Why the Occupation is No Accident

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Ilan Pappé speaking at the conference The Israel Lobby and American Policy in Washington, DC, on March 24, 2017. (photo: Phil Portlock)

The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories by Ilan Pappe, Oneworld Books (2017)

By Rod Such / The Electronic Intifada
September 18, 2017


Everything that followed the 1967 War, notes Pappe, follows the “logic of settler colonialism” and that logic in turn foresees the eventual elimination of the indigenous Palestinians. That outcome, however, is not inevitable. An alternative is possible, Pappe maintains, if Israel decolonizes and makes “way for the logic of human and civil rights.”


As early as 1963 — four years before the 1967 War — the Israeli government was planning the military and administrative takeover of the West Bank, according to The Biggest Prison on Earth, a new book by the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe.

The planning for that operation — codenamed Granit (granite) — took place over a month on the campus of Hebrew University in the Givat Ram neighborhood of western Jerusalem. Israeli military administrators responsible for overseeing Palestinians within Israel joined military legal officials, interior ministry figures and private attorneys to create the judicial and administrative decrees required to rule over the one million Palestinians then living in the West Bank.

These plans were part of a larger strategy for placing the West Bank under military occupation. That strategy was codenamed the Shacham Plan for the Israeli colonel, Mishael Shacham, who authored it, and was formally presented by the Israeli chief of general staff to the army on 1 May 1963.

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Tomorrow at Town Hall Seattle! — Ilan Pappé: Prospects for Peace in Palestine

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Please join us for an evening with Ilan Pappé, internationally renown historian, speaking on “Prospects for Peace in Palestine.”

Date: Monday, May 22, 2017
Time: 6:00–7:00 p.m. Reception
7:00–9:00 p.m. Program
Location: Town Hall Seattle (Great Hall)
1119 Eighth Ave
Seattle, WA  98101
Information: Event website
Facebook event
Email with questions
Tickets: $10 general / $5 student
Buy tickets here

Event Details

Dr. Ilan Pappé, internationally known historian and author, will address Prospects for Peace in Palestine, at 6:00 pm on Monday, May 22, at Town Hall, Seattle. A native son of Israel, Dr. Pappé is a former senior lecturer of history and political science at Haifa University. Since 2008 he has been a member of the academic staff at the University of Exeter, U.K. and is presently Director of the European Center for Palestine Studies.

Author of 12 books on related subjects, Dr. Pappé is well known for his scholarship and commentary on Middle East, especially the history of Israel and Palestine. The Modern Middle East: a Social and Cultural History (2014) is a textbook on the urban, rural, cultural, and gender histories that influence current political and economic developments in the region.

Pappe’s meticulous research examines the socio/political outcomes of the creation and nature of the State of Israel. In his groundbreaking and controversial work, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), Pappé traces the roots of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and he raises troubling moral issues around the injustice done to the indigenous Palestinians who were forced to migrate or live as an occupied people in their own land. His struggle for academic freedom led him to leave Israel for England in 2007.

Avi Shlaim, respected Israeli author of The Iron Wall states, “Pappé advocates a peaceful humanist and socialist alternative to the Zionist idea in the form of a bi-national state with equal rights for all its citizens.” (The Guardian, 2014)

Sponsored by the Episcopal Bishop’s Committee for Israel/Palestine, Diocese of Olympia, and the Kairos Puget Sound Coalition, Dr. Pappé will also speak to staff and students at Seattle Pacific University and the University of Washington.

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This Monday at Town Hall Seattle — Ilan Pappé: Prospects for Peace in Palestine

Ilan Pappe (1)

Please join us for an evening with Ilan Pappé, internationally renown historian, speaking on “Prospects for Peace in Palestine.”

