ilan pappe


Ilan Pappé is an Israeli Jew, a historian, and a man of courage and integrity.

Pappé had been lecturing in political science at the University of Haifa (Israel) when he started questioning the traditional Zionist narrative. Working from British and Israeli government documents that were released in the early 1980’s, Pappé questioned whether Palestine had ever been ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’.

After receiving death threats and having his photograph appear in a newspaper at the centre of a target, Pappé moved to the U.K. where he is now professor of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter where he continues to challenge the dominant Israeli narrative as presented by the Israeli government and the Western press.

Dr Ilan Pappe

Dr Ilan Pappe

Israel’s incremental genocide in the Gaza ghetto

By Professor Ilan Pappe

The Electronic Intifada

13 July 2014

In a September 2006 article for The Electronic Intifada, I defined the Israeli policy towards the Gaza Strip as an incremental genocide.

Israel’s present assault on Gaza alas indicates that this policy continues unabated. The term is important since it appropriately locates Israel’s barbaric action — then and now — within a wider historical context.

This context should be insisted upon, since the Israeli propaganda machine attempts again and again to narrate its policies as out of context and turns the pretext it found for every new wave of destruction into the main justification for another spree of indiscriminate slaughter in the killing fields of Palestine.

The context

The Zionist strategy of branding its brutal policies as an ad hoc response to this or that Palestinian action is as old as the Zionist presence in Palestine itself. It was used repeatedly as a justification for implementing the Zionist vision of a future Palestine that has in it very few, if any, native Palestinians.

The means for achieving this goal changed with the years, but the formula has remained the same: whatever the Zionist vision of a Jewish State might be, it can only materialize without any significant number of Palestinians in it. And nowadays the vision is of an Israel stretching over almost the whole of historic Palestine where millions of Palestinians still live.

The present genocidal wave has, like all the previous ones, also a more immediate background. It has been born out of an attempt to foil the Palestinian decision to form a unity government that even the United States could not object to.

The collapse of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s desperate “peace” initiative legitimized the Palestinian appeal to international organizations to stop the occupation. At the same time, Palestinians gained wide international blessing for the cautious attempt represented by the unity government to strategize once again a coordinated policy among the various Palestinian groups and agendas.

Ever since June 1967, Israel searched for a way to keep the territories it occupied that year without incorporating their indigenous Palestinian population into its rights-bearing citizenry. All the while it participated in a “peace process” charade to cover up or buy time for its unilateral colonization policies on the ground.

With the decades, Israel differentiated between areas it wished to control directly and those it would manage indirectly, with the aim in the long run of downsizing the Palestinian population to a minimum with, among other means, ethnic cleansing and economic and geographic strangulation.

The geopolitical location of the West Bank creates the impression in Israel, at least, that it is possible to achieve this without anticipating a third uprising or too much international condemnation.

The Gaza Strip, due to its unique geopolitical location, did not lend itself that easily to such a strategy. Ever since 1994, and even more so when Ariel Sharon came to power as prime minister in the early 2000s, the strategy there was to ghettoize Gaza and somehow hope that the people there — 1.8 million as of today — would be dropped into eternal oblivion.

But the Ghetto proved to be rebellious and unwilling to live under conditions of strangulation, isolation, starvation and economic collapse. So resending it to oblivion necessitates the continuation of genocidal policies.

The pretext

On 15 May, Israeli forces killed two Palestinian youths in the West Bank town of Beitunia, their cold-blooded slayings by a sniper’s bullet captured on video. Their names — Nadim Nuwara and Muhammad Abu al-Thahir — were added to a long list of such killings in recent months and years.

The killing of three Israeli teenagers, two of them minors, abducted in the occupied West Bank in June, was perhaps in reprisal for killings of Palestinian children. But for all the depredations of the oppressive occupation, it provided the pretext first and foremost for destroying the delicate unity in the West Bank but also for the implementation of the old dream of wiping out Hamas from Gaza so that the Ghetto could be quiet again.

Since 1994, even before the rise of Hamas to power in the Gaza Strip, the very particular geopolitical location of the Strip made it clear that any collective punitive action, such as the one inflicted now, could only be an operation of massive killings and destruction. In other words, of a continued genocide.

This recognition never inhibited the generals who give the orders to bomb the people from the air, the sea and the ground. Downsizing the number of Palestinians all over historic Palestine is still the Zionist vision. In Gaza, its implementation takes its most inhuman form.

The particular timing of this wave is determined, as in the past, by additional considerations. The domestic social unrest of 2011 is still simmering and for a while there was a public demand to cut military expenditures and move money from the inflated “defense” budget to social services. The army branded this possibility as suicidal.

