The Jewish Herald-Voice
Anaylis: Anti-Israel advocate opens BDS playbook at Rothko Chapel
JHV: MICHAEL C. DUKE
Ilan Pappé inscribed copies of his new book for fans after his Houston appearance at Rothko Chapel.
A revisionist historian supports a propaganda strategy to delegitimize and ultimately destroy the State of Israel.
Ilan Pappé, lecturing at Houston’s Rothko Chapel on the eve of the United Nations’ International Human Rights Day on Dec. 9, gave instructions from the BDS, boycott, divestment and sanctions, playbook to advocate a one-state solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict.
“The problem in Israel is the Zionist ideology,” summarized Pappé, describing Israel as a colonial, racist, apartheid state.
“Language transformation” is key to the BDS strategy, Pappé revealed. He told a packed house at Rothko Chapel to “throw [out] the old dictionary” and “introduce a new dictionary.”
“This is an anti-colonialist movement,” Pappé said of BDS, urging his Houston audience to use language to equate the current “Palestinian struggle” against Israel with the former struggle against apartheid South Africa.
Calling Israel an apartheid state is a “valid definition,” Pappé said.
“A very important language transformation is to understand that in the 21st century, what we recognize as the story from the late 19th century is colonialism – a wish to settle in someone else’s homeland and kick them out – is a very relevant feature of the Israeli strategy and policy on the ground,” Pappé said.
“As in the case of South Africa, if you want to change the reality,” he continued, “you have to stop the impulse of colonization, the impulse of settling, which comes from the policy of ethnic cleansing people, of oppressing them.”
‘Ethnic cleansing’ charge
Charging the State of Israel with the crime of ethnic cleansing is the hallmark of Pappé’s controversial academic career and the touchstone of his commercial writing.
His Houston presentation drew from his new book, “Crisis in Gaza: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians,” and from his previous books, such as “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.”
As highlighted at his Houston appearance, Pappé owes much of his popularity in anti-Israel political circles to the fact that he’s an Israeli-born Jew of German descent. Many in the audience at Rothko Chapel gave the speaker a standing ovation before he spoke.
Pappé currently teaches at the University of Exeter in England, having left his previous post at the University of Haifa in 2000 amid an academic scandal. He is among a group of self-described “new historians” from Israel who are working to rewrite “the traditional Zionist narrative” by adopting decades-old Arab Palestinian claims. Some of these claims serve to call into question Israel’s fundamental right to exist.
As a proponent of BDS, Pappé has worked to import the Palestinian-Israeli conflict into local communities through such initiatives as backing international boycotts of Israeli academics and institutions. The goal is political: to isolate Israel as a pariah.
To “change the reality” and “stop the impulse of colonization,” “settling” and “ethnic cleansing,” Pappé launches rearward attacks against Israel, aiming to turn back the clock to pre-1948, the year of the state’s declaration of independence, and to end the Zionist movement’s internationally recognized right to self-determination in the historic Jewish homeland.
In arguing his “ethnic cleansing” thesis – which accepted historians have refuted through extensive archival evidence – Pappé turned to “language transformation” and presented a black-and-white “history” of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, comprised of half-truths, obfuscations, omissions and fabrications.
According to Pappé, Israel bears sole responsibility for the conflict; the Palestinians are the hapless victims of Israeli brutality and bloodlust; Palestinian “resistance” to 62 years – not 43 years – of Israeli occupation is laudable; the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians was, and remains, deliberate Israeli policy; the Jewish colonization of Arab lands is ongoing.
The lone mention of the Palestinian terrorist organization, Hamas, during Pappé’s prepared remarks – glorifying Hamas as “an anti-colonialist movement” that is “fighting against a colonialist settler state that has not yet completed the colonization process” – elicited applause from many in the Rothko Chapel audience.
Pappé argued 1948 “as the departure point for what happened in Israel and Palestine.” He said that “the most important barrier for peace is the Israeli denial of 1948.” He alleged that Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians in 1948 was motivated by “the genuine aspiration to cleanse that country from any residue of Palestinian or Arab presence.”
Israel’s winter 2008-’09 war in Gaza was a “new chapter” in this “cleansing” effort, according to Pappé.
