IAM has written extensively about the political activism of scholars who have used their academic positions to push for their politics. One such an activist is Professor Ilan Pappe of Exeter University, formerly of the University of Haifa, who is now behind a new initiative of an old idea, the one democratic state campaign which will be launched in the autumn. Pappe goes by the name Ilan Binyamin on Facebook, and is the leading force behind the movement. Pappe has drafted the principles of the future one state.
Pappe summarised his philosophy in an eulogy of late Uri Avneri a few days ago, where he blamed Israel alone for all the Palestinian misfortunes. He expects Israeli submission to the Palestinian demands and explains his rationale, "there were and are two 'peace camps' or 'left' in Israel. Those who recognize that the ethnic cleansing of 1948 was the worst crime Zionism committed against the Palestinians and those who regard the 1967 occupation as the source of all evil, but deny the Nakba. Avenri took part in the ethnic cleansing, never admitted it or repented for it. This was a pity as he was very influential on the Israeli Left. On the other hand, he was a brave opponent of the occupation and for this we should be grateful for his work and activism. There will be however no peace and no reconciliation until the Israeli Jews acknowledge the crime they committed in 1948, be accountable for it (mainly by allowing the right of return) and stop the on going Nakba today."
But how did Pappe got so radicalized? A summary of his evolution is in order.
When Pappe was a student of Middle East history at the Hebrew University he was, in his own words, “exposed to the plight of the Palestinians." Motivated to produce a pro-Palestinian narrative, he rejected the traditional regard for "truth" because he viewed "any such construction as vain and presumptuous" and in the way of his "compassion for the colonized not the colonizer."
Working under Roger Owen at Oxford University on a doctoral dissertation about the 1948 war enabled him to take a decisive step towards challenging the "pro-Israel narrative." As Pappe put it, Owen "had strong ties to the British left and the pro-Palestinian scholarly world". His second adviser, Albert Hourani, who had testified in the 1946 Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on behalf of the Arab cause “was well acquainted” with the "Palestinian narrative."
He found kindred spirits in the newly formed group of self-described New Historians, whose intellectual leader was Benny Morris. Pappe’s contribution was relatively modest and his description of British policy quite subdued. He described British policy in Palestine as "ad hoc" with "scarcely any planning" yet opposing the creation of a Jewish state because of a potential communist connection.
In subsequent version, however, Pappe provided a more radical account of events. Pappe’s stand on the refugees was particularly blunt. Though allowing that some Palestinians left before they were expelled, naming it Plan D. "Plan D was an important factor accounting for the exodus of so great a number of Palestinians".
Pappe was emphatic that the Jews did not face the "Holocaust or Masada,” discrediting the empirical fact that Jews were overwhelmed by the large Arab forces amassed against. In his view, this was just a myth of Jews waging a "heroic struggle." Pappe proclaimed that the outcome "had been predetermined in the political and diplomatic corridors of power long before even one shot had been fired.” This is, of course, a blatant misrepresentation of the war in which the Jews lost 6,000 people, a fully one percent of the population.
Pappe’s habit of tailoring his historical writings to current event only increased with time. He was very excited when the PLO and Israel signed the Declaration of Principles (DOP) on 13 September 1993, allowing that the "reconstruction of the past was now clearly connected to contemporary efforts to reach a political settlement" and that this "constituted the most valuable aspect of the new history". For Pappe, by then an established activist in the Communist Hadash Party, the new agreement offered a golden opportunity for delegitimizing the birth of Israel.
Pappe put his academic-political activism to work by co-founding, in the summer of 1997, the Palestinian Israeli Academic Dialogue (Palisad). A group of twenty Israeli and Palestinian historians committed to provide "bridging narratives" between the two people that, "worked almost frantically, motivated by a sense of urgency in the wake of the deadlock and dissatisfaction with the Oslo peace process." The "bridging narrative", among other things, was meant to help the Israeli participants to accept the Palestinian perspective of the 1948 war. Somewhat to their surprise, the Israeli participants learned that the Palestinians were totally committed to the narrative of "ethnic cleansing of Palestine."
By this time, Pappe renounced all fidelity to facts, known as positivism. Indeed, he renounced the positivist methodology in the strongest possible terms. As he put it, "From a positivist point of view, there was no clear evidence for some of the major claims made by the Palestinian narrative, such as the existence of a master plan for the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 or the forty massacres alleged to have occurred during the conflict". Instead, he decided to write in ways "connecting my research on Palestine to the present Palestinian predicament and the contemporary attempt to reach a solution". Overcoming some "epistemological and methodological challenges," Pappe was able to frame his research within the "post-colonialist perspective," claiming that from the outset, the Zionist project was aimed at expelling the Palestinians to create an ethnically pure Jewish state. Reiterating that in 1948 the Jews faced no threat of annihilation, he suggested that the military parity on the ground was bolstered by American and British support for the Jews.
