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Material of Interest to People on the Left 



 Allan C. Brownfeld 
 January 24, 2018
Mondoweiss [http://mondoweiss.net/2018/01/examining-myths-israel/] 

	* [https://portside.org/node/16436/printable/print]

 _ This review of the book “Ten Myths About Israel’ by Ilan Pappe
will appear in the Winter 2018 ISSUES, the quarterly journal of the
American Council for Judaism. The book is published by Verso. _ 

 , Ilan Pappe 


The Middle East remains a subject of increasing examination and
debate.  The prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians
seem to be receding.  Early in 2018, Israel’s ruling Likud Party
unanimously endorsed a resolution calling for the annexation of West
Bank settlements.  This decision marked the latest step by Likud to
distance itself from the internationally backed idea of establishing
an independent Palestinian state as part of a future peace agreement.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan declared:  “We are telling the
world that it doesn’t matter what the nations  of the world say. 
The time has come to express our biblical right to the land.”

Much of the world’s understanding of the conflicting claims to
historic Palestine is confused.  We have heard over the years of
“an Israeli narrative” and a “Palestinian narrative.”  There
have been too few efforts to understand what really has happened in
this region, and to arrive at some agreement about where myth ends and
facts begin.  In this book, written on the 50th anniversary of
Israel’s  occupation of the West  Bank and East Jerusalem,
Professor Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian now teaching at the
University of Exeter in  the United Kingdom,  examines the most
contested ideas concerning the origins and identity of the
contemporary state of Israel.

The “ten myths” that Pappe explores reinforce the regional status
quo.  He explores the claim that Palestine was an empty land at the
time of the Balfour Declaration, as well as the formation of Zionism
and its role in the early decades of nation building.  He asks
whether the Palestinians voluntarily left their homeland in 1948, and
whether June 1967 was a war of “no choice.” Turning to the myths
surrounding the failures of the Camp David Accords and the official
reasons for the attacks on Gaza, he explains why the two state
solution, in his view, is no longer viable.


“As the example of the Israel-Palestine conflict shows,” writes
Pappe, “historical disinformation, even of the most recent past, can
do tremendous harm.  This willful misunderstanding of history can
promote oppression and protect a regime of colonization and
occupation.  It is not surprising, therefore, that policies of
disinformation continue to the present and play an important part in
perpetuating the conflict…The Zionist historical account of how the
disputed land became the state of Israel is based on a cluster of
myths that subtly cast doubt on the Palestinians’ moral right to the
land…This book challenges these myths, which appear in the public
domain as indisputable truths.  These statements are, to my eyes,
distortions and fabrications that can—and must—be refuted through
a closer examination of the historical record.”

The author begins by admitting that, “This is not a balanced book;
it is yet another attempt to redress the balance of power on behalf of
the colonized, occupied and oppressed Palestinians in the land of
Israel and Palestine. It would be a real bonus if advocates of Zionism
or loyal supporters of Israel were also willing to engage with the
arguments herein.  After all, the book is written by an Israeli Jew
who cares about his own society as much as he does the Palestinian
one.  Refuting mythologies that sustain injustice should be of
benefit to everyone living in the country or wishing to live there. 
It forms a basis on which all its inhabitants might enjoy the great
achievements that only one privileged group currently has access

The first myth which is confronted is the Zionist claim that Palestine
was an empty land.  There is a consensus among scholars that it was
the Romans who gave the land the name “Palestine.” During the
period of Roman and, later, Byzantine, rule it was an imperial
province.  Various Muslim empires aspired to control it, since it was
home to the second holiest place in Islam and was also fertile and in
a strategic location.  The Ottoman period began in 1517 and lasted
400 years.  When the Ottomans arrived, they found a society that was
mostly Sunni Muslim  and rural, with small urban elites who spoke
Arabic.  Less than 5 per cent of the population was Jewish and
probably 10 to 15 per cent Christian.


