Why Haifa University Cancelled My Conference


Mr. Pappe is professor of political science at Haifa University and academic head of the Institute for Peace Research, Givat Haviva.

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Three weeks ago, my colleague in the University of Haifa, Dr. Asa’d Gahnim of the department of political science suggested convening a conference on the 1948 historiography. We agreed to present in the conference the recent developments in both the Israeli and Palestinian historiography on the 1948 war and Nakbah. He and Salman Natur were asked to introduce the recent critical trends in the Palestinian side (with particular stress on works which deconstruct the roll of the traditional leadership and the Arab regimes in the 1948 war). In the second half of the day we wanted Udi Adiv, Teddy Katz and myself to present an updated picture of the historiographical debates on the 1948 war within the scholarly community in Israel. I asked my own division, the International Relations division, to host the meeting. The head of the division, Dr. Michael Gross agreed.

The Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences

The conference was published in the usual sites as is common in the campus. Upon learning of the event, Professor Aryeh Ratner, the Dean of Social Sciences, phoned the head of the division and later me. He ordered us – by direct instructions from the Rector and the President of the university - to cancel the conference. He clarified that he will not allow a conference which included Udi Adiv. Adiv in the early 1970s was accused and found guilty for spying for the Syrians and sat in jail for that allegation. After his release, in the early 1980s, he finished a Ph. D. thesis in the University of London, under the supervision of Professor Sami Zubadia, one of the world leading scholars on the Middle East. His thesis was about the Zionist historiography and particularly on the 1948 historiography . He was then appointed as a lecturer in the Open University of Israel, a position he holds until today. I clarified all these details to Ratner. He told me this is of no interest and that the conference will not take place. He also explained he would send an official letter claiming that I have not filled correctly the forms needed for the convening of a conference. The same dichotomy between what would be officially written in the letters and the real reasons for the cancellation was explained to Dr. Gross (on the phone) I asked what would happen if I would ‘properly’ refill the forms and was told that this would not change the decision, as its source was ideological and not administrative. He also told us that this was not his own policy, but that of the president of Haifa University, Professor Yehuda Hayut.

In the university codex there is indeed reference for the procedures of conference convention. Like many other procedures it has never been implemented in the university ever since its foundation in the early 1970s. After consulting some people who were experts on the codex, it was suggested to me that if the conference is a departmental symposium there is no need for such a procedure to take place. So the conference was re-defined as a departmental symposium. A room was ordered, a day was set, and invitations sent.

The President of the University

On May 22, at 14:00, the lectures and the audience came to hall 715 in the university. The doors were locked. In the corridor stood the chief of security forces in the university and ten of his henchmen, all armed with pistols and walki-talkies. I was pushed into a side room by the chief and his lieutenant and handed a personal letter from the president, Yehuda Hayut. This was done in front of my wife and my colleagues, who watched helplessly the macabre scene. The letter said that my actions were a severe breach of the university codex and hence the room was blocked and the event cancelled. The chief explained to me that I would not be allowed to conduct the event in any other part of the campus. Outside the corridor, my wife heard two other lieutenants of the chief informing the president in their communication network, "we caught him.". They also said to each other, “high time: they should do the same to all the leftist lectures in the university.”

The participants and myself went to a cafeteria. The chief explained to me that if we talk sitting, but not standing, he would not regard it as a conference. We followed the orders and conducted what to my mind was one of the best critical symposiums on the 1948 historiography.

The local newspaper in Haifa, Kol Bo, under the headline “Silencing the Voices” reported the event. The university spokesperson responded: the conference was not up to academic standards of Haifa university (indeed it was not).