Pappe suggested that despite the "myth of Arab intransigence," the Arabs were willing to compromise; the failure to prevent the war or to resolve the conflict, in his opinion, laid solely with the Jews.
It was only a short leap for Pappe to come up with a full blown theory of "ethnic cleansing" of the Palestinians. In a lengthy chapter titled "Were They Expelled? The History, Historiography and Relevance of the Refugee Problem" he rejected the argument that the Palestinians fled either on their own or at the urging of their leadership, claiming that even the limited call of the Mufti for women and children to leave was ignored by the Palestinians: "Before women and children could be evacuated, they were expelled with the men from their homes." He took to citing Walid Khalidi, a Palestinian scholar who was an early exponent of the expulsion theory, stating: "So, Plan D was, in many ways, just what Khalidi claims it was - a master plan for the expulsion of as many Palestinians as possible." Pappe’s newly-found conviction that Israel was exclusively responsible for the refugee problem was closely related to the peace negotiations. In preparation for the final agreement Palestinian academic-activists launched a major effort to highlight the "right of return" of Palestinians to their former homes in Israel, the standard Arab/Palestinian euphemism for Israel’s demographic subversion.
By “proving" beyond “reasonable doubt” that the refugees were expelled, Pappe hoped to lend legitimacy to a broader definition of "the right of return," admitting that "The demand for associating the Palestinian narrative with the contemporary peace process was made throughout the Palestinian world."
Efforts to catch up with political activism compelled Pappe to produce yet another version of the 1948 war. He now urged Israel to "perform this liberation act… to rewrite, indeed salvage, a history that was erased and forgotten." Pappe warned that as long as Israel refused to assume responsibility for its ethnic cleansing, no "liberation" and reconciliation would be possible. To make the liberation and reconciliation real, rather than an empty gesture, Israel should agree to the Palestinian "right of return." To make the case for this "right," Pappe published his own version of the 1948 war. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine promised to replace "the paradigm of war with the paradigm of ethnic cleansing" and "war crime". In his perspective, "the Zionist movement did not wage a war that 'tragically but inevitably' led to the expulsion of parts of' the indigenous population, but the other way around: the main goal was the ethnic cleansing." As a result, "the ethnic cleansing of Palestine must become rooted in our memory and consciousness as a crime against humanity." Pappe repeated his claim that Plan D represented a blueprint for wholesale expulsion of the native population that, in his opinion, was expedited by a considerable number of deliberate massacres.
Ironically, it was Benny Morris, one of the original New Historians, who called out Pappe for his fantastical version of the 1948 war.
In an article titled "The Liar as a Hero," Morris described Pappe as “at best sloppiest, at worse one of the most dishonest” scholars who maliciously distorted research to appeal to Western audiences. Morris, who noted that Pappe had hardly mentioned ethnic cleansing in his earlier books, called him an "a retroactive poseur.” Morris went over the chronology of Pappe’s writing and concluded that the latter became radicalized only after getting tenure. In other words, not only was Pappe a “poseur” but lacked the moral courage to stand up for his convictions before receiving job security.
Pappe appealed to British academics to intervene on his behalf during the 1999 Tantura affair which led to an early call to boycott the Israeli academy. Writing to Mona Baker, a pro-Palestinian scholar from Manchester University, he asked British academics to boycott the University of Haifa, where he was a tenured senior lecturer at the time, along with Bar-Ilan University for opening an extension college in Ariel, outside the pre-1967 "green line." The request was taken up by a newly organized group of scholars eager to boycott Israeli universities which quickly issued a petition "endorsing the decision of European academics to boycott Israeli academic institutes." The Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was founded in 2004, where Pappe, was a leading supporter.
Pappe worked hard to convince the Association of University Teachers (AUT) to boycott Israel by addressing their meeting. There, he falsely claimed of persecution by his university and provided the pretext for the boycott: “The message that will be directed specifically against those academic institutes which have been particularly culpable in sustaining the oppression since 1948 and the occupation since 1967 can be a start for a successful campaign for peace.” The plea came to a naught as the AUT rescinded its decision.
