involvement of the JNF. What is the JNF?

The JNF is the Jewish national fund, which was the main agency that prior to 1948 purchased land for the Jewish community and after 1948 turned the 531 destroyed Palestinian villages to either Jewish settlements or forests for recreation.

What evidence do you use to challenge the contention that there was no master plan within the Zionist leadership to expel the Palestinian population?

I show that the new documents in the military archives indicate for a clear master plan that was devised on 10 March, 1948.

How much in financial terms do you think Palestinians are owed in reparations for the Nakba?

I bring a certain estimate in my book, but i think the best source is Salman Abu Sitta website PALANDS for a thorough examination of this issue.

[Also see Records of Dispossession: Palestinian Refugee Property and the Arab-Israeli Conflictby Michael R. Fischbach]

I have read of the Mossad being engaged in covert operations within the Arab states after the 1948 war, with the aim of generating hate against the Jews and forcing them to emigrate?

I know only of its operation in Iraq in 1950 and 1951 being involved in planting bombs in synagogues in Baghdad that indeed caused panic among the Jews there and persuaded some of them to immigrate.

Is it fair to say that in regards to current academic consensus, the work of Palestinians & Israeli new historians have shattered the previous Zionist consensus? What would you say is the significance of the work of Palestinians and others before the advent of the new Israeli historians?

Well, without the information gathered in the Palestinian historiography and the persistence of Palestinian historians in telling the truth, there would not have been a new history. We were motivated to do this, because we knew there was an alternative narrative. And yes I think together with the Palestinian historiography we changed the accepted academic narrative beyond recognition.

Yet, in the US, non-academic discussion of I/P is still, at the least, slowed down if not dominated by Zionist mythology- why? What is the situation in Israel?

It is connected to the impact of the Zionist lobby on the media and academia and the unwillingness of prominent figures in both to challenge this pressure or to risk the victimization.

Jeff Halper opposes the 2 state solution because he feels that the facts on the ground make it impossible- do you feel the same way? And how do we reconcile supporting the right of return with a 1 or 2 state solution? Are either possible?

There is no way of implementing the right of return within a 2 states solution. This is one good reason to support the one state solution. Secondly, the facts on the ground are irreversible. There is one state controlled by a certain regime. All we need is to change the ideology of that regime.

What kinds of changes inside Israel would be necessary to break the gridlock and reopen a true negotiating process with the Palestinians? How likely do you think such a development might be, considering Israel is presently in the process of encircling the major Palestinian enclaves from the west, de facto annexing the Jordan Valley, and denying responsibility for the Nakba?

In short, [what is necessary is] the de-Zionization of Israel. This is not going to be easy and will not happen without outside pressure. But it will happen, if not in my life time than in my children’s'.

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