Date: Monday, May 22, 2017
Time: 6:00–7:00 p.m. Reception
7:00–9:00 p.m. Program
Location: Town Hall Seattle (Great Hall)
1119 Eighth Ave
Seattle, WA  98101
Information: Event website
Facebook event
Email with questions
Tickets: $10 general / $5 student
Buy tickets here

Event Details

Dr. Ilan Pappé, internationally known historian and author, will address Prospects for Peace in Palestine, at 6:00 pm on Monday, May 22, at Town Hall, Seattle. A native son of Israel, Dr. Pappé is a former senior lecturer of history and political science at Haifa University. Since 2008 he has been a member of the academic staff at the University of Exeter, U.K. and is presently Director of the European Center for Palestine Studies.

Author of 12 books on related subjects, Dr. Pappé is well known for his scholarship and commentary on Middle East, especially the history of Israel and Palestine. The Modern Middle East: a Social and Cultural History (2014) is a textbook on the urban, rural, cultural, and gender histories that influence current political and economic developments in the region.

Pappe’s meticulous research examines the socio/political outcomes of the creation and nature of the State of Israel. In his groundbreaking and controversial work, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), Pappé traces the roots of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and he raises troubling moral issues around the injustice done to the indigenous Palestinians who were forced to migrate or live as an occupied people in their own land. His struggle for academic freedom led him to leave Israel for England in 2007.

Avi Shlaim, respected Israeli author of The Iron Wall states, “Pappé advocates a peaceful humanist and socialist alternative to the Zionist idea in the form of a bi-national state with equal rights for all its citizens.” (The Guardian, 2014)

Sponsored by the Episcopal Bishop’s Committee for Israel/Palestine, Diocese of Olympia, and the Kairos Puget Sound Coalition, Dr. Pappé will also speak to staff and students at Seattle Pacific University and the University of Washington.

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Next Monday: Ilan Pappé — Prospects for Peace in Palestine (Town Hall Seattle)

Ilan Pappe (1)

Please join us for an evening with Ilan Pappé, internationally renown historian, speaking on “Prospects for Peace in Palestine.”

Date: Monday, May 22, 2017
Time: 6:00–7:00 p.m. Reception
7:00–9:00 p.m. Program
Location: Town Hall Seattle (Great Hall)
1119 Eighth Ave
Seattle, WA  98101
Information: Event website
Facebook event
Email with questions
Tickets: $10 general / $5 student
Buy tickets here

Event Details

Dr. Ilan Pappé, internationally known historian and author, will address Prospects for Peace in Palestine, at 6:00 pm on Monday, May 22, at Town Hall, Seattle. A native son of Israel, Dr. Pappé is a former senior lecturer of history and political science at Haifa University. Since 2008 he has been a member of the academic staff at the University of Exeter, U.K. and is presently Director of the European Center for Palestine Studies.

Author of 12 books on related subjects, Dr. Pappé is well known for his scholarship and commentary on Middle East, especially the history of Israel and Palestine. The Modern Middle East: a Social and Cultural History (2014) is a textbook on the urban, rural, cultural, and gender histories that influence current political and economic developments in the region.

Pappe’s meticulous research examines the socio/political outcomes of the creation and nature of the State of Israel. In his groundbreaking and controversial work, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), Pappé traces the roots of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and he raises troubling moral issues around the injustice done to the indigenous Palestinians who were forced to migrate or live as an occupied people in their own land. His struggle for academic freedom led him to leave Israel for England in 2007.

Avi Shlaim, respected Israeli author of The Iron Wall states, “Pappé advocates a peaceful humanist and socialist alternative to the Zionist idea in the form of a bi-national state with equal rights for all its citizens.” (The Guardian, 2014)

Sponsored by the Episcopal Bishop’s Committee for Israel/Palestine, Diocese of Olympia, and the Kairos Puget Sound Coalition, Dr. Pappé will also speak to staff and students at Seattle Pacific University and the University of Washington.

