Pappe on Q&A

September 21, 2012 by Emily Gian
Read on for article

As a student of literature, I find the narrative of a story is of the utmost importance. It drives the novel, and keeps us, the audience, interested in the point of view of the author. The study of history is different. It relies on facts and the retelling of those facts in the most authentic way….writes Emily Gian.

Emily Gian

This is why, when I watched Israeli “historian” Ilan Pappé on the ABC’s Q&A Program which was screened on Monday night, I felt outraged that a man could so easily call himself a historian, while relying mainly on one “narrative” to make a point which has nothing to do with history or fact and everything to do with his own particular ideology.

Many of you probably missed the program itself, as ABC conveniently had Pappé as a guest on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, when the majority of Australia’s Jews would have been sitting down to a family meal.

Also on the panel was the Australian’s Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan, the Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore, author Robyn Davidson and prominent Jewish Australian Barrister Irving Wallach.

Even before the discussion turned to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pappé used a discussion about Tony Abbot’s alleged wall punching in the 1970s to tell a story about his own student days at the Hebrew University involving Israel’s now Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. Pappé claims he was a victim of Lieberman and his “thugs”. I have no idea if this story is even true but I do note that Pappé actually graduated in the same year that Lieberman immigrated to Israel but the anecdote already gave us a little bit of insight into Pappé’s storytelling.

The first question about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was directed at Pappé and appeared to be a contrived Dorothy Dixer from a Palestinian woman alleging as fact the “ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the displacement of three quarters of the Palestinian population”. It provided Pappé with a perfect opportunity to discuss his life’s body of work in which he has repeatedly accused Israel of a planned ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population before the 1948 War of Independence. Pappé’s arguments have not only been refuted but totally debunked in some cases (I will expand more on that later). Nevertheless, Mr Pappé had his share of willing fans in the studio audience, as well as some viewers twittering away at home who were more than happy to lap up everything he was claiming as gospel truth.

On the night, Pappé exposed himself is an unreliable source. He claimed that “the debate in Israel is not factual. The debate in Israel is moral”. This is not acceptable because if you can only establish what you deem to be a “moral” case upon a narrative based on lies, then by definition you have reached your conclusion by immoral means. Any debate about any historical event must be based on factual information if it is to be underpinned by the slightest fibre of morality.

This is not the first time Pappé has been exposed in presenting and dishonestly revising history. In an interview conducted in 1999, Pappé stated that “there is no historian in the world who is objective. I am not as interested in what happened as in how people see what’s happened”. That is not history or academia Mr Pappé, that is commentary.

But he continues, “I admit that my ideology influences my historical writings… Indeed the struggle is about ideology, not about facts. Who knows what facts are? We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truthseekers” (see more). Unfortunately for Australians, Pappé is on a media tour successfully doing just that – convincing as many people as he can about his interpretation of the facts.

Interestingly, when panellist Irving Wallach tried to make a point about Palestinian leadership in 1947, referring to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Al-Husseini cosying up to Hitler, Pappé attempted to brush it off as “Israeli propaganda”. He stated that “even if it’s presented by an articulate barrister doesn’t make it truth. These are sheer lies”. One could also argue that if something is presented by an articulate historian like Pappé, we now cannot believe it to be the truth. In any event, as Wallach and the programme’s host acknowledged, we know that the Grand Mufti did indeed sit at Hitler’s side during the Second World War and try as he might, Pappé knows that the Palestinian leadership never put out a hand of welcome the Jews during that time.

Pappé would know a lot about lies and fabrication. In 2006 he claimed that in a 1937 letter to his son, David Ben-Gurion stated that “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as war”. If this quote were to be true, it may have assisted his case. Unfortunately for Pappé this quote does not exist anywhere in any texts (see more). That the same quote has been shamefully repeated by others over the years, shows how it easy it is for Pappé’s “interpretations” to find their way into academic discourse. Others have issued corrections, Pappé never has.

In his piece entitled ‘The faux Zionist history of Ilan Pappé Dexter Van Zile notes that “the space between quotation marks is sacred ground and needs to be treated as such”. I guess when I called Pappé a “historian” I also did a disservice to the sacred space between the quotation marks.

