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|Written by Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan|
|Wednesday, 16 May 2012 21:00|
Israel's ongoing oppression of Palestinians is eroding support among American Jews causing the Israeli government to look for support from Christian Zionists says Israeli historian and academic Ilan Pappe.
Though Prof. Pappe asserts that the Middle East will remain unstable and a threat to peace as long as the dispute simmers, he differs from some Israeli dissenters, such as Israeli journalists Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, in that he says he is optimistic for a durable and just settlement sooner than people expect.
At a function in Ottawa during his Apr. 30 to May 5 seven city tour of Canada, the U.K.-based history professor reiterated statements made by UN and other observers about Israeli violation of the Palestinian people’s basic rights. But he differs from those who blame the illegal settlers and the right-wing Netanyahu regime for blocking a just peace. Prof. Pappe argues, after combing Israeli archives, that it is Israeli society as a whole that perpetuates conflict and supports violation of human rights.
Prof. Pappe says although military and economic aid from the U.S. enables Israel to have its way, the world sees it clearly as a rogue state that violates core Jewish values, rules Palestinians by brute force and maintains an apartheid-style regime.
The 58 year-old author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine has been described as Israel's "bravest, most principled, most incisive historian" by journalist and filmmaker John Pilger. His critics revile him as anti-Semitic and he often receives death threats.
Prof. Pappe was born in Haifa to Jewish parents who fled Nazi persecution in the 1930s. He joined Israeli defense forces and fought in the Yom Kippur War. He graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and got his PhD from Oxford University. He then taught at the University of Haifa and chaired the Emil Toouma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies in Haifa.
In his extensive research into Israeli and Palestinian history, he discovered from Israeli archives that the over 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from Jewish-controlled areas under the Plan Dalet that Israel's future leaders drew up in 1947. Israeli military and political leaders planned to seize all of Palestine in 1948 and kill or exile Palestinians as was done in the Galilee. However, Israeli Prime Minister Ben-Gurion vetoed this proposal as he had allowed Jordan seize the West Bank in return for minor participation in the 1948 war. He also feared that ethnically cleansing the West Bank would turn the world against Israel.
Prof. Pappe stated that in 1965 the Israeli military and government met on the Hebrew University campus -- built on what was once a Palestinian village -- to agree on administration of the West Bank once they had conquered it. They implemented the plan swiftly on taking over the West Bank in the 1967 war that President Gamal Nasser had precipitated. Pushed by Generals Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon, the cabinet decided that Israel would annex the West Bank but deny West Bank Palestinians citizenship and other rights so they would be encouraged to leave forever.
Since then West Bank Palestinians have been harassed constantly. Jobs, building permits, essential health and municipal services are severely restricted and civic rights denied. They face check-points, cannot travel freely to their own fields, their houses are demolished, they cannot return if they leave the area briefly, their olive trees are uprooted and they are detained without charge indefinitely. Three-fourths of the Palestinians have suffered this fate, Prof. Pappe stated.
Palestinians within Israel fare better, Prof. Pappe said. They can vote, elect their leaders and speak out. But they were subject to military rule for decades and still face huge obstacles and discrimination that perpetuate poverty and despair. The country's laws favour Jews, and deny similar rights to Christians and Muslims, he said.
While condemning Western governments and mainstream media for their cowardice, Prof. Pappe was encouraged by the support of ordinary people around the world through the popular Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions movement. Although Israel has military and economic might, its policies, based on force and on racial and ethnic discrimination, cannot be sustained, he said. Israel cannot violate fundamental Jewish and universal values and still be considered a Jewish state.
In his view, a two-state solution is now impossible because Israel has seized land, built exclusive roads for settlers and encouraged illegal settlements. He expressed the hope, however, that a peace settlement will be reached which respects the legitimate rights of the Israelis and Palestinians and provides them equality.
Prof. Pappe’s speech was received with thunderous applause by the audience at the University of Ottawa. His tour of Canada was sponsored by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, a group of individuals who seek to inform Canadians about the real situation in the Middle East, and counter the biased and distorted reports they get from their own government and the mainstream media.
Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian newspaperman, civil servant and refugee judge.