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Ilan Pappé

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Title: Ilan Pappé  
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Subject: 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine, Zionism, 1948 Palestinian exodus from Lydda and Ramle, 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Gaza in Crisis
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Ilan Pappé

Ilan Pappé
Born 1954 (1954)
Haifa, Israel
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality Israeli
Ethnicity Jewish
Education BA (1978), PhD (1984)
Alma mater Hebrew University of Jerusalem
University of Oxford
Occupation Historian, political activist
Employer University of Exeter
Known for One of Israel's "New Historians"
Website Staff page at the University of Exeter

Ilan Pappé (Hebrew: אילן פפה‎; born 1954) is an Israeli historian and socialist activist. He is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, director of the university's European Centre for Palestine Studies, and co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies.

Pappé was born in Haifa, Israel.[1] Prior to coming to the UK, he was a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa (1984–2007) and chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies in Haifa (2000–2008).[2] He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), The Modern Middle East (2005), A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples (2003), and Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (1988).[3] He was also a leading member of Hadash,[4] and was a candidate on the party list in the 1996[5] and 1999[6] Knesset elections.

Pappé is one of Israel's New Historians who, since the release of pertinent British and Israeli government documents in the early 1980s, have been rewriting the history of Israel's creation in 1948, and the corresponding expulsion or flight of 700,000 Palestinians in the same year. He has written that the expulsions were not decided on an ad hoc basis, as other historians have argued, but constituted the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, in accordance with Plan Dalet, drawn up in 1947 by Israel's future leaders.[7] He blames the creation of Israel for the lack of peace in the Middle East, arguing that Zionism is more dangerous than Islamic militancy, and has called for an international boycott of Israeli academics.[8][9]

Pappé supports the one-state solution, which envisages a binational state for Palestinians and Israelis.[10]

His work has been both supported and criticized by other historians. Before he left Israel in 2008, he had been condemned in the Knesset, Israel's parliament; a minister of education had called for him to be sacked; his photograph had appeared in a newspaper at the centre of a target; and he had received several death threats.[11]

Early life and education

Pappé was born in Haifa, Israel, to German Jewish parents who fled Nazi persecution in the 1930s.[11] At the age of 18, he was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, serving in the Golan Heights during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.[1] He graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1978, and in 1984 obtained his PhD in history from the University of Oxford, under the guidance of Albert Hourani and Roger Owen.[1] His doctoral thesis became his first book, Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.[8]

Academic career

Pappé in a lecture in the Manchester Metropolitan University in 2008

Pappé was the Academic Director of the Research Institute for Peace at Givat Haviva from 1993 to 2000, and chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies.

Pappé left the University of Haifa in 2007, to take up his appointment in Exeter, after his endorsement of the boycott of Israeli universities led the president of the university to call for his resignation.[12] Pappé said that he found it "increasingly difficult to live in Israel" with his "unwelcome views and convictions." In a Qatari newspaper interview explaining his decision, he said: "I was boycotted in my university and there had been attempts to expel me from my job. I am getting threatening calls from people every day. I am not being viewed as a threat to the Israeli society but my people think that I am either insane or my views are irrelevant. Many Israelis also believe that I am working as a mercenary for the Arabs."[13]

Katz controversy

Pappé publicly supported an M.A. thesis by Haifa University student Teddy Katz, which was approved with highest honors, that claimed Israel had committed a massacre in the Palestinian village of Tantura during the war in 1948, based upon interviews with Arab residents of the village and with an Israeli veteran of the operation.[14] Neither Israeli nor Palestinian historians had previously recorded any such incident, which Meyrav Wurmser described as a "made-up massacre",[15] but, according to Pappé, "the story of Tantura had already been told before, as early as 1950... It appears in the memoirs of a Haifa notable, Muhammad Nimr al-Khatib, who, a few days after the battle, recorded the testimony of a Palestinian."[16] In December 2000, Katz was sued for libel by veterans of the Alexandroni Brigade and after the testimony was heard, he retracted his allegations about the massacre. Twelve hours later, he retracted his retraction. During the trial, lawyers for the veterans pointed to what they said were discrepancies between the taped interviews Katz conducted and descriptions in Katz's thesis.[17]