Historian Yonatan Mendel notes that, “The exact percentage of Jews
prior to the rise of Zionism is unknown.  However, it probably ranged
from 2 to 5 per cent.  According to Ottoman records, a total
population of 462,465 resided in 1878 in what is today
Israel/Palestine.  Of this number, 403,795 (87 per cent) were Muslim,
43,659 (10 per cent) were Christian and 15,011 (3 per cent) were

Those who receive their information from official Israeli sources,
Pappe shows, would come away with the view that, “Sixteenth-century
Palestine… was mainly Jewish  and the commercial lifeblood of the
region was concentrated in the Jewish communities.”  According to
the Website of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Pappe points out, “By
1800, Palestine had become a desert…Every passing year the land
became more barren, deforestation increased and farmland turned to
desert.  Promoted through an official state website this fabricated
picture is unprecedented.”

Many Israeli scholars have challenged this false narrative, among them
David Grossman (the demographer not the novelist), Amnon Cohen and
Yehoushua Ben-Arieh.  Their research shows that, over the centuries,
Palestine, rather than being a desert, was a thriving Arab society. 
Yet, Pappe reports, “Outside of Israel, in particular in the United
States, the assumption that the promised land was empty, desolate, and
barren before the arrival of Zionism is still alive and
kicking…Palestine began to develop as a nation long before the
arrival of the Zionist movement. In the hands of energetic local
rulers such as Daher al-Umar (1690-1775), the towns of Haifa, Shefamr,
Tiberias, and Acre were renovated and re-energized. The coastal
network of ports and towns boomed through its trade connections with
Europe, while the inner plains traded inland with nearby regions. 
The very opposite of a desert.”


At the end of the 19th century, Palestine had a sizeable population,
of which only a small percentage was Jewish.  Those Jews who did live
in Palestine at this time were opposed to the ideas promoted  by
Zionism.  Contrary to the notion of Palestine being an “empty
land,” Pappe shows that, “It was part of a rich and fertile
eastern Mediterranean world that in the 19th century underwent
processes of modernization and nationalization.  It was not a desert
waiting to come into bloom;  it was a pastoral country  on the verge
of entering the 20th century as a modern society, with all the
benefits and ills of such a transformation.  Its colonization by the
Zionist movement turned this process into a disaster for the majority
of the native people living there.”

The second myth considered is that, “The Jews Were a People Without
a Land.” Asking whether the Jewish settlers who arrived in Palestine
could be considered “a people,” Pappe cites Shlomo Sand’s “The
Invention of the Jewish People,” which shows that the Christian
world, in its own interest, adopted the idea of the Jews as a nation
that must one day return to the holy land.  This return, in their
view, would be part of the divine scheme for the end of the world,
along with the resurrection of the dead and the second coming of the

The theological upheavals of the Reformation beginning in the 16th
century produced a clear association, particularly among Protestants,
between the idea of the end of the millennium and the conversion of
the Jews and their return to Palestine.  Thomas Brightman, a 16th
century English clergyman, wrote, “Shall they return to Jerusalem
again?  There is nothing more certain:  the prophets do everywhere
confirm it and beat about it.”  Brightman wished the Jews either to
convert to Christianity or leave Europe.  A hundred years later,
Henry Oldenburg, a German theologian, wrote:  “If the occasion
presents itself amid changes to which human affairs are liable, the
Jews may even raise their empire anew, and…God may elect them a
second time.”


“Zionism,” writes Pappe, “was therefore a Christian project of
colonization before it became a Jewish one… A powerful theological
and imperial movement emerged that would put the return of the Jews to
Palestine at the heart of a strategic plan to take over Palestine and
turn it into a Christian entity… This dangerous blend of religious
fervor and and reformist zeal…would lead to the Balfour Declaration
of 1917.”

An important advocate of a Jewish return to Palestine in England in
the 19th century was Lord  Shaftesbury (1801-85), a leading
politician and reformer, who campaigned actively for a Jewish homeland
in Palestine.  His arguments for a greater British presence in
Palestine were both religious and strategic.  As Pappe reports,
“Lord Shaftesbury convinced the Anglican bishopric center and
cathedral in Jerusalem to provide the early funding for this
project.  This would probably not have happened at all had
Shaftesbury not succeeded in recruiting his father in law, Britain’s
foreign minister and later prime minister, Lord Palmerston, to the

In 1839, Shaftesbury wrote a 30-page article in The London Quarterly
Review in which he predicted a new era for the Jews:  “…the Jews
must be encouraged to return in yet greater number and become once
more the husbandman of Judea and Galilee…though admittedly a
stiff-necked people and sunk in moral degradation, obduracy, and
ignorance of the Gospel, (they are) not only worthy of salvation but
also vital to Christianity’s hope and salvation.”

There has been much speculation, Pappe points out, about whether the
Jews who settled in Palestine as Zionists were really the descendants
of the Jews who had been exiled 2,000 years ago.  Arthur Koestler
(1905-83) wrote “The Thirteenth Tribe” (1976)  in which he
advanced the theory that the Jewish settlers were descended from the
Khazars, a Turkish  nation of the Caucasus which converted to Judaism
in the 8th century and was later forced to move westward.  Israeli
scientists have ever since tried to prove that there is a  genetic
connection between the Jews of Roman Palestine and those of
present-day Palestine.  That debate continues today.


“It is not the claims of 19th century Zionism, it is not the
historical accuracy of those claims that matters,” argues Pappe.
 “What matters is not whether the present Jews in Israel are the
authentic descendants of those who lived in the Roman era, but rather
the state of Israel’s insistence that it represents all the Jews in
the world and that everything it does is for their sake and on their
behalf.  Until 1967, this claim was very helpful for the state of
Israel.  Jews around the world, particularly in the United States,
became its main supporters whenever its policies were questioned.  In
many respects, this is still the case in the U.S. today.  However,
even there, as well as in other Jewish communities, this clear
association is nowadays challenged.”

In making the case that Jews were a nation belonging to Palestine, and
therefore should be helped to return to it, Pappe notes, “They had
to rely on British officials and, later, military power.  Jews and
the world at large did not seem to be convinced that the Jews were a
people without a land.  Shaftesbury, Finn, Balfour, and Lloyd George
liked the idea because it helped Britain gain a foothold in
Palestine.  This became immaterial after the British took Palestine
by force and then had to decide from a new starting point whether the
land was Jewish or Palestinian—a question it could never properly
answer, and therefore had to leave to others to resolve after 30 years
of frustrating rule.”

Of particular interest is the chapter dealing with the myth that,
“Zionism is Judaism.”  In fact, Zionism was originally a minority
opinion among Jews.  “Since its inception in the mid-19th
century,” writes Pappe, “Zionism was only one, inessential
expression of Jewish cultural life. It was born out of two impulses
among Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe.  The first
was a search for safety within a society that refused to integrate
Jews as equals and that occasionally persecuted them… The second
impulse was a wish to emulate other new national movements mushrooming
in Europe at the time… Those Jews who sought to transform Judaism
from a religion into a nation were not unique among the many ethnic
and religious groups within the two crumbling empires—the
Austro-Hungarian and the Ottoman—who wished to redefine themselves
as nations.”


The early Zionists put forward two new ideas:  the redefinition of
Judaism as a national movement and the need to colonize Palestine. 
These ideas became more popular after a brutal wave of pogroms in
Russia in 1881, which transformed them into a political program
propagated by a movement called “The Lovers of Zion,” who sent a
few enthusiastic young Jews to build the first new colonies in
Palestine in 1882.  This first phase of Zionism culminated with the
works and actions of Theodor Herzl, a journalist and an atheist with
no connection to Jewish religious life.  He came to the conclusion
that widespread anti-Semitism made assimilation impossible and that a
Jewish state in Palestine was the best solution for the “Jewish

While such ideas gained some support in countries such as Russia,
where Jews were second-class citizens, Pappe writes that, “As these
early Zionist ideas were aired among Jewish communities in countries
such as Germany and the United States, prominent rabbis and leading
figures in those communities rejected the new approach. religious
leaders dismissed Zionism as a form of secularization and
modernization, while secular Jews feared that the new ideas would
raise questions about the Jews’ loyalty to their own nation-states
and would thus increase anti-Semitism.”