Two Reports

In the internal network of the university there were only two references to the event:

One was by Dr. Yuval Yunai from the Department of Sociology. He wrote:

It's also a shame that on the same day that we made this -- may I say -- pioneering step, the university management banned another event from taking place. The dept. of international relations wanted to discuss the historiography of 1948, but my friend and colleague, the Dean of the my faculty, decided to use a doubtful prerogative and to ban the participation of Dr. Udi Adiv, a sociologist who wrote on the 1948 war, because of the sins he committed many years ago and for which he paid abundantly in many years of incarceration. Many people didn't like the composition of that event and its apparent challenge to the decision about Teddy Katz' MA thesis (Katz himself was supposed to talk too). Such objection is legitimate, but preventing the event by an instruction from above is against the academic spirit and freedom, even if Deans have this authority (which is also legally questionable). In any case, it's against the necessity to compromise and to heal the wounds of conflicts and hostilities.

While the circle of violence runs amok around us, can't we, here, in our campus with its unique composition, show the citizens of Israel another way of living together, not side by side, but really together?

[Yuval was speaking on his behalf and not necessarily reflecting the feelings of all Forum Smol members.]

Professor Micha Leshem from the Department of Psychology wrote:

Can anyone explain why on earth the University found fit to ban a seminar of Faculty and students and invited speakers? I understand the doors of the meeting room were locked, and security personnel on hand in great numbers to accompany the participants away.

Such an action is inexcusable in a University, and surely requires a bold and convincing explanation from our University authorities. I fear that the good name of our university will again be questioned by our colleagues and the media - might it not have been wiser to let the meeting take place and its organizers take responsibility for its consequences, if any?

How parochial can the University of Haifa be? I suppose the next step will be for the Seminar to take place in one of our less prejudicial and more Academically orientated sister institutions. Either way we are left with mud on our faces. Micah


1. This is not an isolated event. It is part of a daily reality in the campus that reflects and represents the overall demise of basic civic and human rights in Israel. The shooting of journalists and the assassination of human rights activists in the West Bank on the one hand, and the reign of terror and intimidation in the campus, on the other, are part and parcel of the same phenomena.

2. This episode illustrates forcefully why the boycott of Israeli academia abroad is justified, not just as part of the overall pressure on the Jewish state to end its brutal occupation, but also as a warning to the scholarly community in Israel that its protracted moral cowardice has a price tag on it. As long as this academia goes on exercising a reign of intimidation and tyranny in its own campuses, and is silent about the destruction of academic life in the occupied territories, it can not be part of the enlightened and progressive world, to which it wants eagerly to belong.

3. My colleagues who still find it difficult to support or show solidarity, for some reasons, fail to learn the historical lessons of the past. Today it is me, tomorrow it is them. Many of them come from families who experienced the same incremental process of silencing in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Spain and the military regimes of Latin America. They still live in self-denial, believing it will never happen to them.

As in the past, I ask you to express your indignation and protest and react in any way you deem appropriate, not for my sake, but for the sake of all those who are victimized by the present trends and ideologies in the state of Israel: the Palestinians under occupation, the minority within the country, and the few dissenting voices inside the Jewish society. Such a voice, in the end of the day, will be a valuable contribution to peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.

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More Comments:

Dale M Launer - 12/1/2004

The US government does not have a policy of oppressing Palestine. If you think that it is because you believe it to be true, but it has nothing to do with the truth. The US is a powerful country, with an awesome military branch. If they really did hate Palestinians, they could squash them like a bug. But they don't.

The US has tried and tried and tried to negotiate a peace deal. Including a land for peace deal, but it is only the fault of the Palistinians that there is no peace. The deal was fair. Arafat should have taken the deal, or at the very least - continued negotiating.

He did neither.

While I feel Israel should not have developed on the seized land in the '67 war - keep in mind that Israel had been attacked by arab countries a few times before. If you were mugged by the same person (who vowed your death) a few times, and say, the third time you decided to keep his wallet, or his boots or something - to punish him.

But when they took the land, Israel lost the moral highground, now no one has it.

If you think Palestinians have it - you not very bright. This is a complicated, but not impossible plan.

And when you say when has the US (esepecially the government) ever done a THING to alleviate the plight of the Palestinian people - you show you a profound ignorance. The Palestinians receive aid - approximately 100 million dollars a year - in the form of cash - from the US govt.

That you don't know this shows that you are ignorant. That you never bothered to suss it out before publically making a statement shows that you are stupid.

Niggerization? What is that?

