Ilan Pappé is a Jewish professor of history at the University of Exeter (UK), specialising in Middle Eastern studies.

Born in Haifa, Israel, he served in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) before pursuing an academic career. He completed his PhD at the University of Oxford, with a focus on the history of Israel and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

His book debunking myths

Ilan’s book Ten Myths About Israel looks at common beliefs about Israel and Palestine and explains why they are false.

It looks at the region’s history, including what happened before Zionism in the late 1800s, the reasons behind the war in 1967, and claims about Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East.

Of course, the situation in Gaza is included.

Some of the myths

Myth: Palestine was an empty land

Contrary to the belief that Palestine was an empty land before Zionism, it was actually a thriving society undergoing modernisation and nationalisation.

The region was populated with a rich cultural and social life, and the people were actively cultivating and developing the land.

Jaffa (now Tel Aviv), Palestine, pre-1948

Myth: The Jews were a people without a land

The claim that the Jews who came to Palestine in 1882 were returning to an ancestral homeland is bogus, suggests the book.

For example, the historical connection between these Jews and those expelled by the Romans around 70 AD, is a bit blurry. Before the rise of Zionism, the relationship between Jewish communities worldwide, and Palestine, was more of a religious and spiritual nature than a political one.

Myth: Zionism is Judaism

Zionism is often conflated with Judaism.

They are not the same thing.

As Professor Pappé notes, Zionism is an ideology. In fact, it is like an aggressive cult when Christian Zionism is included.

It was one of many expressions of Jewish cultural and social life in Central and Eastern Europe, and was a movement that emerged out of a broader Jewish context.

In order to examine properly the assumption that Zionism is the same as Judaism, one has to begin with the historical context in which it was born.

Ilan Pappé, 10 Myths About Israel

It should not be seen as an essential or defining aspect of Judaism.

Plus, Christian Zionism is odd.

Really odd.

Myth: Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East

The litmus test of any democracy is the level of tolerance it is willing to extend towards the minorities living in it.

Ilan Pappé, 10 Myths About Israel

This myth is parroted constantly and it’s nonsense, says Professor Pappé.

Israel is not even a democracy, let alone the only one in the Middle East, and he shows this via the government’s internal policies and its treatment of Palestinians, both within its borders and in the occupied territories.

Here’s my conversation with him.

Israel is not the only state in the world that has dispossessed another people and occupied their land, but it is the only one that has done so in the late 20th century with the full support of the international community.

Ilan Pappé

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