From Roberta Seid, Historian for Standwithus and American Jewish
Ilan Pappe: "Run Vigorously in the Opposite Direction"
Israeli "new historian" Ilan Pappe is once again on the US college lecture
circuit. On Monday, November 15, he spoke at UCLA and from there he is on to Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo and then on to the University of Arizona.
Pappe is billed as a respected leader of the revisionist historians and as
an innovator in historical methodology. At UCLA, fellow Israeli Gabriel
Pieterberg, a professor in UCLA's history department and an acolyte of Edward Said, introduced Pappe with warm praise for his scholarship and courage.
Unsuspecting students might be taken in by these accolades. That would be a shame because Pappe does not educate. He is a polemicist for the Palestinian cause.
Pappe has been full-heartedly supporting that cause for years._[i]_
(mip://072bcd68/default.html#_edn1) This does not mean he supports a
two-state solution. He doesn't He is visiting the campuses to rally support for his view that the international community should force Israel to accept a one-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He has joined the Arab
propagandists who see the Jewish national movement, Zionism, as sinister, who believe Israel was born in sin and has commited unspeakable crimes.
"Israel's occupation is the most brutal occupation of the second half of the 20th century," he asserted and only barely flinched when someone in the audience loudly scoffed.
Pappe was more subdued this time than he was when he spoke at UCLA a year and a half ago. (The Thomas Mertes Center for Social Policy had, for some reason, decided to invite him yet again.) He did say that he was relieved to be with a friendly audience since "at home in Israel" it doesn't happen. Or perhaps he was subdued because he had believed the "post-Zionists" were triumphing over the "classical Zionists", and the religious
"neo-Zionists," but the 2nd Intifada had dramatically changed that dynamic. He seemed despondent that "classical Zionist ideology is coming back to life" Or perhaps he was subdued because it became apparent that the audience of about 100 was evenly divided between pro-Israel community members and students, and obedient students and fellow travelers like the Women in Black. It portended that the UCLA audience would be no friendlier than audiences in Israel. The tension was palpable and Pieterberg, with his cannonball build, morphed from professorial moderator into a sentry guarding Pappe and fending off hostile questions.
Pappe is likeable. He speaks softly. He uses the language of human rights
as he builds his utopian vision of a post-nationalist unitary state in
Israel and the Territories. He reiterates how much he wants peace so that his
children will be able to live full, safe lives. But his sympathy for the
Palestinians and his bottomless animus toward the Jewish state continually
seeped out, especially in the question and answer period.
Pappe has written that he is on this mission not because he is a "Palestinian nationalist," but rather because he "had a painful awakening to "the
essence of Zionism." _[ii]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_edn2) He is not
just post-Zionist. He is anti-Zionist. He believes that Israel has no right to
exist as a Jewish state and so no right to self-defense, that Zionists and then
Israel repeatedly committed atrocities, that Palestinian Arabs have been
helpless victims, and that Israel must atone for these sins. He charges that
Israel is no different than apartheid South Africa and calls upon the
international community to impose the same sanctions on Israel it imposed on apartheid South Africa. He claims that Israel silences those who attack the
Zionist mythic narrative, even though his own tenured position shows the absurdity of the accusation and demonstrates that Israel is one of the intellectually freest societies in the world._[iii]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_edn3)
For Pappe, Zionism is indistinguishable from "ethnic cleansing," and "ethnic cleansing" is his obsession, his idea of the greatest wrong in
history. He is convinced that Jews had no right to immigrate to Palestine because their purchase of Arab lands entailed "ethnic cleansing." He is convinced Zionists always intended to ethnically cleanse the Arabs and did so in 1948 as part of a long-term strategy. In his feverish imagination, he is even convinced that the Oslo Accords and Camp David offers were simply mechanisms to ethnically cleanse the Territories by creating "two "Bantustansor prison camps."_[iv]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_edn4) This obsession is so powerful that Pappe condemns Israel for ethnic cleansing he is sure it plans to commit.
Before the 2nd Gulf War, he helped initiate a petition warning that Israel
would use the "fog of war" to finally commit this evil, and condemned the action in advance. _[v]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_edn5) That nothing of the sort happened or was even contemplated has not dampened his ardor.
In a 1999 interview, Pappe admitted that his views had made him "one of the
most hated men in Israel." _[vi]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_edn6) In a
tribute to Edward Said, he confessed that to Israelis, his stance "verges on
the border of insanity at best, treason at worst." He even compared his
youthful faith in Zionism to an "addiction" from which he had had to
"liberate" himself and thanked Said for helping him do so. _[vii]_
(mip://072bcd68/default.html#_edn7) Since the outbreak of the 2nd Intifada, his standing in Israel must have reached a new nadir, for he simply cannot bring himself to condemn terrorism, which he calls the right to resist occupation.