Katz revised his thesis, and, following the trial, the university appointed a committee to examine it. The assessment of the revised thesis was highly mixed, but overall it was failed.[14][18] Pappé continues to defend both Katz and his thesis.[19][20] Tom Segev and others argued that there is merit or some truth in what Katz described.[18][20][21] According to the Israeli New Historian Benny Morris: "There is no unequivocal proof of a large-scale massacre at Tantura, but war crimes were perpetrated there."[22]

Political activism

In 1999, Pappé ran in the Knesset elections as seventh on the Communist Party-led Hadash list.[23]

After years of political activism, Pappé supports economic and political boycotts of Israel, including an academic boycott. He believes boycotts are justified because "the Israeli occupation is a dynamic process and it becomes worse with each passing day. The AUT can choose to stand by and do nothing, or to be part of a historical movement similar to the anti-apartheid campaign against the white supremacist regime in South Africa. By choosing the latter, it can move us forward along the only remaining viable and non-violent road to saving both Palestinians and Israelis from an impending catastrophe."[24]

If it is possible Israel's conduct in 1948 would be brought onto the stage of international tribunals; this may deliver a message even to the peace camp in Israel that reconciliation entails recognition of war crimes and collective atrocities. This cannot be done from within, as any reference in the Israeli press to expulsion, massacre or destruction in 1948 is usually denied and attributed to self hate and service to the enemy in times of war. This reaction encompasses academia, the media and educational system, as well as political circles.[25]

As a result, then University of Haifa President Aaron Ben-Ze'ev called on Pappé to resign, saying: "it is fitting for someone who calls for a boycott of his university to apply the boycott himself."[12] He said that Pappé would not be ostracized, since that would undermine academic freedom, but he should leave voluntarily.[26] In the same year, Pappé initiated the annual Israeli Right of return conferences, which called for the unconditional right of return of the Palestinian refugees who were expelled in 1948.

Critical assessment

Ilan Pappé's books have been praised by Walid Khalidi, Richard Falk, Ella Shohat, Nur Masalha and John Pilger among others.[27]

Those critical of his work include Benny Morris,[28][29] Efraim Karsh,[30][31][32][33] Herbert London and Steven Plaut,[34] as well as professors Daniel Gutwein[35] and Yossi Ben-Artzi[36] from Haifa University. Pappé has replied to this criticism.[19][20][37][38][39]

In 2012, the Journal of Palestine Studies (JPS) translated and published the 1937 Ben-Gurion letter after the pro-Israel media monitoring group CAMERA reported an error in an article that Pappé wrote for the JPS after CAMERA informed them that a quote in the article had been incorrectly attributed to Ben-Gurion.[40][41] Nonetheless, the JPS stated that the translated letter confirmed that, regardless of Pappé's citation errors, the underlying interpretation of the letter provided by Pappé's article and book was sound.[42] CAMERA countered by providing the original, handwritten letter by Ben-Gurion, and charged not only that the pertinent phrase had been incorrectly translated, but that the article also incorrectly interpreted the context of the letter.[43]

