Monday 7 November 2011

History a la mode

The Rosh Pina Project has revealed that the producers of the anti-Israel film With God on our Side used a known false quote from David Ben Gurion to bolster their claim that the the founders of the state of Israel intended to ethnically cleanse the Arabs from the land. The quote came from Ilan Pappe's The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, a book I reviewed for Evangelicals Now in June 2009. Although widely quoted by anti-Israel writers, Pappe (pictured second from right)is 'fundamentally unsound sir,' as Jeeves would say.

My review is on the EN website but for your convenience, here it is.

In Israel they say ‘it’s easier to throw mud than to clean it up’ and it is far beyond the capability of a brief review to clear up the mess created by Ilan Pappe’s barrage in The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. This review must content itself with supplying guidelines to enable potential readers to judge the reliability or otherwise of Pappe’s indictment of Israel.

Pappe is currently a lecturer in the Department of History at Exeter University and a co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies. He is one of a small but influential group of revisionist historians who since the early 90s have challenged the conventional account of the birth of the modern state of Israel, portraying the Zionists as colonialist aggressors and the Palestinian Arabs as their victims.

Pappe, however, is so extreme that some of his fellow revisionists have condemned both his methods of doing history and his conclusions. Pappe’s anti-Israel bias is so extreme that he recently gave an in-depth interview to the German anti-Semitic neo-Nazi paper National Zeitung, in which he repeated his charges against Israel.

The title of the book says it all. According to Pappe, contrary to the received wisdom, Hagana’s ‘Plan Dalet’ (Plan D) was not a strategy to defend Israel from Arab aggressors but a plot to cleanse the newly founded state of Israel of its Palestinian population. One would expect such a radical theory from a senior lecturer in history to be replete with extensive quotations from primary documentary sources, but, as Pappe makes clear in his Preface, he distrusts written Israeli military reports and prefers, instead, Arab sources and oral history (p.xv).

According to Pappe, the execution of Plan Dalet led to the forcible expulsion of more than half the Palestinian population of Israel and the total destruction of half its villages and towns. Pappe himself expresses surprise that a crime against humanity of such a magnitude should have gone unnoticed and unreported for 60 years when it ‘was perpetrated in modern times and at a juncture in history that called for foreign reporters and UN observers to be present’ (p.9).

Most anti-Israel writers at least claim to base their findings on documentary evidence, but Pappe is a self-confessed postmodern relativist for whom historical research is ‘a backward-looking projection of political attitudes and agendas regardless of actual facts’.

Chapter 6 features what is arguably the clearest example of his disdain for historical fact. Here he repeats an allegation of the deliberate massacre of 200 Palestinians in the village of Tantura by the Jewish Alexandroni Brigade. Pappe’s story relies heavily on a discredited doctoral dissertation by Teddy Katz, a graduate of Haifa University, who was found to have ‘gravely and severely’ falsified his evidence.

Nevertheless, in the Spring 2001 issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies, Ilan Pappe defended Katz, insisting that his conclusions were correct, even if his facts were not, since historical research need not be based on facts! ‘The Massacre at Tantura’ takes up five pages of chapter 6 and features about a dozen quotes and citations, only three of which are sourced, one of them being to a previous Pappe publication.

Under the unimaginable stresses and pressures of a struggle to survive, even the most civilised armies are capable of barbaric acts, but Ilan Pappe wishes us to believe that barbarism was the stock in trade of David Ben-Gurion and his cabinet.

If you have half a mind to believe that in the space of six months the fledgling state of Israel was able to wipe out over half its Palestinian population under the noses of international reporters and UN observers and leave no trace, that’s all you’ll need.

Calvin Smith has also put in his own two pennies' worth, which is worth reading.

You can see also Calvin debating Stephen Sizer on the subject 'Has the Church replaced Israel?' this Wednesday at 9.00pm on Revelation TV.

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