Dr. Ilan Pappe, senior lecturer of Political Science at Haifa University
and the Academic Director of the Research Institute for Peace at Givat
Haviva, spoke at McGill University in Montreal on Wednesday January 22,
2003 on the topic: "Israel, a state in denial."
Montreal January 23, 2003 (MMN): Israel is a state in denial. At least
that was the message Ilan Pappe conveyed yesterday in a public lecture.
Pappe, a senior lecturer of Political Science at Haifa University and the
Academic Director of the Research Institute for Peace at Givat Haviva, on
Wednesday presented a lecture at McGill University entitled "Israel, a
State In Denial."
In his lecture Pappe pointed out that in 1948 two very conflicting events
took place in the land of Palestine.
"In that year", stated Pappe, "the Jewish National Movement, Zionism,
reached its most important and significant moment in its history when
after 2000 years of exile and persecution, Jews exercised their right to
self determination on the land of Palestine, and gained international
legitimacy to that land."
But, in the same year, notes Pappe, the same people who fulfilled a long
time dream of the Jewish people committed collective crimes against the
indigenous Palestinian population. Five hundred villages and 11 towns
were destroyed and 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from
"In the collective Israeli Jewish memory," says Pappe, "very few people
remember or want to remember this less pleasant side of this story."
Pappe pointed out that in the media, educational, and political systems
in Israel, people re-call the events of 1948 as the "Day Of
Independence," or the moment of the end of the Jewish exile after 2000
years, and the celebration of "Jewish self-determination."
The other side of the story, the systematic uprooting of a people, the
destruction of the local population, and the ethnic cleansing of
Palestine "is totally omitted and erased from the collective memory of
Israelis," Pappe stated.
"The paradox between a pleasant and positive chapter in history and the
unpleasant and un-positive chapter in history, is partly solved in
Israeli history by erasing the unpleasant side of the history," he said.
Pappe noted that Israeli text-books, media outlets, and politicians, have
totally erased this narrative, and replaced it with a new story which
states that the Jewish state actually welcomed Palestinians in Palestine,
but it was outside Arab leaders who called on the local population to
leave, and the Jews pleaded with them to stay.
"In fact," said Pappe, "this story is a mythology. This Israeli side of
the story was presented as being professional and objective, while the
Palestinian narrative was seen as being pure propaganda."
It was not until the late 1980s, with the work of Pappe and Israeli
historian Benny Morris, that people began to hear and different story,
which was in fact being told by Palestinians ever since 1948.
"But the Palestinian version of events, due to powerful world wide
Zionist propaganda, did not win credibility," stated Pappe.
But Pappe also noted that Israel is not only in denial over the events of
1948, but also regarding at least three other important issues, including
the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the October 2000
Palestinian uprising, and the suffering of the Palestinians, especially
after April 2002, and Israel's contribution to that suffering.
>From its very beginning, stated Pappe, the occupation of the West Bank
and Gaza, which only represents 20% of historic Palestine, has been a
brutal affair with daily house demolitions, expulsions and killings. But
where the denial is in Israeli society is the belief that the occupation
is in fact an act of benevolence and modernization, and that they are
bringing the message of enlightenment and progress to the Palestinian
"Israeli academics actually produce "empirical evidence" which shows that
life under Israeli occupation has actually improved their condition,"
"While the 1948 story was helped by the media, the denial of the
occupation is helped by the Israeli academia," stated Pappe.
With regards to the second Palestinian uprising in October 2000, a new
denial within Israel set in, argued Pappe.
Pappe stated that while the occupation was bad enough from 1967 to 2000
with collective abuse of the rights of the Palestinian people, after
October 2000 there was a serious deterioration in the conditions in which
the Palestinians were facing.
"Here," stated Pappe, "the state of denial is even more bewildering
because we are talking about the beginning of the 21st century where
there is global media and easy access to information everywhere and
people are supposed to be more opened-minded and sober about
"Yet compared to the period of 1967 to 2000," stated Pappe, "the Israeli
Jewish society is in this third stated of denial and even less willing to
face up to the reality and is much happier with ignorance compared to the
Pappe argued that this third state of denial created a consensus within
Israeli society which brought Ariel Sharon into power, and will most
likely bring him back to power in the Israeli elections to be held on
He stated that especially since October 2000 Israel has become and army
with a state instead of a state with an army.
