Ilan Pappe’s Demolition of the Myths of Modern Israel and Its Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians

 

Ilan Pappe, Ten Myths About Israel (London: Verso 2017)

Ilan Pappe is an Israeli historian and activist, who has extensively researched and documented Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from its foundation in 1948 till today. Because of this, he was subjected to abuse and academic censure by the authorities and his university. He now teaches, I believe, at Exeter University. He has been a signatory of several of the letters from academics and leading members of the Jewish community defending Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters from the charges of anti-Semitism.

This book tackles the ten myths Pappe identifies as central to the history of modern Israel and its continuing dispossession of its indigenous people. The blurb for the book states

In this groundbreaking book, published on the fiftieth anniversary of the Occupation, the outspoken and radical Israeli historian Ilan Pappe examines the most contested ideas concerning the origins and identity of the contemporary state of Israel.

The “ten myths” that Pappe explores – repeated endlessly in the media, enforced by the military, accepted without question by the world’s governments – reinforce the region status quo. He explores the claims that Palestine was an empty land at the time of the Balfour Declaration, as well as the formation of Zionism and its role in the early decades of nation building. He asks whether the Palestinians voluntarily left their homeland in 1948, and whether June 1967 was a war of “no choice”. Turning to the myths surrounding the failure of the Camp David Accords and the official reasons for the attacks on Gaza, Pappe explains why the two-state solution is no longer viable. 

The book is divided into three parts. Part 11, ‘Fallacies of the Past’, contains the following chapters attacking these particular myths.

  1. Palestine was an empty land.
  2. The Jews were a people without a land.
  3. Zionism is Judaism.
  4. Zionism is not colonialism.
  5. The Palestinians voluntarily left their homeland in 1948.
  6. The June 1967 War was a war of no choice.

Part II, ‘Fallacies of the Present’, has the following

7. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

8. The Oslo mythologies.

9. The Gaza mythologies.

Part III ‘Looking Ahead’

10. The two-states solution is the only way forward.

Conclusion: The Settler Colonial state of Israel in the 21st First century.

There’s also a timeline of Israeli/Zionist history from the 1881 pogroms in the Russian Empire to 2015 and the fourth Netanyahu government.

This is a short book, the actual text taking up 153 pages. Although it is properly documented with notes and index, it’s clearly written and seems to be aimed the general reader, rather than an exclusively academic audience. Much of it will be familiar to readers of the blogs of the great Jewish critics and activists against Zionist racism, like Tony Greenstein, Martin Odoni and David Rosenberg. He points out, for example, that Zionism was a minority movement amongst Jews before 1948, and that it was preceded by Christian Zionism, which wished to see the Jews return to Israel in order to hasten Christ’s return to Earth and the End Times, as well as more immediate religious and geopolitical goals. Some hoped that the Jews would convert to Christianity, while others, like Palmerston, believed that a western Jewish presence in the Holy Land would help shore up the decaying Ottoman Empire. Others associated it with restoring the glory of the Crusades. Most Jews at the time, however, were much more eager to remain in the countries of their birth. For Reform Jews and the Socialists of the Bund, this meant fighting for equality as fellow citizens and adopting wider European secular culture to a greater or lesser extent so that they could fully participate in the new societies from the Enlightenment onwards. So determined were they to do so, that Reform Judaism removed altogether references from their services to the return to Israel. They also rejected the idea of a Jewish state because they felt its establishment would cast doubt on their loyalties to their mother countries as proper English or Germans. Orthodox Judaism remained far more conservative, rejecting the Enlightenment, but still determined to remain in their traditional homelands because Israel could only be restored through divine will by the Messiah. Until he came, it was their religious duty to wait out their exile.