James Bowen - 3/18/2004

Yoav Gelber was the PhD supervisor for Motti Golani.
So far, so good. However, the inaccuracy and intemperate
nature of his attack on Ilan Pappe casts doubt on Gelber's credibility as an academic.

Consider, first, Gelber's charge about Pappe's job title.
Gelber is either unaware of, or deliberately ignores, the
fact that American English uses the word "professor"
where British English uses the word "lecturer". In
British terms, Pappe is (2003) a Senior Lecturer
in Haifa University but, in American terminology, one
would say that he is an Associate Professor. In all
American universities that I know (I was an
associate prof. in one American university for seven
years and, during that time, I spent a lot of time in
others), the word 'lecturer' is used to denote an
instructor who does not have a PhD while the word
'professor' is used to denote an instructor who does have
one. Further, a PhD-holder who has gained tenure, as
Gelber "regretfully" admits Pappe has, is termed an
'associate professor'. Gelber complains that the title
professor is used in Pappe's Journal of Palestine Studies
articles and in this HNN article but the JPS and HNN are
both US-based fora, so the title professor is entirely

Next, Gelber declares that Pappe claims to have written a
non-existent book -- but Pappe's History of Modern
Palestine does exist; I have a copy and consider it a
fine book. Was Gelber being disingenuous or is he really
unaware of the length of time between a manuscript being
accepted for publication and the book's appearance in the

Third, Gelber refers to what he calls "Pappe’s blood
libel about an alleged massacre in Tantura". Well, that
prodigal son of Zionism, Benny Morris states that Teddy
Katz (and Pappe) are right, that "atrocities -- war
crimes in modern parlance -- appear to have occurred.
Many of the Tantura dead, even if they numbered only
70-75 as Alexandroni veterns would have it, were unarmed
civilians or disarmed militamen. A number of Alexandroni
veterans said as much in undisputed interviews." (See
Morris's article in the February 2004 Jerusalem Report.)

So what is left of Gelber's charges against Pappe?

Brandon Wallace - 6/8/2003

I Danced! Why Should the Palestinians be sad to see their oppressor become a target? Why should they not dance? When has the US (and especially the government) ever done a THING to try and allieve the plight of the Palestinian people.....As far as September 11th goes.....Welcome to Niggerization.

Brandon Wallace - 6/8/2003

What good is voting when they threaten your LIFE? Black people can vote in the US- yet they still get shot down in the streets, harrassed and discriminated against. You are a sorry excuse for an individual.

Bill Heuisler - 6/6/2003

Dear Brandon,
Such empathy and omniscient grasp. Such imperious sadness.

And we all feel your pain. Teutonic Zionists apeing the US and Britain have no integrity at all. Those damn fascists and their Democracies! Sad. Jordan and Egypt know how to treat people - a firm hand is what the fidayim need. Sharon, Blair and Bush let both Jews and Arabs vote in their Fascist countries. Teutonic swindlers! Yasser Arafat, on the other hand, rules by fiat and sets a standard we all admire by amassing a fat Teutonic (Swiss) bank account while encouraging his flock to kill themselves.

Sadness is powerful; it establishes moral superiority and shames those jack-booted thugs. You must be so proud.
Mournfully yours, Bill Heuisler

Brandon Wallace - 6/6/2003

It saddens me to know end to see Israel become more and more fascist every day. You dont know how awful it is to recognize that the Jewish State (and the Zionist Jews who support it) dont have any integrity. It is sad....Israel must abandon its role as a teutonic hero-- The UK and the US are not good role models.

Irfan Khawaja - 6/5/2003

You're obviously an imbecile, but I have only myself to blame for trying to have a conversation with you.

Bill Heuisler - 6/5/2003

Professor Khawaja,
My true colors? While caring little about Israel in general, I care even less about a people who dance in the streets after our American cities are attacked. The Egyptians and Jordanians who call themselves Palestinians showed their true colors when they burned our flags and celebrated our 9/11 agony. Should Americans give a damn about Arafat and his Swiss bank accounts? Should we send more food and money than we already do? My opinion? My true colors? Let the chips finally fall. Turn the armies loose. End aid to either side. End false hope and international conceit. Allow balance to succeed and people to go back to their lives.
People, Professor. And shove your internescine Semitic hatreds.