Pappe's scholarship is no more trustworthy. He dismisses facts and rewrites
history to serve his ideological agenda to demonize Israel and he magnifies
its shortcomings beyond recognition. "Who knows what facts are?" he asked in a 1999 interview. "We try to convince as many people as we can that our
interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and we do it because of
ideological reasons, not because we are truth seekers." _[viii]_
(mip://072bcd68/default.html#_edn8) Reviewing Pappe's latest book, new
historian Benny Morris warned: "Anyone interested in the real history of Palestine/Israel and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would do well to run vigorously in the opposite direction". This book is awash with errors of a quantity and a quality that are not found in serious historiography."_[ix]_
(mip://072bcd68/default.html#_edn9) Though Pappe attempted to rebut Morris, he admitted elsewhere that most other historians share Morris "views." In my case, [mainstream historians] dispute everything" partially because [my] ideology influences my historical writing." _[x]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_edn10)
When the historical facts don't support Pappe's campaign of demonization,
he simply leaves them out. When he told the UCLA audience that Israel had
committed ethnic cleansing in 1948, he omitted to mention the war that
Palestinian Arabs and Arab states had launched against the newly founded
Israel. Or Pappe dismisses sources that contradict his anti-Zionist narrative. When asked whether he would at least confirm that Jews were one of the indigenous peoples of the area, he referred the questioner to the revisionist school of Biblical scholarship which minimizes this historical claim, and neglected to add that this new scholarship is marginal and hotly contested. When a student haltingly repeated some of the more mainstream history of Israel and asked if it wasn't correct, Pappe snapped, "You are reading the wrong books."
And, if the historical facts don't support him, Pappe occasionally invents
some that will. He claimed at UCLA that Ben Gurion wanted 80% to 85% of Palestine to be Jewish and planned to expel Arabs to achieve this ratio even though scholars have refuted this charge . He has claimed that "Plan D,
one of Israel's military strategies for the 1948 War, called for the expulsion of Palestinian Arabs. Pappe is still truthful enough to admit that Plan D didn't actually spell this out, but he argues that's what it meant to say and
soldiers understood the order._[xi]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_edn11)
When one of Pappe's students wrote a master's thesis claiming that the IDF
committed a massacre at Tantura, Pappe continued to claim the massacre occurred even after a court case and scholarly review of the student's sources revealed there was no evidence to support the charge. _[xii]_
(mip://072bcd68/default.html#_edn12) It seems that no evidence can shake his convictions.
Pappe showed the same unswerving composure during the question and answer period. But finally, afterwards, he did snap. Bridgette Gabriel, a Lebanese Christian who supports Israel, accosted him with her own personal history.
"Don't you understand Arab culture?" she demanded. "I know that Arabs are brought up to hate Jews as I was. They drink it in with their mother's milk. How can you ignore or deny this as the source of the conflict?" Pappe could take no more. He left the room, his shoulders hunched as though weighted down by the burden of guilt he feels all Israelis should carry or by the facts that keep intruding on and challenging his utopian vision.
But supported by the American professoriate that shares his views, Pappe
will keep propagating them on campuses. Students should either take Benny
Morris "advice and run the other way or else come to see a case study of how facts can be tortured and distorted for ideological purposes. They certainly won't learn how desperately Israelis want peace and how desperately they hope that in this post-Arafat era, new Palestinian leaders will emerge who want peace and who believe that a Jewish state has a right to exist alongside a Palestinian-Arab state.
_[i]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_ednref1) Ilan Pappe, â€œEdward Said: A Tribute, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 23:
1 & 2 (2003)
_[ii]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_ednref2) Ilan Pappe, Edward Said: A
Tribute, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 23:
1 & 2 (2003)
_[iii]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_ednref3) Pappe Interview by Dropkin,
9/13/02, at _www.labournet.net/world/0209/pappe1.html_
_[iv]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_ednref4) Palestine: Pappe: ˜Israel
Must Be Treated as South Africa Was," Green Left Weekly, September 21 2004 at http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2004/596/596p16.htm
_[v]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_ednref5) Palestine Chronicle April 22,
_[vi]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_ednref6) Pappe interview with Baudouin Loos November 29 1999 at _www.mideastfacts.com/loos_pappe.html_
_[vii]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_ednref7) Ilan Pappe, â€œEdward Said: A Tribute, Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 23: 1 & 2 (2003)
_[viii]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_ednref8) Pappe interview with
Baudouin Loos November 29 1999 at_www.mideastfacts.com/loos_pappe.html_
_[ix]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_ednref9) Benny Morris, "Politics by
Other Means," The New Republic, March 22 2004 archived at
_[x]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_ednref10) Pappe interview with Baudouin
Loos November 29 1999 at _www.mideastfacts.com/loos_pappe.html_
_[xi]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_ednref11) Pappe interview with
Baudouin Loos November 29 1999 at _www.mideastfacts.com/loos_pappe.html_
_[xii]_ (mip://072bcd68/default.html#_ednref12) See The Rector's Response
to the Academic Press concerning Mr. Katz's Thesis, at
hesis-english.pdf) ; for Pappe's views of the incident, see Ilan Pappe,
"Demons of the Nakba," in Al-Ahram, May 17, 2002 at
(http://www.mediareviewnet.com/Demons%20of%20The%20Nakbah.htm) and Ilan Pappe,
"Contents Bearing on the Case of Ilan Pappe,"
Znet, May 14, 2002 at
(http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=1787) ; and
another account relatively sympathetic to Pappe by Tom Segev, "His
Colleagues Call Him a Traitor," Haaretz, May 24, 2002 at