Ilan Pappé


Ilan Pappé : biography

7 November 1954 –

Early life and education

Pappé was born in Haifa to German-Jewish parents who fled Nazi persecution in the 1930s. At the age of 18, he was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, serving in the Golan Heights during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. 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 Arab historian Albert Hourani and Roger Owen. His doctoral thesis became his first book, Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

Academic career

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. 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."

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 Al-Tantura during the war in 1948, based upon interviews with Arab residents of the village and with an Israeli veteran of the operation. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian historians had previously recorded any such incident, which Meyrav Wurmser described as a "made-up massacre", 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."The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, p. 137. 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.

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. Pappé continues to defend both Katz and his thesis. Tom Segev and others argued that there is merit or some truth in what Katz described. 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."

Critical assessment

Ilan Pappé’s books have been praised by Walid Khalidi, Richard Falk, Ella Shohat, Nur Masalha and John Pilger among others.–>

Those critical of his work include Benny Morris, Efraim Karsh, Herbert London and Steven Plaut, as well as Professors Daniel GutweinGutwein (2011). "Left and Right Post-Zionism", p. . and Yossi Ben-Artzi from Haifa University. Pappé has replied to this criticism.

In 2012, the Journal of Palestine Studies (JPS) translated and published a 1937 letter of David Ben-Gurion 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 . 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. CAMERA countered by providing 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.

Political activism

In 1999, Pappé ran in the Knesset elections as seventh on the Communist Party-led Hadash list. (Pappé is No. 7) 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."

As a result, University of Haifa President Aharon 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." He said that Pappé would not be ostracized, since that would undermine academic freedom, but he should leave voluntarily. 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.