Chapter Five: (More on the Katz Affair) La Libre Parole, The Plot, the Trial and the Acquittal.
From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)
Ilan Pappe | Translation from original French book: ‘The Demons of the Nakbah’ (published by La Fabrique, Paris) | 2003
Although the Katz and Tantura affairs were the motivating force complicating my relationship with the University, there was a wider context for my growing isolation – directly linked to the general deterioration in the state of basic freedoms in Israel, described in the previous chapter. In the campus, this was manifested in the increased tension between the university and the Palestinian students in it. The relative large number of Palestinian students in the campus (20 percent of the overall student population) meant that the events in October 2000 were immediately felt in the university compound. And indeed the link was established in a very personal and bloody manner. Two nephews of Arab lecturers in our university were among those murdered by the Israeli police in October 2000. One of them, Wissam Yazbak, I knew and his uncle is a very good friend of mine. I was the only one who made a note in public about the victims, but my desperate call for a show of solidarity with members of our faculty was received as an act of treason. The community of academics in Haifa University almost unanimously parroted every move the government took without a modicum of criticism. My seclusion and exclusion in the university was a foretold story given this immoral and cowardly behaviour of a community of scholars in the so called ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’.
The Katz affair became the pretext not the cause of the further retrogression in my relationship with the university. After Teddy Katz singed his ill fated confession, I became deeply involved in the affair. It began when three people joined forces in exploiting the cyberspace of the university to poison the atmosphere against the research on the Nakbah in general and Katz in particular. They were soon joined by a number of colleagues inside and outside the university who turned their participation into a direct confrontation with everything, they thought, the ’new history’ represented.
The three people were the prosecutor, the dean of humanities and the head of the history school. They used very cleverly the misquotes from Katz’s work and repeatedly ran them on the internal website and national academic website. As a response I took three days and nights off and transcribed the 60 hours of evidence and put them on the local and national webs. This action at least convinced some people to take a more ambivalent position. The prosecutor’s response was to ask for my dismissal from the university, and my colleagues began a systematic ad homonym campaign, joined by the Rector of the university which was conducted on a daily basis. Some colleagues came to my aid, but more in private and very few in public. A similar response came from the academic community at large. My indignation rose after the university committee of inquiry was established in April 2001. I knew well everyone on that community and inevitably a more personal tone entered the struggle.
The local Tantura affair intertwined with the intensification of the Second Intifada. The brutalization of the Israeli occupation and the equally brutal Palestinian retaliation had toughened the university’s policies towards the Palestinian students, who were quite defenceless in those days as very few faculty came to their defense. Not surprisingly the general intolerance towards critical voices intensified as well. This double avenues of clash and counter-clash – the particular Tantura case and the more general political one – continued for a year until April 2002, when the Israeli army invaded the Jenin refugee camp and committed hideous crimes against humanity there and in the rest of the Palestinian locations that fell prey to the operation called euphemistically ‘Defense Shield’. I was in some of the areas hit worse by the brutal attack, and although I would not have used Jose Saramago’s words that Jenin reminded him of Auschwitz, I can see why a visit there after the Israeli invasion can boggle your mind and push to look for the harsher possible way in which to express your indignation and protest.
During that year, I also conducted my own research on the Tantura massacre using archival material and new oral evidences; I was even more categorical than Katz about the conclusion. I wrote in every possible language that a massacre was committed in Tantura, but of course, the Alexandroni veterans did not dare to sue me, as they had done to poor Katz.
My critique on the university fused with my overt condemnation of the continued callous policies Israel exercised in the occupied territories: starvation of entire communities, house demolitions on unprecedented level, assassination of innocent citizens many of them children, harassment in checkpoints and destruction of the social and economic life in the territories. In every possible venue abroad I made my criticism known. I chose external stages, as I came to two conclusions about the dismal situation that developed on the ground. The first was that there was no internal force that could stop the Israelis from destroying the Palestinian people and end the occupation and secondly that worse was to come given the American policy, the European inaction and impotence of the Arab states. Looking back at the period that passed since that year, I am absolutely convinced I was right.
