Monday, November 8, 2010

Ilan Pappe Comes to Ramallah

The Friends Boys' School hosted Israeli historian and head of the European Center of Palestinian Studies Ilan Pappe for a two hour session between 6 and 8 pm. Pappe, who has the critically acclaimed book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine added to his repertoire that includes The Aristocracy: The Husaynis; A Political Biography and a co-written book with Noam Chomsky Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel's War Against the Palestinians, graced the stage where he lectured for an hour and then answered questions for the next. He has been dubbed as one of the "New Israeli Historians" because of his pro-Palestinian stance which many of his critics dismiss as a cause for a self-hating Jew. In fact, Pappe himself has acknowledged that one of the frequent questions asked to him is why does he think differently from other Israeli Jews? His way of answering was to rephrase that question into: Why are so few Jews in the 21st century, with so much information and knowledge in a society that doesn't seem dictatorial have an inclination to see things differently? Why are there so many loyal soldiers of Zionism? Pappe truly believes that Jews should embark on a self-journey; one, a Journey of Awakening in which Jews arrive at the realization from being the so-called saviors of Arabs to colonizers. Two, to be able to have enough commitment to challenge the view of civilized beings in a foreign land whose legitimacy is backed by amongst other things, Messianic revelations. He went on to describe how the debate about 1948 in Israeli society included neither ethics nor morality, and this demonstrated another of Israel's show of democracy, and how open, how academically progressive Israeli academics are. That's sarcasm for you folks.

Pappe went on to describe his early life: he was born in a "benign Zionist family" in Mt Carmel in Haifa. His parents spoke German rather than Hebrew, and he reflected on how even the sign posts in his community were in German. This was his family's way of recreating Germany in Palestine. They did not see the natives, who lived and still do in Wadi Nisnas and Wadi Salim, and when they did they were viewed as obstacles, mosquitoes, and had to endure them as one would endure harsh weather.

Pappe called for the world to change its dictionary of Israel (a point that he stressed very much) from a democratic paradigm of peace etc etc to an ethnic, racist, criminal, apartheid, colonialist state. These adjectives were all his we assure you. He doesn't think convincing people that Israel is an apartheid state is necessary because of the overwhelming evidence of its policies in Gaza, West Bank, Greater Jerusalem, Naqab, and so on. He was the first Israeli academic to call for an academic boycott of Israel, and relayed to us how a list was formed with a grand total of six other Israeli academics who supported him. Today there are over 150 Israeli academics who oppose Israel's occupying and apartheid laws, a small sign of just how popular the BDS campaign has become.

Needless to say, we were very much engrossed and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly as our minds expanded with more knowledge and wisdom. One critique must be brought to attention: the room was full of foreigners. And hey that's great, nothing against them of course. But where are all the Palestinians? Spare us the whole "Just because I'm French, doesn't mean I'm not Palestinian as heart" diatribe, it's not about that. We managed to count five Arabs, and that was only because we caught more than a couple of Arabic words out of all the English they were saying. It's such a shame that with a renowned Israeli historian, so few Palestinians really showed an interest. Well, guess that's the decadent society that we've metamorphosed into. We're upbeat, we're obsessed with facebook, Lady Gaga trumps the surgically enhanced Arab singers, and we just don't give a damn. Disillusioned youth? You missed out, simple as that.

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