Why the University of Haifa Wants to Get Rid of Me


On May 5, 2002, I was summoned to stand trial in my university, University of Haifa, where I am a lecturer at the department of International Relations. The prosecution, represented by the university's Dean of Humanities, demanded my expulsion from the campus due to the position I had taken in the past on the controversial case of Teddy Katz. Katz was an M.A. student at the University who in 1999 received the highest possible grade for a dissertation that, among other things, exposed an unknown massacre in the 1948 war in the village of Tantura; quite probably it was one of the worst atrocities committed by the Israeli army at that war. He was sued by the veterans who belonged to the unit whose troops perpetrated the massacre, but the trial never took off.

Katz at first apologized for fabricating the event, due to unbearable pressure exerted on him by family and public alike, but soon retracted that apology and asked for the trial to be resumed, but was refused. As a result his thesis was examined by a special inquiry commission in the university that found several misquotes in the thesis -- six quotes out of hundreds were flawed -- a quite small percentage and normal in the works of even established historians. None of the misquotes affected the final conclusion or his findings about the massacre in Tantura. On the basis of this commission's report, Katz was disqualified in November 2001.

All this time I had challenged the university's conduct, while also conducting my own research on what had happened in Tantura. I accused the university of moral cowardice and attributed political motives to its conduct in the affair. At the same time, after going over all the relevant material, I published my unequivocal conclusion that a massacre of around 250 innocent Palestinians took place in May 1948 in Tantura (a village that was at the time already part of the Jewish state, and hence all the victims were citizens of the new state).

As a result of voicing these opinions throughout the affair (December 2000 to November 2001), I became the target of a boycott campaign initiated by the Department of Erez Israel studies in my university, an ideological academic outfit established to provide scholarly scaffolding to the Zionist narrative. The prosecutor in my case comes from this department.

Those who see themselves as the guardians of the national historical version could not allow a thesis like that of Katz or my own conclusions to be accepted as legitimate products of academic research. The Tantura affair exposed the brutal nature of the 1948 ethnic cleansing and by that gave credence to the Palestinian demands of restitution and repatriation. The exposure of such atrocities in Israeli academia turns them into undisputed facts in the eyes of the world, and who knows, even may plant doubts in the minds of Israelis. The history of 1948, especially the ethnic cleansing that took place there, are directly connected to the peace process today and to the shape of the future solution.

But the Katz affair ended half a year ago and this raises the question of timing. The timing has to do with specific issues relevant to my own work as it is generated by the more general atmosphere in Israel today.

I think there are three reasons for the timing. One is my signing of a petition a few weeks ago endorsing the decision of European academics to boycott Israeli academic institutes. This has led the university authorities to think that the atmosphere is right for settling older accounts with me. The second is a pending article of mine in Hebrew on the affair, in a highly reputed academic journal. In this article I repeat my critique of the university's conduct. The third is my proposal to give a course on the Nakbah in the university in the next academic year beginning in October 2002, the first such course ever to be given in an Israeli university. It should be understood that the very idea that the Palestinians are a legitimate subject matter is quite new to Israeli academia and was introduced only in the 1980s. But it was done then not out of empathy for the Palestinian plight, but rather as part of an intelligence attempt to know 'thy enemy.' I am talking about a course, that due to my views and known positions on history, would identify with the Palestinian narrative of the Nakbah and would discuss openly the present implications for a future solution. In my university this is heresy.

But the timing is also connected to the general atmosphere that is best described as a conscious Jewish Israeli desertion of the democratic game, or shall we say pretense, by government and society alike.

This new mood is manifested in two ways. One is the silencing of any criticism, even the mildest, as was the case with Israel's national singer, Yaffa Yarkoni, who dared to question the Jenin operation, and now is ostracized everywhere. In such a national mood, lecturers who supported those refusing to serve in the occupied territories are being prosecuted, so far with little success, by the minister of education. The public pressure has led few critical Israeli scholars to retract their previous support for peace and democracy. And no wonder, as the time seems now ripe for settling old accounts with 'new historians,' it is less comfortable to be one. For some it was too much. My colleague Benny Morris succumbed and under pressure publicly justified the 1948 ethnic cleansing he helped to reveal and warned that he would support it again if the present crisis continues (his confession is now distributed by the Israeli embassies around the world).

