I bought this book in March 2014, soon after it was published, at the bookshop at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem. Although Verso have recently published it as a paperback, its title and length (313 pages) may not immediately appeal to many readers. I wanted therefore to write a fairly full summary of the book (not a review or a critique) because I believe it sheds so much light on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If ten pages are too long to read, just read this first page to get an idea of what the book is about!
This is how the blurb explains the title:
‘Since its foundation in 1948, Israel has drawn on Zionism, the movement behind its creation, to provide a sense of self and political direction. In this groundbreaking new work, Ilan Pappe looks at the continued role of Zionist ideology. The Idea of Israel considers the way Zionism operates outside of the government and military in areas such as the country’s education system, media, and cinema, and the uses that are made of the Holocaust in supporting the state’s ideological structure.
‘In particular, Pappe examines the way successive generations of historians have framed the 1948 conflict as a liberation campaign, creating a foundation myth that went unquestioned in Israeli society until the 1990s. Pappe himself was part of the post-Zionist movement that arose then. He was attacked and received death threats as he exposed the truth about how Palestinians have been treated and the gruesome structure that links the production of knowledge to the exercise of power. The Idea of Israel is a powerful and urgent intervention in the war of ideas concerning the past, and the future, of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.’
In twelve chapters Pappe describes how the pendulum has swung from ‘Classical Zionism’ (the ideology of successive governments until around 1993) to ‘post-Zionism’ (when between 1900 and 2000 the ‘new historians’ and others raised fundamental questions about the accepted narrative of 1948) and then to ‘neo-Zionism’ (in which, following the Intifada of 2000, post-Zionism is decisively rejected and a new formulation of Zionism developed).
He explains how the idea of writing the book developed out of ‘a debate about knowledge and power’ in Tel Aviv in 1994:
‘The question posed was significant: Was the Israeli academy an ideological tool in the hands of Zionism or a bastion of free thought and speech? The vast majority of the audience attended because they leaned towards the former conclusion, doubting the independence of Israeli academics. If approval can be judged by applause, the audience sided by and large with my colleague Shlomo Svirsky and myself, representatives of the new history and sociology of Israel, and were less impressed by Anita Shapira and the late Moshe Lissak of the old guard. Most, however, would not walk the extra mile that such a position demanded of them. But some did and, like me, eventually left the country in despair, unable to alter the status quo. And yet that event contributed to the excitement of a historic moment when Israelis doubted the moral validity of the idea of Israel and were allowed for a short while, to question it, both inside and outside the ivory towers of the universities.
‘The most memorable remark that evening came from Moshe Lissak, the doyen of traditional sociology and a winner of the prestigious Israel Prize. Of the story of Israel, he said “I accept that there are two narratives, but ours has been proven scientifically to be the right one.” That remark, and my fond memories of that event and of the period as a whole – unique in the history of power and knowledge – inspired me to write this present book. It is a book on Israel as an idea, and it evolved from that short-lived and abortive attempt to challenge it from within.’
What follows is a summary of each chapter, including several longer quotations which convey the main argument of the book and illustrate the kind of detailed material that is presented.
Chapter 1, ‘The Scholarly and Fictional Idea of Israel’, is an account of the idea of Israel as it developed in the years after 1948, in which Israel was portrayed as ‘the ultimate and most successful project of modernity and enlightenment’. In this idea ‘ideology and fact were fused and manipulated to produce the same story’.
Chapter 2, ‘The Alien Who Became a Terrorist: the Palestinian in Zionist Thought’, describes the way Palestinians were generally viewed by settlers from the beginning of the 20th century: primitive, non-modern, savage and aggressive; ‘a disease that threatened a healthy body … a disease that had to be cured’, ‘malignant evil’, ‘a cancer in the heart of the nation’. ‘For the settlers, the Palestinians were either not there, or, when they were, appeared as aliens who should not have been there’. ‘The need to exclude the Palestinians in order to make Palestine a safe haven for the Jews is the strongest and most frequent message coming from the voices of the Second Aliyah (1904-14).’ And how did this consensus develop? ‘The government, academia, the media, the army, and the NGOs of civil society all took part in constructing the negative image of the Palestinians’.