Even Israeli historian Benny Morris, who for decades was classed as a “New Historian”, has discredited Pappé. In a review of Pappé’s book A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, Morris states that “unfortunately, much of what Pappé tries to sell his readers is complete fabrication”.

Morris continues “For those enamoured with subjectivity and in thrall to historical relativism, a fact is not a fact and accuracy in unattainable. Why grope for the truth? Narrativity is all”. He then goes on to list on a number of facts that Pappé got wrong, facts that cannot be distorted by “narrative” (see more).

In a letter in 2008 addressing others that have mis-cited his work, Morris declared that “there was NO Zionist “plan” or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of “ethnic cleansing”. Plan Dalet (Plan D), of March 10th, 1948 (it is open and available for all to read in the IDF Archive and in various publications), was the master plan of the Haganah – the Jewish military force that became the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) – to counted the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state. That’s what it explicitly states and that’s what it was. And the invasion of the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iran duly occurred, on May 15th” (see more).

As Morris declares later on in the letter, “the demonization of Israel is largely based on lies – much as the demonization of the Jews during the past 2,000 years has been based on lies”.

I can accept demonization from an Israeli, or from a fellow Jew – they are all entitled to their opinion. I cannot accept it from a historian.

In the course of the discussion, Greg Sheridan also raised an interesting point about Jewish refugees from Arab lands, which is an issue that is very rarely, if not at all, acknowledged. He stated “the only reason we get these extraordinary numbers for Palestinian refugees is because every descendant unto the ages of the Palestinians is classed as a refugee, unlike every other refugee case in history or in contemporary life… there were 800,000 Jews who were forced, in violent fashion, out of Arab lands at about the same time. Now, you could claim, therefore, that there are five million Jewish refugees from Arab countries. Nobody does that because there is no political interest in maintaining this fiction of refugees”.

Tony Jones tried to dismiss this offhand, but I am glad that Sheridan brought it up. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council declared earlier this month that the “claim that Jews who migrated to Israel, which is supposed to be their homeland, are ‘refugees’ who were uprooted from their homelands… is a form of deception and delusion… If Israel is their homeland, then they are not ‘refugees’; they are emigrants who returned either voluntarily or due to a political decision” (see more).

David Harris, the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee wrote a great rebuttal in the Huffington Post entitled ‘Hanan Ashrawi is to truth what smoking is to health’. The issue of Jewish refugees will be discussed tomorrow in the halls of the United Nations. While 172 UN resolutions have been dedicated to Palestinian refugees, not a single resolution exists about the Jews expelled from Arab countries. To read more, click here.

To go back to the issue of Pappé, panellist Irving Wallach put it best when he said, “Now if you want to go on and carry on in the fashion that Ilan does and throw about the clichés and the accusations then a couple of things follow. Firstly, you have to seriously consider surrendering your claim to be an objective historian. Secondly, what has to be done is you have to consider and accept that what you are wanting to do is to encourage ongoing conflict and battles and death and destruction between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people. If you want to go along the conflict road, then forget about peace. If you want to promote Israel as a so called pariah state for your own political and ideological agenda, go ahead. History will not thank you for it”.

I believe Wallach has hit the nail on the head. Every speaker who is brought out to Australia and trotted out in the media and on university campuses by the anti-Israel lobby and spreads the same vile message of deligitimisiation of Israel does absolutely nothing to bring about future understanding and cooperation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Instead, they simply perpetuate the hatred and distrust.

Pappé likes to talk about narrative, and as a student of literature, I too like to talk about narratives. But until these narratives find some way to actually meet, the situation will remain in a constant state of limbo.

Emily Gian is the Israel Advocacy Analyst at the Zionist Council of Victoria and a PhD Candidate in Israeli Literature at the University of Melbourne


13 Responses to “Pappe on Q&A”
  1. allen says:

    David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, told a Zionist Conference in 1937 that any proposed Jewish state would have to “transfer Arab populations out of the area, if possible of their own free will, if not by coercion.”[8]Report of the Congress of the World Council of Paole Zion, Zurich, July 29-August 7, 1937, pp. 73-74.