I became a pariah lecturer in my own university. Old colleagues and friends cancelled invitations sent to me before the whole affair broke out, to take part in seminars, symposia and conferences. At first using technical reasons, then admitting they did not want to risk their career by confronting the university authorities, one after the other they hid in their secure sanctuary together with the three famous apes that did not hear, see or talk. . Ever since the recommendations of the inquiry committee were published it was impossible to recruit anyone of my colleagues to say in public what many of them communicated to me in private. There were a dozen or so faculty members in Haifa University and in other campuses who were appalled by the conduct of the university, but none of them dared to make his or her view known openly. As retaliation for my explicit criticism, the dean of the Humanities faculty and the head of the History School in Haifa University banned my participation in any formal event, which came under the auspices of either unit. When the department of Middle Eastern History invited Professor Avi Shlaim of Oxford to a conference, honoring the publication of his book, The Iron Wall, I was at first asked to participate and even deliver the opening remarks for the conference. The Dean of the Faculty, who ex officio provides the funds and the venues for official events, conditioned the event on my exclusion. Avi Shlaim refused to participate under such circumstances and it was cancelled.
The writer A. B. Yehoshua who published a new novel in Hebrew, The Liberated Bride, a tale on Orientalist academia in Israel in which one of the heroes, or rather anti-heroes, is based among others, on me, requested my participation in a conference in Haifa University on the book. I agreed, warning the organizers that I would be banned from such events. They assured me the writer was important enough to withstand such pressures. He did not and the event went on without my participation. Needless to say, none of my colleagues at the time in the university raised their voices against this policy of ex-communication.
Ever since November 2001, the head of the history school called me in open letters Dr. Haw-Haw, the infamous Irishman who collaborated with the Nazis. This was fully supported by many of my colleagues in the university. Little did I care of what I was called, but it showed how easily the Israelis Nazified the Palestinians, while their army resorted to a repertoire of cruelties that would not have shamed the worst regimes of this century.
Needless to say that to compare me to Dr. Haw-Haw is akin to call upon people to murder me in the Israeli context. But this was not a crime in Haifa University; on the other hand, to expose a massacre Israelis committed in 1948 was a grave felony.
This went on for the whole month of April 2002. On May 5, 2002, on a Friday morning, an express letter arrived in my home summoning me to stand trial in front of a special disciplinary court. The prosecution, represented by the university’s Dean’s of Humanities, demanded my expulsion from the campus due to the positions I had taken in Katz affair.
The letter of summons quoted my main crimes. I dared to accuse the university of moral cowardice and had attributed political motives to its conduct in the Katz affair. This was described as a problem of collegiality and etiquette, but what I violated was not a code of honour, but rather the percepts of a very inflexible ideology. I was prosecuted by those who saw themselves as the guardians of the national historical version. As such they 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 the Israeli academia turns them into undisputed facts in the eyes of the world, and who knows, may even plant doubts in the minds of Israelis. The history of 1948, especially the ethnic cleansing that took place there, is directly connected to the peace process today and to the shape of the future solution.
But the Katz affair ended half a year before my official accusation as a persona non grata in the university, thus there were probably additional reasons which explain the particular timing. This was directly connected to specific issues relevant to my own work as it was linked to the general closing and stifling of the Israeli public and cultural mind.
I think there were three reasons for the timing. One was my signing of a petition (in April 2002) endorsing the decision of European academics to boycott Israeli academic institutes. This has led the university authorities to think that the atmosphere was ripe for settling older accounts with me. The second was my success in getting an article on Tantura being published in Hebrew in a highly reputed academic journal. In this article I repeated my critique on the university’s conduct, apart from reaffirming my conviction about the Tantura massacre. The third was my suggestion to give a course on the Nakbah in the university in the academic year 2002/2003, 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 the Israeli academia and had been 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, identified openly with the Palestinian narrative of the Nakbah and discussed candidly the present implications for a future solution. In my university this is heresy. The course by the way was a great success and full of students and other people who came to argue, agree and challenge – as indeed should happen in a normal university.