Chapter 3, ‘The War of 1948 in Word and Image’, describes the mainstream Zionist representation of the events leading up to and following the creation of Israel in 1948:
‘… the classical scholarly representation of the 1948 war consisted of several foundational mythologies. The most important one was that the Jewish community faced the danger of total annihilation in 1948 – a danger that predicated everything that happened afterwards and that justified in hindsight the future extreme use of force. The second, better-known tale is that of an Israeli David facing an Arab Goliath – a mythology portrayed mainly through cartographic images in which thick arrows of Arab armies pour into Palestine, where they are met by almost invisible trickles and flecks of Jewish forces. From the viewpoint of professional and populist historians, that this clash ended in a total Zionist victory was miraculous.’
In this consensus ‘the Palestinians were erased from Israeli academic discourse’. Arabs are seen as being ‘motivated by emotionalism’ and ‘unexplained violence’. ‘Never are the Palestinians considered to be endowed with a desire to defend their homeland or to be part of a national movement struggling for independence.’
Chapter 4, ‘The Trailblazers’, describes the beginning of the post-Zionist movement with an account of some of the early Jewish critics of Zionism. This is Pappe’s explanation of how this process began:
‘There are two ways of becoming a Jewish anti-Zionist in the State of Israel. You either leave the tribe of Zionism because you witnessed an event conducted in the name of Zionism that was so abhorrent it made you rethink the validity of the ideology that licensed such brutality, or you are a thinker by profession or inclination who does not cease to ponder and revisit the concepts and precepts of Zionism, and the internal paradoxes and absurdities cause you to drift gradually towards a more universal, and far more anti-Zionist, position in life.
‘This combination of disgust at the way Arabs were treated in the state and the intellectual rejection of the very logic of the dogma motivated the early anti-Zionists …’
Some anti-Zionists ‘attributed their views to a transformative personal moment’ – like witnessing the torture of Palestinian prisoners, or seeing how ‘a literal implementation of certain Jewish theological texts according to a tradition that stretched back to the early days of the religion’ were applied to Palestinians as non-Jews, or seeing ‘the fusion of nationalism and religion’ as a ‘lethal combination’ reminiscent of Nazism. Writing about other activists who were not necessarily anti-Zionist, he says: ‘Each of them had an epiphany, so to speak, triggered by an event that changed their perspective on the Zionist reality in Israel.’
In the 1970s a number of academics began to express doubts about Zionism: ‘Their beliefs began to be shaken when their professional research exposed the false assumptions and historical fabrications on which the idea of Israel was based.’ Some of these academics were sociologists who believed that ‘Zionism as a colonialist project developed an ideology that justified the continued and thus far never-ending dispossession of the indigenous population.’ One such academic was Baruch Kimmerling, whose
‘most important input to the new debate was his application of the settler colonialist paradigm to the historical study of Zionism… He placed the Zionist phenomenon within the wider context of global colonisation and decolonisation processes, viewing it as an intriguing case of study of a human project carried out against difficult odds – and at the expense of other human beings. He explained its success as the result of a fruitful combination of British colonialism and Jewish settlement activity, on the one hand, and Jewish nationalism and revivalism on the other. In addition, he pointed to the importance of the protection provided by the British Empire to the Zionist project, which had enabled the Jewish community in Palestine to attain its principal goal of reaching significant demographic growth despite the Arab majority in the land.’