Reform Judaism rejected the Zionist idea and proclaimed that Judaism
was a religion of universal values, not a nationality. Later, it
reconciled itself to the Zionist idea. The older Reform philosophy,
Pappe declares, has been kept alive by the American Council for
Judaism. He writes: “When the Reformists first encountered Zionism,
they vehemently rejected the idea of redefining Judaism as nationalism
and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. However, their
anti-Zionist stance shifted after the creation of the state of Israel
in 1948. In the second half of the 20th century, the majority among
them created a new Reform movement in the U.S… However, a large
number of Jews left the new movement and set up the American Council
for Judaism (ACJ), which reminded the world… that Zionism was still
a minority view among Jews, and remained loyal to the old Reformist
notions about Zionism.”

In 1869, Reform Jews in the U.S. made the point that, “The messianic
aim of Israel (I.e., the Jewish people) is not the restoration of a
Jewish state under a descendant of David, involving a second
separation from the nation’s of earth, but the Union of the children
of God in the confession of the unity of God, so as to realize the
unity of all national creatures and their call to moral


In 1885, another Reform group, meeting in Pittsburgh, declared: “We
consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and
we therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial
worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any laws
concerning the Jewish state.”

In 1897, the same year as the first Zionist conference was convened in
Basel, Switzerland, a socialist Jewish movement was born in Russia,
the Bund. Bund members believed that a socialist revolution would be a
far better solution to the problems of Jews in Europe than Zionism.
Even after the Holocaust, Bundists were convinced that Jews should
seek a place in societies that cherish human and civil rights, and did
not see a Jewish nation state as a panacea.

Another critique of Zionism came from Orthodox Jews. Pappe notes that,
“When Zionism made its first appearance in Europe, many traditional
rabbis in fact forbade their followers from having anything to do with
Zionist activists. They viewed Zionism as meddling with God’s will
to retain the Jews in exile until the coming of the Messiah… The
great Hasidic German Rabbi Dzikover… said that Zionism asks him to
replace centuries of Jewish wisdom and law for a rag, soil and a song
(I.e., a flag, a land and an anthem).”

The Zionists not only sought to colonize Palestine but, as Pappe
shows, “…it also hoped to secularize the Jewish people, to invent
the ‘new Jew’ in antithesis to the religious Orthodox Jews of
Europe… The Orthodox Jew was ridiculed by the Zionists, and was
viewed as someone who could only be redeemed through hard work in
Palestine… The role of the Bible within Jewish life offered one
further clear difference between Judaism and Zionism… the Bible
provided ‘the myth for our right over the land.’ It was in the
Bible that they read stories about Hebrew farmers, shepherds, kings,
and wars, which they appropriated as describing the ancient golden era
of their nation’s birth. Returning to the land meant coming back to
become farmers , shepherds and kings. Thus, they found themselves
faced with a challenging paradox, for they wanted both to secularize
Jewish life and to use the Bible as a publication for colonizing
Palestine. In other words, though they did not believe in God, He had
nonetheless promised them Palestine.”


Another myth which Pappe confronts is, “Zionism Is Not
Colonialism.” When the first Zionist settlers arrived in 1882, the
land of Palestine was not empty. In fact, he writes, “This fact was
known to the Zionist leaders even before the first Jewish settlers
arrived. A delegation sent to Palestine by the early Zionist
organizations reported back to their colleagues: ‘The bride is
beautiful, but married to another man.’ Nevertheless, when they
first arrived, the early settlers were surprised to encounter the
locals whom they regarded as invaders and strangers. In their view,
the native Palestinians had usurped their homeland. They were told by
their leaders that the locals were not natives, that they had no
rights to the land. Instead, they were a problem that had to, and
could, be resolved.”

