War of words on Q&A

September 18, 2012 Agencies
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Controversial Israeli historian Ilan Pappe and Sydney-based Jewish barrister Irving Wallach traded barbs during ABC1’s Q&A on Monday night.

Ilan Pappe

Irving Wallach

Pappe – who is in Australia to deliver the Edward Said Memorial Lecture in Adelaide and to speak at the Sydney Opera House’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas next weekend on Israel as an Apartheid state – said the pro-Israel narrative “serves as the basis for the continued ethnic cleansing of Palestine”.

“Many more academics than ever before in the Western world are now telling the truth about what happened in Palestine,” he said.

Wallach, a former chair of the Zionist Youth Council in NSW and current board member of the New Israel Fund’s Australia branch, rebutted, saying: “The real tragedy of 1947 and 1948 was that there was no Palestinian state established.”

Had the Palestinian leaders accepted the Partition Plan, “then the opportunity for the war and for what happened afterwards would never have arisen,” he said.

Wallach noted that the then Palestinian leader, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, was “a man who had spent the war years in Berlin being photographed shaking hands with Hitler”.

But Pappe, the author of “The Ethnic Cleaning of Palestine” (2006), replied: “These are not facts. This is Israeli propaganda.

“1948 was a crime against humanity,” he said.

The director of Exeter University’s European Centre for Palestine Studies and co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies asked: “Is this the right punishment for a wrong vote at UN?”

Greg Sheridan, foreign editor of The Australian newspaper chimed in, saying: “I comprehensively reject Ilan’s narrative of Israel. No other nation in the world constantly has its legitimacy questioned in the way Israel does,” he said.

“Israel is a struggling democracy which makes mistakes, including moral mistakes, and deserves to be called on them but no country in the world is subject to this attack at the root of its legitimacy that it should not exist,” he added.

“There is no country in the Middle East which better observes human rights of all its citizens than Israel.”

Pappe said: “Israel wants to remain a racist state and a democratic state – this is an oxymoron.”

In response to a question about why the ABC had scheduled the program on the second night of Rosh Hashanah, Wallach said many colleagues had approached him in synagogue that morning complaining that they could not watch it or participate in the audience.

Host Tony Jones said it was the only night that Pappe was available to come on show. “A lot of people have made this same point but we thought it was an important debate and should go on anyway,” he said.