Chapter 5, ‘Recognising the Palestinian Catastrophe: The 1948 War Revisited’ summarises the findings of the professional historians who came to be known as the ‘new historians’ – historians who ‘read with fresh eyes the newly declassified documents in the archives.’ One of the most significant of these historians was Simha Flapan, who in 1987 published The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities, in which he challenged and debunked six myths which had until that time been fundamental in the Zionist consensus:
– ‘that Israel accepted the UN partition resolution of 1947 and therefore agreed to the creation of a Palestinian state next to the Jewish one over more than half of Palestine’
– ‘that all the Palestinians followed al-Hajj Amin al-Hussayni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, in his resistance to any UN peace plan’
– ‘that the Arab world was determined to destroy the Jewish state in 1948’
– ‘that the Palestinians left their homes because they were told to do so by their leaders and the leaders of neighbouring Arab countries’
– ‘that Israel was a David that miraculously defeated an Arab Goliath’
– ‘that Israel extended its hand for peace after the war and was rejected by the Arab states and the Palestinians.’
This is how Pappe sums up the significance of the new 1948 historiography developed by writers like Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim and Tom Segev:
‘The “new history” of the 1948 war had a twofold effect on Israeli historiography: it legitimised the historical narrative of the Palestinians, and it offered a potential for normalising the national collective memory. It did not adopt … the Palestinian narrative in its entirety … With regard to the history of knowledge production on Palestine, and the challenge to the Zionist marketing of the idea of Israel, the “new history” of the 1948 war is the most profound legitimisation given by Israeli scholarship to any chapter in the Palestinian narrative.’
Chapter 6, ‘The Emergence of Post-Zionist Academia, 1990 – 2000’ describes how ‘global influences’ in the development in academic disciplines worldwide affected the work of academics in Israel. The work of these academics ‘exposes the more profound theoretical discussion that inspired those individuals, consisting mainly of sociologists, who expanded this research chronologically back to the early days of Zionism and forward into the 1950s and thematically to the predicament of Mizrachi Jews, to the Palestinians in Israel, to issues concerning gender, and to the manipulation of Holocaust memory within Israel’. Their analysis of contemporary social problems in Israel forced them to look back to the history of the state: ‘As a result, they were as critical of the past as they were of the present social situation in Israel. In fact, they attributed the contemporary unease of, and cleavages within, the society to government policies in the early years of statehood and, in particular, to the inherent contradiction between Zionism and values such as democracy and liberalism.’
It was in 1994 that the term ‘post-Zionism’ was coined ‘as a description of the renegades who dared question the truisms of Zionism’ and thus ‘became generic for describing any academic critique on Zionism from within Jewish Israel’. As a result ‘the 1990s were a decade in which the entire idea of Israel was questioned.’ This movement included a few hundred academics ‘in every discipline in Israeli human sciences’. Writing about Tanya Reinhart, who taught in the Department of Linguistics at Tel Aviv University, Pappe describes how she ‘followed the example of her mentor, Noam Chomsky, in the use of clear and unambiguous prose. Chomsky showed the submissiveness of the American academy when faced with hegemonic ideologies; Reinhart demonstrated the obedience of the local academia to its political masters’.
Chapter 7, ‘Touching the Raw Nerves of Society: Holocaust Memory in Israel’, begins by recognising ‘earlier attempts, most of them not by scholars, to understand the impact and significance of Holocaust memory in the constructing and marketing of the idea of Israel.’ It goes on to show how this memory has been used to justify government policies: ‘A more open approach to Holocaust memory in Israel showed the connection between the state’s narration of the Holocaust – its causes and impact – and its justification of harsh policies towards the Palestinians. This connection became a major theme in the post-Zionist critique of Holocaust memorialisation in Israel’. Nahum Goldman, for example, founder and president of the World Jewish Congress through the late 1970s, ‘condemned as sacrilegious the way Israel manipulated Holocaust memory in order to justify its oppression of the Palestinians’. Then in 2000 Norman Finkelstein published his The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering.’