    We were told not to try to speak to Ben Gurion, but when I saw him, I asked why, since Israel is a democracy with a parliament, does it not have a constitution? Ben Gurion said, “Look, boy”-I was 24 at the time-“if we have a constitution, we have to write in it the border of our country. And this is not our border, my dear.” I asked, “Then where is the border?” He said, “Wherever the Sahal will come, this is the border.” Sahal is the Israeli army. Article by Naim Giladi, author of Ben Gurion’s Scandals: How the Haganah & the Mossad Eliminated Jews,

  2. Nichola says:

    I also watched the show and, having no prior knowledge of Ilan Pappe, was appalled by his comments. So much so that I sent a twitter (my first, I’m almost never on twitter) praising Greg Sheridan and Irving Wallach. I can’t believe that people take Pappe seriously. If he believes that the mufti made a mistake by being a friend of Hitler, then the Palestinian leadership continues to make mistakes as they continue to reject Israel’s offers.
    Yes, I agree with Liat, that Jewish leaders in Australia need to be good advocates for Israel.

  3. Michael says:

    Jack as I said even the most left wing Jewish Apponent would have
    Looked good against such a virulent obsessed anti Zionist

  4. Michael says:

    Thank goodness for Greg Sheridan.

  5. Norman says:

    Irving Wallach’s performance on Q & A was not one that I had expected. After pointing out that Haj Amin Al-Husseini spent the war years in Germany working with Hitler, he allowed Pappe to belittle this fact by claiming that all Husseini had done was make a ‘mistake’, which Wallach let slip by without challenge. Then there was the claim that the Jews dispossessed the Arab population. Irving Wallach did not challenge this either. There is a wealth of documentation and statements made by prominent Palestinian Arabs and Arab leaders that proves that it was not the case.

    For example, the present President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmud Abbas AKSA Abu Mazen Chargesd that the Arab States Are the Cause of the Palestinian Refugee Problem” (Wall Street Journal; June 5, 2003):
    Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) wrote an article in March 1976 in Falastin al-Thawra, the official journal of the PLO in Beirut: “The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from the Zionists, but instead they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their homeland, imposed upon them a political and ideological blockade and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live in Eastern Europe.”

    In listing the reasons for the Arab failure in 1948, Khaled al-Azm (Syrian Prime Minister) notes that “…the fifth factor was the call
    by the Arab governments to the inhabitants of Palestine to evacuate it (Palestine) and leave for the bordering Arab countries. Since 1948, it is we who have demanded the return of the refugees, while it is
    we who made them leave. We brought disaster upon a million Arab refugees by inviting them and bringing pressure on them to leave. We have accustomed them to begging…we have participated in lowering their morale and social level…Then we exploited them in executing crimes of murder, arson and throwing stones upon men, women and children…all this in the service of political purposes…” — Khaled el-Azm, Syrian prime minister after the 1948 War, in his 1972
    memoirs, published in 1973.

    “The Arab civilians panicked and fled ignominiously. Villages
    were frequently abandoned before they were threatened by the progress
    of war.” — General John Glubb “Pasha,” The London Daily Mail,
    August 12, 1948. He was the British commander of the Jordanian Army in 1948
    “The most potent factor [in the flight of the Arabs] was the
    announcements made over the air by the Arab-Palestinian Higher
    Executive, urging all Haifa Arabs to quit… It was clearly intimated
    that Arabs who remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection
    would be regarded as renegades.” — London Economist October 2,
    “The Secretary General of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha,
    assured the Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and of Tel
    Aviv would be as simple as a military promenade…Brotherly advice
    was given to the Arabs of Palestine to leave their land, homes, and
    property to stay temporarily In neighboring fraternal states, lest the
    guns of invading Arab armies mow them down.” –Al Hoda, a New
    York-based Lebanese daily, June 8, 1951.