None of this, Pappe argues, was unique because “Zionism was a
settler colonial movement, similar to the movements of Europeans who
had colonized the two Americas, South Africa, Australia and New
Zealand… Settler colonialism is motivated by a desire to take over
land in a foreign country, while classical colonialism covets the
natural resources in its new geographic possession… The problem was
that the new ‘homelands’ were already inhabited by other people.
In response, the settler communities argued that the new land was
theirs by divine or moral right, even if, in cases other than Zionism,
they did not claim to have lived there thousands of years ago. In many
cases, the accepted method for overcoming such obstacles was the
genocide of the indigenous locals.”

From the beginning, Palestinian resistance was depicted as motivated
by hate for Jews. The diaries of the early Zionists tell a different
story, They are filled with anecdotes revealing how the settlers were
well received by the Palestinians, who offered them shelter and in
many cases taught them how to cultivate the land. “Only when it
became clear that the settlers had not come to live alongside the
native population, but in place of it, did the Palestinian resistance
begin,” writes Pappe. “And when that resistance started, it
quickly took the form of every other anti-colonialist struggle.”


In 1928, the Palestinian leadership, notwithstanding the wishes of the
majority of their people, consented to allow the Jewish settlers equal
representation in the future bodies of the state. The Zionist
leadership was in favor of the idea only as long as it believed the
Palestinians would reject it. Shared representation was the opposite
of what the Zionists wanted. When the proposal was accepted by the
Palestinians, it was rejected by the Zionists. This led to the riots
of 1929. Even in 1947, when Britain decided to refer the question to
the United Nations, the Palestinians suggested with other Arab states,
a unitary state to replace the Mandate in Palestine, with equal rights
for Jews and Arabs. This the Zionists rejected.

In Pappe’s view, “One can depict Zionism as a settler colonial
movement and the Palestinian national movement as an anticolonial
one…. By 1945, Zionism had attracted more than half a million
settlers to a country whose population was about 2 million… The
settlers’ only way of expanding their hold on the land…and of
ensuring an exclusive demographic majority was to remove the natives
from their homeland… Palestine is not entirely Jewish
demographically, and although Israel controls all of it politically by
various means, the state of Israel is still colonizing—building new
settlements in the Galilee, the Negev, and the West Bank…”

The Israeli government has long promoted the idea that the
Palestinians voluntarily left their homeland in 1948. It has promoted
the idea that Palestinians fled their villages of their own accord or
on orders from Arab armies that wanted them out of the way. There was
no obligation on Israel, therefore, to let Palestinians return since,
according to this argument, their displacement was not Israel’s
responsibility. Any “infiltrators” who tried to go back were
criminals. In the late 1980’s, Israel’s so-called “new
historians,” notably Benny Morris, examined newly opened Israeli
archives and found no evidence that the refugees fled on orders from
Arab leaders, but had done so mostly out of terror, after hearing
reports of massacres carried out by Israeli soldiers in villages such
as Deir Yassin, where Jewish militiamen killed over 100 Palestinian


This idea that the Palestinians left voluntarily is another of the
“myths” Pappe confronts. He writes that, “The Zionist leadership
and ideologues could not envision a successful implementation of their
project without getting rid of the native population, either through
agreement or by force. More recently, after years of denial, Zionist
historians such as Anita Shapira have accepted that their heroes, the
leaders of the Zionist movement, seriously contemplated transferring
the Palestinians.”

In 1937, David Ben-Gurion told the Zionist assembly, “In many parts
of the country, it will not be possible to settle without transferring
the Arab _fellahin_… With compulsory transfer we would have a vast
area for settlement… I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see
anything immoral in it.”

