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Ilan Pappe's latest book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, is apparently not different from his others. It invents new "facts" and fake quotes by Ben-Gurion and others that were never said. David Pryce-Jones has reviewed the book, in the Literary Review.

Pryce-Jones' complaints against Pappe seem to be mainly that he is a communist and an anti-Zionist:

The doctrinal element pushing Pappe into anti-Zionism is his prominent involvement in the Israeli Communist Party, known as Hadash. An outcrop of pure Stalinism and always a marginal movement, Communism in Israel rejected Zionism in favour of internationalism, according to which Jews and Arabs were to form a state together. Events, indeed the whole thrust of history, have proven this to be a complete illusion, but Pappe remains one of a minute handful still in its grip.

The further emotional element pushing Pappe towards his hatred of Zionism is best elucidated by J L Talmon in his profound book, The Myth of the Nation and the Vision of Revolution.

While it is interesting to explore the question of why there are anti-Zionist Jews, these are not necessarily reasons for discounting Pappe's work.

Pappe's work should be be ignored not because he is a communist or an anti-Zionist, but because he is a bad historian and what he writes is not history, but vicious and polemical historical fiction. Pappe explained his approach to history in a documentary movie that was made about the battle of Latrun:

[V]ery pedantic and empiricist historians like to argue and to waste a lot of ink so to speak on figures, on numbers, as if the numbers are really important for the construction of myth, or if you have the accurate number you can destroy a myth or debunk it and I don't think it's very true.

(Quoted in a film about the Latrun battle and originally posted on the Web here - http://www.olinfilms.com/latrun/script.html).

Facts, figures, and numbers are for "bourgeois science" and pedants. This approach was first illustrated by Soviet scientist Trofim D. Lysenko, who fudged experimental data to "prove" that acquired characteristics can be passed on to future generations, because that is what Soviet ideology required.

If the revolution requires that mice who had their tails cut off will give birth to mice with short tails, then the Ilan Pappes of the world will produce the necessary "data." As Pryce-Jones notes, Pappe has stated:

‘We do [historiography] because of ideological reasons, not because we are truth seekers... ‘there is no such thing as truth, only a collection of narratives’.

If the man announces that he is going to lie to you, why waste time on his work? Pappe's approach is exemplified by the saga of Theodore Katz. Theodore Katz, a Haifa University Master's student who was supervised by Pappe, presented a thesis alleging that a massacre of 200 Arabs was committed by the IDF's Alexandroni Brigade at the village of Tantura in May of 1948. Veterans of the brigade sued Katz, claiming he had falsified oral evidence, and Katz withdrew his allegations. Katz's interview tapes were examined, and it was shown that Katz's transcriptions of the taped conversations did not correspond to what witnesses stated in those tapes. Katz had apparently faked the "evidence" for the massacre. This open and shut case of fraudulent research was nonetheless defended by Pappe, and anti-Zionists continue to insist, based on this invention, that there was a massacre at Tantura.

In his books, beginning with "The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951, Pappe has repeatedly claimed that Haganah plan Daled is "proof" that "the Zionsits" planned in advance to expel all the Arabs of Palestine in 1948. This claim has been repeated over and over in successive books, along with "new" evidence, such as fake quotes from Ben-Gurion, and selective quoting of the works of Benny Morris. But Plan Daled was not a plan for expelling Arabs. It was a plan for defending Israel. The plan envisaged temporary removal of civilians in specific cases, for strategic reasons, rather than wholesale expulsion. Anyonw who wants to know the truth can read Plan Dalet and see that it is so. Plan Dalet stated:

(a) The objective of this plan is to gain control of the areas of the Hebrew state and defend its borders. It also aims at gaining control of the areas of Jewish settlement and concentration which are located outside the borders [of the Hebrew state] against regular, semi-regular, and small forces operating from bases outside or inside the state....