"You can see that with the high percentage of Generals in the government
and the fact that the army is deciding the main policies against the
Palestinians. The media, however, portrays it the other way around by
stating the politicians make decisions which the army is executing, but
in fact the opposite is true, " said Pappe.
The fourth and final state of denial, said Pappe, is perhaps the most
significant, and which Israel now finds itself in since April of 2002.
Since that date, the Palestinian people have been living under almost
constant curfews, constant closures and suffering rampant malnutrition.
The worst part, however, is the behaviour of the Israeli soldiers towards
the Palestinians at the checkpoints, which was always there before but is
now more systematic.
He mentioned an incident surrounding a military checkpoint where an
Israeli TV station filmed what was taking place there for a day. The film
showed Israeli soldiers playing Russian Roulette with Palestinians which
was then aired on Israeli TV. The TV station received many letters of
complaint, but not over what the soldiers were doing, but that "showing
such footage can help the enemy."
"This," stated Pappe, "is the kind of mood we are facing in Israel."
But Pappe tried to end his lecture on a more positive note. He said that
"You can lie to some of the people some of the time, but not to all of
the people all of the time."
"The mechanisms of denial in Israel are very effective because if you use
it again and again it becomes more and more effective. It is a mechanism
of denial that begins from the cradle to the grave. It is a very strong
form of indoctrination to ensure people do not get confused by facts and
reality, or view reality in such a way that it does not create any moral
problems," he said.
"If you want to keep a self-image of being the only democracy in the
Middle East, and keep and maintain an outer image of belonging to the
world of human and civil rights and universal values, there is a limit to
how far you can maintain a gap between such a desire and the reality of
the world," he stated.
Pappe argued that Israel's hold on the American media helps it get away
with behavior both in the past and the present, where other countries who
committed such acts would have been labeled as a pariah state, and would
not be accepted in the community of nations.
"But the way Israel is represented in America will not hold much longer,
and it is even now beginning to crack," argues Pappe.
"It is also beginning to happen in Israel itself after years of mass
denial. There is a limit to how far people are willing remain in this
state in an age of global communications, readily accessible alternative
sources of information, and an time when Palestinians are willing to
engage in constructive dialogue."
Pappe stated that there is a small number of Jews who are now in the
process of what he calls "an awakening" or "sobering up."
"If in October 2000 we had 5 Israeli soldiers who refused to serve in the
Occupied Territories, we now have 500. If in the first demonstration in
Israel against the continued occupation in October 2000 we had 50 people,
5000 came to the last demonstration. If there was only one NGO that dared
speak against the continued occupation and the present Israeli policies,
there are now several NGOs."
Pappe noted that there is a clear-cut evidence for a growing movement of
protest or a construction of a peace coalition within Israel, although
right now it is very small.
"This movement needs empowerment from the outside. There is currently not
enough positive forces within Israel to bring about the change needed,"
Pappe noted that there has to be two kinds of pressure needed from the
outside: 1) empowering anti-occupation forces, and 2) exerting pressure
on Israel both economically, culturally and politically.
"Most of Israel's Jews have to understand that there is a price-tag
attached to their behaviour. If you inflict evil on another people, you
will have to pay for this."
"I would rather see pressure from the outside than the current practice
of suicide bombs as a means that will bring about change in Israeli
policy. In fact, I think it is more effective than the suicide bombs,
which I don't condone morally or politically."
Pappe concluded his lecture by stating that: "If I, as an Israeli Jew,
succeeded in getting out of the state of denial there is no reason why
others should not also."
"It is more difficult to be the first or the second, but much easier to
be the fourth or the fifth, but we need a lot of outside support for
that," he said.
Pappe's lecture was hosted by the McGill branch of the Solidarity for
Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR).
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