Ilan Pappé

Ilan Pappé (אילן פפה, born 1954) is a professor of history at the University of Exeter. Born in Israel, he was a senior lecturer in political science at Haifa University from 1984 to 2007.

Pappé is considered one of the "New Historians" who take a critical view of Zionist narratives and Israel's history. Among these, he defends the Palestinian narrative and analysis of the events of the 1948 War. In particular he subscribes to the thesis that Palestinians were intentionally expelled by Yishuv and later Israeli forces in terms of a plan drawn up even before the war.

Biography & Academic Career

Pappé was born in Haifa to German-Jewish parents who fled Nazi persecution in the 1930s. At the age of 18, he was drafted into the Israel army and served in the Golan Heights during the 1973 "Yom Kippur War". Pappé graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1978, and in 1984 under the guidance of the Arab historian Albert Hourani and Roger Owen, obtained a D.Phil., his doctoral thesis became his first book "Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict", from the University of Oxford. He was the Academic Director of the Research Institute for Peace at Givat Haviva from 1993 to 2000, and is currently chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies.

Until his appointment to the University of Exeter in 2007, Pappé lived in Kiryat Tivon with his wife and two children.

Pappé left the University of Haifa in 2007, 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 Qatar 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.”

Dr.Ilan Pappé is now the fulcrum of a group of historians and political scientists at the Cornwall Campus Exeter University working on 20th century ethno-politics in the Department of History, School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Political views

In 1996 Pappé ran in the Knesset elections as seventh on the Communist Party-led Hadash list.

Ilan Pappé is a prominent supporter of the One State Solution envisaging one state for Palestinians and Israelis. He is known for his anti-Zionist opinions and his analysis of Zionism in the colonial context.

"If you don’t understand colonialism, ethnic cleansing and the war for freedom, you can’t understand Palestine (Cause)."

On Hamas, he says:

"I support Hamas in its resistance against the Israeli occupation though I disagree with their political ideology. I am for separating state from religion ...Any state that perpetrates occupation cannot be called a democratic state"

Katz controversy

Pappé publicly supported an M.A. thesis by a Haifa University student that claimed Israel had committed a massacre in the Palestinian village of Tantura during the war in 1948. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian historians had previously recorded any such incident. Meyrav Wurmser describes it as a "made-up massacre. In December 2000, Katz was sued for libel by members of the Alexandroni Brigade and retracted his allegations about the massacre. However Pappé continues to defend both Katz and his thesis. Tom Segev, Me'ir Pa'il and others argued that there is merit or some truth in what Katz described.

Academic boycott

After years of political activism, Pappé supports economic and political boycotts of Israel, including academic boycott. He believes boycotts are justified because:
"The 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.

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:

"My books has in it mistakes of the dates, names and numbers as does his books. 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, regarded as the most vocal critic of the New Historians, also accuses Pappé of factual misrepresentations:

"Readers are told of events that never happened, such as the nonexistent May 1948 Tantura "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 . ." .'

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." Frantzman summarizes: "Pappé's book falls short, and it does so in a particularly damning way. He ignores context and draws far broader conclusions than evidence allows by cherry-picking some reports and ignoring other sources entirely."

Published work

Ilan Pappé's early books dealt with Israeli policy in 1948, a subject he has returned to in his latest book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. His A History of Modern Palestine covers the last two hundred years and focuses on cultural and social issues. His The Modern Middle East brings to the fore the social and cultural developments in the region in the last century.


  • 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).
  • The Aristocracy: The Husaynis; A Political Biography, Jerusalem: Mossad Byalik, (Hebrew), 2003.
  • 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

Edited Books

  • (With Jamil Hilal), Parlare Con il Nemico, Narrazioni palestinesi e israeliane a confronto Milano: Bollati Boringhieri, 2004.
  • 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


References & Footnotes

External links (reviews, interviews, debates)

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