Professor Pappe Spoke to a Rapt Audience

An Evening with Israeli Historian Ilan Pappe

On Saturday, March 10, Friends Meeting at Cambridge was literally packed to the rafters as the Israeli historian and peace activist Ilan Pappe talked about his new book, The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories.  It is a successor volume to his path-breaking 2008 volume, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. 

Pappe writes in his latest book that Zionism, a form of settler colonialism, is “a structure not an event.  A structure of displacement and replacement….It began in 1882, reached a certain peak in 1948, continued with vehemence in 1967 and is still alive and kicking today.  The mega-prison is one of the many methods the settler colonial state of Israel employed to keep the project alive…The mega-prison was the logical and inevitable consequence of Zionist history and ideology.”

In his talk, Pappe, one of the leading Israeli ‘new historians’ who have been re-writing the history of Israel’s founding as long-secret historical documents have gradually become available for public scrutiny, explained to a rapt audience of more than 200 people the research that led him to this conclusion.  

He described how plans for the “mega-prison” were devised years before the 1967 war, how it was bureaucratically administered, how resistance by Palestinians ushered in “the Oslo charade,” and how an “ultimate maximum security prison model” was established for the Gaza Strip.

His talk was followed by a lengthy question and answer session during which Pappe stressed just how accustomed Israel has become to running “the biggest ever human prison witnessed in modern history.”  Without a new, clearly articulated Palestinian vision for the way forward combined with intensified pressure from the international community, that prison was, in his view, unlikely to be dismantled.

Professor Ilan Pappe, who holds a D.Phil. from Oxford University, taught for more than two decades at the University of Haifa.  In 2008, government pressure and death threats forced him to leave Israel.  He then joined the University of Exeter in the UK, where he is Professor of the College of Social Studies and International Studies and Director of the University’s European Center for Palestine Studies.

The March 10th talk will shortly be available on Arabic Hour and the radio program ‘This Week in Palestine’: details forthcoming.

Nancy Murray

A portion of the audience that gave Professor Pappe a standing ovation is pictured below.

Part of the Friends Meeting audience that gave Ilan Pappe a standing ovation at the end of his talk.