TIMES OF INDIA INTERVIEWS ILAN PAPPE on the one state solution September 30, 2010

Aditi Bhaduri interviews Ilan Pappe  -  Times of India -  27 September 2010

‘A One state solution in Israel is difficult but not impossible’

Ilan Pappe is an Israeli academic and one of Israel’s ‘new historians’, who has argued that Israel forcibly expelled Palestinians in 1948. Formerly a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa and chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies, he currently teaches history at the University of Exeter, UK, and is co-director of its Centre for Ethno-Political Studies. Recently in India he spoke to Aditi Bhaduri :

You are one of Israel’s ‘new historians’.

The official historical narrative of Israel had been that when Israel was founded in 1948 the Palestinians voluntarily left the land and Israel had the right to take over their possessions. We are a few historians who after researching Israeli, British and UN archives found that Israel had systematically dispossessed the Palestinians, expelling one million in 1948, which was half the Palestinian population. This is ethnic cleansing, a crime and imposes responsibility on Israel. The fate of these refugees is at the heart of the Arab-Israel conflict. I support their right to return to Israel.

Do you think a one-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, which will dilute Israel’s Jewish character, is feasible?

The land is too small to be divided. A one-state solution is difficult but not impossible. Both Israelis and Palestinians have to compromise, as there is no place for Israelis to go back to and neither are Palestinians immigrants. Both have the right to remain in the land and form a binational state. I prefer a secular democracy as you have in India, without any religious identity.

We often hear the word apartheid used to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Is it comparable to the South African apartheid?

It is similar but not identical. If we refer to Palestinians inside Israel proper, who are Israeli citizens, then their situation is better. They can individually reach similar standards as Jews in Israel, which Blacks in South Africa could not.

The situation of Palestinians in the occupied territories is much worse than had been in South Africa. These Palestinians are in constant existential danger of losing their jobs, homes, lives simply because they are Palestinians. And the situation in Gaza is still different where 1.5 million people have been incarcerated inside the strip.

The term apartheid is symbolic as far as the international community is concerned because when it decided that there was apartheid in South Africa it caused things to change there and now it can help change the situation in Israel- Palestine.

As an Israeli academic do you find the call for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including academic boycott, ethical?

Yes. In South Africa too many conscientious academics supported the boycott call even though that hurt them. So we have to sometimes support things that hurt us. Next, it is the non-violence of the act that is ethical. The number of academics in Israel against the occupation is quite small, and the university should be more democratic space than the state. I support a boycott of the institution and not individuals. BDS is gradually working and more Israelis are now supporting it and they are being challenged by the state.

How hopeful are you of the ongoing peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians?

I’m not very hopeful and see it more as an opportunity for individual politicians to further their ambitions. I hope that people understand this. It is mandatory for Israel to negotiate with Hamas, which is an elected political party and should be integrated into the political process.

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