Interview: Ilan Pappe talks to London Progressive JournalApril 3, 2009 12:00 am Leave your thoughts
TP: You have long been an outspoken critic of the Israeli government’s occupation of Palestine and its treatment of the Palestinians. Moreover, you have written a number of books on this subject. What was it that first motivated you to speak out against the Israeli government’s actions and on behalf of the Palestinians’ human rights?
IP: It was a fusion of a few things or events and not just one case. Working in the archives in the early 1980s during my D. Phil studies in Oxford and, seeing the evidence, was one factor. Regularly visiting the occupied territories in the second half of the 1980s was another. In the main, it was the realisation through evidence of the crimes committed against the Palestinians by Zionism in the past and the present.
The Israeli government has laid the blame for the Gaza conflict at Hamas’ door, citing the group’s alleged refusal to agree to the renewal of a 6 month ceasefire, which expired a week before the recent fighting began, and also arguing that a military solution is needed to stop Hamas firing rockets into Israeli territory. Is there any truth behind these accusations?
On 4th November 2008 the Israelis violated the ceasefire with the Hamas; it was their purpose of bringing an end to the relative peace in the south. The Israeli army initiated the war due to their defeat in Lebanon in 2006, for the sake of restoring ‘deterrence’ and with the hope of destroying Hamas before the Israeli elections and the inauguration of Obama. The reason was that Hamas is the only remaining Palestinian faction opposing the imposition of Israeli rule over all historical Palestine.
It is estimated that over 1300 Palestinians were killed and over 5000 wounded as a result of the recent conflict in Gaza. What comment can you make about Israel’s bombardment and military assault upon the Gaza strip and, what do you think will be the long term repercussions of the
war in Gaza, both for the peoples of Israel and Palestine and, for the wider world?
I think this was an inevitable result of sixty years of dehumanising the Palestinians. It is not surprising that the same political movement and state that expelled a million Palestinians in 1948, and has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians throughout the last sixty years, would show no remorse in killing 1450 Palestinians in Gaza. The weapons are now more deadly and therefore the numbers are so large, but the intent or the will to kill was there before.
Did factors such as the elections in February have any bearing on the timing of Israeli President Ehud Olmert’s order to begin the assault on Gaza and do you believe that plans for the attack were made sometime in advance, while the Israel-Hamas ceasefire was still in place?
Yes, as I mentioned, the election determined the timing. The Minister of Defence Ehud Barak and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni especially believed it would bring them political dividends. It is ironic that they are no longer in government despite their roles in the Gaza massacre.
You have stated in the past that you would back the implementation of economic, political and academic boycotts of Israel, akin to boycotts imposed against South Africa during the time of Apartheid. Could you please explain your reasons for supporting these boycotts and what impact
would they have?
I was talking about the need to consider seriously the option that applying severe external pressure on Israel can end the occupation and advance the chance of reconciliation. There is no hope of a change from within Israel and I do not endorse, nor do I look forward to, a military defeat of Israel.
Thus the South African model is our main inspiration. When Apartheid South Africa became a pariah state, change came into that country. A symbolic cultural boycott, economic divestment and political sanctions can send the message from the West to Israel that its policies and ideologies are not tolerated anymore.
You are a supporter of a ‘One State Solution’, as opposed to a ‘Two-State Solution’, to ending the hostilities between Israel and Palestine.
Could you please explain why you favour the ‘One State Solution’ and how you envisage this would come into being?
First, I think the two state solution is not practical anymore given the facts on the ground, in particular the expanded Jewish colonization of the occupied West Bank and Israel’s total control of the land’s natural resources. The two communities everywhere in Palestine are intertwined and two states would mean a forced transfer of Palestinians to allow for a viable Jewish ethnic state.
More importantly, a one state solution is the only one that offers a fair and just settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem, which is at the heart of the conflict, and only within a single state you can assure equal rights to all Palestinians and Jews, including those Palestinians living inside Israel today that are totally ignored by a two state solution.
In the national Israeli elections on 10th February, right wing parties performed well. Notably, the far right party Yisrael Beiteinu, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, acquired 15/120 of the seats in the Knesset, making it the third largest party in Israeli politics. What comments can you make on the outcome of these elections and do these results diminish the chances of forging a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians?
The move to the right of the political system was on the cards. The Jewish society in Israel is tired from playing the democratic game – it was a false charade that seems to most of them unnecessary. After years of indoctrinations, dehumanisation of the Palestinians and manipulation of old and new fears, the electorate is craving for a strong nationalist and brutal government, one that would ‘liberate’ the Jewish society from the presence of the Palestinians and finalise the project of the dispossession of Palestine, which they believe would solve all the other problems of the state. This is what the right-wing offers and this is why it is supported. It will of course fail, but in the meantime more violence and oppression would be inflicted on the Palestinians.
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This post was written by Tomasz Pierscionek