Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"I Felt It Was My Duty to Protest" - Interview with Ilan Pappe

The Guardian, January 20, 2009 - ....Yet in 2005 and 2006, this Israeli son of German-Jewish emigrants found himself in the eye of a storm that would lead him to leave the country of his birth and seek sanctuary in the English west country. He has been chair in the history department at Exeter University for the last 18 months. By the time he left the University of Haifa, he had been condemned in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset; the minister of education had publicly called for him to be sacked; and his pictures had appeared in the country's biggest-selling newspaper at the centre of a target. Next to it, a popular columnist addressed his readers thus: "I'm not telling you to kill this person, but I shouldn't be surprised if someone did."

The death threats had already been arriving by post, email and phone since Pappe, 54, had been asked on national radio whether he was going to take his complaints about the treatment of Palestinians to the UN security council. "I had to point out that I was not a politician or a diplomat," he says, "I was an academic." Albeit an academic who had recently published a book called The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. A somewhat provocative title, I suggest.

"It was," he concedes. "I thought long and hard before using it, and my publisher [Oneworld Publications] hesitated. But I don't think that the military and political elite has given up on the policy of ethnic cleansing. They think that the survival, and certainly the prosperity, of the Jewish state is connected to its ability to minimise the numbers of Palestinians living within its borders - although it has not yet decided where those borders should be."

In 2005, Pappe and two friends wrote a warning online that Israeli settlers were being moved out of Gaza to allow government forces a free hand to bomb the residents of that overcrowded strip of land. When the current bombardment began at the end of last year, the Israeli government argued that it was trying to protect its citizens from rocket attacks by Hamas. But, says Pappe: "Those rocket attacks didn't start until after Israel had blockaded Gaza."....

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