Under the heading ‘The Nazification of the Palestinians’ Pappe describes the use made of al-Hajj Amin al-Hussayni, ‘who foolishly flirted with Hitler and Mussolini in hopes of forming an alliance against Britain and its pro-Zionist policies’. This is his summary of how Holocaust memory has been used to support government responses to the Palestinians:
‘From vindication of the brutal killing of Palestinians in 1948 and subsequently, in the war against Palestinian infiltrations, through the instigation of public panic on the eve of the 1967 war, to the justification of intransigent official positions on peace following the war, to the present oppressive policies against the Palestinians in the occupied territories – Holocaust memory has been a supremely useful and accessible means of silencing criticism and pushing a policy of belligerence.’
Chapter 8, ‘The Idea of Israel and the Arab Jews’, attempts to explain ‘racist attitudes towards Arab Jews’. It begins by describing the tactics employed by Jewish agents in Iraq in planting bombs against Jewish targets in order to persuade Jews to emigrate to Israel. There is little evidence that these Iraqi Jews wanted to emigrate to emigrate, and many of them ‘would probably have stayed had not the State of Israel come into being’. According to the sociologist Hehuda Shenhav, the rescue of Jews from Iraq ‘was not a rescue mission … it was a manipulative move by the Israeli government intended to counter mounting international pressure to allow the repatriation of the Palestinian refugees … they were brought in as cheap labour to replace the expelled Palestinians and to help redress the demographic imbalance in the new state.’ Shenhav believed that ‘the Zionist movement may have liberated European Jews … but it enslaved the Mizrachi Arab Jews’. As a result Arab Jews in Israel today are ‘only slightly better than Arabs,’ and still suffer discrimination in Israel today, because they are ‘part of the Orient, disparaged by the West, and, in particular, the European Jewish settlers’. 90% of upper income Israelis are Ashkenazi and only 10% are Mizrachi; and 60% of lower income families are Mizrachi.
This therefore is how Pappe understands the whole process of bringing so many Jews to Israel out of Arab countries:
‘From a Zionist perspective, the new state promoted the arrival of a million Arabs after expelling exactly that number in order to ensure Jewish supremacy and exclusivity in Palestine…. The Zionist leadership would have preferred to leave the Arab Jews where they were had it not been for the Holocaust and the lack of any significant immigration from the West after 1948. The dilemma was solved, however, by de-Arabising those Jews upon arrival. Once de-Arabised, the new immigrants contributed to the demographic balance and minimised the number of “real Arabs” inside Israel.’
Chapter 9. ‘The Post-Zionist Cultural Moment’, explores ‘the ambiguous role played by the media in Israeli society’: ‘Until 1977, the press accepted the state’s guidance in all matters concerning foreign policy and defence. Thus, “sacred cow” topics such as Israel’s retaliatory policy against the Arab states in the 1950s, its atomic policy in the late 1960s, or its arms trades during the 1970s were avoided. This consensual approach to “security” meant that there was no need for the state to impose sanctions on any of the main newspapers.
The situation changed in the 1990s when there was a new openness to post-Zionist approaches, for example, with writers like Gideon Levy and Amira Hass in Haaretz:
‘This trend turned the media into a kind of liberal watchdog … Another factor which contributed to the relative openness and pluralism of the media was the debate concerning the First Lebanon War and the First Intifada… Nevertheless, one should not exaggerate the extent of the transformation in the press or its impact on those days. The media was still Zionist, even if it allowed post-Zionist voices now and then to be presented in its midst.’