There is nothing like a military operation to stifle any voices calling on the government to cut its military expenses.

Typical hallmarks of the previous stages in this incremental genocide reappear in this wave as well. One can witness again consensual Israeli Jewish support for the massacre of civilians in the Gaza Strip, without one significant voice of dissent. In Tel Aviv, the few who dared to demonstrate against it were beaten by Jewish hooligans, while the police stood by and watched.

Academia, as always, becomes part of the machinery. The prestigious private university, the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya has established “a civilian headquarters” where students volunteer to serve as mouthpieces in the propaganda campaign abroad.

The media is loyally recruited, showing no pictures of the human catastrophe Israel has wreaked and informing its public that this time, “the world understands us and is behind us.”

That statement is valid to a point as the political elites in the West continue to provide the old immunity to the “Jewish state.” However, the media have not provided Israel with quite the level of legitimacy it was seeking for its criminal policies.

Obvious exceptions included French media, especially France 24 and the BBC, that continue to shamefully parrot Israeli propaganda.

This is not surprising, since pro-Israel lobby groups continue to work tirelessly to press Israel’s case in France and the rest of Europe as they do in the United States.

The way forward

Whether it is burning alive a Palestinian youth from Jerusalem, or the fatal shooting of two others, just for the fun of it in Beitunia, or slaying whole families in Gaza, these are all acts that can only be perpetrated if the victim is dehumanized.

I will concede that all over the Middle East there are now horrific cases where dehumanization has reaped unimaginable horrors as it does in Gaza today. But there is one crucial difference between these cases and the Israeli brutality: the former are condemned as barbarous and inhuman worldwide, while those committed by Israel are still publicly licensed and approved by the president of the United States, the leaders of the EU and Israel’s other friends in the world.

The only chance for a successful struggle against Zionism in Palestine is the one based on a human and civil rights agenda that does not differentiate between one violation and the other and yet identifies clearly the victim and the victimizers.

Those who commit atrocities in the Arab world against oppressed minorities and helpless communities, as well as the Israelis who commit these crimes against the Palestinian people, should all be judged by the same moral and ethical standards. They are all war criminals, though in the case of Palestine they have been at work longer than anyone else.

It does not really matter what the religious identity is of the people who commit the atrocities or in the name of which religion they purport to speak. Whether they call themselves jihadists, Judaists or Zionists, they should be treated in the same way.

A world that would stop employing double standards in its dealings with Israel is a world that could be far more effective in its response to war crimes elsewhere in the world.

Cessation of the incremental genocide in Gaza and the restitution of the basic human and civil rights of Palestinians wherever they are, including the right of return, is the only way to open a new vista for a productive international intervention in the Middle East as a whole.


Professor Ilan Pappe – the author of this list of ‘Mythologies’ – is one of those extraordinary characters whose convictions have led him to take a stand against his own community.

He is a Jewish man and was lecturing at an Israeli university, but his research into the history of the modern state of Israel led him to question the publicly accepted narrative – that his homeland had been a ‘land without a people’ when the state was formed in 1948.

Professor Pappe subsequently went on to uncover and publish truths about the ethnic cleansing of Palestine that politicians had tried to keep from the rest of the world (including from the Israeli public).

Dr Ilan Pappe

Dr Ilan Pappe

The Ten Mythologies of Israel

Ilan Pappé

November 2012

Any attempt to solve a conflict has to touch upon the very core of this conflict and the core more often than not lies in its history. A distorted or manipulated history can explain quite well a failure to end a conflict whereas a truthful and comprehensive look at the past can facilitate a lasting peace and solution. A distorted history can in fact do more harm, as the particular case study of Israel and Palestine shows: it can protect oppression, colonization and occupation. The wide acceptance in the world of the Zionist narrative is based on a cluster of mythologies that, in the end, cast doubt on the Palestinian moral right, ethical behavior and chances for any just peace in the future. The reason for this is that these mythologies are accepted by the mainstream media in the West, and by the political elites there as truth. Once accepted as a truth, these mythologies become a justification, not so much for the Israeli actions, but for the West’s inclination to interfere.

Listed below are these ten common myths that provided an immunity shield for impunity and inhumanity in the land of Palestine.

Myth 1: Palestine was a land without people, waiting for the people without a land The first is that Palestine was a land without people waiting for the people without land. The first part was successfully proved to be false by a number of excellent historians who showed that before the arrival of the early Zionists, Palestine had a thriving society, mostly rural, but with a very vibrant urban center. It was a society like all the other Arab societies around it, held under Ottoman rule and part of the empire, but nonetheless one which witnessed the emergence of a nascent national movement. The movement would probably have turned Palestine into a nationstate, like Iraq or Syria, had Zionism not arrived on its shores.