Nor was Palestine remotely empty, despite the Zionists maintaining that it was – ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’, as the Zionist maxim ran. 18th and 19th century European travelers noted that Palestine was very definitely occupied, and that ten per cent of its population was Jewish. Zionist settlers there found to their shock and discomfort that there were Arabs there, with whom they were going to have to live. And that these Arabs weren’t like them. Which shouldn’t really be surprising. However marginalised eastern European Jews were, they were still part of European society and so were bound to have certain aspects of their culture in common with other Europeans. As for the Palestinians themselves, they were perfectly willing to provide shelter and help to the early Jewish settlers when it seemed that they were simply migrants, who were not intending to colonise and displace them. They only became hostile, ultimately turning to violence, when it became clear just what the Zionists’ intentions towards them were. Pappe also points out that at the time the first Zionist communities were being founded, Palestinian society was undergoing its second wave of nationalism. The first was the general wave of Arab nationalism from the 19th century onwards, as the Arabs became conscious of themselves as a distinct people with the multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire. The second was when the individual Arab nations, such as Syria and Egypt, became conscious of themselves and began demanding their separate independence. And these new, emerging Arab nations included Palestine.

The book also shows how Zionism is colonialism through comparing Israel with other White nations, like those of  North and South America, New Zealand and so on, where the indigenous people were massacred and their land seized for White colonisation. He  then shows how Zionist leaders such as David Ben-Gurion had planned in 1948 to cleanse what they could of the Israel state they were creating of its Arab population in order to ensure that Jews were in the majority. Thus Palestinian towns and villages were razed and their people massacred. At the same time, the Israelis spread propaganda that the Palestinians had somehow voluntarily left their homes, rather than fled. He also argues that the Israeli government was determined to exploit diplomatic and military tensions with Nasser’s Egypt and Syria in 1967 in order to manufacture a war that would allow them to seize the West Bank and the holy places of west Jerusalem, with their rich archaeological sites. Pappe shows that, whatever their composion, whether Labour, Likud, or, as in 1967, a coalition of parties across the Israeli political spectrum, successive Israeli government have pursued a policy of securing the greatest amount of land for Israel with the least amount of Palestinians. This has meant redrawing and redefining the boundaries of what is Jewish territory, with the intention of forcing the Palestinians into minuscule cantons or bantustans, to use the word applied to similar settlements in apartheid South Africa. The Palestinians were to have some autonomy within them, but only if the acted as Israel’s peacekeeper within those territories. This was the real intention of the Oslo Peace Process, which was unacceptable to Yasser Arafat and the Arab leadership because far from improving conditions for the Palestinians, it actually made them much worse. It was a deal that the Palestinians could not accept, hence the breakdown of the talks and the eruption of the Second Intifada.

Pappe describes the Israeli attacks on Gaza as an ‘incremental genocide’. He states that he has been reluctant to call it thus, because it’s a very loaded term, but can find no other way to reasonably describe it. Each stage begins with a Palestinian rocket attack, which kills very few Israelis, if any. The Israelis then launch massive counterattacks, killing hundreds, with names like ‘Summer Rains’, ‘Autumn Rains’, and then ‘Operation Cast lead’, which the Israelis claim are just reprisals against Palestinian terrorism. The goal is supposed to be the removal of the Hamas government in Gaza. While Hamas are an Islamic organisation, they were democratically elected and their rise was initially aided by Israel, who believed that the real threat to their security was the secular, nationalist Fatah.

The chapter arguing against Israel as a democracy shows that it cannot justly be considered such given the apartheid system that dispossesses and marginalises the Palestinians. Part of this apartheid is based on willingness or suitability for military service. Rather like the future Earth of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, civil rights are connected with national service. The Israelis disbar the Palestinians from serving in the armed forces on the grounds that the Palestinians would be unwilling to join them. But even here the Palestinians do the unexpected: a majority of them have shown themselves willing in a poll to join the Israeli army.

Pappe considers that the two-state solution, as a realistic solution to the Palestinian crisis, is near its end. Its only real purpose was to give the Israelis a justification for seizing the most land while dispossessing the indigenous people, who lived there. It will eventually fall, one way or another, because the Israelis are determined to colonise the West Bank and the siege of Gaza. He also makes the point that no discussion of the issue of human rights in the Middle East, in nations like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, for example, can be complete without including the 100 year long persecution of the Palestinians. At the same time, the West allowed Israel to emerge as a settler colonial state, at a time when settler-colonialism was being abandoned, partly out of guilt over the Holocaust. Germany in particular contributed a large amount of funding to the new state. But the foundation of Israel hasn’t solved the problem of anti-Semitism, only increased it. The discrediting of the ten major myths about Israel should ensure better justice for the Palestinians, and a fitting, proper end to the legacy of the Holocaust.

