Book Review,  Israel/Palestine

Pappe Demolished Again

In 2004 Benny Morris wrote a devastating review of Ilan Pappe’s book, A History of Modern Palestine: One Land Two People. ( “Politics by Other Means”, The New Republic, March 22, 2004, pp.25-30). In this review, Morris declared that “much of what Pappe tries to sell his readers is complete fabrication.” He accused Pappe of a “multiplicity of mistakes on each page” and said that his errors “are not merely a matter of sloppiness” but were “born of a contempt” for “the facts.” The book, he argued, “was awash with errors resulting the writer’s ideological preferences, his interest in blackening the Zionists and whitening the Palestinians.” Morris had no hesitation in concluding as follows:

This truly is an appalling book. Anyone interested in the real history of Palestine/Israel and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would do well to run vigorously in the opposite direction.

Seven years on and in the same journal, (“The Liar as Hero,” [subscription required] The New Republic, April 7, 2011, pp.29-35), Benny Morris has decided to pummel Pappe again. Here, Morris reviews three of Pappe’s books: The Rise and Fall of a Palestinian Dynasty: The Husaynis, 1700-1948, Out of the Frame: The Struggle for Academic Freedom in Israel and The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. To say the least, Morris was rather unimpressed with all of them:

At best, Ilan Pappe must be one of the world’s sloppiest historians; at worst, one of the most dishonest. In truth, he probably merits a place somewhere between the two….

[D]istortions, large and small, characterize almost every page of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine….

Pappe … often omits and ignores significant evidence,and …alleges that a source tells us the opposite of what it in fact says… he will also simply and straightforwardly falsify evidence….

To the deliberate slanting of history Pappe adds a profound ignorance of basic facts. Together these sins and deficiencies render his “histories” worthless as representations of the past….

Pappe’s contempt for historical truth and factual accuracy is almost boundless….

Pappe’s success [includes] polluting Middle Eastern historiography and in poisoning the minds of those who superficially dabble in it….

In the course of his 6 ½ page review, Morris provides numerous examples to back up his lofty charges and in a number of them accuses Pappe of telling lies. It costs less than $30 for a one year digital subscription to The New Republic. This review alone must be worth that, not least for the wonderful sense of schadenfreude in knowing how much Pappe would squirm when reading it. Below I copy an extract from a  sample paragraph but there is plenty more:

Pappe repeatedly refers to “Harry Lock” of the British Mandate government secretariat in the 1920s—but the chief secretary’s name was Harry Luke. Pappe obviously encountered the name in Hebrew or Arabic and transliterated it, with no prior knowledge of Luke against which to check it: if he had consulted British documents, he would have known the correct spelling. Pappe refers to “the Hope Simpson Commission”—there was no such commission, only an investigation by an official named John Hope-Simpson…. He refers to “the Jewish Intelligence Service”—presumably the Haganah Intelligence Service—and then adds, “whose archive has been opened to Israeli historians but not to Palestinians.” To the best of my knowledge, this is an outright lie. All public archives in Israel, including the Haganah Archive in Tel Aviv, which contains the papers of its intelligence service, are open to all researchers. Pappe writes, regarding 1939, of “Colonial Secretary Ramsay MacDonald” when it should be Malcolm MacDonald, the official responsible for the famous White Paper of May 1939. (Ramsay MacDonald died two years earlier.) He speaks of “Rommel’s advance towards Alexandria” in “the summer of 1940,” but Rommel reached Africa only the following year. He writes that in 1947 the Haganah immigration ship Exodus “was refused entry [into Palestine] and made its way back to Germany.” Actually, the ramshackle Exodus from Europe–1947 was intercepted by British naval craft and forcibly boarded. The disabled ship was towed into Haifa harbor, where most of its passengers were transferred to a seaworthy ship and sent back to Europe, most disembarking in Hamburg.

Hat Tip: Paul Bogdanor


It has been brought to my attention by Elder of Ziyon in the comments section below that a passthrough link has been made available and as such the review can currently be read in full for free.

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