A Conversation with Ilan Pappe
The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), its leaders and armed militants are alien to Gaza and its people.
They’ve parachuted in from some other place and are hiding out in the Gaza population — criminally and cynically — using ordinary, innocent Gazans as human shields.
Such is the wisdom of the highest authorities.
“Hamas does not represent the vast majority of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip or anywhere else,” Joe Biden said late last month, in a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, as if he actually had any historical knowledge on this matter.
“Hamas is hiding behind Palestinian civilians and is despicable and, not surprisingly, cowardly as well,” Biden insisted.
According to an entity called ‘NATOStratCom’, Hamas “has been using human shields in conflicts with Israel since 2007.”
Hamas “often operates out of heavily-populated areas, making it virtually impossible to avoid civilian casualties, even with a 24-hour warning,” says Bloomberg.
Of course, Israel and its boosters have been saying this for years.
“Hamas continues to use Gazan civilians as human shields by building its terrorist infrastructure in densely populated civilian areas,” says the Jewish News Syndicate (quoting IDF sources, but without actual quotes).
Ilan Pappe sees things differently.
“They’re an organic part of the population,” the Israeli-British historian told the GPM. Listen to our conversation:
“If you want to stage guerrilla warfare, there are no mountains there, you know, or valleys. It’s probably the most dense urban space in the world. So not surprisingly, if they decide on a kind of an armed struggle, it can only operate from within population centres. There’s no other space in Gaza for doing it. But of course, it means that when you now have battles between the Israeli army and Hamas, the civilians are caught in the middle of these battles.”
More to the point, says Pappe, author of the seminal 2006 work The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, three-quarters of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants are refugees — or the descendents of refugees — driven from their lands, homes and villages inside historic Palestine, back in 1948, by Zionist militias and the nascent Israeli army.
Hamas leaders and grassroots fighters are woven from the same cloth.
“If you look at the map, you see the direct lines and you can see it’s an artificial creation,” Pappe told the GPM, created by Israel as a “receptor for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians it pushed out from Palestine, from Jaffa to the south of Palestine.”
Zionist cleansing of Palestine began in northern Jaffa, then moved south in the summer of 1948.
By July 1948, the Nakba had shifted to the Negev, where Bedouins had wandered and settled down for at least 600 years.
Numbering almost a hundred thousand, among 96 tribes, Negev Bedouin had developed a system of land ownership, water and grazing rights, Pappe recounts in his book. The first to be expelled were the Jubarat, beginning in July 1948.
The remainder were driven out in October 1948, most to Hebron and the rest to Gaza.
By late Fall, ethnic cleansing had become systematic, codified in Order # 40, issued by IDF central command on 25 November, 1948.
Order # 40 listed the names of the Palestinian villages slotted for expulsion — “and it says very clearly that the people of these villages should be put on lorries and shipped to the Gaza Strip,” Ilan Pappe told the GPM.
As for the villages, Pappe adds, [Order # 40] says quite clearly you have to set fire to the villages and demolish the stone houses in them. So they were totally wiped out, with no remnant; anything that reminds us of their existence. And about a year and a half later, the first Israeli settlements began to appear on their lands and took over the fields and the space that these villages had previously occupied.”
In December 1948, most of the Negev’s Tarabin clan were expelled to Gaza.
The Tayaha were divided into two groups — half deported to Gaza, the remainder to Jordan.
The Al-Hajare suffered the same fate.
“The last wave of people who were expelled into Gaza came from about 15 to 20 villages that were very close to Gaza, and after their inhabitants were expelled on the ruins of these villages, many of the settlements that Hamas attacked on the 7th of October 2023 were built on their ruins,” Pappe told the GPM.
The Israeli military worked just as tirelessly to block Gazans from returning. Among the IDF units tasked with this brutal mission — Unit 101, under the command of Ariel Sharon.
“Yes, of course, they did try not only to return,” says Pappe.
“Some of them tried at least to collect their crops, their husbandry and they were shot on spot by the Israeli army. So they were unable to retrieve some of the things that they have left behind indefinitely, although the United Nation General Assembly, in Resolution 194, from the 11th of December 1948, recognized the right of return. It was never implemented, because Israel rejected its implementation.”
Seventy-five years after the 1948 Nakba, Gaza’s brutal creation story lives on in the minds and hearts of its 2.3 million people. Numerous chapters have been added since then, featuring countless actors and agents, all perfectly authentic — Hamas leaders and grassroots militants among them.
“They’re not the mercenaries from the outside,” Ilan Pappe told the GPM.
“And therefore, this new language the Israeli government is using, and some American politicians have caught up with quoting it — Hamas/Daesh, or Hamas/ISIS — doesn’t ring true. There’s a big difference between a terrorist Islamic organization that was trying to create an Islamic caliphate employing horrific means and methods, to people who are third generation refugees.”
“And if you if you think about it, there’s a large number of young people — probably more than fifty percent of young people within the Gaza Strip; namely, I would say, anyone who’s below twenty — and this is a huge chunk of the population. Anyone below 20 knows only one reality, and that reality is living under siege, and already experienced four bombardments from the air by heavy aircraft fighters such as F16s, F35s,” Ilan Pappe told the GPM.
“I’ve seen with my own eyes what happens when an American jet fighter such as an F16 or F35 drops a bomb of 1 tonne on a house, or on an urban space. It’s not just what it demolishes and who it kills. It’s what people in a perimeter of 10 or 15 or 20 kilometers experience, which traumatizes them for life. And we’re talking mainly of children, women and so on. So, most Palestinians in Gaza experienced a way of life in the last seventeen years that is not comparable to any other experience we know of other populations in the world.”
Listen to the GPM‘s conversation with Ilan Pappe.