Generally, the aim of this plan is not an operation of occupation outside the borders of the Hebrew state. However, concerning enemy bases lying directly close to the borders which may be used as springboards for infiltration into the territory of the state, these must be temporarily occupied and searched for hostiles according to the above guidelines, and they must then be incorporated into our defensive system until operations cease.

Bases located in enemy territory which are intended to be temporarily occupied and controlled will be listed among the operational targets for the various brigades.

However, people like Pappe base their careers on the surmise that nobody will ever read the documents to which they refer, and check their falsifications and distortions.

It is wrong to confuse Ilan Pappe with "New Historians" like Benny Morris, Tom Segev or Baruch Kimmerling. We may disagree with some of the conclusions that Morris or Segev or Kimmerling reach, and we may find a quote here and there that has been bent out of context, but we can learn a great deal from their books, as well as from the writings of those with opposing books. Pappe's work is not scholarship however. Pappe's book, like his previous books, is destined to be added to the vast corpus of "anti-Zionist" literature that is being accumulated, with the purpose of creating a new "narrative" - a history that never happened. It has the same scientific and intellectual value as Lysenko's "experiments" and the forged Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Ami Isseroff

Published in: www.literaryreview.co.uk
November 13, 2006


Ilan Pappe is an Israeli academic who has made his name by hating Israel and everything it stands for. In his view, expressed with obsession and a degree of paranoia, Jewish nationalism, that is to say Zionism, has been from its outset a deliberate tool for dispossessing the Palestinians; and therefore it is to be condemned root and branch. He reserves the Palestinian term of Nakba, meaning catastrophe, for describing what to Israelis is their war of independence of 1948. To him, Israeli politicians and soldiers, one and all, are so many murderers. Forests have been planted only to cover up the past. Houses are ‘monstrous villas and palaces for rich American Jews’. Everything Israeli is ugly, everything Palestinian is beautiful. One day, he supposes, the Israelis may well consummate their original crime with something even worse. The only possible alternative lies in the immediate return of every Palestinian to his original home, and that will mean the end of the state whose existence so offends Pappe. This, of course, is exactly the inflexible position taken by Hamas and the PLO.

The reader’s initial reaction must be one of pity. Poor man! What a strain it must be to belong to a nation whose members are so overwhelmingly unbearable that he longs for them to be overpowered by others. Yet there is more to it than that. Sad and creepy though it is, Pappe’s anger is open to rational analysis.

The doctrinal element pushing Pappe into anti-Zionism is his prominent involvement in the Israeli Communist Party, known as Hadash. An outcrop of pure Stalinism and always a marginal movement, Communism in Israel rejected Zionism in favour of internationalism, according to which Jews and Arabs were to form a state together. Events, indeed the whole thrust of history, have proven this to be a complete illusion, but Pappe remains one of a minute handful still in its grip.

The further emotional element pushing Pappe towards his hatred of Zionism is best elucidated by J L Talmon in his profound book, The Myth of the Nation and the Vision of Revolution. Among the ‘horribly charged and tormenting questions’ Talmon asks is why so many Jews have adopted identities that seemingly allow them to deny their Jewishness. Uncountable numbers of Jews have followed the example of the Karl Marxes, Trotskys and Rosa Luxemburgs who sought identities as Communists and revolutionaries in the hope that this would allow them to merge with those who otherwise would be their persecutors. Some Communists - like Lazar Kaganovich, and many in the KGB as well as leaders in the Soviet satellites - set about the deliberate destruction of the Jewish religion and culture. Talmon speaks openly of the neurosis and ‘morbid masochism’ motivating such unhappy people.

