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Ilan Pappé ( ; born 1954 in Haifamarker, Israelmarker) is professor of history at the University of Exetermarker in the UK, and co-director of the Exeter Center for Ethno-Political Studies. He was formerly a senior lecturer in political science at Haifa Universitymarker (1984-2007), and chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies in Haifa (2000-2008). He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), The Modern Middle East (2005), A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples (2003), and Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (1988).

Pappé is one of Israel's "New Historians," often referred to as an historical revisionist, who, since the release of pertinent British and Israeli government documents in the early 1980s, have been rewriting the history of Israel's creation in 1948 and the corresponding expulsion or flight of 700,000 Palestinians in the same year. He has written that the expulsions were not decided on an ad hoc basis, as other historians have argued, but constituted the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, in accordance with Plan Dalet, drawn up in 1947 by Israel's future leaders. He blames the creation of Israel for the lack of peace in the Middle East, arguing that Zionism is more dangerous than Islam, and has called for an international boycott of Israeli academics.

His work has been both supported and criticized by other historians. Before he left Israel in 2008, he had been condemned in the Knessetmarker, Israel's parliament; a minister of education had called for him to be sacked; his photograph had appeared in a newspaper at the center of a target; and he had received several death threats.

Early life and education

Pappé was born in Haifamarker to German-Jewish parents who fled Nazi persecution in the 1930s. At the age of 18, he was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, serving in the Golan Heightsmarker during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalemmarker in 1978, and in 1984 obtained his PhD in history from the University of Oxfordmarker, under the guidance of Arab historian Albert Hourani and Roger Owen. His doctoral thesis became his first book, Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

Academic career

Pappe was the Academic Director of the Research Institute for Peace at Givat Haviva from 1993 to 2000, and chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies.

He left the University of Haifa in 2007, to take up his appointment in Exeter, after his endorsement of the boycott of Israeli universities led the president of the university to call for his resignation. Pappé said that he found it "increasingly difficult to live in Israel" with his "unwelcome views and convictions." In a Qatarmarker newspaper interview explaining his decision, he said: "I was boycotted in my university and there had been attempts to expel me from my job. I am getting threatening calls from people every day. I am not being viewed as a threat to the Israeli society but my people think that I am either insane or my views are irrelevant. Many Israelis also believe that I am working as a mercenary for the Arabs.

Pappé currently works on 20th century ethno-politics in the history department of the University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus.. As of the 2009/2010 academic year, he will join the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies on the main Streatham Campusmarker in Exeter.


In 1999, Pappé ran in the Knesset elections as seventh on the Communist Party-led Hadash list. He is a prominent supporter of the One State Solution envisaging one state for Palestinians and Israelis.

After years of political activism, Pappé supports economic and political boycotts of Israel, including an academic boycott. He believes boycotts are justified because "the Israeli occupation is a dynamic process and it becomes worse with each passing day. The AUT can choose to stand by and do nothing, or to be part of a historical movement similar to the anti-apartheid campaign against the white supremacist regime in South Africa. By choosing the latter, it can move us forward along the only remaining viable and non-violent road to saving both Palestinians and Israelis from an impending catastrophe."

If it is possible Israel’s conduct in 1948 would be brought onto the stage of international tribunals; this may deliver a message even to the peace camp in Israel that reconciliation entails recognition of war crimes and collective atrocities.
This cannot be done from within, as any reference in the Israeli press to expulsion, massacre or destruction in 1948 is usually denied and attributed to self hate and service to the enemy in times of war.
This reaction encompasses academia, the media and educational system, as well as political circles."

As a result, University of Haifa President Aharon Ben-Ze'ev called on Pappé to resign, saying: "it is fitting for someone who calls for a boycott of his university to apply the boycott himself." He said that Pappé would not be ostracized, since that would undermine academic freedom, but he should leave voluntarily. In the same year, Pappé initiated the annual Israeli Right of return conferences, which called for the unconditional right of return of the Palestinian refugees who were expelled in 1948.

Katz controversy

Pappé publicly supported an M.A. thesis by Haifa University student Teddy Katz, which was approved with highest honors, that claimed Israel had committed a massacre in the Palestinian village of Al-Tanturamarker during the war in 1948, based upon interviews Arab residents of the village and Israeli veteran of the operation. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian historians had previously recorded any such incident. Meyrav Wurmser describes it as a "made-up massacre," but according to Pappe "In fact the story of Tantura had already been told before, as early as 1950 . . . It appears in the memoirs of a Haifa notable, Muhammad Nimr al-Khatib, who, a few days after the battle, recorded the testimony of a Palestinian." In December 2000, Katz was sued for libel by veterans of the Alexandroni Brigade and after the testimony was heard, he retracted his allegations about the massacre. Twelve hours later, he retracted his retraction.