‘In recent years, the media struggle around knowledge and information has moved to cyberspace … neither Facebook nor similar electronic arenas have had an impact on the continued allegiance of knowledge producers and consumers to the classically Zionist idea of Israel or even, of late, its neo-Zionist interpretation. ‘
The chapter ends with a discussion of ‘the liberal Zionist discourse’, illustrated by the book Rubber Bullets: Power and Conscience in Modern Israel, by Yaron Ezrahi:
‘The concept of rubber bullets appears here as yet another of many Israeli attempts to square the circle – it is immoral to use live ammunition against defenceless youths, but covering the bullets with rubber makes them kosher…
‘But the Palestinians expect more than that. They want compensation or rectification of past evils dating back to 1948. Thus, what is missing in this approach is a gut reaction, similar to the one prompted by what Ezrahi witnessed during the Intifada, to the ghastly images from the criminal Israeli uprootings and massacres that took place during the 1948 war and afterwards. Palestinians are not likely to get such a reaction from Ezrahi, who does not want, as he clearly shows in the book, to confront his father with the past follies of Zionism, although he does want to educate his own son on the basis of the horrific pictures from the Intifada.
‘The book reveals an only partial foray into the darker side of the Israeli collective soul …’
Chapter 10, ‘On the Post-Zionist Stage and Screen’, explores the limited way in which post-Zionism was reflected in the theatre and on screen. There is, for example, a detailed discussion of a series of television films called Tkuma, which presented the history of the State of Israel, and was broadcast in 1998, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the state:
‘The name of the documentary is very much in line with Zionist mythology: Tkuma means the resurrection of the Jewish people in the redeemed land of Palestine … As the programme is devoted to fifty years of Israel’s existence rather than to the history of Zionism per se, the origins and essence of Zionism were minimally addressed, and those references to the pre-1948 period that did exist were very much in line with the official Zionist version. Hence, by not dealing with the essence of Zionism – for instance, by not examining Zionism as a colonialist project – the series’ overall message was a far cry from the message that emerged from the works produced by post-Zionist academics in the 1990s.’
Its portrayal of the period immediately before and after the establishment of the state does take into account the work of the new historians (especially Benny Morris), and recognises the killing and expulsion of Palestinians. Pappe sees this, however, as a vivid example of the fundamental problem that Zionists have had in coming to terms with the challenge of post-Zionism:
‘In the course of the programme, a senior Israeli officer utters a sentence that has haunted me ever since I heard it. When asked about the “purity of arms” – that Israeli oxymoron born in the 1948 war – he shrugs off the question with a bitter expression on his face. Of course, he says, the Israelis could not have adhered to the “purity of arms” while fighting the civilian population. Each village became a target, he says, and they all “burned like bonfires”. He even repeated the horrifying description: “They burned like bonfires they did, like bonfires” (Hem ba’aru kemo medurot, kema medurot hem ba’aru). And in those conflagrations, he admits, the innocent as well as the combatants perished.’
‘Here in Tkuma there was no reference to the obliteration of villages and the takeover of their lands, either for existing Jewish settlements or for the construction of new settlements atop their ruins, settlements that quite often bear Hebraicised versions of the old Arab names…
‘The sadness conveyed by Tkuma was not about the cruelty or futility of war; it was about the need to sacrifice one’s sons for the homeland. In the same vein as liberal Zionism’s assertion that what happened to the Palestinian people was a small injustice inflicted to rectify a greater injustice (the Jewish Holocaust in Europe), the final impression left by the series was that the main tragedy of 1948 was what befell the Jewish community in Palestine. The Palestinian tragedy of 1948 was dwarfed by the personal stories of loss and bereavement on the Jewish side. Again, as with liberal Zionism’s construction of the use of force – a response resorted to only reluctantly, in the face of Arab hostility – the films showed a Jewish tendency to ponder the consequences of a just war, in the mode of the soldiers who “shoot and weep afterwards” … One suspects that a different director might have chosen footage that would have shown triumphant smiles and warlike enthusiasm on the faces of Israeli soldiers after they had occupied and destroyed yet another Palestinian village. Instead, viewers of Tkuma saw the tormented face of a highly moral, civilised society that found itself, through no fault of its own, in the midst of war…
‘Tkuma threw into sharp relief the contrast between the programme’s name – “Rebirth” – and the reality of the nation after fifty years of existence, a reality that was unstable and insecure, since state and society had failed to reconcile with the people whom they expelled, whose land they took, and whose culture they destroyed.’