In Nazi Germany a few Jews tried to camouflage themselves in a similar manner. Felix Jacoby opened his Kiel University lectures in 1933 by comparing Hitler to the Emperor Augustus. Dr Hans-Joachim Schoeps and Max Naumann even formed a movement of Jews for Hitler. With gallows humour, other Jews replied that this movement’s slogan was Raus mit Uns, or Out with Us. In Israel today, Neturei Karta, a sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews, believes that the Messiah alone should bring about a Jewish state, and that Israel is therefore an impiety fit for destruction. In New York they have a branch called Jews Against Zionism, and recently they welcomed President Ahmedinejad in person there, supporting his call for genocide in Israel. Pappe is the secular and political version of these sectarians. As often happens, extremists have come from opposing poles only to reach the same conclusion.

Zionism, in Pappe’s conventional Marxist view, had nothing to do with the need for Jews to survive persecution by Europeans or Arabs, but was only a settler and colonialist movement cynically directed by British imperialists and their greedy Jewish collaborators. He characterises David Ben-Gurion, the driving personality in the latter stages of the foundation of the state of Israel, as someone who always intended to expel Palestinians from the land. To bring this about, he assembled a body which Pappe refers to as the Consultancy, but the details of who these people were, and what they really did, he fails to give us, instead preferring to conjure an aura of sinister conspiracy. The Israelis were always the stronger party and knew that they would win out at the end of the British Mandate in 1948, Pappe says. In contrast, the Palestinians were defenceless and hardly violent at all, designated victims whose villages were mercilessly overrun and many of the inhabitants butchered.

A huge literature exists in British, Arab and Israeli archives to reveal the multiple reasons for the flight of the Palestinians at the time, ranging from a belief that invading Arab armies were about to rescue them, and they should move out of harm’s way, to a cultural reflex that they could not accept Jews in positions of authority, an escapism on the part of some leaders and delusions of power on the part of others, and of course fear. Savage things were certainly perpetrated by both sides - à la guerre comme à la guerre - but Pappe will have none of that, completely ignoring the context in all its complexity and local variation. His technique is to list towns and villages as though their capture involved always and only simple brutality and expulsion. No mention of the Jewish need to survive in an existential struggle in the aftermath of the Holocaust; no mention of the 6,000 Jews killed, which was 1 per cent of the population; no mention of Azzam Pasha of the Arab League promising a massacre of Jews on the scale of the Mongols; no mention of Arab radio propaganda and disinformation; no proper account of Arab military successes, brushing over Arab atrocities and the destruction of Jewish settlements; no mention of the countervailing expulsion and expropriation of a million Jews in Arab countries.

As history, the book is worthless. In interviews Pappe regularly explains: ‘We do [historiography] because of ideological reasons, not because we are truth seekers.’ For him, as a Marxist and anti-nationalist, ‘there is no such thing as truth, only a collection of narratives’. To substantiate his particular ideological narrative, Pappe puts the worst possible interpretation on any Jewish deed or word, while validating anything said or done by Palestinians. For evidence of Israeli monstrosity, he relies on quotations from his own previous works or from Palestinian polemicists, and above all on the oral testimonies of Palestinian refugees. Over half a century of military and ideological conflict has passed since their exodus, but Pappe declares his faith that whatever they now say is true. This might all seem too pathological to matter much, but Arab and Muslim extremists are making huge efforts to contest the legitimacy of Israel, and many of their allies on the international Left will lean on Pappe for purposes of ‘pilgering’ and ‘fisking’.

The final element contributing to Pappe’s mindset lies in the sphere of psychology and fashion. Contemporary intellectuals have long been accustomed to glorying in an adversarial stance towards their own society, preening themselves as men of nobler spirits than the dull indifferent masses around them, and isolated not because they are foolish but because they are brave. It is a form of snobbery - moral snobbery - which is why intellectuals of this kind are so widely resented.

There is a fatal contradiction at the heart of Pappe’s advocacy of the immediate return of all Palestinian refugees as the necessary condition of peace. If Israelis are really as vicious as Pappe presents them, then Palestinians could not possibly want to live among them. Are Palestinians to return only to wipe out Israelis or to be wiped out themselves? Poor Palestinians, poor Israelis, to be mobilised for such fates. And should Hamas, the PLO or President Ahmadinejad make good on threats to eliminate Israel, there will not be time to rescue Pappe from the consequences of his moral snobbery and his Marxism, or to discover whether he really applauds his own Raus mit Uns demise.