But the timing was also connected to the general atmosphere described in the second chapter in this book and that is best described as a conscious Jewish Israeli desertion of the democratic game, or shall we say pretense to play such a game, by government and society alike. This new mood was manifested in 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 was ostracized everywhere. In such a national mood, the handful lecturers who supported those refusing to serve in the occupied territories were been prosecuted by the minister of education. The public pressure had led few critical Israeli scholars to retract on their previous support for peace and democracy. And no wonder, as the time seemed ripe for settling old accounts with ‘new historians’, it was less comfortable to be one. For some it was too much. My colleague Benny Morris succumbed and under the pressure came out publicly and justified the 1948 ethnic cleansing, he helped to reveal, and warned that he would support it again it the present crisis continues (his confession was then distributed by the Israeli embassies around the world).
Here is how the prosecutor summarized the allegations. He explained that I was accused of ‘Relentless defamation of the University and its institutions, both in written publications and in public events in Israel and abroad. From time to time we have received astonished reactions from abroad from colleagues who fail to comprehend how we allow Dr. Pappe to behave in this manner while being a permanent university faculty member. Only recently we received an angry and emotional reaction to a presentation given by Dr. Pappe in Cambridge Mass., wherein he presented in harsh terms his ideas relating to the University and the State of Israel’.
And he added: ‘Dr. Pappe has recently called for a boycott of Israeli academia. His actions threaten all members of the academic community, especially junior faculty, because a boycott will limit access to research grants and affect publication opportunities in scientific journals. Given Dr. Pappe’s embracement of the boycott of the Israeli academia, one may only wonder why he doesn’t excommunicate himself from the university which he has urged boycotting.’
Therefore, the letter of the original suit concluded by a call upon the court ‘to judge Dr. Pappe on the offences he has committed and to use to the full the court’s legal authority to expel him from the university”. Judging by past procedures I knew this was not a request, but already a verdict, given the position of the person in question in the university and the way things had been done in the past. The ostensible procedure of a ‘fair trial’ did not exist within such circumstances and hence I did not even intend to participate in a McCarthyist charade.
On the same day I wrote a letter to my friends in the world on the affair I wrote among other things: ‘ I do not appeal to you for my own sake. I ask you at this stage before a final decision has been taken to voice your opinion in whatever form you can and to whatever stage you have access to, not in order to prevent my expulsion (in many ways in the present atmosphere in Israel it will come now, and if not now later on, as the Israeli academia has deiced almost unanimously to support the government and to help silence any criticism). I ask those who are willing to do so, to take this case as part of your overall appreciation of, and attitude to, the preset situation in Israel. This should shed light also on the debate whether or not to boycott Israeli academia. This is not, I stress, and appeal for personal help – my situation is far better than that of my colleagues in the occupied territories living under the daily harassment and brutal abuses of the Israeli army.’
The international response was amazing. Friends all over the world have moved to establish an international committee on my behalf that succeeded in eliciting 2100 letters of support to me with a copy to the rector of Haifa university in a matter of two weeks. In the end of the two weeks, the university authorities suspended the procedure with the same suddenness with which it had begun it. It is still a suspended case, not an abolished one. But as the last chapter of this book will clarify the actions against me moved onto other means, for which of course the web that the international defense committee established has proven to be of great help, empowerment and inspiration.
In the meanwhile the response arose the curiosity of the local press, and although Haaretz was not particular supportive of my point of view, the fact that the whole affair was reported on the front page – namely the summons and responses – embarrassed the university authorities who thought they could expel me quietly. As the spokeswoman of the university told a local paper in Haifa ‘Pappe was exploiting cynically the accusations against him’ and she added in her great wisdom ‘it is nothing to do with the freedom of expression’ in the university.
The 2100 emails and letters make a fascinating read, and I would like to bring just several samples of them. I chose almost randomly because the quality and power of so many of them was such that it was impossible the select the few, hence I decided not to give a name, unless I was allowed to by the senders and I also chose to give samples that represented several groups of responses.