The second part of this mythology is also doubtful, but less significant. Several scholars, among them Israelis, doubted the genetic connection between the Zionist settlers and the Jews who lived the Roman time in Palestine or were exiled at the time. This is really less important, as many national movements create artificially their story of birth and plant it in the distant past. The important issue, however, is what you do in the name of this narrative. Do you justify colonization, expulsion and killing in the name of that story, or do you seek peace and reconciliation on its basis? It does not matter whether the narrative is true or not. What matters is that it is vile if, in its name, you colonize, dispossess and in some cases even commit acts of genocide against indigenous and native people.

Myth 2: Palestinians resorted to acts of terror against Jewish settlers prior to the creation of Israel The second foundational mythology was that the Palestinians from early on resorted to an anti-Semitic campaign of terror when the first settlers arrived, and until the creation of the state of Israel. As the diaries of the early Zionists show, they were well received by the Palestinians who offered them abode and taught them in many cases how to cultivate the land. It was only when it became clear that these settlers did not come to live next to or with the native population, but instead of it, that the Palestinian resistance began. And when that resistance started it was not different from any other anti-colonialist struggle.

Myth 3: Myths around the creation of Israel The third myth is set of Israeli fables about the 1948 war. There were four foundational mythologies connected to this year.

3.1 The Palestinians are to be blamed for what happened to them because they rejected the UN Partition Plan of 1947 The first was that the Palestinians are to be blamed for what occurred to them since they rejected the UN partition plan of November 1947. This allegation ignores the colonialist nature of the Zionist movement. It would have been unlikely that the Algerians, for instance, would have accepted the partition of Algeria with the French settlers – and such a refusal would not be deemed unreasonable or irrational. What is morally clear is that such an objection, in the case of any other Arab country, should not have justified the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians as a ‘punishment’ for rejecting a UN peace plan that was devised without any consultation with them.

3.2 The Palestinians left their home voluntarily or as a result of a call by their leaders Similarly absurd is the myth that the Palestinians left their homes voluntarily or as a result of a call by their leaders and those of the neighboring Arab states, supposedly to make way for the invading Arab armies that would come to liberate Palestine. There was no such call – this myth was invented by the Israeli foreign minister in the early 1950s. Later on Israeli historians changed the mythology and claimed that the Palestinians left, or fled, because of the war. But the truth of the matter is that already half of those who became refugees in 1948 were expelled before the war commenced, on May 15, 1948.

3.3 Israel was a David fighting an Arab Goliath The research proved that the Palestinians had no military power whatsoever. On the second point, the Arab states sent only a relatively small contingent of troops to Palestine, and they were smaller in size, and far less equipped or trained than the Jewish forces. Moreover, and highly significant, is the fact that these troops were sent into Palestine after May 15, 1948 when Israel had already been declared as a state, as a response to an ethnic cleansing operation that the Zionist forces had begun in February 1948.

3.4 After its war of creation, Israel extended its hand for peace to its Palestinian and Arab neighbors As for the myth of the extended hand of peace, the documents show clearly an intransigent Israeli leadership that refused to open up negotiations over the future of post-Mandatory Palestine, or consider the return of the people who had been expelled or fled. While Arab governments and Palestinian leaders were willing to participate in a new and more reasonable UN peace initiative in 1948, the Israelis assassinated the UN peace mediator, Count Bernadotte, and rejected the suggestion by the Palestine Conciliation Commission (PCC), a UN body, to reopen negotiations. This intransigent view would continue and as Avi Shlaim has shown in The Iron Wall that, contrary to the myth that the Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss peace, it was Israel that constantly rejected the peace offers that were on the table.

Myth 4: Israel was a benign democratic state prior to 1967 The fourth mythology is that Israel was a benign democratic state, seeing peace with its neighbors, and offering equality to all its citizens before the June 1967 war. This is a myth propagated alas by some notable Palestinian and pro-Palestinian scholars – but it has no historical foundation in facts. One fifth of the Israeli citizenship was subjected to a ruthless military rule based on draconian British mandatory emergency regulations that denied them any basic human and civil rights. Within this period more than fifty Palestinian citizens were killed by the Israeli security forces. At the same time, Israel pursued aggressive policies towards its Arab neighbors, attacking them for allowing refugees to try and return, or at least retrieve their lost property and husbandry. In collusion with Britain and France, Israel also tried to topple Gamal Abdul Nasser’s legitimate regime in Egypt.

Myth 5: The Palestinian struggle has no aim other than Terror The fifth myth is that the Palestinian struggle is that of terrorism and nothing more. The struggle led by the PLO was a liberation struggle against a colonialist project. Somehow the world finds it difficult to grant legitimacy to anti-colonialist struggle when most of the oppressed are Muslims and the oppressor is Jewish.

Myth 6: Israel was forced to occupy the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, ad must hold these territories until others are ready for peace The sixth myth is that the 1967 war forced Israel to occupy the West Bank and the Gaza strip and keep them in custody until the Arab world, or the Palestinians, are willing to make peace with the Jewish State. The Israeli political and military elite regarded the 1948 war as a missed opportunity: a historical moment in which Israeli could have occupied the whole of historical Palestine (from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea). The only reason they did not do it was because of a tacit agreement with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan: in return for Jordan’s limited participation in the general Arab war effort, Jordan would be allowed to annex the West Bank. Following 1948, the Israeli elite were looking for an opportunity and planned carefully from the mid-1960s how to implement a plan to have it all. There were several historical junctures in which the Israelis nearly did it – but held back at the last moment. The most famous instances were in 1958 and 1960. In 1958, the leader of the state and its first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, aborted plans at the last moment due to fears of international reaction. In 1960, Ben-Gurion held back because of his demographic fears –thinking that Israel cannot incorporate such a large number of Palestinians. The best opportunity came in 1967, regardless of the Israeli mythology of not wishing to go to war against Jordan, but being forced to react to Jordanian aggression. There was no need for Israel to remain in the West Bank, if this were just another round of tension between the two states. Incorporating the West Bank and the Gaza Strip within Israel was an Israeli plan since 1948 that was implemented in 1967.

Myth 7: Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza with benevolent intentions, but was forced to respond to Palestinian violence The seventh myth was that Israel intended to conduct a benevolent occupation but was forced to take a tougher attitude because of Palestinian violence. Israel regarded from the very beginning any wish to end the occupation – whether expressed peacefully or through a struggle – as terrorism. From the beginning, it reacted brutally by collectively punishing the population for any demonstration of resistance.

The Palestinians were offered two options: 1) to accept life in an Israeli open prison, enjoy limited autonomy, and the right to work as underpaid labor in Israel, bereft of any workers’ rights, or 2) resist, even mildly, and risk living in a maximum security prison subjected to instruments of collective punishment, including house demolitions, arrests without trial, expulsions, and in severe cases, assassinations and murder.

The major reality change that Palestinians had to accept – or risk enduring punishment – was that Israeli would unilaterally decide which part of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will be taken from them forever and annexed to Israel. At this point in time, more than half of the West Bank has been annexed in one way or another, while the Gaza strip has been left alone eventually as an area over which Israel wishes to exercise a direct rule.

Part of this myth related to assertions about the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) – assertions promoted by liberal Zionists both in the USA and Israel, and shared with the rest of the political forces in Israel about the PLO’s struggle. The allegation was that the PLO – inside and outside of Palestine – was conducting a war of terror for the sake of terror. Unfortunately, this demonization is still very prevalent in the West and has been accentuated after 2001 by the attempt to equate Islam, terrorism and Palestine. The PLO was, in fact, recognized as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people by more states than have recognized Israel. It is noteworthy that this demonization continued even after the Oslo Accords of 1993, through which Israel supposedly recognized the PLO as a legitimate partner. Even the Palestine Authority is still depicted by Israel as an outfit that supports terror. The worst kind of demonization, which convinced the Western world to resort to political boycott, was directed at the Hamas. While international civil society continues to question such a characterization, mainstream media and politicians still fall foul to this slander.

Myth 8: The Oslo Accords reflected a desire on both sides to reach a solution The eighth myth is that the Oslo Accords were a peace process that was born out the wish of both sides to reach a solution. The idea of partitioning Palestine already back in the 1930s was a Zionist concept that the Palestinians refused to cave in to until the late 1980s. In the meantime, the share of the land the Israelis were willing to offer the Palestinians went down from half of the land to 15 percent of it. The willingness to call this 15 percent a state could not hide the fact that the Oslo process, devised solely by Israelis, offered only a fragmented Bantustan for the Palestinians, and no “right of return” or other solution for the millions of Palestinian refugees.

Oslo was the result of a matrix of events that had disempowered the PLO and its leader, Yasser Arafat, to such an extent that against the advice of his best friends, he went into this process hoping to gain independence in at least part of Palestine. The end result was an almost total destruction of Palestine and the Palestinians.