David Pryce-Jones

David Pryce-Jones was educated at Eton College, and then read history at Magdalen College, Oxford. He has published nine novels and nine books of non-fiction, including The Closed Circle and The War that Never Was, about the end of the Soviet empire. He is a senior editor of National Review in New York.


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Literary Review

Literary Review was founded in 1979 for people who love reading. Edited for many years by award-winning journalist Auberon Waugh, it is now under the editorship of Nancy Sladek, and reviews a wide range of published books, including fiction, history and politics. Priding itself on the quality of its writing and the expertise of its reviewers, the magazine is also famous for its annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award. Literary Review has a prestige outweighing its small circulation and has its offices on Lexington Street in Soho. After an earlier attempt at a website fizzled out several years ago, it recently created a new website.

Original content is Copyright by the author 2006. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, https://zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000292.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to . Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 4 Comments

I am more concerned not just at the lies told by the Jewish Jew-haters (Chomsky, Pappe, Morris, et al) but at the pathology of the phenomenon. It needs to be discussed in serious psychiatric literature as a dangerous phenomenon of our time. I believe there is already one book out on the subject, but it was written by a psychologist who was himself biaised. I personally believe that people who are so determined to destroy their own people are in need of urgent hospitalisation.

, Wednesday, November 22nd

Final comment, I promise. Maybe because some people don't live in North America, they might have a fundamentally different perspective about so-called historians of the Benny Morris variety.

Benny Morris coined the term "New Historian"; he also seemed intent upon making a name for himself by single-handedly defaming the state of Israel (at every possible opportunity). He's like the Noam Chomsky of Historians. He's probably one of the most well-known "historians" for non-academics.
But the reason for his "fame" has nothing to do with academics per se. He never remained in the hallowed halls of academe or "the lofty ivory tower" to maintain a debate. His audience has been readers of certain newspapers (The Guardian, The New York Times, in other words, the editorial pages of papers more than willing to print anti-Israel screeds about so-called "war crimes" during 1948 and belabour the "plight" of the Pals) and radio programs (such as NPR -- that's National Public Radio, but better known as "National Palestinian Radio"). Benny Morris can be found virtually everywhere (with the exception of peer-reviewed publications). I cannot emphasize the kind and degree of damage this person has caused. And he does not "improve" matters by suggesting that "ethnic cleansing" is a good thing...(that's his latest charade...stated as if he's suddenly become "pro-Israel." or "Yeah!! Two thumbs up for genocide!" Morris prior to his "transformation" would also write articles for texts exploring international humanitarian law -- just read one of his "articles" about the perpetration of "war crimes" by Israel...then you need no longer ask yourself "How come people want to see the Jewish state destroyed?")

J.S., Monday, November 20th

Thought I'd just add two website links that might be of interest:
1) A historian, Gil-White, refutes Morris's claim that Morris made an "about-face" with respect to Morris's claims of Israeli leaders' "ethnic cleansing" of Arabs circa 1948 (article published June 22, 2006). www.hirhome.com/israel/about_face.htm

2) Another website (more general) with respect to the "New Historians", (and/or "New Liars") available at

J.S., Monday, November 20th

I agreed with the majority of the comments, up until I read: "It is wrong to confuse Ilan Pappe with 'New Historians' like Benny Morris, Tom Segev or Baruch Kimmerling." Benni Morris was also a fabricator -- this has been well-documented. In Morris's works, Morris, for example, fabricated journal entries from Ben Gurion's diaries (alleging, falsely, that Gurion was pro ethnic cleansing of Arabs). The followers of these so-called New Historians are much worse...(they tend to be Arab "academics" -- espousing far more noxious lies), and now they're entrenched at major universities world-wide.

J.S., Monday, November 20th

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