Ilan Pappe: Interviewed about the Middle East
Ilan Pappe, an Israeli-born professor at Haifa University, who is well-known as a revisionist or "post-Zionist" Israeli historian. He has a BA from Hebrew University and a PhD from Oxford. He is a senior lecturer in the department of Political Science at Haifa University and the Chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies in Haifa. He is also the Academic Director of the Research Institute for Peace at Givat Haviva. Ilan Pappe is the author of many books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With the publication of each of his ground-breaking books, he has been both acclaimed and smeared. Ilan Pappe’s most recent books include The Modern Middle East (Routledge, 2005), and A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples (Cambridge University Press, 2004), in which he documents the expulsion of Palestinians as an orchestrated crime of ethnic cleansing that tore apart peaceful Arab-Jewish coexistence . His previous books include The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1948-1951 (New York, 1992) and The Israel/Palestine Question (London, 1999). He is sometimes accused of being anti-Semitic for his views on the myths which he believes inform main stream Israeli Jewish society. We talked to Dr. Ilan Pappe about the recent crisis in the Middle East.
Q Though Israeli officials claim that the ongoing operation started because of the kidnapped soldiers and aim to free them and disarm Hezbollah, the world media, including the Israeli one, reflect some ideas that claim ‘Israel actually moved to design the Middle East with the backing off of USA and all this was planned before hand.’ Do you agree with this view? What do you think Israel is trying to do?
A I agree that the reason for the war was not the kidnapping of the soldiers. It was a pretext to implement a pre-planned attack, coordinated with the US. Forty minutes after the soldiers were taken captive, Israeli jets were bombarding Lebanon with the full and immediate support of the US, not the Hezbollah. Secondly, the unprecedented support of the US to Israel, including shipping of bombs and petrol, instead of working for peace, as a superpower should, indicated how closely the coordination was and how well the Israeli operations serves the so called American war against terror - a euphemism for imposing American control in the areas of natural resources and energies.
Q And again we hear-read some people saying ‘Israel’s main target is actually Iran and Syria in the long run but before eliminating them, it needs to eliminate Hezbollah in order to move freely’ what would you say for this? Do you think there is such a possibility that Israel may attack Iran and Syria? What could happen then?
A I agree with this assertion as well. Israel has its own plan for imposing its will and this is in Palestine. It wishes unilaterally to annex large parts of the areas it occupied in 1967 and to imprison the Palestinians in small Bantustans and by that destroy the Palestine will and aspirations. Only two movements, Hezbollah and Hamas, and only two states, Syria and Iran, oppose this scheme. Israel sees the present American administration and mood as providing a rare window of opportunity to uses its military might for destroying the only forces willing to resist its policies in Palestine.
Israel’s bombardment in Lebanon and civilian casualties caused uproar both in Islamic world and the western one. Anti-Israeli feelings and tendencies are on the rise. Is this not a contradiction for Israel that seems ready to do anything to secure itself and its citizens? What it does is just increasing the numbers of Israel? Can you see any logic in all this happening?
This is a special logic which is called in Israel: deterrence. The Israeli orientalist establishment, the intelligence community and politicians convinced successive governments that the ‘Arabs understand only the language of force’ and therefore a particular savage and brutal Israeli attack will terrify any potential enemies in the Arab and Muslim world. History of course taught us that exactly the opposite happened. Oppressive and aggressive Israeli policies generated more animosity in the Muslim world and hostility in the Arab world and refusal to accept Israel as a legitimate political entity. Furthermore, the personal security of Israelis is not enhanced by these policies but rather deteriorates but this is exploited manipulatively by the government to nourish anti-Arab and anti-Islamic phobias.
Q All these developments blur the line between Zionism and ‘just being an Jewish.’ Do you find this overlapping dangerous for the good of Israeli people in the long run? Because we know that there are many segments in Israeli society who are really upset with all this happening and actually against the hard liners. When will they be able to direct the country to a more moderate, pro-negotiation-concession way?
A Unfortunately, the number of Israelis, as opposed to Jews, who dare to oppose their government's policies is very small. The danger of this policy is indeed first for the Jewish people who live in Israel, a state that refuses to recognize that it is within the Arab world and the Muslim world and continues to alienate not only the Arab world, but the Muslim world at large. It is also a very dangerous situation for Jews around the world, who seem to allow their leaders to be ambassadors of Israel and their synagogues embassies of Israel. Especially in the US, once American policy will change as a result of the inevitable failure of the present policy, it is possible that the Jewish Zionist support for Israel would be blamed for this disastrous policy and they, the Jews, would become a scapegoat for the debacle.
Q Some circles say what the Nazi regime had done to Jews decades ago is now being done to Palestinians by Israeli government. Does this comparison make you sorry? How do you feel? Can you see a piece of reality in that?
A Although what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians is horrible and terrible, it is still not genocide. The unfortunate fate of the Palestinians was well described by a late Israeli journalist. As long as Israel is not doing to the Palestinians, he said, exactly what the Nazis did to the Jews, everything else is permissible. This includes ethnic cleansing, mass killings, dispossession and occupation. It is bad enough and it is shameful that a state that pretends to represent the victims of the holocaust behaves in such a way.
Q You said in an interview with Dutch daily, Volkskrant, that Israel should stop acting like a ‘Westerner’ in the Middle East (referring to the fighting against terrorism) and adapt to its environment to be safe and secure. Could you elaborate?
A Israel, with a large number of Palestinians, 20 percent of the population, and a large number of Arab Jews, almost half of the Jewish population, can be a very important and constructive element in building a better middle east. But it can not do it by choosing to be a fortress for American interests in the area and by denying the connection of so many of its people to Islam and Arab tradition. It has to abandon the mentality of a colonialist and settler state, as did eventually South Africa. It will have be part of the Middle East’s problems and solutions, it can not survive as the Middle East's principal enemy- even if the price is for its small elite of European Jews giving up their dream of building a purely western society....
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