Teddy Katz, a postgraduate student at the University of Haifa, who exposed an alleged 1948 massacre in the coastal village of Tantura, helped Pappe to push for his ethnic cleansing theory. The supposed massacre - glaringly missing from contemporary Palestinian Arab historiography of the war - was allegedly committed by soldiers of the Alexandroni brigade. Katz was sued by brigade fighters and agreed an out-of-court settlement. This lead the university of Haifa to appoint a re-examination committee that disqualified Katz thesis. Ignoring these facts altogether, Pappe quickly transformed Katz into a victim of the oppressive Israeli system, adding the hitherto unclaimed Tantura "massacre" to the roster of supposed Jewish atrocities. In one of them, in the village of Mi’ar, Pappe had the "Israeli troops shooting indiscriminately at the villages…When they got tired of the killing spree, the soldiers then began destroying the houses." Pappe’s new narrative presented the balance of forces as overwhelmingly favouring the Jews; contemporary fears of extermination, just a few years after the Holocaust, were dismissed as a myth because the "reality on the ground was, of course, almost the opposite." He noted that in "public, the leaders of the Jewish community portrayed doomsday scenarios… In private, however, they never used this discourse. They were fully aware that the Arab war rhetoric was in no way matched by any serious preparation on the ground." Indeed, in making fantastic claims of crimes allegedly committed by the Jews - from rape, to murder, to labor camps, to massacres, to biological warfare by poisoning of water supplies - Pappe clearly insinuated to Nazi-like behaviour, not to mention harping on longstanding anti-Semitic libels.
Pappe accused David Ben Gurion of the planning to expel the Palestinians and based his theory on a supposedly letter which Ben Gurion has written his son Amos in 1937: “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as war.” The problem is, there is no such a sentence in Ben Gurion's letter. Pappe has falsified this quote. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America appealed to the Chancellor of Exeter University to look at this and other academic infractions, but without success.
By the early 2000s Pappe had created the narrative of Israel’s history as an unceasing ethnic cleansing from 1948 to the present.
Despite of a long record of misrepresenting and falsifying history, Pappe has become a “super star” in the circles that support BDS. Being Jewish and Israeli, he provides legitimacy to their cause. This is not to say that Pappe, or anyone else for that matter, has no right to join the pro-Palestinian cause. Pappe’s exploits, however, shine a light on the fact that Exeter University, the largest British recipient of Arab money, is willing to overlook his academic record. Unfortunately, Exeter University is not the only one which hired strident critics of Israel so they can push political activism masquerading as academic research.
One Democratic State Campaign - ODSC
On April 21 in the town of Shefamru we have begun the preparatory meeting for launching the one democratic state initiative.The idea is to bring together under one roof all the movements and individuals who believe in this solution in and outside Palestine and to try and create together a movement of change. The challenge is enormous. The representative bodies of the Palestinian national movement (in Israel and in the PLO) still adhere to the two states solution as do some genuine friends of the Palestinians such as Jeremy Corbyn. The early discussion revealed on the one hand significant questions that still have be discussed from secularism, the future of the West Bank settlements, and the right or the absence of it for collective rights. and more importantly how can such movement be representative and democratic in the present reality. Nothing resolved yet.
On the other hand there was a total agreement on the right of return, the abolition of Zionist institutions and equality (although i think we have to talk about the future economic system as well).
We hope to launch the initiative in September and would love to hear suggestions and responses. The two states solution is dead, even if we were not invited to the funeral, and who know the developments in the region are not all favourable to Israel and make it a great time to push forward this old new idea once more.
The meeting was in Arabic and mainly with Palestinians as we believe that this should be first and foremost a Palestinian project but we will have a separate meeting with anti-Zionist Jewish activists to get more feedback and listen to their suggestions and concerns. Meetings are planned for Gaza, the West Bank and the Naqab.
It is been a while that a meeting made feel optimistic, but i know the people who were there and i feel empowered and hopeful!
here is the final draft of the one democratic state campaign that will be launched in the autumn.
THE ODSC PROGRAM FOR ONE DEMOCRATIC STATE
BETWEEN THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA AND THE JORDAN RIVER
In recent years, the idea of a one democratic state as the best political solution for Palestine has re-emerged and gained support in the public domain. It is not a new idea. The Palestinian liberation movement, before the catastrophe of 1948 (the Nakba) and after, had promoted this vision in the PLO’s National Charter. The PLO abandoned this idea in the 1988 in order to enter into the Oslo negotiations, which began officially in September 1993. Thus the PLO shifted its support to the two-state solution as the basis for a future peace, a vision endorsed by all the Palestinian parties represented in the Israeli Knesset as well. But on the ground Israel has strengthened its colonial control, fragmenting the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza into tiny, isolated and impoverished cantons, separated from one another by settlements, massive Israeli highways, hundreds of checkpoints, the apartheid Wall, military bases and fences.