A typical letter to the Rector was the one that came from American professor Jefrey Sommers, Assistant Professor at the Department of History North Georgia College & State University Dahlonega:
It has come to my attention that Ilan Pappe is being censured, and possibly removed, from the University of Haifa. I hope this is only a rumor rather than grounded in truth. There must be significant pressures to silence dissenting voices in these tumultuous times. Yet, it is only these trying times that academic freedom matters.
I want to lend my support to Professor Pappe, as I would any intellectual who was being silenced. The threat Professor Pappe poses pales in comparison to the harm that will be incurred by Israel and the University of Haifa by his censure’.
And Professor David Ozonoff, the chair of the department of Environmental Health Boston University wrote:
‘I am deeply shocked and distressed to hear of the actions taken against Ilan Pappe, a well-regarded scholar at your university. While his views may be unpopular with some colleagues, this is little reason to expel him from the university. At this rate your institution will gain a reputation as the academic equivalent of a Banana Republic. I urge you to reconsider your approach.’.
It took time for the suit, which was 10 page long and boring to be published in English. But it was very soon available in Hebrew. Professor Jackob Katriel, of the Technion, who read it in Hebrew wrote to the university:
‘I have carefully read the ten page complaint against Dr. Ilan Pappe, and I am writing to you in order to strongly advise you to drop this case and to refrain from pressing official charges against him. While I claim no expertise in the relevant scholarly discipline, I followed the unfolding of the Tantura Affair closely enough to be convinced that, at the very least, you should exercise extreme caution while passing judgement on the expressions of anybody who has publicly supported your graduate student, Mr. Teddy Katz (as I have done, too).’
Also people connected in the past to the university, were astonished, as they have not as yet absorbed, how much the atmosphere has changed in Israel. One of them was Daniel Cohen from Boston who explains his connection in this letter:
‘It has been nearly 20 years since my last visit to the University of Haifa, yet I still have warm memories of my time spent there. What I remember most is the atmosphere of tolerance and the inspiring student body.
I am writing today regarding what I have seen on the Internet regarding Dr. Ilan Pappe. While I am unaware of the particulars of the case, I would like you to know that the American Jewish community will be looking carefully at your handling of the matter.
My late father, was an important benefactor of the Technion and the Hebrew University. For many years, he served as Dean of the School of Management and Urban Professions at the New School University in New York. In 1946, he was the Director of Camp Foehrenwald DP Camp in Germany and helped many survivors of the Holocaust to emigrate to Israel. I mention this because he always stressed to me that the university system in Israel would always defend academic freedom.
Because of his painful experience at Camp Foehrenwald and his long career as a professor and Dean, he cherished the role of the university as servants of a higher standard of truth. I urge the University of Haifa to uphold its hard earned reputation for integrity in the case of Dr. Pappe. We all pray for Israel in these difficult times. Not only for her physical well-being, but also for the endurance of her heart and soul.’
The protest came also from Europe. From France an historian, Baudouin Dupert wrote to the university authorities:
‘After having heard frightening news concerning the possibility of seeing Prof. Ilan Pappe expelled from your university, I write to you this letter in order to express my deep concern. If you are shutting one of the very few voices currently expressing dissent in the Israeli academia vis-א-vis the totally blind, unjust and counterproductive policies of the government, it is not only your own respectability which you menace but the whole respectability of your profession and of your country. It is time that the Israeli academic community stopped supporting this government and Prime Minister who were elected on a security agenda and only brought more violence and sorrow. It is time that the Israeli academic community clearly denounce occupation and settlements and ask for an actual peace based on the recognition of a Palestinian state established on all the territories occupied in 1967. Silence is a solution only for ostriches. I still hope that most Israeli scholars do not behave like ostriches’.
This historian and others in France mobilized an impressive petition: “Les soussignיs, persuadיs que l’universitי doit rester un lieu de libertי pour la pensיe et l’expression, apportent leur soutien sans rיserves au professeur Ilan PAPPE, menacי de rיvocation par l’Universitי de Haןfa, parce que ses recherches l’amטnent א enseigner une histoire du conflit israיlo-palestinien diffיrente de la version officiellement admise.”
