France’s tense political climate mirrors Israel’s, says scholar Ilan Pappé

I found this a thoughtful piece

As I’ve struggled with censorship and the ongoing divide in Canada between the extremes of left and right.

Israeli historian Ilan Pappé has seen his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine reissued in France after a French publisher pulled it from shelves. He tells RFI that it fits with a broader political climate that limits freedom of expression, both across Europe and in Israel.

As well as Canada and the US

RFI: The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine has been republished in French by La Fabrique after its original publisher, Fayard, cancelled a reprint and took it out of bookshops. What was your reaction?

Ilan Pappé: I was surprised to hear that Fayard decided to stop reprinting and distributing the book at the moment that it became popular again. This had to do with the change of ownership at Fayard. To my mind it was a clear violation of freedom of expression.

They used some technical [excuses]. I was disappointed that in France you can suppress freedom of speech by not distributing or publishing books that are in demand. 

But it goes beyond my case, it has to do with the era we live in where ideologies and political positions are restricting our freedom of expression – especially when it concerns Palestine.

Ilan Pappé: It is part of the global rise of neo-right and fascist political parties, which isn’t only happening in France. It also shows lack of confidence in politicians by many people who definitely are not supporting the right, but don’t believe that politics matter. 

In the European elections, there was a high percentage of abstention. This is a very dangerous repeat of history where the more reasonable, knowledgeable sections of society are leaving space for right-wing and extreme right-wing parties. And this goes along with suppression of freedom of expression and opinion.

This is playing out in Canada- the extremism between the two sides can’t tolerate people like me who deal with politics on an issue by issue basisExample people perceived me as right wing because I was anti mandate, but, now perceive me as left wing because I’m anti ethnic cleansing/anti war.

I realise that the natural allies of the kind of Israel we have today are only on the right and extreme right. This is worrying both for the future of Israel and Palestine, but also for the future of freedoms and democracies in the West in general and in France in particular.

I see that in the online sphere- it’s those that openly associate with the right/extreme right that are the staunchest allies of Israel. And it is worrying on many levels

RFI: Antisemitism is high on the political agenda for both right and left during the French election campaign. How do you see that?

Ilan Pappé: I’m watching the debates on the political situation in France today. And antisemitism is being brought as a major issue in the coming elections. It's such a shallow debate, it's not very serious. It's all being used for a certain political tool. 

Yes, it’s a political tool. It’s become what is infamously known as a wedge issue. Abortion being another often used wedge issue

The left is using it to terrify people against voting for the right. The right is using it in order to create Islamophobic support for its voters.

It’s a diversion from dealing with the real issue, both by the left and the right – by focusing on antisemitism, instead of saying: what is Europe today? Can we accept positively the kind of Europe that we ourselves created because we were colonialists? That’s the kind of thing you would have hoped French society would deal with, but it doesn’t.

Rather then self reflection French society as well as other societies are tearing themselves further apart! (Canada, US, Israel)

So antisemitism for me is like a sideshow that diverts people from dealing with far more serious fundamental issues that are at the heart of the problem of French democracy.

RFI: What drew you to research the fate of Palestinians after what they call the Nakba, the mass displacement of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war?

Ilan Pappé: I always liked history, right from school, and I wanted to be a professional historian very early on. And when I chose a topic for a doctorate, it was clear to me that 1948 was a formative year in the history of my country.

I began writing a PhD when Israel, Britain, France, the United Nations and the United States declassified documents from 1948 for the first time after 30 years. As historians, we were going to be exposed for the first time to documents that nobody had seen before.

And I was very curious to see what the archival material would show compared to what I already knew from my school, my teachers in university, my family, and so on. I had no idea what I was going into.

RFI: Was there a moment when you realised you had found something new?

Ilan Pappé: I remember very early on looking at documents in Britain, and especially the documents in the Israeli military archives. I saw things that totally contrasted what I knew about 1948.

I saw the early commands that were distributed to the pre-state units of the Israeli army, the early orders sent by a high command to units. And they were very clear: occupy the village, kill the men, expel the people. And then it repeated itself again and again.
And I realised this is far more than just arguing about the facts of what happened, but it undermined my old faith in the project of Zionism as a whole.

RFI: You support the “right of return” for the Palestinian people, which is embedded in UN resolutions, but at the same time you reject the “two-state solution” that also underpins the UN’s position. Why are you against it? 

Ilan Pappé: It’s not a practical solution anymore. You just have to spend 10 minutes in the West Bank to understand that there is no space for a Palestinian state there: there’s nearly 800,000 Jewish settlers spread all over the place and some settlements are already cities. There’s no way an Israeli government would ever dare to evict these settlers. 
Palestine is a very small country. To divide it is a colonialist idea of divide and rule. It’s nothing to do with peace and solution. And therefore, not surprisingly, this is either imposed on the Palestinians or the Palestinians usually reject it. There’s no point of continuing to demand a solution that is against the basic needs of the indigenous people.

RFI: There is much anger about the way Israel is treating Gaza and the Palestinians living there after the 7 October terrorist attacks. But is this surprising for a state where people are born with memories of millennia of repression, right up to the pogroms and extermination camps experienced by living survivors? 

Ilan Pappé: Like in private life, victims can become victimisers. That's for sure. Abused children can become abusing parents.

But it cannot work, it is a manipulation of memory. The Holocaust memory in Israel is manipulated, first and foremost, to justify brutal policies against the Palestinians.

But the way that the memory of the Holocaust is being manipulated and abused, for me, is very difficult to watch because I lost most of my family in the Holocaust, in Germany, so I would think that the moral imperative for me is to make sure that I don’t do what had been done to me.

Of course there are a few more paragraphs to read at the opening link. As always share some thoughts

One reply on “France’s tense political climate mirrors Israel’s, says scholar Ilan Pappé”

If my site drops away tomorrow (hope not) but if it does I”ll be back July 1st.
It seems my bandwidth is being consumed by whatever/whomever in Hong Kong and Latvia of all places!!
The internet is a strange place and sometimes I can’t get these spammers, whatever, blocked quick enough- sadly.
Enjoy the piece and if you can share some thoughts
thanks 🙂

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