The two-state solution is dead, buried deep under its colonial policies over territory that was to become the Palestinian state. In its place Israel has imposed a regime of repression that extends, in fact, over all Palestinians between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.
On the basis of these dangerous developments and based on the values democracy, freedom and justice, we contend that the only way to achieve a genuine and viable political settlement is to dismantle the colonial apartheid regime that has been imposed over historic Palestine and the establishment of a new political system based on full civil equality, implementation of the Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return and the building of a systems that address the historic wrongs committed on the Palestinian people by the Zionist movement.
As a result, we, a group of Palestinians and Israelis, have revived the one-state idea, aware of the differing models of such a state ranging from bi-nationalism to a liberal, secular democracy. We are united, however, in our commitment to the establishment of a single democratic state in all historic Palestine. A similar regime was toppled by the joint struggle of black and white South Africans under the leadership of the ANC in 1994.
The goal of this political program as formulated by the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC) is to widen the support for such a state among the local populations, Palestinian and Israeli alike, as well as among the international public. We call for the support of all those who in the world struggling for freedom and justice to join our struggle against this apartheid regime and for the establishment of a democratic state free of occupation and colonialism, based on justice and equality, which promises a better future.
THE ODSC PROGRAM
1. A Single Constitutional Democracy. One Democratic State shall be established between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as one country belonging to all its citizens, including Palestinian refugees who will be able to return to their homeland. All citizens will enjoy equal rights, freedom and security. The State shall be a constitutional democracy, the authority to govern and make laws emanating from the consent of the governed. All its citizens shall enjoy equal rights to vote, stand for office and contribute to the country’s governance.
2. Right of Return, of Restoration and of Reintegration into Society. The single democratic state will fully implement the Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees who were expelled in 1948 and thereafter, whether living in exile abroad or currently living in Israel or the Occupied Territory. The State will aid them in returning to their country and to the places from where they were expelled. It will help them rebuild their personal lives and to be fully reintegrated into the country’s society, economy and polity. The State will do everything in its power to restore to the refugees their private and communal property of the refugees and/or compensate them.
3. Individual Rights. No State law, institution or practices may discriminate among its citizens on the basis of national or social origin, color, gender, language, religion or political opinion, or sexual orientation. A single citizenship confers on all the State’s residents the right to freedom of movement, the right to reside anywhere in the country, and equal rights in every domain.
4. Collective Rights. Within the framework of a single democratic state, the Constitution will also protect collective rights and the freedom of association, whether national, ethnic, religious, class or gender. Constitutional guarantees will ensure that all languages, arts and culture can flourish and develop freely. No group or collectivity will have any privileges, nor will any group, party or collectivity have the ability to leverage any control or domination over others. Parliament will not have the authority to enact any laws that discriminate against any community under the Constitution.
5. Immigration. Normal procedures of obtaining citizenship will be extended to those choosing to immigrate to the country.
6. Constructing a Shared Civil Society. The State shall nurture a vital civil society comprised of common civil institutions, in particular educational, cultural and economic. Alongside religious marriage the State will provide civil marriage.
7. Economy and Economic Justice. Our vision seeks to achieve justice, and this includes social and economic justice. Economic policy must address the decades of exploitation and discrimination which have sown deep socioeconomic gaps among the people living in the land. The income distribution in Israel/Palestine is more unequal than any country in the world. A State seeking justice must develop a creative and long-term redistributive economic policy to ensure that all citizens have equal opportunity to attain education, productive employment, economic security and a dignified standard of living.
8. Commitment to Human Rights, Justice and Peace. The State shall uphold international law and seek the peaceful resolution of conflicts through negotiation and collective security in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The State will sign and ratify all international treaties on human rights and its people shall reject racism and promote social, cultural and political rights as set out in relevant United Nations covenants.
9. Our Role in the Region. The ODS Campaign will join with all progressive forces in the Arab world struggling for democracy, social justice and egalitarian societies free from tyranny and foreign domination. The State shall seek democracy and freedom in a Middle East that respects its many communities, religions, traditions and ideologies, yet strives for equality, freedom of thought and innovation. Achieving a just political settlement in Palestine, followed by a thorough process of decolonization, will contribute measurably to these efforts.
10. International responsibility. On a global level, the ODS Campaign views itself as part of the progressive forces striving for an alternative global order that is just, egalitarian and free of any oppression, racism, imperialism and colonialism.