Chapter 11, ‘The Triumph of Neo-Zionism’ describes the more extreme form of Zionism that has developed in the 21st century:
‘Not only was it a far cry from post-Zionism; it was also a very different animal from the Liberal or Labour Zionism that had informed the idea in the previous century. The gist of it is quite familiar today: a highly nationalistic, racist and dogmatic version of Zionist values overrules all other values in the society, and any attempt to challenge that interpretation of the idea of Israel is considered unpatriotic and in fact treasonous…
‘… the post-Zionist point of view continued until roughly 1999 to be held by a relatively large number of academics, artists, film-makers and educators … Oslo’s demise returned the society to a mood of intransigence and narrow-mindedness that left no room for critiques from the left, only from the right. Israel was back at war.
‘It was with the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin in 1995 that optimism began to wane. Pessimism set in, along with a growing distrust of the Palestinians, a move to the right, and a scaling back of Oslo’s implementation and goals. At the same time, the popular appeal of the “new historians” and their post-Zionist manifestations began to fade away until they were perceived as not only irrelevant but also as embodiments of national treason. What brought the “post-Zionist decade” – the historiographical debate on 1948 – to a definitive end was the outbreak of the Second Intifada in late September 2000. To be more precise, it was the Israeli narrative of the cause of the intifada and its overall description that contributed to the conclusion of this rare moment of grace in the history of the State of Israel.’
‘From 2000 onwards, there remained no trace of the formerly impressive presence of the post-Zionist point of view. It was replaced by the new, consensual interpretation of Zionism.’
In the process of rejecting Post-Zionism and developing Neo-Zionism, ‘academia was once more recruited by the state.’ Neo-Zionism also succeed in gaining control over the educational system, resulting in ‘the almost complete lack of influence [of post-Zionism] on the educational system in Israel..’ Its influence has been reflected very clearly in recent legislation by the Knesset:
‘Ever since 2000, discriminatory practices and informal policies have been legalised by the Knesset, and this is still taking place. The construction of the legal infrastructure for an apartheid state is important for Israel, because its recent governments including the one elected in 2012, believe in a unilateral annexation of Area C, 40 percent of the West Bank, as a final act of geographical expansion, even though it adds Palestinians to the overall demographic balance. In that area, Israeli law would be imposed, hence the need to prepare a racist infrastructure for the future, expanded, and possibly final State of Israel.’
As a result, ‘the legal, political, and educational systems’ have most completely been taken over by this new, energised version of the idea of Israel … ‘
Chapter 12, ‘The Neo-Zionist Historians’, attempts to show ‘how the pendulum switch from a post-Zionist to a neo-Zionist version of the idea of Israel has impacted the Israeli scholarly community, most particularly its professional historians.’ This ‘re-invigorated Zionist consensus’ reasserted itself almost immediately after the Second Intifada:
‘What emerged was a new/old narrative, updated to fit the shifting political realities on the one hand and to take into account and absorb the new information coming out of the Israeli archives on the other.
‘The new historiography was Zionist in its ideological orientation, its mode, and its colouration, but it avoided and civil rights abuses or even as atrocities and war crimes are treated in the new research as normal and sometimes even commendable actions by the Israeli military. What the post-Zionists interpreted as shameful chapters in Israeli history are, in the new research, justified the omissions, distortions, and denials of fact that had characterised the classical Zionist version…. Thus, from a purely factual standpoint, the neo-Zionist version of1948 did not differ significantly from that of the post-Zionists or the new historians. The difference lay in the response or interpretation of the facts. What the new historians saw as human.’