    “The Arab Exodus …was not caused by the actual battle, but
    by the exaggerated description spread by the Arab leaders to incite
    them to fight the Jews. …For the flight and fall of the other villages
    it is our leaders who are responsible because of their dissemination of
    rumors exaggerating Jewish crimes and describing them as atrocities
    in order to inflame the Arabs … By spreading rumors of Jewish atrocities,
    killings of women and children etc., they instilled fear and terror
    in the hearts of the Arabs in Palestine, until they fled leaving their
    homes and properties to the enemy.” – The Jordanian daily newspaper
    Al Urdun, April 9, 1953.
    Edward Atiyah, secretary of the Arab League office in London, wrote:
    “The wholesale exodus was due partly to the belief of the
    Arabs, encouraged by the boasting of an unrealistic press and the irresponsible
    utterances of some of the Arab leaders that it could be only
    a matter of some weeks before the Jews were defeated by the armies
    of the Arab states, and the Palestinian Arabs enabled to re-enter and
    re-take possession of their country”. — Edward Atiyah (Secretary of
    the Arab League, London, The Arabs, 1955, p. 183)

    “As early as the first months of 1948, the Arab League issued
    orders exhorting the people to seek a temporary refuge in neighboring
    countries, later to return to their abodes … and obtain their share
    of abandoned Jewish property.” — Bulletin of The Research Group for
    European Migration Problems, 1957.

    This is only a small sample of examples which Irving Wallach could have cited. It only needed a bit of research. The claim by Pappe of the dispossessing by Jews of the Palestinian Arabs is his normal charges at conferences and speeches and it should have been foreseen and appropriate research and the material found.
    Further, Irving Wallach did not challenge the allusion that Israel was similar to South Africa before the 90′s libel. He also let that slip by, only citing some aboriginal people stating that they felt close to the Jews because of their history. I don’t know what that had to do with anything. Except that Ms Moore, who was on the debating team reminded the audience that the white Europeans had dispossessed the aboriginals of the land of Australia.
    Fortunately, Gregg Sheridan did do some research into Ilan Pappe’s writings and he properly explained that many historians, including those who are unfriendly to Israel have widely criticized Ilan Pappe’s methods and view of history. Gregg was very positive about Israel during the debate.

    All in all a good chance of discrediting Pappe’s assertions was lost.

  6. Otto Waldmann says:

    Must be said again; While Irving Wallach did address certain issues Pappe promoted with visceral hatred of Zionism, issues for which Pappe is well known and Wallach evidently studied before the Q&A session, there were numerous other important issues concerning Israel and the , also well known, anti Israel and fundamental islamic matters, that were completely ignored, not addressed at all by Wallach, all consistent with his essential belonging to the NIF ideology. To that, the mere gratuitous attack on Tony Abbott’s character by the same Wallach, in conflict with Sheridan, was twofold irresponsible. One, “hearsay” should never be used to denigrate a person, so similar to what Pappe does in regards to Israel, and second, a conflict on the panel with Greg Sheridan was the most unwise move, even if the issues of Abbott and Israel were completely distinct.
    Comprehesively, the mainstream Jewish stance was much better presented by Sheridan and, thus, the Jewish community was , once again, poorly served from within, however brilliant and dependable Greg Sheridan was, for which we are eternally grateful !

    Sorry Emily, but the quote of the “nailing” by Wallach carries as much power as a flat tyre carting a brown pooch to the Opera House.

  7. Liat Nagar says:

    Thank you for your intelligent and succinct article on the ‘Q&A’ program featuring Ilan Pappe, Irving Wallach, Greg Sheridan, et al. I saw the programme myself, dreading in advance what Pappe would have to say.The extract of dialogue you quote where Wallach calls Pappe for what he is and reminds us of the destructive manifestations attending that, is, it is true, a timely and important observation. However, unfortunately Irving Wallach failed to speak cogently on many issues that needed expose; he failed to respond directly and specifically to many issues raised.