It’s a very effective demolition of the myths Israel uses and exploits to support its own existence and its policies towards the Palestinians. For example, Israel claims that its occupation of the West Bank is only temporary, while the facts on the ground amply demonstrate that it intends to be there permanently. Pappe is also extremely critical about the use of the Bible and archaeology to justify Israel’s occupation of Palestine. He seems to support the Biblical minimalists assessment that the Bible isn’t a reliable source of historical information. I don’t think this can be reasonably maintained, as while archaeology can’t be used to establish whether some episodes in the Bible are historically true, it does seem clear that ancient Israel undoubtedly existed, at least after the Exile and probably before then. But he certainly raises proper moral questions about the use of archaeology to justify the removal of Palestinian communities and their transformation into Israeli settlements on the grounds that they are really ancient Israelite towns and villages.

Pappe has always maintained that his countrymen are decent people, who just need the situation properly explained to them. He attempted to do this himself by holding open evenings at his home every Thursday night, in the Israeli village in which he lived. During these evenings anyone could come to his home and ask him what was really going on. These evenings eventually grew to such an extent that, despite the real anger and hostility against him by the academic and political establishment, he had 30-40 people in his front room. In the book he also properly pays tribute to the courage and determination of those Israelis, who are determined to challenge their country’s attacks on the Palestinians. If there is to be hope for the Palestinians, then they should surely play a part on the Israeli side.

I don’t know if there will ever be proper justice for the Palestinians. The Israel lobby has shown itself to be determined and expert at the demonisation of its opponents here in the West. That’s been shown in the recent expulsions of prinicipled anti-Zionists and anti-racists like Tony Greenstein, Ken Livingstone, Marc Wadsworth, Mike and now Jackie Walker on trumped up charges of ‘anti-Semitism’ from the Labour Party. But there are signs that the Israel lobby is losing its grip. They’re turning from Jews to Christian Evangelicals in America for support, while Ireland has recently passed legislation supporting the BDS movement. These are signs for hope. But the process will be long and difficult. This book, however, helps provide the means by which more people can fight back against Israeli and establishment propaganda to support a proper peace with justice, dignity and proper autonomy for Jews and Palestinians in a single state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to “Ilan Pappe’s Demolition of the Myths of Modern Israel and Its Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians”

  1. truthaholics Says:

    Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    “He also makes the point that no discussion of the issue of human rights in the Middle East, in nations like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, for example, can be complete without including the 100 year long persecution of the Palestinians. At the same time, the West allowed Israel to emerge as a settler colonial state, at a time when settler-colonialism was being abandoned, partly out of guilt over the Holocaust. Germany in particular contributed a large amount of funding to the new state. But the foundation of Israel hasn’t solved the problem of anti-Semitism, only increased it. The discrediting of the ten major myths about Israel should ensure better justice for the Palestinians, and a fitting, proper end to the legacy of the Holocaust.”

  2. Ilan Pappe’s Demolition of the Myths of Modern Israel and Its Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians | Indiĝenaj Inteligenteco Says:

    […] Source: Ilan Pappe’s Demolition of the Myths of Modern Israel and Its Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians […]

  3. Ilan Pappe’s Demolition of the Myths of Modern Israel and Its Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians « Middle Eastern Eye Says:

    […] Source: Ilan Pappe’s Demolition of the Myths of Modern Israel and Its Ethnic Cleansing of the Palestinians […]

  4. summitflyer Says:

    On my list of need to read books .I have reservations on the premise of an eventual just peace between the Israelis , read political and religious zionism , and the Palestinian people .The hate and criminal behavior is relentless .They are extremely well organized and have infiltrated most Western countries for support and the list goes on . I wish I could say different. Antisemitism is a tool they use to discredit anyone who criticizes Israel.

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