The second manifestation of the new situation is the clever manipulation of the political elite of the new consensual mood to drive into the center of the public stage discourses and ideologies that used to be regarded as belonging to the extreme right, the most notable of which is the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians wherever they are inside Israel or in the occupied territories. Surprisingly, the media and the academy willingly cooperated with this. As Daniel Dor has shown us in his Press Under Influence, the local media distorted the reality ever since the outbreak of the Intifada and reported it in a way that would serve the government and would not allow any alternative thinking.

The erosion of free thought and speech can lead to one conclusion only. There is a need for strong economic and cultural pressure on Israel, not only in order to stop its destructive policies against Palestinians, but also in order to prevent the region as a whole from deteriorating into a war that would ruin the lives of everyone, Jews and Arabs, in Israel, Palestine and beyond.

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LANE POPPE - 10/11/2002





Carl Appelbaum - 8/27/2002

Those who are interested can see an important summary of the Tantura Case at the following url:http://members.tripod.com/~Church-of-Rabin/katz.htm

Sol Shalit - 6/10/2002

From all I have read, it appears that rather than academic scholarhip being the main thrust, it was an activist's agenda that was driving Mr. Pappe. While he is entitled to freely express his views as an individual in democratic Israel, what he is seeking is the protection of the university, which is reserved for truly academic and scholarly endeavors worth protecting. This is not a case of free speech, but of academic standards. He has not made his case.

Sol Shalit
Professor Emeritus of Economics
Washington, DC

Kenneth Stow - 6/9/2002

Ilan Pappe writes that:
On May 5, 2002, I was summoned to stand trial in my university, University of Haifa, where I am a lecturer at the department of International Relations. The prosecution, represented by the university's Dean of Humanities, demanded my expulsion from the campus
In fact, Pappe was never summoned. One faculty member, Yossi ben Artzi, asked to have a summons initiated. This summons never came about, much less a trial. The head of the university's academic disciplinary court concluded that there were no grounds for a trial--no accusation made that fell within this court's competence. Pappe should be precise. He is not on trial, nor has been, his neat circumlocution notwithstanding.

Ilan Pappe was not charged because of his opinions. Nor was he charged for accepting the arguments of the original Katz's thesis. Nor is there a staunching of opinion in this university.
Yossi ben Artzi himself stood up three months ago and in the presence of a government minister challenged the essence of current governmental policy toward Palestinians--and the exchange was heated.

Ilan Pappe was charged for his wholly uncollegial remarks. Whether such remarks merit severe disciplinary action leading up to expulsion is debatable. So, too, is it debatable whether Pappe should have been charged for going abroad many times last year during the semester without seeking permission, flouting classroom responsibilities, without seeking permission--an elementary obligation that is observed by all, high and low, in this university. If Ilan wants to sign a petitition calling for a boycott, probably the most counter-productive move possible, this is his business. Personally, I question his presumption of moral superiority, to pretend to silence others while he claims to be a victim of silencing himself.

That Dr. Ibrahim Girais might consider taking Ilan to a civil court for racist defamation is another matter. About Dr. Girais--there is no doubt here: Ilan admitted to it in the news, and Girais confirmed it to me personally--Ilan said: "He is a fig leaf," with reference to Girais' presence on the Katz review committee. Translate into American terms, Girais is an Uncle Tom. Girais perceives it in terms of his integrity: What, he said to me. Just because I am an Arab should I be considered a yes man, to Ok whatever the committee said. Girais, whom I have known for 26 years, is a person of integrity. Maybe here, therefore, in Pappe's racism, the truth has outed.

If the academic world wishes to gird its loins and take up the cause of a person capable of statements like this, then this, too, is its business. A very sad business indeed.

Kenneth Stow
Professor of Jewish History
University of Haifa

Comment - 6/8/2002

Motto: "... Indeed the struggle is about ideology, not about
facts. Who knows what facts are? We try to convince as
many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts
is the correct one, and we do it because of ideological
reasons, not because we are truthseekers..."
Pappe in "AN INTERVIEW OF ILAN PAPPE", By Baudouin Loos,
Brussels, 29 November 1999,

In response to Pappe's posting (6-3-02, "Why the University
of Haifa Wants to Get Rid of Me") and Gelber's detailed
comments (6-6-02, "Ilan Pappe and the Tantura Blood Libel"):

I have no personal stake in the the Tantura Blood
Libel--Neither am I a historian, nor am I employed by Haifa
University, nor am I politically committed to any identifiable political
persuasion. I am your garden variety of an aging professor of Electrical
Engineering, who devoted his better years to research Maxwell's
theory of Electromagnetism.

Presently I am maintaining the listserv list "Academia"
(academia@techunix.technion.ac.il). When the Teddy Katz Masters thesis
came to light, the question of academic fraud in the service of a
political agenda came up. The "blood libel" as it was dubbed, relates
to the ensuing libel case brought by the Veterans of the Alexandroni
Brigade against Katz and others. These are the very people, only a
handful still alive, who were accused of a wanton bloody massacre of
defenseless villagers. Now this is per excellence the stuff modern
academic issues are made off! History, academic intrigue, alleged
fraud, politics, the law courts, and the interaction of all these in the
societal environment of Israel entangled in a war against terrorism. To
help the list subscribers to sort out the issues, I have collected every
scrap of information related to the issue. This unprofessional (but very
comprehensive, I dare say) archive can be found at
http://www.ee.bgu.ac.il/~censor/katz-directory. It contains the thesis,
the court minutes, affidavits, media articles and much more. Naturally
much of the material is in Hebrew, but there is enough in English to
interest international readers.

Dr. Pappe's involvement in the Katz thesis per se and in the whole
imbroglio is very deep and personal. While trying to depict himself as
the surgeon who stands over the patient in the operating theater and
deals with the malignancy, he is in fact the patient himself. I read his
articles in the Journal of Palestine Studies about the alleged Tantura
massacre and the Katz thesis, and if I were not afforded to the broader
canvas, they would seem to me as legitimate academic research work
(I hasten to say that I am not qualified to referee articles in this
academic discipline, so this is only the layman's common sense opinion).
As I understand it, Dr. Pappe is the AUTHOR of the massacre story,
not the NARRATOR.

In order to understand Pappe's methods and methodology, it suffices
to read the motto above. Even a dumb researcher in the physics of
Electromagnetism understands that historical research cannot be
conducted by applying the razor of Popperian falsificationism. But
from there to waving any claim of pursuing historical fact, the distance
is measured in parsecs.

It appears to me that what has happened in the Tantura historical case
is that Dr. Pappe and Mr. Katz even superseded themselves: not only
is the historical methodology of event interpretation unrestricted by
any rules (the narrative itself is the truth, so to speak, and everybody
have their own truth), even the modification of oral testimony to
streamline it with the ideological/political agenda should not be despised.
Or am I wrong? Please Dr. Pappe, please Mr. Katz, correct me if I am wrong.

It is against this backdrop that we have to see the disciplinary
proceeding initiated in Haifa University against Pappe, and meanwhile
stopped in its tracks. Dr. Pappe cleverly cultivates a horde of enemies,
mainly academics and officials in his university, and plays brinkmanship
in badmouthing and ridiculing them, in order to prove that they are
after his hide because of his dissenting anti-zionist and anti-israeli
statements. To me it was amusing to see how these otherwise smart
people fell for his shenanigans.

Of course you can see that I am not a great admirer of Dr. Pappe, but
I do my utmost to separate fact from personal opinion, and thus
conscientiously trying to be truthful. My overall impression of the trial
fiasco is that it is a tempest in a teacup. Nobody so far has been
defrocked of his/her tenure in Israeli universities.

Dan Censor

Professor of Electrical Engineering,
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev,
Beer-Sheva, Israel.

Gil Troy - 6/7/2002

I have never heard about the massacre in question or the university case against Pappe, so I would want to see more evidence about both before jumping to conclusions. However, I do wonder about Pappe's credibility, when he writes:
"My colleague Benny Morris succumbed and under pressure publicly justified the 1948 ethnic cleansing he helped to reveal and warned that he would support it again if the present crisis continues (his confession is now distributed by the Israeli embassies around the world)."
In the interview of Benny Morris that I read Morris did not repudiate his previous work and in no way endorsed any kind of "ethnic cleansing." Rather, Morris simply declared that he had come to the sad conclusion that the majority of Palestinians were not willing to meet Israelis halfway and compromise for peace. Unless there is another Morris interview in question, this distortion of Pappe's, combined with the generally hysterical tone, and the use of such charged phrases as "ethnic cleansing," suggests that Pappe's critics may be on the mark.
Gil Troy

Gelber Yoav - 6/6/2002

1.11Ilan Pappe reiterates indefatigably that a massacre took place in Tantura. Unfortunately, saying it does not make it so. While there is a consensus that around 80 Arabs and 14 Israeli soldiers were killed in a battle when the village was occupied, Pappe's allegation about a cold-blooded massacre after the conquest that raised the number of Arab victims to 250 is a vicious and unsubstantiated blood libel.
2.11Pappe consistently conceal his true role in the thesis about Tantura. He appears as the innocent who set out to defend poor Teddy Katz against the forces of evil. In fact, Pappe instructed Katz and he defends mainly himself, not his protege.
3.11The legal decision in the Tantura case was not on a matter of procedure as Pappe claims, trying to minimize its significance. It emanated from the falsifications and distortions that had been revealed during Katz's testimony in court and cross-examination - more numerous than pappe admits. Subsequently, Katz voluntarily withdrew the charges he had made and undertook his yet unfulfilled public apology.
4.11The rest of the proceedings concerned Katz's attempt to go back on his commitment, apparently under pressure of those radical anti-Israelis who financed his defence. Of course, they did not raise the money for him to apologize, but to fight the Nakbah trial, and he let them down.
5.11The university committee consisting of experts on Middle Eastern history and the Arabic language that re-examined Katz's thesis has no connection with the trial as Pappe asserts. The rector appointed it upon a demand from within the university.
6.11The historiographic-methodological issue in this case has not been a choice between oral and written evidence. It has been the unprofessional manner in which Pappe and his prot?g?, Teddy Katz, has handled oral evidence and documentary material alike, and their tampering with both testimonies and documents.
7.11The university's committee has exposed several instances of this juggling around. Consequently it abolished the thesis but allowed Katz to present a revised version. So far, he has not done it.
8.11Pappe compares "Jewish" and "Arab" testimonies, or "Villagers testimonies" as opposed to IDF reports and other documents. He asserts that Tantura villagers' stories should be accepted as conveying the "truth" (while on other instances he denies the existence of "truth" altogether) and dismiss off-hand the version of the Israeli veterans or contemporary reports. There are plenty of contradictions and inconsistencies among the villagers' stories, so how can they be accepted en bloc?
9.11By claiming that testimonies of Arab refugees should be accepted just as those of Jewish Holocaust survivors, Pappe attempts to create a comparative paradigm that puts the Holocaust and the Nakbah on the same level. Pappe implies thereby that the Palestinians deserve compensation for the Nakbah - politically and financially - as the Jews were compensated for the Holocaust. This comparison is particularly irritating and spreads a strong odor of Holocaust denial. Obviously, there can be no comparison between the Holocaust and a war fought mutually by two armed adversaries that occasionally perpetrated atrocities against each other. Not surprisingly, Pappe ignores systematically massacres perpetrated by Palestinians such as Gush Etzion, the Hadassa convoy or the refineries in Haifa, etc. A la guerre comme la guerre, and the war of 1948 was a contest that the Palestinians should not have started in the first place. They have only themselves and their Arab allies to blame for its consequences. No one would say the same of the European Jews in 1933-45.
10.11Pappe claims that four documents from the IDF archives "prove" the massacre in Tantura. Pappe's selective quotations from these documents are a simple deceit. None of the documents mention or hint at a massacre. For example, Pappe interpreted the word sabotage (Khabala), as massacre (Tevakh). This is something that the present Hebrew language, all the more so the Hebrew of 1948, would not accept.
11.11 Pappe also relies on the memoirs of a Palestinian writer who tells the story of "a survivor who arrived in Haifa after the massacre and conveyed to the writer [of the book] what he had seen with his own eyes." Haifa had been occupied a month before Tantura. No survivors from Tantura could arrive in the town and the writer was at the time in a hospital in Beirut. These details, cast a heavy shadow on the credibility of the story as well as on Pappe's competence as a researcher.
12.11Pappe and Katz disregard a contemporary report of an eyewitness that categorically refutes their libel. Tantura refugees were handed over to the Red Cross delegates. Free from possible Israeli pressures, they nonetheless did not complain to the delegates about a massacre. They also did not complain about it to the Iraqi army when they arrived in its territory (upon their own request). Two months after the fall of the village, a woman from Tantura recited the events of that night in a broadcast on Ramallah radio. She described alleged rapes and destruction but did not say a word about a massacre. All these contemporary sources are far more reliable than fifty years old fantasies of witnesses or of their manipulative interviewers.
13.11 Pappe has covered up his fiasco in the Tantura blood libel by complaints of virtual persecution, by screaming for international protection from attempts to discipline him and by nasty verbal hooliganism against his critics. His arguments in the Katz case as well as his personal comments on the consequences of the Tantura affair should be taken not with a grain - but with a mountain of salt.

Yossi Ben-Artzi - 6/5/2002

I am at loss to untangle the web of disinformation and manipulation contained in the ill-tempered article published by Ilan Pappe. Where does one begin? Perhaps I should mention that Ilan was called before a disciplinary committee, not because of his political views, but for his unrelenting efforts to destroy the reputation of colleagues (those who provide “ the scaffolding for the Zionist narrative”) through a letter and e.mail campaign meant to discourage participation of American academics in the promotion procedure of fellow professors at Haifa? Ilan’s target was, for example, an Arab faculty member who dare contradict his narrative. He was in his mind collaborator! There is a condescending sub-text here: only Jewish scholars can reveal the truth; Arab academics are, according to Dr. Pappe, beholden unto the system.
There are other significant omissions in Dr. Pappe’s exercise in victimology. One may wonder, for example, why he fails to mention that there is no procedure at all for the time being, since the Presiding Judge issued an interim decision which suggests a re-submission of an amanded charge!! BTW, there are other faculty members at our university who share Dr.Pappe's political mind and positions, but no one of them was called to a disciplinary court...
As for Ilan Pappe’s “unequivocal conclusion” that a massacre took place at Tantura, I refer readers to his endorsement of post-narrative strategies, subjective narratives and his rejection of the idea of “unequivocal” historical truth. In the matter of political scaffolding under the guise of academic scholarship, Dr. Pappe is the unequivocal master. I cannot contain my amusement as to the manner in which Dr. Pappe damns the work of Benny Morris, the founding-father of the “new historians,” and tries to sell his own derivate work as original and-- once again-- “unequivocally” true. Without Benny Morris there would be no Ilan Pappe; his work is mostly embellishments of Morris’s important studies. Finally, I am saddened by Dr. Pappe’s vilification of the University of Haifa. About 20 percent of our 14,000 students are Israeli Arabs, and due to the very unfortunate circumstances of recent events, the University of Haifa is one of the few remaining sites for dialogue-difficult and often frustrating-between Jews and Arabs. It is a complex process involving setbacks, disappointment and disagreement. Dr. Pappe is aware of these facts, but in his zeal to market himself as a martyr in the cause of “unequivocal truth” he callously and carelessly destroys this beacon of hope in very dark times.

Yossi Ben-Artzi

Duby Diggs - 6/4/2002

The specifics of this case are difficult, if not impossible to objectively judge in this forum. The broader context, however, is strongly suggestive of a long term trend in which right-wing Israelis are seeking a sort of weird parity with Arab neighbors, not (as in the pre-Likud past) by pressuring those neighbors to become more democratic and open-minded, but dragging by Israel away from democracy and towards a police state. Instead of the old Zionist ideal of uplifting the region by positive example, the new approach is to emulate the negative examples of the surrounding area. Instead of Israel inspiring Arabs to change and improve, the Likud politicians seize every opportunity to move Israel incrementally closer to the dogmatic pigheadedness of its non-democratic neighbors, a strategy which dovetails neatly with the destabilizing policies of Palestinian terrorists.