    I have made the comment before in other forums on J-Wire, and elsewhere, that we need Jewish leaders and spokespeople at the ready who can present Jewish historical facts with acuity, passion and eloquence, and be relentless in that presentation. As a writer I know the importance of narrative. We learn much from narrative, for that’s where the heart of things is exposed. We also need to push a Jewish narrative (narrative is not necessarily fiction – even a novel has underlying elements that are not fiction) for the world to see. The Arab peoples do this brilliantly, indeed they do it so well that fact and fiction merge and/or fiction is parroted so often and so well, that it becomes fact. I’m not suggesting we as Jews adopt the latter, but I am suggesting we need our rich narratives to be available to all. If we do not address this situation effectively, and instead continue to ‘defend’ formally and politely, and never attack with specifically appropriate words, then we are doomed to be regarded in stereotypical fashion as well as misconceived due to the harbingers of lies by those of the ilk of Pappe.

    I am fascinated, as well as horrified, by the likes of Ilan Pappe. What makes them what they are? How does hatred and contempt for their own kind and their own history form itself? How can anyone, historian or other, be comfortable with basing a whole ideology on lies and distortion? Is it, perhaps, just a case of the attraction of professional glamour and notoriety that attends such perversion? It would be more than interesting to know. In the meantime, however, Pappe and others are doing great damage to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

    • Otto Waldmann says:

      Liat Nigar

      You make valid points with one exception.
      The narrative peddled by the Arab lobby against Israel is far from being brilliant in substance. While we have seen some improvements in their presentation forms, the substance is tragically incongruous, tendentioius, intellectually a torrent of fallacies. The “mere” reality that it has a dregree of acceptance beyond its ethical and substntive merrits has to do more with the willingness of a greater audience to accept any criticism of Israel and Jews in general. The effects of anti Israel propaganda are almost exclusively dependant on the pervasive anti Semitism that precludes those with the said disposition to accept ANY counter argument, ergo the Israeli narrative.
      You and Norman above are, subsequently absolutely right to follow the rationale that the approach so far adopted by the Jewish camp in the dialectics with the mentioned anti Israel/anti Semites, must undertake drastic suitable changes. It is a given that the deficient positing of the Pappe counter-stance- as posted by ABC on Qanda -, Irving Wallach revealed , on one hand, the ineptitude, by constant omission, of the so called leaders of our local community to present not just a credible support voice for Israel in major public fora, such as ANY TV venue – except for max 10 second occasional interludes on News bulletins -, but , also, their refusal to engage with their own community in any kind of serious deiscussions about the dismal state of what is known as “hasbara”, a term that, sadly, has become devoid of any tangible meaning.

      On occasions I do engage in discussions with certain leaders only to constantly witness that, once I get more serious about their shortcommings, they bolt suddenly and permanently. Proof : how many, if any, are seen here on this important and highly active forum discussing, not just posting their views and close the book, with sincerity and modesty the vast raft of issues posted daily !!!
      NOT ONE !!!!

  8. Rachel says:

    I wonder how many people Pappe thinks should die for this one-state solution he so much wants to come into existance? His comrade Anthony Loewenstein thinks “Six million”

    When asked this question in a recent public forum, Loewenstein answered: “Six million. That’s my answer. Write that down.“

    Here’s the audio:
    Antony Loewenstein audio – “Six million should die.”

    Here is Jonathan Hoffman’s take on last night: How many have to die to achieve ‘One State’?

  9. Jack Chrapot says:

    I beg to differ Michael. Irving Wallach wiped the floor with “Pinnichio” Pappe and even had him telling lies about the Mufti. I would think his powerful advocacy for Israel and the Jewish people might have made you think twice about the NIF’s alleged “extremism”.

  10. Michael says:

    Excellent opinion piece Emily only one point of contention , MR Wallach a board member of extremist left wing , divisive Organization NIF are one of the very left wing groups you refer to that bring out Israel critic speakers that further inflame anti Israel stereo typing.

    [ Sure Wallach performed well against one of the worlds most virulent Israel haters Pappe , but even the most left wing Zionist would appear to be a great israel advocate if debating that guy.

    Thank goodness we had Greg Sheridan on the panel.

    • gabrielle says:

      I disagree. MR Wallach did a great job. I wish people in our community would not condemn people based on cliches, eg. left and right wing leanings, but look at the facts.

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        …and fact is that people DO belong to those cliches and, in some cases the cliches are up to no good and that should be exposed and, if necessary, condemned.

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