Visiting professor says Israel can learn much from South Africa’s experience

Ilan Pappe

An Israeli Jew and currently professor and director at the University of Exeter’s European Centre for Palestine Studies in the UK, Ilan Pappe, says he supports “a one state solution where Jews and Palestinians live together in a constitutional democracy” and that the South African example shows the way.

Pappe’s work has drawn praise as well as harsh criticism in academic and political circles. In 2007 he was forced to resign from the University of Haifa in Israel because of his views and his call for an international academic boycott of Israel’s universities.

Pappe visited South Africa recently and delivered a series of public engagements. Last week he was in Pietermaritzburg where he talked to a packed room of students,academics and community members at the New Arts Block, UKZN.

Considered one of Israel’s “new historians” based on his research on the release of British and Israeli documents in the late 1980s, his work challenges the current understanding of Israel’s creation in 1948 arguing that the Zionist vision of Israel has always been a future with no or at least very few native Palestinians in it.

He says “Israel is a formidable settler – colonialist state, unwilling to transform or compromise, and eager to crush by whatever means necessary any resistance to its control and rule in historical Palestine”.

His talk in Pietermaritzburg was on the misconceptions and mythologies on Israel promoted by Zionist Israeli propaganda and supported by western media and universities.

According to him, the most significant myth is that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled the newly declared state of Israel not because of attacks by Israeli soldiers but because leaders of neighbouring Arab countries called on them to do so with the promise of return once their armies had triumphed over the newly created Jewish state.

According to Pappe however, the Palestinians fled their villages not in response to a call from Arab leaders but because of a concerted campaign of terror—including massacres and rape—perpetrated by military units of the newly declared Israeli state.

“There can be no peace until Israel deals with the key issue of the Palestinian right of return,” says Pappe.

In response to questions from the audience Pappe clarified that the campaign against the Zionist state of Israel is not because it is engaged in a religious war on Islam or Christianity but because Israel is a “colonist apartheid” regime that is carrying out gross human rights violations against a population that was progressively marginalised and confined to open air prisons like Gaza.

“This is about human rights and dignity,” he declared.

Omar Latiff

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