Pierre VIDAL NAQUET: Directeur d’Etudes, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris
Madeleine REBERIOUX: Professeur יmיrite, Universitי de Paris VIII
Etienne BALIBAR: Professeur, Universitי de Paris X Nanterre
Judith BUTLER: Professor, UC Berkeley
Suzanne DE BRUNHOFF, Directeur de recherches, CNRS
Anne-Marie LE GLOANNEC, Directeur de Recherches, Institut des Sciences Politiques, Paris
Jack GOODY, Professor, University of Cambridge
Marian HOBSON-JEANNERET, Professor, Queens College, University of London
Jean-Marc LEVY-LEBLOND, Professeur, Universitי de Nice-Sophia Antipolis
Pierre DE SENARCLENS, Universitי de Lausanne
Immanuel WALLERSTEIN, Senior Research Fellow, Yale University
Francis WOLFF, Professeur, Ecole Normale Supיrieure, Paris
Nira YUVAL-DAVIS, Professor, University of Greenwich
Manfred WALTHER, Professor, Universitהt Hannover
Roshdi RASHED, Directeur de recherches, CNRS, and Professor emeritus, University of Tokyo
Henri KORN, Directeur de recherches, Institut Pasteur de Paris
Avraham OZ, Professor, Universities of Tel Aviv and Haifa
Marianne DEBOUZY? Professeur יmיrite, Universitי de Paris VIII
Annie REY-GOLDZIGER, professeur יmיrite, Universitי de Reims
David SEDDON, Professor, University of East Anglia
Martine SPENSKY, Professeur, Universitי de Clermont-Ferrand
Sami ZUBAIDA, Reader, Birkbeck College, University of London
And this came from Professor Jean Puissant, from the Free university in Bruxelles (Jean Puissant professeur ordinaire א L’ Universitי Libre de Bruxelles;)
‘Cher collטgue, averti du procטs qui vous est fait, je voulais vous faire savoir que j’ai transmis le dossier envoyי par Vidal du Monde Diplomatique אla prיsidente du d’partement d’histoire la professeure Michטle galand en lui demandant de convoquer une rיunion pour vous apporter notre appui sur le plan de la dיfense de l’autonomie et de la libertי des universitaires dans leur recherche et dans leurs interventions dans la sociיtי.Pour ma part je vous fait part de mon total appui dans la poursiute d’une dיmarche de recherche libre de tout interdit en particulier pour ce qui concerne les fondements de nos histoires nationales. Ce mouvement est en cours en France ( guerre d’Algיrie), en Belgique( 2e guerre mondiale) et ailleurs . C’est dans l’intיrךt des systטmes dיmocratiques. Je condamne bien sur la politique du 1er ministre Mr Sharon dans les formes utilisיes et sur le fond de sa politique tout en restant critique sur celle de l’autoritי palestinienne qui n’est pas exempte de reproche et reste donc opposי par principe א toute forme de bycott. Au contraire, il faut multiplier les contacts, les dיbats,seuls ils pourront, modestement,oeuvrי א aider israeliens et palestiniens א trouver les moyens d’un dialogue et les pistes d’une paix de compromis. Bon courage dans votre lutte.Jean uissant professeur ordinaire א L’ Universitי Libre de Bruxelles;’
From England, Professor Avi Shlaim, at the time chairing the department of International Relations in Oxford University clarified also what could have happened had the trial went on:
‘I write to you this open letter to urge you in the strongest possible terms to drop the charges that have been pressed against Dr Ilan Pappe. These charges are a blatant violation of Dr Pappe’s right to academic freedom and it is your duty, as Rector of Haifa University, to uphold his right. Israel rightly prides itself on being a democracy and democracy entails freedom of expression, including the right to criticise an academic institution of which one is a member. The attack on this right in the case of Dr Pappe is therefore a matter of the greatest concern to the entire international community of scholars. What is at stake here is not just the future of one academic but the reputation of the University of Haifa.
Most of the charges against Dr Pappe arise out of the position he took in the Teddy Katz affair. I happen to agree with Dr Pappe’s criticisms of the handling of this complex affair by the university authorities. But whatever one’s view might be about the merits of the case, Dr Pappe’s right to air his opinions, outside as well as inside the university, is surely beyond question. Frankly, it is difficult to avoid the impression that the charges against Dr Pappe are politically motivated. The timing of these charges reinforce these suspicions. Teddy Katz’s trial took place in December 2000 and the remarks for which Dr Pappe is being prosecuted were made, for the most part, 12-18 months ago. It is possible that Dr Pappe’s enemies inside the University of Haifa are trying to exploit the lurch to the Right in Israeli society in order to hound him out?’
And in another section in the same letter, Shlaim wrote:
‘As an outsider, it seems to me that Dr Pappe has not received the credit he deserves for the outstandingly original and important contribution he has made to the study of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He is widely known in the world as one of the leading scholars in the field and he is very highly regarded. There is a huge gap between his high international standing and his lowly status as a Senior Lecturer at Haifa. In most universities, he would be a strong candidate for a professorship. I know his work well and would not have any hesitation in suggesting that he should be promoted. Despite the hostility and vilification to which he has been subjected in the last few years, Dr Pappe continues to produce serious scholarly work. He has completed a history of the Husaynis and another major work on the history of Israel and Palestine that is currently being edited for publication by Cambridge University Press. In short, far from being a liability and a menace, he is a real asset to Middle Eastern studies at the University of Haifa.
The news that Dr Pappe might be put on trial has evoked shock and horror in academic circles outside Israel. In the last week I received numerous phone calls and emails from colleagues wondering whether this is for real. There is a widespread feeling that the persecution of Dr Pappe is not unrelated to the general shift of Israeli society to the Right. I urge you not to give in to the totalitarian temptation of some of your senior colleagues. It is in times like this that real leadership is needed to uphold the values of freedom of expression, pluralism, and tolerance that are so crucial to our profession.
As you are no doubt aware, there is a move to boycott Israeli academics because of the policies of the present Israeli government. I am opposed to this ban because it is incompatible with academic values. But so is the call for the expulsion of Dr Pappe. I have great respect for your university, I have many friends in various departments, and I served as an assessor in proposals for promotion. If Dr Pappe is expelled, I fear that I would not want anything further to do with the University of Haifa. Indeed, if the trial goes ahead, I would release this letter to the media and mobilize all the international support I can behind Dr Pappe.’
There was no need to release the letter to the media, but it did show how far the whole affair could have progressed.
These feelings were shared also by some of the Israelis who lived and taught in the United States. Jenneifer Hyman wrote:
‘So, here we have it, just the latest political Israeli witch-hunt with its most atrocious cynicism–and then preaching, among other things, democracy to the world–Egypt, Iran, Saudi-Arabia–you name it.
South Africa…I found your e-mail address on the University of Haifa website, after reading your letter distributed by Al-Awda News. As a South African- born Jew, now living in the U.S., who fought apartheid — especially its inroads into academia — I know how intimidation and suppression of intellectuals goes hand in hand with more general state repression. Why your case is so important is that it is an assault on academic freedom — an issue that many, many academics worldwide can identify with, regardless of whether they are ready to sign on to an academic boycott of Israel’.
A concerned Israeli radical, Ran Cohen from the university of Tel-Aviv, felt, as I did that this all has passed without much reaction. He wrote to the members of the Alef network – the internet network that connects the Israeli leftists, hence his reference to ‘Alefs’:
‘EXCUSE ME, respected Alefs – esp. tenured ones – but is this message not worth ANY reaction? Are we going to sit back silently and watch McCarthyism at its worse against one of Israel’s leading scientists? Is this not a scandal worth a national and international outcry? What about a rally in Haifa University? Boycotting Haifa University? An international petition? A solidarity strike in all universities? What’s going on here? Are the lambs silent, or have I overheard something???’