In his book “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” Pappe examines
the development of a master plan for the massive expulsion on the
Palestinians. Officially, the Israeli government maintains the claim
that Palestinians became refugees because their leaders told them to
leave. “But,” he writes, “there was no such call—it is a myth
created by the Israeli foreign ministry… What is clear is that the
ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians can in no way be justified as a
‘punishment’ for their rejecting a U.N. peace plan that was
devised without any consultation with the Palestinians themselves.”

Israel’s master plan, Plan D, which had been prepared alongside the
high command of the Haganah, the main Jewish military wing, included
the following clear references to the methods to be employed in the
process of cleansing the population: “Destruction of villages
(setting fire to, blowing up, and planting mines in the debris),
especially those population centers which are difficult to control
continuously. Mounting search and control operations according to the
following guidelines: encirclement of the village and conducting a
search inside it. In the event of resistance, the armed force must be
destroyed and the population must be expelled outside the borders of
the state.”


Pappe declares that, “From the present vantage point, there is no
escape from defining the Israeli actions in the Palestinian
countryside as a war crime… The crime committed by the leadership of
the Zionist movement, which became the government of Israel, was that
of ethnic cleansing. This is not mere rhetoric, but an indictment with
far-reaching political, legal and moral obligations. The definition of
the crime was clarified in the aftermath of the 1990’s civil war in
the Balkans: ethnic cleansing is any action by one ethnic group meant
to drive out another ethnic group with the purpose of transforming a
mixed ethnic region into a pure one. Such an action amounts to ethnic
cleansing regardless of the means employed to obtain it—from
persuasion and threats to expulsions and mass killings.”

It is important to remember, Pappe points out, that, “There are Jews
in Israel who have absorbed all these lessons. Not all Jews are
indifferent to or ignorant of the Nakba. Those who are not are
currently a small minority, but one which makes its presence felt,
demonstrating that at least some Jewish citizens are not deaf to the
cries, pain, and devastation of those killed, raped, or wounded
throughout 1948.”

Other myths confronted by the author include: “The June 1967 War Was
A War of ‘No Choice,” “Israel Is The Only Democracy In The
Middle Esst,” “The Oslo Mythologies,” “The Gaza
Mythologies,” and “The Two-States Solution Is The Only Way

In the case of the 1967 war, the accepted narrative is that the 1967
war forced Israel to occupy the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and keep
it in custody until the Palestinians were prepared to make peace. Many
think that the 1967 war was one in which Israel was resisting attack
and occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in self-defense.
The fact is that it was Israel which launched the first strike against
Egypt in 1967. Prime Minister Menachem Begin later said: “In June
1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentration in the
Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack
us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack them.”


In reality, Pappe believes, “…the takeover of the West Bank in
particular, with its ancient biblical sights, was a Zionist aim even
before 1948 and it fitted the logic of the Zionist project as a whole.
This logic can be summarized as the wish to take over as much of
Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians as possible… After
the occupation, the new ruler confined the Palestinians of the West
Bank and Gaza Strip in an impossible limbo: they were neither refugees
nor citizens—they were, and still are, citizenless inhabitants. They
were inmates, and in many respects still are, of a huge prison in
which they have no civil, and human rights and no impact on their
future. The world tolerates this situation because Israel claims
—and the claim was never challenged until recently—that the
situation is temporary…Israel is still incarcerating a third
generation of Palestinians…and depicting these mega-prisons as

With regard to Israel’s claim to be the only “democracy” in the
Middle East, Pappe points to the fact that, even before 1967,
Palestinians, who represented 20% of Israel’s citizens, lived under
“military rule based on draconian British Mandatory emergency
regulations that denied… any basic human or civil rights. Local
military governors were the absolute rulers of the lives of these
citizens: they could devise special laws for them, destroy their
houses and livelihoods and send them to jail whenever they felt like
it. Only in the late 1950’s did a strong Jewish opposition to these
abuses emerge, which eventually eased the pressure on the Palestinian

