Ilan Pappe on Israel’s Founding Myths and the Oppression of the Palestinians: Part 2

Pappe also attacks the myth that the Israel’s only committed one massacre during the 1948 War, that at Deir Yassin. In fact there were many. He recounts the experience of history student, who studied a massacre by the Israelis of the inhabitants of a village near Haifa. The student also collected the oral testimony, not just of the Palestinians, but also of the Israeli soldiers who took part. He was then threatened with legal action by the head of the army unit from which the soldiers were taken. The student didn’t have Pappe’s strong constitution, and buckled under the pressure. He wrote an apology for what he’d written. He then immediately regretted his retraction, and tried to retract it, but this was rejected by the court. The University also placed him under enormous pressure to amend his dissertation. Pappe, who was not his supervisor, stepped in, stating that it was all true and he would go to court to defend the historical reality of the massacre. He states that so far the army hasn’t sued him.

As for himself, he states that there was a period back in the 1990s during the Oslo peace process, when it looked like his ideas were becoming more acceptable. He noticed that some of the school text books drew partly on his work when discussing the country’s origins. In 1998 Israeli television broadcast a series on the country’s history as part of the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation. This also was partly informed by his work. He also states that the university management were keen to show him off or have him around when foreign visitors came to look around. This changed when the Oslo peace negotiations fell apart. Instead he became very much persona non grata. The university at several times tried to force him out. He also recalls how he was blocked from attending an academic conference at the University because of his views. So he hired one of the lecture rooms, which anyone was free to do, to give his own conference. On his way there he physically accosted by one of the security guards, who pulled him away to one side, and said down his phone to his superiors, ‘We’ve got him,’ as if he were some wild animal. Eventually, he was allowed to give his talk in the University canteen, so long as he did not stand up and kept his head down. Then it was all right as it wasn’t a conference, but a social gathering.

He acknowledges that the persecution he has experienced has been nothing like the harassment of his Palestinian colleagues. He also describes how he dealt with his personal notoriety by opening his home to anyone who wanted to hear his views. When he moved to the village, where he now lives, the local newspaper ran a piece attacking him. He so said that every Thursday night, his house would be open to anyone, who wished to talk to him. He then found his front room full of 50 people, which it certainly wasn’t designed for.

Regarding Israel’s future, he felt that if the country finally faced up to the injustice it had inflicted on the Palestinians, it could go two ways. It could become more left-wing, and more open to the rest of the Middle East. He believed that as an historian, this was quite possible, as Ottoman history showed that the Jews fared better there than Europe. Or it could become more right-wing, intolerant, with walls to keep out foreigners, ruled by a theocracy. He said that Israelis are decent people, and if you explained the facts to them, they did indeed accept the terrible things that had been done by the Israeli state. But at the moment, he thought that it was more likely that Israel would become more right-wing and intolerant. He also held out the possibility that this would also work to the good in the long run, as sometimes you need terrible things to be done to you to make you aware of what’s happening.

He makes it very clear that Israel at the moment is a deeply racist society, and talks about the processes by which Israelis grow up to hate the Palestinians. One of his students is in the Israeli army’s propaganda unity. He told him that when the army is especially pleased with them, it gives the squaddies a treat. They are shown the film of a bomb being dropped on Gaza from the point of view of the plane that dropped it, as it falls all the way down. This is a bomb that killed many civilians, just to get one terrorist.

Here’s the video:

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3 Responses to “Ilan Pappe on Israel’s Founding Myths and the Oppression of the Palestinians: Part 2”

  1. vondreassen Says:

    Reblogged this on vondreassen.

  2. Michelle Says:

    Thank you for this information.

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