This new interpretation is illustrated by Benny Morris’ widely publicised change of heart:
‘In an interview with Ari Shavit in Haaretz on 9 January 2004, he provided the ultimate justification for the ethnic cleansing in 1948: “Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here.” Furthermore, he faulted Ben-Gurion for failing to “cleanse” the “whole of Israel, as far as the Jordan River”, which “would have stabilised the State of Israel for generations.”’
Anita Shapira is another example of the approach adopted by neo-Zionist historians:
‘In her 2004 biography of Yigal Allon … Shapira wrote that he “was the most consistent supporter of transferring the Palestinians and even committed massive expulsions in the war of independence” and “had no hesitation in expelling the Arab population en masse”. She also approvingly quotes Allon’s statement at a public lecture in 1950 that an “eternal justification” (that is, the eternal right of the Jewish people to a homeland without “aliens”) validated the massive expulsion of the Palestinians. To this, she added that he “did his best not only to occupy the land of Israel, but also to depopulate it”.’
The chapter ends with ‘a final footnote … that the currently prevailing consensus in Israel, with its many justifications of whatever happened during the 1948 war, has far-reaching political implications’:
‘It reveals an Israel unwilling to reconcile with the past and with the Palestinians, an Israel overly confident that its policies of ethnic cleansing and dispossession can be morally justified and politically maintained as long as there are Western academics and politicians who are reluctant to apply the same set of values and judgements to the Jewish state that they have applied, quite brutally, to countries in the Arab and Muslim world.’
The Epilogue, ‘Brand Israel 2013’, describes the efforts made by Israeli governments to present a new image of Israel to the outside world. In 2005, for example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister’s Office, and the Israeli Ministry of Finance launched a campaign called ‘Brand Israel’ in order to
‘… recast and rebrand the country’s image so as to appear relevant and modern instead of militaristic and religious…. Huge sums of money … were allocated for marketing the idea of Israel abroad in order to combat what the political and academic elite in Israel regarded as a global campaign to delegitimise the Jewish state…
‘The main task of Brand Israel was to depict the country as a heaven on earth, a dream come true. Israel would now be identified with beauty, fun and technological achievement. This was the new version of the idea of Israel …’
The book ends with Pappe’s assessment of the dominance of Neo-Zionism and the consequent weakness of ‘those who offer alternative interpretations of past and present realities’:
‘The past has been rewritten as a Zionist narrative, while the present is depicted as a battlefield for survival …But in the academy, media and other cultural stages, there remain few individuals who, under heavy censorship and a campaign of intimidation, still dare to offer alternative interpretations of past and present reality …
‘In recent years, two progressive paradigms have emerged in the scholarly/activist attempt to depict the phenomena of Zionism and Israel as accurately and ethically as possible. They are the settler colonialist paradigm and the apartheid paradigm. Both challenge effectively the official Israeli, mainstream scholarly, approach, which insists on seeing Zionism exclusively as a national liberation movement and Israel as a liberal democracy.’
This book,’ says Pappe, ‘is in many ways post-Zionism’s post-mortem.’ And the last two paragraphs of the book seem as timely in 2017 as they were when they were written in 2014:
‘The powers that be in the State of Israel are thus far tolerating the uglier face of the Arab Spring, in particular that of the Syrian government as it sends its air force to bomb whatever it deems a strategic threat to the state. The Israeli elite are hoping that the Spring will once more produce a monstrous Islamic sea that will restore Israel’s image as an island of stability. But this is not going to happen.
‘Even in the most chaotic and violent moments of this new historical process, world opinion has not absolved Israel from its continued oppression of the Palestinians. Israel is seen more and more as a colonialist state that survived the twentieth century but is maintained because of its usefulness to the United States and its effective role in theglobal capitalist economy. There is no longer any moral dimension for global support, and when the more function
al side of this support starts to weaken, the scenarios shared, for better or for worse, by post- and neo-Zionists alike – may come true. This book was written with the hope that these grim scenarios would not transpire, but with the uncomfortable sense that they are already unfolding before our eyes.’