You mention Arab Israelis. Arabs vote in Israel, Arabs are citizens and members of Knesset. But do Jews vote in Jordan? Are there Jews in the Egyptian Parliament? Are there any Jews left in Egypt? Your facetious arguments seek advantage, not truth. Should Israel give the vote to disco bombers who kill Arab and Israeli children? The litmus is obviously not ethnic in Israel.

And your true colors? Do you approve of Arafat's millions and Jenin slums? Do you approve of Intifada that kills thousands and impoverishes millions? Do you approve of Wahhabism? What about Muslim Law that allows execution of homosexuals and unfaithful women, deprives women of property and voting rights?

If the Jordanians don't like the Israeli settlements they should declare war and take the land back. Same for the Egyptians. But that's already happened, hasn't it? Shall we rewrite history? Relive it? Certain things are unadorned truth. Deal with it.
But Professor, don't pretend impersonal scholarship. You only dabble your fingers in truth when it fits your thesis.
Bill Heuisler

Irfan Khawaja - 6/5/2003

"Misdirection" is my art? I think projection is yours.

But now that you've shown your true colors, if Israel is
"expanding" into "its own territory," that means that the
Arab residents of the West Bank and Gaza must be Israeli
citizens, possessing equal rights with, say, the Jewish
citizens of Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, etc. But it doesn't
currently look like they're being treated that way. That
implies one of two things: a) the West Bank/Gaza are not
part of Israel but under temporary military occupation; or b) Israel is committed to apartheid on principle and wants to
subjugate the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza forever. I prefer inference (a), but you're welcome to (b) if you like.

You're correct about one thing: I would have preferred forts,
or rather military bases, without civilian settlements,
protecting Israel proper and supplied from there. That
would have been a legitimate response to the 1967 war.
Settlements were not.

Let me just remind you of one thing before I part: for all of
the huffing and puffing you've done over three posts to this
discussion, you STILL have not even approximated an answer to
the question: Why were civilian settlements in the WB/Gaza needed to protect Israel in the wake of 1967? For a guy
who accuses other people of engaging in "ploys," you sure seem to have wasted a lot of electronic space engaging in avoidance
of that relatively clear-cut issue.

Garfield - 6/5/2003


Yoav Gelber - 6/5/2003

Let me remind the readers that Ilan Pappe is a pretender. This signifies the credibility of his accusations and the reliability of the facts he purports to describe in his above complaint.
When Pappe is a co-editor with other Israeli scholars (i.e. Prof. Nevo or Prof. Ma’oz), he is a humble senior lecturer (his true rank, regretfully with tenure). When he is alone, such as in the above complaint or in the case of his articles in Arab organs such the Journal of Palestine Studies, or in his edited book The Palestine Question (London 1999), he promotes himself to Professorship (don’t tell me it’s a mistake of the publishing house. Such items are always checked by the author).
Pappe has also pretended to write books that have never appeared. Perhaps he regards himself worthy of promotion on account of his famous book "A History of Modern Palestine and Israel." According to the back cover of Pappe’s "The Palestine Question," "A History of Modern Palestine and Israel" appeared in 1997. According to the short notes about the editor inside The Palestine Question, the new book is still in the status of “forthcoming” (in 1999!). So far (summer of 2003) no one has seen the mysterious "History of Modern Palestine and Israel."
These false presentations indicate a pattern. Pappe’s blood libel about an alleged massacre in Tantura and his complaints about alleged persecution by the university of Haifa are not his first and probably not his last delusion.
Until three years ago, Pappe belonged - despite his radical views - to the mainstream of Israeli historiography. Owing to his unscrupulous behaviour (and not because of his views, that are shared by others who do not grumble about alleged persecutions) in the recent two and half years he can now dicuss historiography only in the company of an MA student whose 500 pages thesis was rejected as ignorant, incapable of distinguishing between the significant and the trivial and incapable of putting one and one (not 2 and 2!) together. His other partner and "authority" for "an academic historiographical debate" is a convicted traitor and spy who made some marginal history in the early 1970s, but did not research any history. Having followed closely this process of deterioration, I must say Pappe has earned his new status honestly and deserves every bit of it. No other university in the US or elsewhere would have retained a faculty member after provocations such as Pappe has done in Haifa, tenure notwithstanding.