Following the trial the university appointed a committee to reexamine the thesis, which decided to overturn the original decision and fail it. Pappé continues to defend both Katz and his thesis. Tom Segev and others argued that there is merit or some truth in what Katz described. According to the Israeli new historian Benny Morris, although war crimes were committed, there's "no unequivocal proof of a large-scale massacre."

Critical assessment

Ilan Pappé's books have been praised by Walid Khalidi, Richard Falk, Ella Shohat, Nur Masalha and John Pilger. Pilger describes Pappé as "Israel’s bravest, most principled, most incisive historian." On the other hand, Israeli historian Benny Morris, another of Israel's "new historians," is critical of his work. On Pappé's A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, Benny Morris wrote:

Unfortunately much of what Pappé tries to sell his readers is complete fabrication.
[...] This book is awash with errors of a quantity and a quality that are not found in serious historiography.
[...] The multiplicity of mistakes on each page is a product of both Pappé's historical methodology and his political proclivities[.] [...] For those enamored with subjectivity and in thrall to historical relativism, a fact is not a fact and accuracy is unattainable."

Pappé replied that his books and Morris's all contain mistakes regarding dates, names, and numbers:

We should all try and minimize them to note, I agree.
Very few of us succeed and one can only hope to become perfect in the next work—which has not as yet been written.
They should not however be pointed out as part of an ideology or a basis for ad hominem attack.
Worse, a reviewer is not allowed to lie openly about them as Morris does.

Efraim Karsh, one of the most vocal critics of the New Historians, also accuses Pappé of factual misrepresentations:

Readers are told of events that never happened, such as the nonexistent May 1948 Tanturamarker "massacre" or the expulsion of Arabs within twelve days of the partition resolution.
They learn of political decisions that were never made, such as the Anglo-French 1912 plan for the occupation of Palestine or the contriving of 'a master plan to rid the future Jewish state of as many Palestinians as possible.
And they are misinformed about military and political developments, such as the rationale for the Balfour declaration...

He also singles Pappé out as "the odd man out among the so-called New Historians", for relying on secondary sources and admitting his own bias in his introduction. Karsh critically quotes Pappe saying "My bias is apparent despite the desire of my peers that I stick to facts and the "truth" when reconstructing past realities. I view any such construction as vain and presumptuous. This book is written by one who admits compassion for the colonized not the colonizer; who sympathizes with the occupied not the occupiers." Pappé's response was that Karsh 'has taken upon himself the mantle of spokesperson for the Zionist narrative, and anyone thus committed to a national narrative cannot begin to accept the claims made by the counter-narrative, in this case, the Palestinian one.'

In a review essay of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Seth J. Frantzman calls Pappé's work "a cynical exercise in manipulating evidence to fit an implausible thesis." He writes that Pappé "ignores context and draws far broader conclusions than evidence allows by cherry-picking some reports and ignoring other sources entirely."

Published work


  • The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, London and New York: Oneworld, 2006. ISBN 1851684670
  • The Modern Middle East, London and New York: Routledge, 2005. ISBN 0415214092
  • The Modern History Palestine, One Land, Two Peoples, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, (2003; 2006) ISBN 0521556325 (The book is available in French, German, Spanish and Italian).
  • (With Jamil Hilal). Parlare Con il Nemico, Narrazioni palestinesi e israeliane a confronto Milano: Bollati Boringhieri, 2004.
  • The Aristocracy: The Husaynis; A Political Biography, Jerusalem: Mossad Byalik, (Hebrew), 2003.
  • The Israel-Palestine Question, London and New York: Routledge, (1999, 2006). ISBN 0415169488
  • (with M. Maoz). History From Within: Politics and Ideas in Middle East, London and New York: Tauris, 1997. ISBN 1860640125
  • (with J. Nevo). Jordan in the Middle East: The Making of a Pivotal State, London: Frank Cass, 1994. ISBN 0714634549
  • The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951, London and New York: I.B. Tauris, (1992, 1994). ISBN 1850438196
  • Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1948-1951, London: St. Antony's College Series, Macmillan Press; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988. ISBN 0312015739



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