Pappe, Ilan. “Ten Myths About Israel”, Verso Books, 2017.
According to Pappe
While Ilan Pappe is considered to be a fine historian, he is also considered to be outspoken and radical. He has chosen to publish his thoughts about Israel on the fiftieth anniversary of the Occupation and here he examines the most contested ideas concerning the origins and identity of the contemporary state of Israel.
The “ten myths” of the title that Pappe explores have been repeated over and over in the media, enforced by the military and accepted without question by the world’s governments and they reinforce the regional status quo. He gives us a great deal to think about.
Pappe explores the claim that Palestine had been an empty land at the time of the Balfour Declaration, and the role Zionism and its role in the early years of the building of the nation. He wants to know and determine whether the Palestinians voluntarily left the area in 1948, and whether June 1967 was an inevitable war and that Israel has no choice but to go to war to defend herself. Pappe looks at the myths surrounding the failures of the Camp David Accords and the official reasons for the attacks on Gaza and then explains why, in his opinion; the two-state solution is no longer viable.
Pappe is an Israeli who considers himself to be living in exile. He claims to “write about the Palestinian side with real knowledge and empathy.” The important word here is “claims”. Pappe clearly sympathizes with the Palestinians and emphasizes what he claims are the atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians in the development of the Israeli state. He hardly writes about the brutality committed against Israel by the radical terrorists. I am not sure that everything in this book is factual concerning the serious issues about the founding of Israel but I would hate for a professor to be guilty of providing facts that have no truth.
Pappe has divided his book into three parts and we begin with what he considers to be the fallacies of the past. Here he maintains that Palestine was an empty land and that the Jews were a people without land. Further he states that Zionism is Judaism and it is not colonialism and that the Palestinians voluntarily left their homeland in 1948, and the June 1967 war was a war of “no choice.” In part two, Pappe looks at the fallacies of the present) and discusses that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, the mythologies of Oslo and Gaza. The third part looks ahead and an explanation of the two-state solution as the only way forward. In his conclusion, Pappe focuses on the “settler colonial state of Israel” in today’s world.
I cannot help but hold suspicion for Pappe knowing that he is coming to the discussion as a socialist. I am forced to really question whether there will ever be true peace in the Middle East concerning Israel and the Palestinian issue.
Pappe maintains that the most notorious old myth is that Israel was “a land without a people for a people without a land.” He quotes the official website of the Israeli foreign ministry, which continues to have this view and then he delves into the historical demographics and thoroughly refutes the claim.
He sees as another myth that Israeli historians claim that Palestinians were told to leave their homes during the 1948 war, to make way for the advancing Arab armies. Pappe claims that was not so and it was from incidents like this that “fake news” got its start. Looking at Israel’s 2005 withdrawal from Gaza as a step toward peace. Pappe claims that the opposite is true and that this was, in effect, an inoculation against any possibility of withdrawal from the West Bank. The uproar in Israel about moving the settlers from Gaza was nothing compared to what would have happened if the West Bank settlements were touched.
Some of what Pappe has to say is overstated and overly dramatic. His view that Israel is not a democracy (based on the fact that the Arab citizens don’t have full rights) is way off base. He tells us early on in his book that this is not a balanced study and I am not sure why he felt he had to say that. Pappe says that his book is “an attempt to make redress for some of the things that are widely believed in the media about the country”.
Pappe maintains that the dominant narrative has been constructed by Israel and its powerful allies in the U.S. and Europe. He chooses to deconstruct these myths explaining why the two-state solution is a false choice that distracts us from the pressing need for socio-economic justice in the region.
He does humanize the struggle by showing “the consequences for ordinary people who have been fated to live under the auspices of late colonialism” (even when those colonials are terrorists and suicide bombers). Pappe tries very hard to get us to see his side but the way he does so is a bit demeaning to a thinking person. It is no wonder that he is in exile which, by the way, is his own choice. From the tone of his book, I do not think that he sees another side and his “balanced” study is totally unbalanced.