Prominent Israeli historian Ilan Pappé says “Unless the international community and the Muslim world wake up and exerts pressure to stop the oppression, the Palestinians themselves cannot do it, and the few Jews in Israel who are anti-Zionist will not have enough influence from within.”
In an interview with Shia Followers, Pappé also said “I am optimistic as politics is not just pursued from above and if you look at the civil societies worldwide you can see a dramatic shift in favor of Palestine. We have to find a way of extending this shift to politics from above.”
Following is the full transcript of the interview:
At least 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces as tens of thousands protested along the frontier against the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. The move has been met with widespread anger from Muslim nations. What’s your take on the embassy relocation and its short and long-term consequences?
Ilan Pappé: I think in the short term the move of the embassy would just reaffirm what was already known with regard to the situation in Palestine in 2018. The U.S. supports Israel unconditionally, the Arab world is too divided to make any positive impact on the reality in Palestine and some of the regimes are too timid to face the U.S. and there is not as yet a political actor, by which I mean a state or an international organization that is willing to impose sanctions on Israel or punish it in any other way for its violations of the international law. The long term consequences are that this is the end of the pax-Americana, by which I mean that regardless of what Palestinian leaders thought of the U.S. hegemonic role in the “peace process” they accepted it. This could be an end to such involvement and hence it also means the death of the two states solution that was at the heart of this process and could not be maintained without American involvement. As we also see, this is also the return to neo-con American policies of aggression towards Iran, but it is hard to predict where this will take us.
Could you tell us how the ideological structure of Zionism and the idea of Israel has changed over time? What should the younger generations know about the creation of Israel?
Ilan Pappé: I think the most important thing to know is that Zionism is a settler colonial movement (very much as were the Europeans who came to North America, Australia and South Africa). And as such deems the natives as aliens and the new colonized land as exclusively theirs. Zionism from the beginning strove to have as much of Palestine as possible with as few Palestinians in it as possible. The means for achieving this varied. In 1948, it was done by a massive ethnic cleansing operation that expelled half of Palestine’s population. Later it was done by means of a harsh military rule, enclaving communities, incremental transfer of people and economic strangulation and siege. While focusing on this in the last 70 years we should not forget that this did not prevent the Israeli society to develop its own culture, high tech capabilities, science etc. However, one can separate the state’s achievements from the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.
How has Israel’s grip on U.S. foreign policy changed since Donald Trump became president?
Ilan Pappé: This reminds on the period before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Neo-cons who were the strongest allies of Israel in the U.S.A. pushed for the invasion (both for the sake of Israel and as an implementation of their worldview). Same happens now, Trump has his own neo-con, like Bolton, directing a certain American orientation who are also Israel most devoted allies and thus the policy is a blend of a neo-con vision of America’s involvement in the Middle East while serving the ambitions of the extreme right in Israel.
The definition of anti-Semitism has been extended in recent years as to silence any criticism of Israel or Zionism. What’s your own experience in this regard?
Ilan Pappé: As a Jew in my case it was translated into accusation of self-hate. I am surprised that it works as means of intimidation. For several reasons: at the forefront of the solidarity with the Palestinians, in particular in the U.S.A., there are many Jews, so the accusation is really baseless. Secondly, the true face of Zionism is now fully exposed as the current regime does not even try to hide its racist and aggressive policies. So how can a condemnation of racist policies be regarded racist? Finally, from my experience, if you do not succumb to the accusation and begin to apologize, it falls. But one need to educate people of the big difference between Zionism and Judaism as I did in my book The Ten Myths of Israel.
Any other thoughts on the future of Israeli military rule over the Palestinians and the Muslim world’s reaction to it?
Ilan Pappé: My feeling is that Israel will annex most of the West Bank and would like to think that this whole story is over. Unless the international community and the Muslim world wake up and exerts pressure to stop the oppression, the Palestinians themselves cannot do it, and the few Jews in Israel who are anti-Zionist will not have enough influence from within. However, I am optimistic as politics is not just pursued from above and if you look at the civil societies worldwide you can see a dramatic shift in favor of Palestine. We have to find a way of extending this shift to politics from above.
Ilan Pappé is an Israeli historian and socialist activist. He is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, director of the university’s European Centre for Palestine Studies, and co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies.