Support, don't scorn Israel exiles

April 27, 2007

The criticism of Ilan Pappe by David Hirsh and Richard Millett (Letters, April 13) is wholly unwarranted.

If, as Hirsh says, Pappe "was not successful in building an academic or a political movement in Israel", then his position is no different from that of white South African exiles in the apartheid era.

Academics are among the most privileged section of Israeli society, and they have played a key role in supporting the occupation of Palestine and turning a blind eye to the attacks on the Palestinian education system.

Pappe has almost single-handedly documented the ethnic cleansing of Israel/ Palestine as part of the project to build a Jewish state. He has documented how this was a deliberate strategy rather than a by-product of war. For this, he has endured constant threats to his life, abuse and even physical assaults by security staff at Haifa University.

Hirsh talks about Pappe's "essentialist and ahistorical identification of Israel" as a racist and apartheid state. That is a matter of fact. Maybe Hirsh should explain why opinion polls show that more than 60 per cent of Israelis want all Palestinians expelled, why they don't wish to live next to an Arab and why they consider an Israeli Jew marrying a Palestinian to be guilty of treason.

We have just witnessed Azmi Bishara, a renowned Israeli Arab intellectual and member of Israel's Knesset, being forced into exile after consistent harassment by Israeli security forces - harassment that is so outrageous that Israeli newspapers aren't even allowed to print the details of his interview with al-Jazeera.

We should welcome Pappe to this country as a brave Israeli who stood against the tide of racism and chauvinism in Israel in just the same way that anti-Nazi German intellectuals were forced to abandon their universities rather than subscribe to anti-Semitism.

Rather than mocking and scorning him, Hirsh and Millett might wish to ponder why it is that dissident Israeli academics are almost invariably forced into exile.

Tony Greenstein
Brighton

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