Myth 9: The Second Intifada was a mass terror attack orchestrated by Arafat The ninth myth is that the Second Intifada was a mega terrorist attack sponsored and, in a way, planned by Arafat. The truth is, it was a mass demonstration of dissatisfaction with the betrayal of Oslo, compounded by the provocative action of Ariel Sharon and his likes around the holy places for Islam in Palestine. This nonviolent protest was crushed by brutal force by Israel, which led to a more desperate Palestinian response: the expanded use of suicide bombs as a last resort against Israel’s overwhelming military power. There is telling evidence by Israeli newspaper correspondents how their reporting on the early stages of the Intifada – as a nonviolent movement that was crushed violently – was shelved by the editors so as to fit the narrative of the government.

That narrative of the Palestinians aborting the peace process by force, and thus “reaffirming” what Israel has always said about them – i.e. that they do not miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace and that ‘there is no one to talk to on the Palestinian side’ – is particularly cynical. The Israeli government and army had tried by force to impose its own version of Oslo – one which was meant to perpetuate the occupation forever but with Palestinian consent – and even a feeble Arafat could not accept it. He and so many other leaders who could have led the Palestinians to reconciliation were targeted by the Israelis; and most of them, perhaps even Arafat as well, were assassinated.

Myth 10: A solution in Israel and Palestine is just around the corner The last and tenth myth is that there is a solution in Israel and Palestine just around the corner: the “two state solution” will fall into place, and the conflict will be nearly over. This corner is definitely not upon this earth, maybe somewhere in the universe. The reality on the ground, that of a massive colonization and direct annexation of vast part of the West Bank to Israel, would render any resulting state a sad Bantustan. If such a state is ever agreed to, it would be a Bantustan without any proper sovereignty. Even worse, Palestine would be defined as only 20 percent of what it actually is, and the Palestinians would be defined only as those who live in the West Bank. (Significantly, the Gaza strip seems to have been excluded from discussions of a future state, and many parts of Jerusalem are also not included in the envisaged state).

The “two state solution,” as mentioned above, is an Israeli invention that was meant to allow it to square a circle: to include the West Bank within Israel’s control without incorporating the population that lives there. Thus, it was suggested that part of the West Bank would be autonomous and maybe even a “state” in return for the Palestinians giving up all their hopes: hopes for the return of refugees, for equal rights for the Palestinians in Israel, for the fate of Jerusalem, and for a normal life as human beings in their homeland.

Any criticism to this mythology is branded as anti-Semitism. But in fact, this policy and mythology is the main reason why anti-Semitism is still exists. Israel insists that what it does, it does in the name of Judaism. Hence it creates an association between the Zionist colonization and Jewish religion in the minds of twisted people. This association should be rejected in the name of Judaism.

Indeed, for the sake of universal values, the right of everyone who lives in Palestine (or was expelled) should be respected. The right for all peoples in Israel and Palestine to live as equals should top the agenda of all efforts for peace and reconciliation in the region.

Dr Ilan Pappe

Dr Ilan Pappe

Ilan Pappe was Professor of History at Haifa University in Israel when he started publicly questioning the official narrative of his country – that it had been a ‘land without a people‘ when the State of Israel was founded in 1948. He is now based in Britain, and lectured across Australia during the month of September.

Below you’ll find the video of Pappe’s first address in Australia. It was given at Sydney University to a full house. Below the video you’ll find links to a video and audio recordings of a variety of other appearances Pappe made in Australia.

Let me introduce the Sydney University talk with some observations of Pappe made by Sonja Karkar – editor of Australians for Palestine:

Simply, the man is extraordinary – his intellect, his wit, his clarity, his moral integrity, his humility, his courtesy all combine to make him the most formidable speaker yet to talk truth to power. Ilan Pappe has had audiences riveted to every word as he makes his way from city to city on his Australian lecture tour.  Those who have heard him more than once are just as captivated the second and more times around which is due to his amazing ability to construct a very human story out of the historical facts, so even those who thought they’ve heard it all before, feel their eyes tear up and their hearts go out to the forgotten Palestinians.  At a dinner in Parliament House last night, he said to forget about the peace process, Oslo, solutions and think instead about the sheer cruelty of what is being done to the Palestinians on a systematic day-to-day basis that never captures dramatic headlines, and yet cumulatively over decades, is worse than even the worst days of apartheid in South Africa.  The simplicity of his words struck home: he was holding up a mirror to our own human condition and vulnerabilities.

Other recordings of Ilan Pappe’s appearances in Australia: