Ilan Pappe: Jewish groups angered by Invitation to Ilan Pappé to speak on 60th anniversary of founding of Israel

Historians in the News

The organisers of the Edinburgh International Book Festival have been accused of “political illiteracy” for marking Israel's 60th anniversary with what is billed as a “special and powerful event” focusing on the enforced exodus of Palestinians in 1948.

The opening day session will feature Ilan Pappé, an historian once dubbed “the most hated Israeli in Israel”, who is scheduled to discuss his project Nakba: Return of the Soul. Nakba means catastrophe and is the word used by Palestinians to summarise the founding of Israel in 1948.

In an article published last month, Dr Pappé accused the Zionist movement of ethnic cleansing in Palestine and linked its policies with the Holocaust. “Europe's guilt at allowing Nazi Germany to exterminate the Jews of Europe was to be cured by the dispossession of the Palestinians,” he wrote.

These views, and the programming of events in Edinburgh, have infuriated some.

“The organisers are politically illiterate,” said Colin Shindler, reader in Israeli and Modern Jewish Studies at London University. “The unsaid agenda is not to recall the Palestinian Nakba - a legitimate subject for discussion - but to underline the fact that the Jews really do not have a right to national self-determination in Israel. The festival's ‘outrage' is selective and they do a disservice to intellectual debate in this country,”

Geraldine D'Amico, the director of Jewish Book Week, told the Jewish Chronicle that Catherine Lockerbie, the director of the Edinburgh book festival, was “a friend and a role model” who had rejected calls for a boycott of Israeli speakers in 2006.

However, she added that she was “saddened” that “in 2008 the only recognition of Israel's 60 years of existence is a talk on the Nakba, with no-one to make the case for Israel”.

comments powered by Disqus