Published work


  • "The Boycott Will Work: An Israeli Perspective" in Audrea Lim (ed.)
  • (with Noam Chomsky) Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel's War Against the Palestinians (Hamish Hamilton, 2010). ISBN 978-0-241-14506-7
  • The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (London and New York: Oneworld, 2006). ISBN 1-85168-467-0
  • The Modern Middle East (London and New York: Routledge, 2005). ISBN 0-415-21409-2
  • A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples (Cambridge University Press, 2004), ISBN 0-521-55632-5
  • (With Jamil Hilal). Parlare Con il Nemico, Narrazioni palestinesi e israeliane a confronto (Milano: Bollati Boringhieri, 2004).
  • The Aristocracy: The Husaynis; A Political Biography (Jerusalem: Mossad Byalik, (Hebrew), 2003).
  • The Israel-Palestine Question (London and New York: Routledge, 1999; 2006). ISBN 0-415-16948-8
  • (with M. Maoz). History From Within: Politics and Ideas in Middle East (London and New York: Tauris, 1997). ISBN 1-86064-012-5
  • (with J. Nevo). Jordan in the Middle East: The Making of a Pivotal State (London: Frank Cass, 1994). ISBN 0-7146-3454-9
  • The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947–1951 (London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 1992; 1994). ISBN 1-85043-819-6
  • Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1948–1951 (London: St. Antony's College Series, Macmillan Press; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988). ISBN 0-312-01573-9


  • "What drives Israel?", Essay of the week, Herald Scotland (6 June 2010). [retrieved 23 February 2012].
  • "Towards a Geography of Peace: Whither Gaza?", The Electronic Intifada (18 June 2007).
  • "Calling a Spade a Spade: The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine", article in al-Majdal Magazine (Spring 2006). [retrieved 17 May 2007].
  • "Back the boycott," The Guardian, (24 May 2005).
  • "Haj Amin and the Buraq Revolt", Jerusalem Quarterly, Issue 18 (June 2003). [retrieved 23 February 2012]
  • "The '48 Nakba & The Zionist Quest for its Completion", Between The Lines (October 2002). [retrieved 23 February 2012].
  • "The Husayni Family Faces New Challenges: Tanzimat, Young Turks, the Europeans and Zionism 1840–1922, Part II", Jerusalem Quarterly, Issue 11–12 (Winter-Spring 2001). [retrieved 23 February 2012]
  • Ilan Pappe, “The Tantura Case in Israel: The Katz Research and Trial,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Spring 2001), pp. 19–39. [retrieved 23 February 2012].
  • Ila Pappé, "The Rise and Fall of the Husainis (Part 1)," Jerusalem Quarterly, Issue 10 (Autumn 2000).
  • Ilan Pappé, "Review Essay, Israeli Television's Fiftieth Anniversary "Tekumma" Series: A Post-Zionist View?," Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Summer 1998), pp. 99–105, Institute for Palestinian Studies.


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  16. ^ The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, p. 137.
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  23. ^ (Pappé is No. 7)
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  35. ^ Gutwein (2011). "Left and Right Post-Zionism", p. 100.
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External links

  • [1] [2] [3] [4] Talk by Ilan Pappe at Oxford University, February 2007
  • Pappé speaking in Amsterdam on "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine", January 28, 2007 (broadcast on Flashpoints / KPFA-FM, Berkeley, 28 May 2007)
  • "Power and History in the Middle East: A Conversation with Ilan Pappe", Logos, Winter 2004
  • Interview with Ilan Pappé by LabourNet UK
  • The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine The borders of fact and myth By Stephen Howe 24 November 2006 The Independent
  • SkyNews1 or Sky News2 — brief debate between Ilan Pappé and Ephraim Karsh on Sky News, 18 October 2006.
  • "Post-Zionism Only Rings Once" — Neri Livneh
  • Pappé refutes Chomsky on Israel's lobby
  • Frank Barat, 'An Interview with Ilan Pappé and Noam Chomsky', Counterpunch 6 June 2008
  • Alone on the Barricades, Meron Rappaport interviews Ilan Pappé about Teddy Katz and the AUT boycott, Haaretz, 2005
  • Nadim Mahjoub interviews Ilan Pappe on Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Resonance FM Radio, London, UK, 27 October 2006
  • The Liar as a Hero, by Benny Morris, March 2011.
  • Interview with Ilan Pappé (2014-07-29), The Real News
  • Why Ilan Pappe Left Israel, Ceasefire Magazine
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