Bill Heuisler - 6/4/2003

Misdirection must be an art in your particular discipline. The word, occupation, was questioned. You changed the subject to settlements while casually reusing the word occupation. Clever? Now you complain your rather vague point was not addressed?

Your point:
"And by the way, how do civilian settlements contribute to "defensible borders"? Seems to me they contribute to INdefensible borders."

The Jordan River and the Sinai Desert are very defensible, as are the Golan Heights. The settlements are a nation expanding into its territory. You would prefer forts? Protecting what? The point is specious unless you want the Israelis to simply leave the land vacant after the fighting stops. The whole purpose of acquiring land is crops and people.

At the end of the day, your point becomes moot when "conquered" is substituted for the word "occupied", doesn't it?
Bill Heuisler

Irfan Khawaja - 6/4/2003

There is an obvious unanswered question in Prof. Pappe's article. The conference was cancelled, we're told, because it included Udi Aviv, who was convicted of spying for Syria. But the next obvious question is: were any reasons given beyond that? After all, perhaps the university's reason was that people like Udi Aviv should not be allowed to be part of the "enlightened and progressive world" even after serving jail time. Prof. Pappe wants to forgive and forget; his superiors don't. From the outside, it's not obvious which party is right.

An example might clarify things. Last fall, I taught at Princeton. Princeton University invited Khurshid Ahmad, a notorious Pakistani fundamentalist politician, to speak at a conference on campus. I found that intensely offensive. What was especially offensive was the pretense that such a person can be invited for "purely academic reasons" while we forget who he really is, and what he has really done, and who has had to suffer for it.

I suppose I wouldn't have wanted that conference stopped, but on the other hand I found it a bit disconcerting that such a person would so blithely be given a podium at Princeton as though he were a perfectly respectable colleague, which he is not. It is nauseating to witness such things and then hear professors spew mantras to the effect that "the personal is the political." The equation always applies to somebody else's politics, and somebody else's person.

It's easy to forgive and forget if you aren't someone's victim, not so easy if you are or were. If Prof. Aviv's espionage had victims, I can see why people feel as they do about him. So at least part of the issue here turns on how serious a crime he committed.

Also, I find it somewhat puzzling that Prof. Pappe wants Americans to boycott Israeli academics. If we followed this to the letter, his article wouldn't have seen the light of day here in the US. (He, too, is an Israeli academic. Should HNN have boycotted him?) And what are we supposed to do when Israeli academics show up at our universities? Lock them out and have armed security guards escort them away?

Irfan Khawaja - 6/4/2003

Well, you can call it a "shmoccupation," or a "benign armed presence," or even a "ham sandwich," and it's not going to change the point I made about civilian settlements--a point you haven't addressed, I might add.

Bill Heuisler - 6/4/2003

Mr. Khawaja,
You used that term again. "Occupation" is not descriptive of the situation. The Israelis conquered the West Bank, Gaza and the Sinai to the Suez Canal. They also conquered the Golan and half of Lebanon - some military experts have written that the Israeli Army could have taken Damascus after their tanks finally drove Syrian Army units from the Golan Heights. Conquest by war - defensive or not - has historically meant acquisition of land.

But you insist on the term. Okay. Shall we take "occupation" to logical conclusion? Byzantine Greeks were there before the Arabs drove them out in the early 600s. But weren't Philistines there before that? Weren't Philistines part of the great upheaval around 1200 BC when the "sea-people" overturned the great City States? Who lived in Gaza first? Which Egyptians threw the Philistines out? Who cares? Championing the Arab cause by using inaccurate terms only weakens your argument. Stop using the term occupation unless you intend awarding the so-called Holy Land to Greeks or sea people or whomever.
Bill Heuisler

Irfan Khawaja - 6/4/2003

Well, I'll take the concession on the first point, since I
only intended to go as far as I did.

