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.
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.
It should not be seen as an essential or defining aspect of Judaism.
Plus, Christian Zionism is odd.
Myth: Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East
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.