Monday, May 23, 2005


Ilan Pappe

There is an interesting short essay in the London Review of Books by Ilan Pappe on Israel's identity not as a Jewish state in the Middle East, but rather as a "white" state in the Middle East. It is very interesting, because I think that this is a large part of what draws U.S. support (both governmental and popular) for Israel. This thinly veiled racism seems so clearly to be partly what drives the popular discourse on Israel as "the only democracy in the Middle East" or the only "civilized" nation in the region, etc. Pappe writes:
The aim of the Zionist project has always been to construct and then defend a Western/‘white’ fortress in the Arab/‘dark’ world. At the heart of the refusal to allow Palestinians the right to return is the fear of Jewish Israelis that they will eventually be outnumbered by Arabs in Israel. This prospect arouses such strong feelings that Israelis seem not to care that their actions are condemned throughout the world; the Jewish propensity to seek atonement has been replaced by pious arrogance and self-righteousness. Their position is not unlike that of the Crusaders when they realised that the Kingdom of Jerusalem they had built in the Holy Land was merely an island in a hostile Islamic world. Or that of the white settlers in Africa, whose enclaves have disappeared more recently, their pretence of being another local tribe shattered. . . .

It is clear why no paid-up Zionist can raise the possibility of negotiating the right of more ‘Arabs’ to return to the Jewish state, even if this were a means to end the conflict. The refusal to entertain the return is nonetheless bizarre – if, that is, one is even slightly removed from the Zionist perception of reality, given that Israel has already ceased to be a state with a Jewish majority, thanks to the influx of Christians from Eastern Europe, the increasing number of guest workers and the fact that secular Jews can in only one sense be regarded as ‘Jewish’. It is less bewildering when one realises that the primary goal is actually to keep the state ‘white’ (the black Jews who came from Ethiopia live in poor areas and are scarcely visible). What matters in the eyes of both left and right in Israel is that the gates are kept closed, and the walls high, to ward off an ‘Arab’ invasion of the Jewish fortress.
In other Ilan Pappe news, he was invited by the defense to speak at the Sami al-Arian trial that is coming up. From Ha'aretz:
The controversial historian from the University of Haifa confirms that he was contacted by the lawyers of some of the defendants. "There are two or three Palestinians among those arrested," Pappe says, "and the Public Defender's Office approached me as an expert in Islamic movements. I am still considering the request and have not yet made a decision.". . .

Don't you have a problem coming to the defense of a defendant who is charged with serious offenses of transferring funds and aiding the terrorism of Islamic Jihad?

Pappe: "I will never defend suicide bombers. I have gone through enough character assassination, so there is no need to add more incitement against me. I have known Sami al-Arian for a few years and in my opinion the accusations against him are wrong. I am not impressed by the American prosecution. Even though we have disagreements, I maintain that this is a political trial. There is a very large distance between expressing a political opinion and supporting terrorism."
Pappe has also been a lightningrod recently because of his support of the academic boycott of Israel.

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