- Examining ‘Ten Myths about Israel’, by Ilan Pappe Jewish Historian
by Allan C. Brownfeld on This review of the book “Ten Myths About Israel’ by Ilan Pappe will appear in the Winter 2018 ISSUES, the quarterly journal of the American Council for Judaism. The book is published by Verso.
The Middle East remains a subject of increasing examination and debate. The prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians seem to be receding. Early in 2018, Israel’s ruling Likud Party unanimously endorsed a resolution calling for the annexation of West Bank settlements. This decision marked the latest step by Likud to distance itself from the internationally backed idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state as part of a future peace agreement. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan declared: “We are telling the world that it doesn’t matter what the nations of the world say. The time has come to express our biblical right to the land.”
Much of the world’s understanding of the conflicting claims to historic Palestine is confused. We have heard over the years of “an Israeli narrative” and a “Palestinian narrative.” There have been too few efforts to understand what really has happened in this region, and to arrive at some agreement about where myth ends and facts begin. In this book, written on the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Professor Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian now teaching at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, examines the most contested ideas concerning the origins and identity of the contemporary state of Israel.
The “ten myths” that Pappe explores reinforce the regional status quo. He explores the claim that Palestine was an empty land at the time of the Balfour Declaration, as well as the formation of Zionism and its role in the early decades of nation building. He asks whether the Palestinians voluntarily left their homeland in 1948, and whether June 1967 was a war of “no choice.” Turning to the myths surrounding the failures of the Camp David Accords and the official reasons for the attacks on Gaza, he explains why the two state solution, in his view, is no longer viable.
“As the example of the Israel-Palestine conflict shows,” writes Pappe, “historical disinformation, even of the most recent past, can do tremendous harm. This willful misunderstanding of history can promote oppression and protect a regime of colonization and occupation. It is not surprising, therefore, that policies of disinformation continue to the present and play an important part in perpetuating the conflict…The Zionist historical account of how the disputed land became the state of Israel is based on a cluster of myths that subtly cast doubt on the Palestinians’ moral right to the land…This book challenges these myths, which appear in the public domain as indisputable truths. These statements are, to my eyes, distortions and fabrications that can—and must—be refuted through a closer examination of the historical record.”