The state of “military terror” under which Palestinians lived,
notes Pappe, is “exemplified by the Kafr Qasim massacre in October
1956, when, on the eve of the Sinai operation, 49 Palestinian citizens
were killed by the Israeli army. The authorities alleged that they
were late returning home from work in the fields when a curfew had
been imposed on the village. This was not the real reason, however.
Later proofs show that Israel had seriously considered the expulsion
of Palestinians from the whole area called Wadi Ara and the Triangle
in which the village sat… These two areas… were annexed to Israel
under the terms of the 1949 armistice agreement with Jordan…
Additional territory was always welcomed by Israel, but an increase in
the Palestinian population was not… Operation ‘Hafarfert’ (mole)
was the code name of a set of proposals for the expulsion of the
Palestinians when a new war broke out… Many scholars today now think
that the 1956 massacre was a practice run to see if the people in the
area could be intimidated to leave.”


Israel’s Law of Return grants automatic citizenship to every Jew in
the world, wherever he or she was born. In Pappe’s view, “This
law…is a flagrantly undemocratic one, for it was accompanied by a
total rejection of the Palestinian right of return—recognized
internationally by the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948.
This rejection refuses to allow the Palestinian citizens of Israel to
unite with immediate family members or with those who were expelled in
1948. Denying people the right to return to their homeland, and at the
same time offering the right to others who have no connection to the
land is a model of undemocratic process.”

Other aspects of life in Israel, Pappe shows, makes the claim to
“democracy” questionable. Since 1948, Palestinian municipalities
have received far less funding than their Jewish counterparts. The
most affluent Palestinian community, the village of Me’ilva in the
upper Galilee, is still worse off than the poorest Jewish development
town in the Negev. At the same time, more than 90 per cent of the land
is owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Landowners are not allowed
to engage in transactions with non-Jewish citizens and public land is
prioritized for the use of national projects, which means that new
Jewish settlements are being built while there are hardly any new
Palestinian settlements. The biggest Palestinian city, Nazareth,
despite the tripling of its population since 1948, has not expanded
one square kilometer, whereas the development town built above it,
Upper Nazareth, has tripled in size, on land expropriated from
Palestinian landowners.

“Imagine,” writes Pappe, “if in the UK or the U.S., Jewish
citizens, or Catholics for that matter, were barred by law from living
in certain villages, neighborhoods, or maybe whole towns? How can such
a situation be reconciled with the notion of democracy?… [Israel]
cannot by any stretch of the imagination, be assumed to be a
democracy.” When it comes to Palestinians living in the occupied
territories, he declares, “the humiliation of millions of
Palestinians is a daily routine, ‘the only democracy in the Middle
East’ behaves as a dictatorship of the worst kind.”


Amnesty International annually documents the nature of the occupation.
Its 2015 report provided this assessment: “In the West Bank,
including East Jerusalem, Israeli forces committed unlawful killings
of Palestinian civilians, including children, and detained thousands
of Palestinians who protested against or otherwise opposed Israel’s
continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative
detention. Torture and other ill treatment remained rife and were
committed with impunity. The authorities continued to promote illegal
settlements in the West Bank and severely restricted Palestinians’
freedom of movement… The authorities continued to demolish
Palestinian homes on the West Bank and inside Israel, particularly in
Bedouin villages in the Negev/Naqab region, forcibly evicting their

On September 13, 1993, Israel and the PLO signed a declaration of
principles, known as the Oslo Accord. Pappe argues that “…we
should acknowledge that the Oslo process was not a fair and equal
pursuit of peace, but a compromise agreed to by a defeated, colonized
people. As a result, the Palestinians were forced to seek solutions
that went against their interests and endangered their very existence.
The same argument can be made about the debates concerning the
‘two-state solution’ that was offered in Oslo. This offer should
be seen for what it is: partition under a different wording. Even in
this scenario…Israel would not only decide how much territory it was
going to concede but also what would happen in the territory it left

In the original Accords there was an Israeli promise that the three
issues that trouble the Palestinians most—the fate of Jerusalem, the
refugees, and the Jewish settlements—would be negotiated when the
interim period of five years came to a successful end. This process,
however, was stalled by the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak
Rabin in 1995, followed by the victory of Likud, headed by Benjamin
Netanyahu in 1996. Netanyahu opposed the Oslo Accords and the process
came to a halt.


