I was incredibly moved by this book, even though as I read it I was very aware that there are sections of Israeli society, and the wider Jewish community, which will simply dismiss it out of hand as propagandist and anti-Zionist fiction.
First, I have to say that I am Jewish, so I came to this book with a concern about potential conflicting loyalties that most of us, inside and outside Israel, bring to this emotive issue. Ilan Pappe, however, in effect asks everyone to balance love and/or respect for Israel (whether it is one's "homeland" or not) with an objective appraisal of the behaviour of the government (past and present) of that country. As parents are advised, one should criticise the behaviour - what has been carried out in the name of Israel - but love the child.
I was brought up on stories of Israel's valiant fight against impossible odds, of a David-like victory against the combined might of the Arab aggressors, and a celebration of everything Israel has achieved in the last century. However, I want to see peace in Israel - for everyone. So I have made it my business to familiarize myself with some of the basic arguments on both sides, but I had not come across the sheer wealth of detail that Pappe brings out in support of his main theme - that the Palestinians were forcibly, deliberately expelled from their homes and villages, in a project conceived and initiated long before the end of the Mandate. And regardless of whether they fled in fear or were driven out, they were not allowed back. No one can dispute this.
One of the most chilling arguments in the book, however, is that ethnic cleansing is still on the table as far as the government of Israel is concerned. It is facing a demographic "problem" - there are still too many Arabs inside Israel - and apparently it has its eyes on East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank with a view to reducing the Arab population.
It is hard to see how the two positions can be reconciled, but Pappe makes a very good argument for justice and reparations for the Palestinians, and as the only just and practical basis for a lasting peace, it is a convincing one. I highly recommend people on both sides of the argument read this book.
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