Jews outside Israel were also worried. A well known Middle Eastern scholar, Dr. John Bunzel from the university of Vienna, the Austrian Institute for International Affairs wrote the university authorities:
‘As a long-time ME scholar and as a Jew worried by the deteriorating image of Israel all over the world I appeal to you not to contribute to this process by threatening the internationally respected scholar, Prof. Ilan Pappe, with expulsion from your university. It is a sign of intellectual poverty and a manifestation of totalitarian temptations not to be able to deal with dissent and pluralism in Israeli academia. You don’t have to agree with the conclusions of Ilan Pappe’s research or with his political opinions, but you cannot deny the scientific quality of his work and the fundamentally humanistic approach he has shown concerning dilemmas facing Israeli-Palestinian relations. If you put blind nationalism above else you can serve neither science nor the future of Israel’.
I do not think my university was moved by letters coming from Palestinians or friends in the Arab world, but for historical record it is good to bring one sample of many who wrote in a similar spirit to the university by Fahim I. Qubain:
‘I am an Arab-American retired academic. I have known Dr. Pappe through his very highly respected writings. Some of his books are in my personal library. I am also aware of the Teddy Katz affair.
To me, it is truly incredible that a highly respected academic institution like Haifa University would even “dream” of trying a distinguished professor such as Dr. Pappe because of his position on the thesis of one of your very able graduate students. Such a trial is not only an attempt to suppress freedom of expression, but is tantamount to academic terrorism. This trial if carried out will only tarnish the name of your university’.
A famous Palestinian writer, Anton Shamas, wrote to me:
‘I am appalled and galled and disgusted, but somehow not surprised; as you say, it was only a matter of time in this atrocious times. Hang on there, my friend. I hope we all can make a big dent in–and, subsequently defeat the–moronic decision to sue you. And thank you again for being such a courageous and relentless voice.’
From even farther parts of the world the case brought memories of a more distant past: Professor Yasumasa Kordoa from Honolulu, Hawai wrote:
‘I was saddened to learn of Professor Ilan Pappe’s trial. I understand that he may be expulsed from the University. I am writing this letter of appeal to you for two reasons: 1) I met and spoke with him and know him to be a patriotic Israeli scholar who believes in democracy and peace. 2) I do not want to see Israel to become what its enemies characterize Israel to be–racist, anti-democratic and exclusive. I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with him at length while I was at the Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace and Development, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as a visiting research fellow in 1993. I found him to be a fine scholar who represents the best of Jewish conscience in dealing with difficult problems of nourishing peace in the Holy Land.
Academic freedom is a necessary condition for university to exist. There will be no development of new ideas without academic freedom. I am not familiar with the details that led to your decision to take action against Professor Pappe. He may have done harm to your university from your perspective, but I can assure you that there are many who know him around the world who believe his scholarly contribution to your university outweighs any possible harm he may have done. I appeal to your conscience to allow him a right to express his views. Dissent is not considered disloyalty in a democracy, but it is in a totalitarian society. I, who grew up in a totalitarian state of wartime Japan, do not wish to see Israel become a totalitarian state. May I ask for your serious re-consideration of his case?’
When the university authorities answered some of the critics, they made of course things worse. As a famous British historian, Sudhir Hazardian incidentally on French history, wrote back to the prosecutor:
‘Dear Professor Ben-Artzi,
I am grateful for your initial response to the messages you have been receiving from the colleagues of Dr. Pappe. To begin with, I should point out that I have seen the summary sheet of the so-called charges, which are to be leveled against Dr. Pappe, and it is on this basis that I wrote to you. This summary sheet clearly contradicts one of the points you advanced in your reply below, which is that “the charges have nothing to do with issues such as academic freedom, the freedom of speech and expression” It seems, on the contrary, that a very large number of the charges are about issues of free speech, since you accuse him among other things of denigrating individuals and the University as a whole, distorting facts, speaking ill of colleagues etc. These are all issues of opinion — unless you believe that there is only one version of events, one possible view which one can hold about individuals and institutions, namely your own. If this is the case, you should perhaps change the name of your Faculty to “Theology”. I am grateful to you for forwarding further material to me as and when it arises’.
No wonder, a worried Rector pleaded with me to ‘stop the campaign’. There was little I could do to save the face of a university I once adored and which I preferred back in 1984 to all the other offers I had. The procedure was not renewed, but the tribulations continued.