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Ilan Pappé: Zionism as Settler-Colonialism

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Ilan Pappé speaking at the conference The Israel Lobby and American Policy in Washington, DC, on March 24, 2017. (photo: Phil Portlock)

Keynote address: “The Value of Viewing Israel-Palestine Through the Lens of Settler-Colonialism.”

By Ilan Pappé / Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
March 24, 2017


Zionism is not an event. It is a structure, and it’s a setter colonialist structure.


. . . What I’m going to argue today, this afternoon, is that as much as the lobbies are important in affecting and influencing American policy, there is a basic and fundamental misunderstanding of what the conflict in Palestine is all about, including among those American diplomats, pundits, politicians who see themselves champions of Palestinian rights.

The level of — I wouldn’t call it ignorance, because these are very educated well-read people, so ignorance would not be a fair concept here — the level of blindness, or the level of ignorance in the sense of ignoring certain chapters rather than not being able to understand reality, this level is so high that it really makes it impossible, even when you have a period in which the lobbies are not strong or even when you have a president who is more pro-Palestinian than anyone before him. The level, the depths, of that ignorance is so significant that it would not allow the two other factors, even if they are diminished or weakened, to influence fundamentally the American policy and, in association, the reality on the ground.

Now, what is missing? And this is what I would like to point out. What is missing is an understanding of the nature of Zionism, the nature of the Zionist project in Palestine — not as a nostalgic journey into the past, but as a current analysis. The late and amazing scholar of settler colonialism, Patrick Wolfe, said famously that settler colonialism is not an event. It’s a structure. Zionism is not an event. It’s a structure, and it’s a settler colonialist structure. It was a settler colonialist structure in 1882, and it is a settler colonialist structure in 2017.

You don’t appease a settler colonialist project by dividing Palestine into two states. That will never appease the settler colonialist project. The only way to challenge a settler colonialist project is to decolonize the settler colonialist project. This challenge has not been digested by American policymakers, including those who regard themselves as open-minded, balanced — if you want — objective above the situation.

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The “Idea of Israel” and “My Promised Land”

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The separation wall on the West Bank that divides Palestinians and Israelis. (photo: Pedro Ugarte/AFP/Getty)

The moral consequences of the triumph of Zionism: Ilan Pappé and Ari Shavit view Israel from different vantage points, but they agree the status quo between Israel and the Palestinians can’t be sustained.

By Avi Shlaim / The Guardian
May 14, 2014

[Ed. note: In anticipation of Ilan Pappé’s visit to Seattle next month, we are touching on some of the Israeli “new historians.” This 2014 piece from The Guardian reviews Pappé’s book, The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge, and Ari Sahvit’s, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.]


Chaim Weizmann, the first president of the state of Israel, famously said that it is by its treatment of the Palestinians that his country will be judged. Yet, when judged by this criterion, Zionism is not just an unqualified failure but a tragedy of historic proportions. Zionism did achieve its central goal but at a terrible price: the displacement and dispossession of the Palestinians — what the Arabs call the Nakba, the catastrophe.


Zionism achieved its greatest triumph with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. The Zionist idea and its principal political progeny are the subject of deeply divergent interpretations, not least inside the Jewish state itself. No other aspect of Zionism, however, is more controversial than its attitude towards the indigenous population of the land of its dreams. Chaim Weizmann, the first president of the state of Israel, famously said that it is by its treatment of the Palestinians that his country will be judged. Yet, when judged by this criterion, Zionism is not just an unqualified failure but a tragedy of historic proportions. Zionism did achieve its central goal but at a terrible price: the displacement and dispossession of the Palestinians — what the Arabs call the Nakba, the catastrophe.

The authors of these two books are both Israelis, but they approach their subject from radically different ideological vantage points. Ilan Pappé is a scholar and a pro-Palestinian political activist. He is one of the most prominent Israeli political dissidents living in exile, having moved from the University of Haifa to the University of Exeter. He is also one of the few Israeli students of the conflict who write about the Palestinian side with real knowledge and empathy.

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