“It’s difficult to say this, and this is a history that is full of massacres, that’s full of evictions, of oppression, of daily abuses of human rights and civil rights, and yet there was something vicious in Gaza that was unprecedented,” he said.
Hero of mythology
Like many anti-Israel personalities, Pappé presented himself as the hero of his own mythology. In this tale of good vs. evil, Pappé possesses the necessary tools, strategy and courage to lead the charge to defeat Israel.
Pappé repeatedly told his audience that he is a “professional historian,” rather than an “activist.” His lecture, however, centered upon activist instruction and advocacy.
A “crucial element in changing the reality on the ground in Israel and Palestine” is to affect change in current U.S. policy toward Israel, said Pappé, meaning that the U.S. should abandon a two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state, in favor of a one-state solution.
Encouraged by BDS activities on U.S. college campuses – BDS targets college campuses because they are incubators for future leaders in government, business, religion and society – Pappé believes change is coming to American policy toward Israel.
The implication is that without U.S. support, Israel cannot survive.
“If you want to have a good plan for changing American public opinion on Israel and Palestine,” Pappé instructed, “you have to study properly the American policy toward Israel and the Middle East, and you have to understand what motivates it.”
Again, “language transformation” is key to ushering in such change.
“What’s happening on the American campuses is a very good signal that when Palestinians and their supporters speak the language of human rights, of civil rights, of democracy, there is very little that the Zionist establishment and its supporters can put forward as a counterargument,” he said.
Pappé left his audience with the impression that BDS is a winning strategy when, in fact, the “movement” has far more documented defeats and hoaxes to its credit than measurable victories.
Pappé, a self-described “relativist,” was the latest speaker in a series of anti-Israel programs hosted by Rothko Chapel.
The venue’s Israel-related programming has been narrow and intellectually dishonest. Under its “human rights” mission, Rothko Chapel speakers have presented Israel as a worst offender of human rights, a country born in an act of original sin, a racist apartheid state, guilty of a litany of war crimes, including “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” against the Palestinians.
Like Pappé, Rothko Chapel appears to define human rights advocacy as the singling out of a group of people for vilification and demonization. This approach has led to question if Rothko Chapel, itself, has an anti-Israel agenda, or has the institution been appropriated by those who have one?
Rice University’s Ussama Makdisi introduced Pappé at Rothko. Following the same strategy of presenting “a new dictionary,” Makdisi noted that his “colleague and friend,” Pappé, was born not in Haifa, Israel, but in the “Mediterranean city of Haifa.”
Makdisi, an outspoken anti-Israel advocate himself, brought Pappé to speak at Rice in 2006 as part of an “Arab World” lecture series that promoted an anti-Israel agenda. Makdisi shares Pappé’s vision of a one-state solution with no more Israel.
Pappé, in advocating this solution at Rothko Chapel, said that “this cause of the one-state is as important as the solution itself.”
Despite his BDS support and being involved in far-left-wing politics – even running for the Israeli Knesset twice as a member of the non-Zionist socialist Hadash Party – Pappé told Houstonians that he does not belong to a political movement.
Though advocating a one-state solution supposedly based on justice and peace for Palestinians and for Jews, Pappé offered no means to achieve this goal, admitting to Houstonians, “I cannot portray in any detail the way to the solution.”
Instead, Pappé simply backed Palestinian demands for a so-called “right of return” – a euphemism to destroy Israel via demographics – using the language of human
Israel’s real human rights record presented
Members of the local Israel advocacy group, Bridge Houston, presented a different perspective on Israel and human rights to attendees of Ilan Pappé’s Dec. 9 Rothko Chapel program.
Bridge Houston distributed fliers outside the venue. One cited a 1999 interview given by Pappé in which the revisionist historian said, “Who knows what facts are? 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.”
A second flier showed a comparison of political and civil rights records among countries in the Middle East. According to Freedom House data, Israel is the only country in the region with full freedoms of the press, media, religion, academia and artistic expression. The data also showed that Israel extends rights to all its citizens in the areas of free speech and assembly and fair and open trials.
While the Jewish state tops the Freedom House rating scale for “free countries,” Israel’s regional neighbors sit at the bottom of the scale for their suppression of freedom and civil rights.