Later, under Ehud Barak, Israel’s final offer was made at Camp David
in 2000. Israel proposed a small Palestinian state with a capital in
Abu Dis, but without significant dismantling of any settlements and no
hope for the return of the refugees. The negotiations collapsed.
“After 1995,” writes Pappe, “the impact of the Oslo Accord as a
factor that ruined Palestinian society, rather than bringing peace,
became painfully clear… the Accord became a discourse of peace that
had no relevance to the reality on the ground. During the period of
the talks—between 1996 and 1999—more settlements were built, and
more collective punishments were inflicted on the Palestinians. Even
if you believed in the two-state solution in 1999, a tour of either
the West Bank or the Gaza Strip would have convinced you of the words
of the Israeli scholar, Meron Benvenisti, who wrote that Israel had
created irreversible facts on the ground: the two-state solution was
killed by Israel.”

Looking to the future, Pappe believes that the declaration that,
“The two states solution is the only way forward” is yet another
myth. He notes that, “Any criticism of this myth is often branded as
anti-Semitism. However, in many ways the opposite is true: there is a
connection between the new anti-Semitism and the myth itself. The
two-states solution is based on the idea that a Jewish state is the
best solution for the Jewish problem; that is, Jews should live in
Palestine rather than anywhere else. This notion is also close to the
hearts of anti-Semites. The two-states solution, indirectly one should
say, is based on the assumption that Israel and Judaism are the same.
Thus, Israel insists that what it does, it does in the name of
Judaism, and when its actions are rejected by people around the world
the criticism is not only directed toward Israel but also towards
Judaism… It seems that nothing is going to stop Israel now from
completing its colonization of the West Bank and continuing its siege
on Gaza.”

What will happen as Israel abandons the two-state solution remains a
subject of much speculation. It is important for the world, and in
particular for Jews, to understand what has occurred in Palestine in
historical terms. Pappe puts it in this perspective: “After World
War ll, Zionism was allowed to become a colonialist project at a time
when colonialism was being rejected by the civilized world because the
creation of a Jewish state offered Europe, and West Germany in
particular, an easy way out of the worst excesses of anti-Semitism
ever seen. Israel was the first to declare its recognition of ‘a new
Germany’—in return it received a lot of money, but also, far more
importantly a carte blanche to turn the whole of Palestine into
Israel. Zionism offered itself as the solution to anti-Semitism, but
became the main reason for its continued presence.”


A just solution to the dilemma of Palestine will, Pappe concludes,
only be achieved if we stop treating the mythologies he sets forth as
truths: “Palestine was not empty and the Jewish people had
homelands; Palestine was colonized, not ‘redeemed’; and its people
were dispossessed in 1948, rather than leaving voluntarily. Colonized
people, even under the U.N. Charter, have the right to struggle for
their liberation…and the successful ending to such a struggle lies
in the creation of a democratic state that includes all of its

Since Ilan Pappe completed his book, Israel has moved even further
away from a two state solution. The ruling Likud Party’s central
committee, early in 2018, endorsed a resolution calling for the
annexation of the West Bank settlements. Prime Minister Netanyahu no
longer speaks of the establishment of a Palestinian state. The very
idea of a Palestinian state ever coming into existence is rejected by
Israel’s current government.

To understand how we have come to this point, and to consider how, in
the face of the latest developments, we can look forward to a more
hopeful future, this important book by Ilan Pappe is essential
reading. Abandoning myths and confronting reality is an important
first step forward.

	* [https://portside.org/node/16436/printable/print]







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