This deceptively slim book covers a lot of ground. The author, Ilan Pappe, is a well-known expatriate Israeli historian, critic and social activist. He is one of the ‘new historians’ arising in Israel who have challenged the official Zionist version of Israel’s history. As the name suggests Ten Myths is divided into sections which saves it from becoming a heavy treatise on the making of Israel.
Pappe takes apart the myth of Palestine being an empty land and shows how the displacement of the indigenous people was a part of early Zionist ideology. Pappe challenges Israel’s claim to represent all Jews, and presents Zionism as settler colonialism and the Palestinian national movement as an anti-colonial movement.
Zionism sought to transform a religion into nationalism at a time when the formation of nations was on the rise, particularly in Europe. Then after World War 2, when colonialism was being rejected by the civilised world, Zionism was supported in becoming a colonialist project “because the creation of a Jewish state offered Europe, and West Germany in particular, an easy way out of the worst excesses of anti-Semitism ever seen. Israel was the first to declare its recognition of ‘a new Germany’—in return it received a lot of money, but also, far more importantly a carte blanche to turn the whole of Palestine into Israel. Zionism offered itself as the solution to anti-Semitism, but became the main reason for its continued presence.”
In another chapter he debunks one of the core myths of Israel that the war of 1967 was a war of no choice. He argues the government had decided Israel could not exist without the West Bank. Having seized the territory the question then was how long the Israeli army would occupy the Palestinian areas. Fifty years on “it seems that for most ministers the answer was, and still is: for a very long time”.
Further on he examines the two state solution, concluding it is not viable and that the Oslo peace talks ruined Palestinian society, enforced compromise and led to the giving up on the right of return for Palestinians.
Another myth he tackles is the Israeli claim to democracy which is shown to be easily challenged going back to 1948 when Palestinian municipalities were granted far less funding than their Jewish counterparts. Land was and still is prioritized for Jewish settlements and is still being confiscated for these purposes from Palestinian villagers. For Palestinians in the Occupied Territories there is not even a pretence of democracy as the Israeli state cracks down with extremely bloody methods.
Pappe concludes that Israel offers Palestinians the choice of permanent incarceration or retribution. He notes we need to stop treating the mythologies as truths if a just solution is to be found.
A year on from the publication of Pappe’s book the situation for Palestinians looks even more harsh. The Israeli state has a large appetite for violent suppression but the resistance continues. With that resistance lies hope.