Anti-Israel propagandist to speak at Fresno State

Vida Samiian demonstrates against the presence of Israeli academic Ronen Cohen at a conference of the International Society for Iran Studies in Santa Monica last year.

Vida Samiian demonstrates against the presence of Israeli academic Ronen Cohen at a conference of the International Society for Iran Studies in Santa Monica in 2010.

Renegade Israeli ‘historian’ Ilan Pappé will be in California next month. In a whirlwind tour, he will visit UCLA and campuses in Northridge, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and California State University Fresno (CSUF) — where he has been invited by our own Dr. Vida Samiian, Dean of CSUF’s College of Arts and Humanities.

Pappé’s talk is titled “The False Paradigm of Parity and Partition: Revisiting 1967.” It is described as follows:

The talk will focus on Israeli policy before and after the June 1967 war. Two theses will be argued by revisiting the 1967 events: first, Israeli policies of 1967 can only be understood within the context of the overall Israeli strategy in 1948 and after.  This means that the war of 1967 was a direct continuation of the 1948 Nakbah and not a separate event. The second argument will be that Israeli strategy, including the device of what was later named as the “peace process,” was already formulated in 1967 and has not changed since that year and even until today. This strategy, it will be argued in the talk, is the main obstacle to peace in Israel and Palestine.

Pappé’s view is that the nakba, the exodus of Arabs from Israel in 1948, was the result of an intentional Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing. In attempting to prove this false thesis in several books and articles, he has presented quotations from Israeli officials of the time out of context, changing or even reversing their meanings (see Efraim Karsh, Fabricating Israeli History (Second, revised edition. London: Frank Cass, 2000)). He is currently under investigation at his present university, Exeter in the UK, for inventing a quotation from Ben Gurion out of whole cloth in one of his books.

Now apparently, he wants to place responsibility for the Six Days War on Israel — despite the massive documentation of Arab intentions to destroy Israel and even to commit genocide of its Jewish inhabitants — and present it as another attempt to dispossess the Palestinian Arabs and steal their land.

Pappé taught at Haifa University until 2007. He left after a controversy over a student’s Master’s thesis, which alleged that a massacre had been committed in the Arab town of Tantura in 1948. The student, Teddy Katz, ultimately lost a libel suit filed by veterans of the brigade that was accused of the massacre, and a university examination found distortions and fabricated quotes in the thesis and disqualified it. Pappé took up the student’s cause and called for a world-wide academic boycott against Haifa University, which developed into the academic boycott of several Israeli universities by the British Association of University Teachers. The detailed story is here.

Pappé doesn’t hide his disdain for facts when they interfere with his ideological preconceptions. Here are some quotations collected by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA):

There is no historian in the world who is objective. I am not as interested in what happened as in how people see what’s happened. (“An Interview of Ilan Pappé,” Baudouin Loos, Le Soir [Bruxelles], Nov. 29, 1999)

I admit that my ideology influences my historical writings…(Ibid)

Indeed the struggle is about ideology, not about facts. Who knows what facts are? We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and we do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truthseekers. (Ibid)

The debate between us is on one level between historians who believe they are purely objective reconstructers of the past, like [Benny] Morris, and those who claim that they are subjective human beings striving to tell their own version of the past, like myself. (“Benny Morris’s Lies About My Book,” Ilan Pappé, Response to Morris’ critique of Pappé’s book, “A History of Palestine” published in the New Republic, March 22, 2004, History News Network, April 5, 2004)

[Historical] Narratives… when written by historians involved deeply in the subject matter they write about, such as in the case of Israeli historians who write about the Palestine conflict, is motivated also… by a deep involvement and a wish to make a point. This point is called ideology or politics. (Ibid)

Yes, I use Palestinian sources for the Intifada: they seem to me to be more reliable, I admit. (Ibid)

Pappé continues to claim that there were massacres of Arabs in Tantura, and more recently, Jenin in 2003 — although even the UN now admits that only 50-odd Arabs were killed there, four-fifths of them combatants.

Pappé’s ‘solution’ to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to replace Israel and the territories with a single state containing all of the present inhabitants of the area, along with the several million Arabs claiming refugee status or otherwise to be descended from Arabs living in Palestine pre-1948:

This must be based on the twofold recognition that a solution has to include all the Palestinians (in the occupied territories, in exile and inside Israel) and has to be based on the construction of a new regime for the whole land of historical Palestine, offering equality and prosperity for all the people who live there now or were expelled from it by force in the last 63 years of Israel’s existence.

This of course would result in an Arab majority, the end of the Jewish state, and probably a bloody civil war.

In addition to his admitted bias and deliberate distortion of facts, Pappé is a sloppy scholar. In a review of a 2004 book, A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, Efraim Karsh writes,

Even by the skewed standards of this field of studies, Pappé’s latest book ranks in a class of its own. Not only does it add no new facts or ideas to the anti-Israel literature, but the sloppiness of its research astounds. It contains countless factual errors and inaccuracies. Yasir Arafat’s birthplace is Cairo and not Jerusalem. The U.N. Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) presented its report on August 31, 1947, not on November 29. Deir Yasin is a village near Jerusalem, and not in Haifa. Lawrence of Arabia had nothing to do with the Anglo-Hashemite correspondence that led to the “Great Arab Revolt” of World War I. Further, this correspondence was initiated by the Hashemites not by the British. Pappé even misspells the official English transliteration of President Weizmann’s first name (Chaim, not Haim).

More serious is the book’s consistent resort to factual misrepresentation, distortion, and outright falsehood. 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…

His position is fundamentally dishonest: while he calls himself a ‘historian’, which most of us understand as someone who studies actual past events, he invents events to suit his program. He is not a serious scholar; rather he is a propagandist and ideologue.

While such a person may speak at our university, it’s not clear that University funds should pay for it. His talk at California State University Northridge (CSUN) is sponsored by the CSUN Students for Justice in Palestine, CSUN Greens, Muslim Student Association, South Asia Club, and the CSUN Communications Association. Where is the money coming from for his Fresno talk?

There is also the question of balance. I understand that he will be speaking alone rather than as a member of a panel. Obviously he prefers this, since any decent historian of the Mideast would make Swiss cheese out of his arguments. But given the political nature of his talk, should not some balance be provided?

Finally, is it appropriate for an administrator, like Vida Samiian, to be involved in political activity at the university where she works? After all, Dr. Samiian has the ability to affect the livelihoods of faculty members who might challenge her.

I plan to put these questions to the University authorities.

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