On the second point, there is no military necessity in a
region as small as Gaza-Israel-the West Bank to create
civilian settlements in order to defend Israel proper. We
are hardly talking about an area the size of Europe, Russia,
or the Roman Empire.

If the occupation had been purely defensive, it could
have served its military needs (administration, supply
lines, etc.) entirely without settlements. On defensive
grounds, the settlements add nothing that couldn't have
been gotten by some other means. They do add: (a) civilians
constantly in the line of fire, (b) an excuse to stay
in Gaza/West Bank in perpetuity, (c) an excuse to exert
control over the Arab population for reasons unrelated to
the defense of Israel.

The fact that no settlements have been "overrun" is completely
irrelevant to the issue. They haven't been overrun because they're well fortified. But "X is well-fortified" doesn't
mean or imply that "X is a military necessity."

The settlements don't serve a defensive purpose; they
serve a theo-political one (as many of their inhabitants say
pretty explicitly, like the ones who refuse on religious grounds to do military service in the IDF while expecting the secular Jews they deride to defend them). And that purpose is not defensive on any understanding of the term.

Bill Heuisler - 6/3/2003

Mr. Khawaja,
You are correct, as far as you go - and I overreached to make a point. Since the 48 War the Arab League had been trying to economically strangle Israel; in 1951 Egypt pressured other League members to cut all oil supplies to Israel. On July 26th, 1956 President Gamal Abdel Nasser "nationalized" the Suez Canal. The case can be made that the '48 War continued by other means and Israel's attacks in Gaza and the Sinai were self-defense.

Historically, settlement is a necessary part of conquest. Both in architecture and military-age population settlements (Roman, Russian, German, Israeli) are designed to defend themselves. Note: no Israeli settlements have been overrun to date.
Bill Heuisler

Irfan Khawaja - 6/3/2003

"These countries invaded a country called Israel - not once but many times - and lost their land through military conquest. Did Israel invade Jordan? Syria? Egypt? No. They were invaded often and finally drove their invaders back to defensible borders."

Wait. Israel didn't invade Egypt in 1956? Israel is always the defender, never the aggressor? Just checking.

And by the way, how do civilian settlements contribute to "defensible borders"? Seems to me they contribute to INdefensible borders.

Jonathan Dresner - 6/2/2003

Mr. Heuisler

You've put your finger on one of the simmering tensions of the world today: the persistence of memory, particularly memory of territorial loss. Our ability to pinpoint who controlled what territory when has combined with our penchant for literalism, legalism and absolute property rights, to create a situation in which nobody feels the need to surrender something that they once controlled, no matter what has happened since then.

There are genuine cases of injustice which might be remediable, and there are things which happened recently enough to be open questions (and I would contend that some of Israel's "occupied territories" fall into that category, though not all of them as some would insist). These need to be dealt with. But you're right that "rolling back" all conflicted or contested territorial gains would not actually solve much of anything.

It's ironic, for a historian, but there are a lot of situations where forgetting the history (or at least discounting it) and dealing with the situation of the moment and a stable future is the best path.

Bill Heuisler - 6/2/2003

Occupied Territories? Aren't we all getting a little tired of this canard. Is Wales an occupied territory? Natal? California? Latvia? Northern China? No? Then why is Israel-conquered land once part of Egypt, Jordan and Syria called "occupied'?

These countries invaded a country called Israel - not once but many times - and lost their land through military conquest. Did Israel invade Jordan? Syria? Egypt? No. They were invaded often and finally drove their invaders back to defensible borders.

When people demand withdrawal from "occupied Territories" in Trans Jordan or the Golan do they also demand England withdraw from Scotland? Russia from Moldavia? Turkey from Kurdistan? Hell, lets force all the war-winners to give up the territory won and watch the world erupt in new wars from the imbalance.
Lose the illogical rhetoric if you plan to win the arguments.
Bill Heuisler