The boundaries between professional historiography, moral commitment and fiction have been re-examined in new publications on the troubled land of Israel and Palestine. Professor Ilan Pappe, an acclaimed political historian from Exeter University and expert on Palestinian-Israeli relations, has recently published challenging books on the issue.
The publications focus on the chances for change from within Israeli society; the role of academics in peace; an analysis of the failure of the Palestinians in the face of the Zionist movement and a debate between two committed intellectuals on the Palestine issue of one state versus two state, a cultural boycott on Israel and the Palestinian refugees right of return.
Professor Pappe told ArtsCulture: “The books challenge our accepted wisdom and approach on Palestine where the peace process now is in total deadlock without any idea of how to push it forward. The book written with Noam Chomsky, Crisis in Gaza; Reflections on Israel’s War against the Palestinians, is more of a debate. We used the terrible events in Gaza to reflect on the past, the present and the future, highlighting the common basis and explaining the divergences of opinion.”
Professor Pappe’s autobiographical account of living in Israel (as a lecturer at Haifa University, who challenged the Zionist position on the foundation of the Israeli State) is explored in Out of Frame. This historical narrative also provides reasons why he had to leave the country in order to survive as a critical academic. It is this mix between personal history and Palestine that seeks to provide the most updated philosophical discussion on the historical and cultural representation of the state.
The Rise and Fall of a Palestinian Dynasty: the Husaynis 1700-1948 is the history of Palestine through the eyes of one family. It charts the tragedy of a nation, according to Professor Pappe whose position is that Palestine was never an empty territory waiting for a landless people to inhabit it.
As one of the directors of the university’s European Centre for Palestine Studies (ECPS), Professor Pappe recently welcomed the Commissioner General, Filippo Grandi from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Exeter.
The Commissioner General gave an inaugural lecture and complimented the work of the centre. He said: “When I consider the profile of the founders of the European Centre for Palestine Studies, the quality of the faculty, and the pedigree of the University of Exeter, I feel assured that the work done here has the best possible change of achieving the goal that it must have – to make a real difference to Palestine refugees and to Palestinians at large.”
The visit by the senior UN official and his colleague Michael Kingsley-Nyinah, director of the UNRWA Executive Office, also involved discussions with members of the ECPS on the potential of their research to impact policy.
Filippo Grandi said: “Palestine is a subject on which research, teaching and academic enquiry can be directly applied to policy development and political action. We are confident that the centre will become a force for illuminating with intellectual clarity the tasking questions that will continue to frame Palestinian discourse for some time to come.
“We are certain that as the European Centre for Palestine Studies thrives in research, in writing and in teaching, it will also grow in the influence it brings to bear on the approach of States and political players to Palestinians and Palestine refuges.”