Ilan Pappe's newest book criticized as anti-Israel

Historians in the News

[Steven Plaut is a professor at the Graduate School of the Business Administration at the University of Haifa and is a columnist for the Jewish Press. A collection of his commentaries on the current events in Israel can be found on his "blog" at www.stevenplaut.blogspot.com.]

Ilan Pappe is probably the most widely known Israeli seeking the annihilation of his own country. He currently on the faculty of the University of Exeter in the UK, having left the University of Haifa in Israel under pressure. Pappe’s career has been devoted almost exclusively to turning out articles and books that demonize Israel and Zionism, and one of his ex-colleagues in Haifa has dismissed him as Israel’s Lord Haw Haw. Pappe’s newest "book," [Ilan Pappe (editor) “The Israel/Palestine Question: A Reader” (2nd edition), Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2007, 292 pages]
is a collection of anti-Israel articles written by a balanced set of Arab haters of Israel and Israeli-Jewish haters of Israel. The book is designed to be adopted by the sort of Middle East Studies professor who never wants his students exposed to a dissenting pro-Zionist opinion.

Significantly, the book belongs to the Routledge “Rewriting History Series,” a hodgepodge of leftist “anti-colonialist” volumes, and historic revisionism (meaning “New History”) is what every chapter of Pappe’s book is about. The second edition of the book differs in some interesting ways from the first, which was published in 1999. Benny Morris, an erstwhile “New Historian” who now denounces anti-Zionist New Historians while endorsing the “Zionist Narrative,” no longer appears as a contributor. He had written the centerpiece of the first edition.

Every chapter in the book but one is a reprint from material that has appeared elsewhere. The exception is a piece by As’ad Ghanem, a radically anti-Israel Arab political scientist from Pappe’s old department of political science at the University of Haifa. Ghanem’s contribution is supposed to be about “Israeli Palestinians,” the new code name by anti-Zionists for Israeli Arabs, whom Ghanem claims are living under Israeli “ethnocracy.” That is Newspeak for apartheid. (Ghanem is on record as favoring a so-called “one-state solution,” in which Israel will cease to exist, as are most of the other contributors in the book.)

From the raving reviews of the book at Al-Ahram, and at the PLO-controlled Journal of Palestine Studies, it should be obvious that objectivity is the last thing to be found in it. To help obfuscate the fact that the book is propaganda and not scholarship, it does not contain anywhere bios about the contributors, and readers cannot place them into context.

Among the Jews in the book insisting that Israel is guilty of just about everything is Avi Shlaim, the anti-Israel expatriate who turns out volumes of bash-Israel publicist writings, from Oxford University, Uri Ram, a notorious “Post-Zionist” sociologist from Ben Gurion University, whose chapter in the book is devoted to proving that Israel is a “colonialist” anachronism whose existence is unfortunate, and Gershon Shafir, a communist sociologist at the University of California in San Diego.

Then, for balance, the book includes an article by Walid Khalidi, the author of 'All that Remains' who works at the Institute of Palestine Studies, whose chapter is devoted to demanding that the 1947 UN resolution creating Israel now be retroactively revoked. He is joined by Beshara Doumani, in the news in recent days for claiming that a Zionist cabal suppresses freedom of speech in American academia, Butrus Abu-Manneh, a retired Middle East historian from the University of Haifa whose contribution is an esoteric chapter about Ottoman history that should be of interest to at least four historians in Ankara, and Nur Massalha, a “philosopher” from St. Mary’s College in the UK who was an initiator of attempts there to boycott Israel, and whose chapter celebrates Arab “resistance” against Jews.

Pappe’s own centerpiece contribution in the book is a long-winded “revisionist” (meaning, largely false) retelling of his own adventures in inventing the imaginary “massacre” of Arabs in Tantura. This “massacre” is one that Pappe and his MA student Teddy Katz decided took place in 1948 near Haifa just before Israeli independence was declared. The evidence for the existence of such a massacre? None. One is just expected to take Pappe’s word for it.

There is no documentary or physical evidence (like bones) that any such massacre took place (although a battle did), and journalists who were present at the battle of Tantura (including Arab journalists) witnessed no massacre. For more than 50 years no one, not even Arab propagandists, alleged there had been one. The Pappe-Katz “evidence” that there was a massacre consists of taped interviews with Arabs who had been children at the time of the battle, and, when the tapes were reviewed by others, turn out never even to claim there was any massacre. Instead, they describe memories of the Jews helping the villagers after the battle.

Katz later admitted in an Israeli court where he was being sued for libel and with his lawyer present that the whole massacre story was a fabrication. Undeterred if nonplussed, Pappe sticks to his earlier line in the book. Pappe has long insisted that facts just do not matter when it comes to the urgent task of inventing a “Palestinian narrative.” Meyrav Wurmser, among others, has debunked Pappe’s entire fabrication. Pappe largely regurgitates his previous Tantura claims in his own chapter, citing as new “evidence” the fact that other anti-Zionists have endorsed his own claims about Tantura.

None of the authoritative Israeli historians of the conflict, even those from the Left, are even mentioned in the book anywhere. Instead, you will find almost every pseudo-scholar who has made a career out of bashing Israel cited as a serious researcher.

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Stephen J Cipolla - 4/8/2009

I have read Pappe's articles and books and surely he should be taken more seriously than this. A professor of business administration puts lots of quotation marks around the words and phrases that we are reading and presto he has rendered the legitmacy of those words and phrases questionable, and branded Pappe in the process. HNN -- get your act together. There are plenty of actual historians (e.g., Benny Morris???) that could write a criticism of Pappe from which the rest of us might get some insight.
This "review" is not in that league.