Posts Tagged ‘University of Haifa’

Ilan Pappe on Israel’s Foundational Myths and the Oppression of the Palestinians: Part 1

May 26, 2016

I’ve been blogging recently on Israel’s oppression of the indigenous Palestinians, because of its relevance to the recent allegations of anti-Semitism against leading members of the Labour party, such as Ken Livingstone, Jackie Walker, Naz Shah and so on. None of the accused are anti-Semitic. Ken Livingstone has always stood against any and every form of racism. Indeed, back in the 1980s the former GLC under his leadership was notorious for it and its campaigns against sexism. Shah has the support of her local synagogue, which argues profoundly against her having any hatred of Jews. As for Jackie Walker, she is half-Jewish, and her partner is Jewish. Her mother was a Black civil rights activist, who was thrown out of America as a Commie during the McCarthyite witch-hunts. Her father was a Russian Jew, and so probably knew all too well from his personal experience, or that of his parents, what real anti-Semitism is like. Their real crime was that they made comments critical of Israel, which the militant Israel lobby, BICOM, the Labour Friends of Israel and Blairite faction in the Labour party, all automatically and quite arbitrarily defined as anti-Semitic.

Criticism of Israel is not automatically anti-Semitic, just as criticising the government of my country and its policies does not automatically make anyone ‘anti-British’, and certainly not when real historic or present oppression is involved.

The video below, made by the human rights group Americans for a Just Peace in the Middle East, is a long interview with the courageous Israeli historian and pro-Palestinian activist Ilan Pappe in his office at the University of Haifa in Israel, where he formerly taught. Dr Pappe no longer teaches there, as his scholarship and views are now so controversial and bitterly hated in his native country, that he has been forced abroad, and is now head of the history department at Exeter University in Devon, here in Britain.

Pappe had conventional views on the foundation of Israel, until his examination of Israel’s own archives and those of the British government revealed that the standard, accepted view of his country’s origins was merely a myth, contrived to justify the state’s oppression and dispossession of the Palestinians, the country’s indigenous inhabitants. He was one of a group, who became known as the New Historians, 3-4 historians, who working independently came to the same views. They included Benny Morrison, who since then has recanted. In the interview, Pappe talks about his experience researching the origins of Israel, the country’s founding myths, and his own experiences and that of some of the history students around him of academic and personal persecution and ostracism, and Israel’s possible future. Pappe states that he was interested in researching the British files on the foundation of Israel, as Britain under the Mandate was the occupying power, and he wondered how we saw the situation, as he believed the British hated both sides equally. Interspersed with Dr Pappe’s own comments are quotations from some of Israel’s leaders, such as David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dyan and Menachem Begin. These are chilling and horrifying in their cold-blooded espousal of violence, brutality and massacre in their ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.

Pappe states there are three myths about the foundation of Israel. These are:

1. It was a struggle between David and Goliath, with the nascent Jewish state the weaker combatant.

2. The Palestinians were hostile to the Jewish settlers from the start, and that they threatened the Jews with another Holocaust.

3. Israel has offered the Palestinians peace countless times, which they have repeatedly turned down.

He goes on to refute each of these.

He states that the War of Independence of 1948 certainly was not a conflict in which Israel was the weaker party. Israel and the invading Arab armies both had the same number of men and armaments. Israel was additionally helped by the fact that they had cut a deal with the Jordanians, who had been promised the West Bank if they did not fight alongside the other Arab nations. Nevertheless, the myth that Israel won against overwhelming odds has given the Israeli people the idea that they are invincible supermen. He states that this image can be seen in American movies, and the converse is true about Arabs and in particular the Palestinians. They are presented as the mysterious Other, hostile and cowardly.

He states that the Palestinians were not immediately hostile to the Jewish immigrants when they began to settle in Palestine. He states that Palestinians are Arabs, and the Arabs are very hospitable. This is true. It’s one of the characteristics, that have endeared the Arab people to many Westerners. People I’ve known, who’ve travelled to Egypt have told me about the unforced generosity of its people. Pappe states that many of the new settlers were taken in by their new Arab hosts, as the Palestinians felt sorry for them because many of them were very poor. This changed in the late 1920s when it became clear that not only did the Jewish immigrants not want to be guests, they wanted to be the possessors of the whole house, and its sole possessors at that.

As for rejecting the Israeli peace deal, the truth was it was the other way around. It was the Palestinians who first sued for peace in 1948. Furthermore, many of the peace deals that have been advanced by the Israelis since then have demanded such major territorial concession from the Palestinians, that they would be automatically unacceptable to every other nation as well, if they were placed in a similar position.

He also discusses the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. He states that after Israel’s victory in the 1948 War, the Jewish population was only 690,000 against 900,000 + Palestinians. They therefore began a deliberate policy of terror and harassment in order to force them out, as shown very clearly by the quotations from the Israeli leaders used in the video. The Israelis justified this through another myth: that the Palestinians had been encouraged to leave their homeland by the other Arabs, who told them that they could return to their homes after victory had been won. Pappe states that his examination of the records of the British listening posts showed that no such call was ever made. He also states very clearly that leading Israeli politicians, like David Ben-Gurion, who served as its president, are deeply implicated in this cleansing. Ben-Gurion was head of the organisation which had overall authority over the resettlement programme, and so had ultimate responsibility for its policies.

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