A rare voice: An interview with author Ilan Pappe
A rare voice: An interview with author Ilan Pappe
A tenuous ceasefire is holding in the Gaza Strip after almost five months of a heavy dose of "Operation Summer Rain" by the Israeli military.
The showers of missiles, aerial bombardment, military incursions into populated areas over the course of the five month 'rain' storm have left dead more than 457 people, a quarter of them children, and well over 1,000 injured.
Since the summer rains began, many in the Israeli peace camp have remained silent about the ongoing crisis in
These pronouncements have made Professor Pappe a scion in the eyes of the Israeli government and public, but he continues to move forward in the hope of reconciliation and justice for Palestinians. His latest contribution is the new book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.
EI contributor Christopher Brown recently spoke over the phone with Professor Pappe about the current situation in Israel/Palestine.
Christopher Brown: Ehud Olmert recently appointed Avigdor Lieberman as deputy prime minister -- a man who some consider a "fascist" in light of his views towards Arabs, and Palestinians in particular. Yet, the world press has barely said anything about his rants; for instance, that all Arabs should be expelled from the territories, and Arab Knesset members be executed for having any contact with the Hamas led government. Meanwhile, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of
Ilan Pappe: I think you've put your finger on two very important issues. The first one is the ideology that Avigdor Lieberman subscribes to that is an ethnic cleansing ideology. Someone who believes that the only way to solving the problems in Israel/Palestine is by expelling the Palestinians from
I think the problem with Avigdor Lieberman is not his own views but the fact that he reflects what most Israeli Jews think, and definitely what most of his colleagues in the Olmert government think but don't dare to say, or don't think is desirable to say for tactical reasons. But I do think that we should be worried about Lieberman, not as an extreme fascist but rather as a person who represents the mood of
The second point is the double standard, the hypocrisy that you pointed to where you compared rightly the utterances of Ahmadinejad being repeated and how similar, and worse generalizations and attitudes by Israelis are not heard at all. And I think the reason has to do with the very peculiar standing that
There's not that much difference between Israeli policy and
CB: Sixty-one Irish academics wrote a public letter in September, calling for a moratorium on EU aid to Israeli universities until
IP: It is an effective way if it's not only an academic boycott. An academic boycott is only one component in what one cold call a cultural boycott of
The second best, and more feasible, [way] is to send a message to Israel from the societies at large that its policies are unacceptable, that as long as it continues to do what it does it cannot be accepted ... It cannot be in the community of civilized nations. There is both a symbolic and a very political significance to a coordinated reaction by societies in the west for a message, a clear message, that is conveyed in the way of a boycott of divestment or any other symbolic act which says that there is a price tag attached to the policies that you pursue
I think there is both a symbolic and a very political significance to a coordinated reaction by societies in the west for a message, a clear message, that is conveyed in the way of a boycott of divestment or any other symbolic act which says that there is a price tag attached to the policies that you pursue and as long as you pursue these policies, you are not welcomed here. Not as individuals -- you are not welcomed here if you represent a certain ideology, a certain state, and especially if you appear as an official representative of this state. We are not inventing the wheel, of course. The cultural boycott was a very crucial component in the action against Apartheid in
The most important thing to remember about such actions is that they are nonviolent. One has to show that the Palestinians, and the Palestinians have to discover it themselves, that there are nonviolent possibilities in pursuing the struggle against Israeli occupation. Because if they are nonviolent, who could blame the Palestinians for using every desperate means at their disposal to try and stop one of the cruelest and most oppressive occupations in modern times?
CB: What of those [like the Israeli lobby groups] who would say that proposing a cultural and academic boycott is furthering anti-semitism? How do you respond to that?
IP: Three points are important in this connection. The first one should highlight the fact that many progressive and liberal Jews both in the
The second [point] is, the Israelis are over-using the anti-semitic accusation against anyone who criticizes them. Not only [against] those who call for a boycott, even the mildest criticism of
Thirdly, and most important, one should differentiate between Zionism and Judaism. By now we can see after 60 years the implementations of the Zionist ideology on the ground from the Palestinian point of view.
This ideology may have done some good things for Jews around the world, but it is definitely something that does not allow the Palestinians to live in peace or even to live at all on their homeland, and this is Zionism. It has some connection to Judaism, but its not about Judaism. It's about a certain colonial ideology that still, in the 21st century, is ascribed to by a state which is an unfinished project. The State of Israel has not been built properly. As you know, we don't even have final borders. It's very important to educate people that this is not a Jewish question that we are dealing with; we are dealing with a certain relic of the colonial period
I think it's very important to educate people that this is not a Jewish question that we are dealing with; we are dealing with a certain relic of the colonial period that is still allowed to continue in a post-colonial situation. And as long as it continues as it does, [it] complicates the relationship between the Western world and the Arab world and the Muslim world.
CB: On November 7th the Democratic Party won elections that will allow them to control the Congress of the
IP: Well, the results of the mid-term elections are good news from many aspects for the American public. But I don't think [the elections] bring any good news to this part of the world. In other words, I don't think that the shift in the balance of power in both houses would change American policy towards
You ask whether it should. Of course it should. It should because if [the Democratic Party] is loyal to the new perspective it brings to American politics -- the idea that Americans should have some inhibitions in international behavior, that the use of force in Iraq was wrong, and that there is a problem with the American image and standing in the world -- if indeed this is the message of the Democrats to American politics, then I think they should pay attention to fact that the Americans' standing and position in the world is not only affected not by the invasion of Iraq, but also the unconditional support that America gives to Israel at the expense of the Palestinians.
I think that they should realize that only in a change in the attitude towards
CB: Peace Now [an Israeli Peace organization], has found that approximately 40 percent of the settlements, including long-standing communities, are built on private Palestinian land and not on state-owned land. Peace Now was given this information from a source inside the Civil Administration who wanted to expose the wide-scale violations of private Palestinian property rights by the government and the settlers. Do you believe that there are more in the government who disagree with the treatment of the Palestinians and are willing to speak out?
IP: Maybe there are more but I believe that this is not enough. This kind of criticism by Peace Now about the piece of information that they leaked to us is very important. But don't forget for one moment any square inch that has been taken by
It may be a starker violation but the whole Israeli presence there is a violation of human rights and civil rights. What is needed is much more than this kind of criticism. The problem in
Lieberman says, let's take any territory we need and achieve that goal by downsizing the number of Arabs living there. Peace Now says, no, let's take less land and downsize the land rather than the population and then we can have the coveted exclusive supremacist state. Both positions are morally and politically wrong and unacceptable because at the end of the day you have 20 percent to 30 percent of [Israel's population comprised of] Palestinians, even in the smallest state that Peace Now covets and Peace Now is not willing to see them as equal citizens.
And people, even in Peace Now, would put the idea of a Jewish state above any other failure, democratic or liberal. So I think that even if I would have found in the government or the administration people who want a cleaner mode of occupation, a more legitimized occupation, I would of course welcome it. But I'm warning [that] we've been there before. These people have even been in government and they didn't make any change because the reason for the ongoing conflict between Israel/Palestine is not because
CB: Finally, Ilan Pappe, what can people who hope for the security of both the Israelis and Palestinians do?
IP: Well I think everybody has his or her role to play, especially people who care; either those that belong to Israel-Palestine or care about Israel/Palestine. I think the Palestinians have their role of resistance; the progressive forces inside
But society outside has to play the same role that the anti-Apartheid movement played in the West during the heyday of Apartheid. We need a strong lobby inside the western world -- especially in the
Christopher Brown is an independent grassroots journalist living in