It looks like Ilan Pappé will finally have to explain himself for a quote he attributed to Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, in an academic journal, the Journal of Palestine Studies and in his 2006 book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Officials at University of Exeter have asked Pappé to respond to a challenge from CAMERA about the origin of the quote, for which Pappé has not provided a legitimate citation. The Journal of Palestine Studies has done the same thing.
Pappé reports on page 23 of his book that in 1937 David Ben-Gurion wrote the following in a letter to his son: “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.”
(In Oneworld’s proofs for chapter two of the text, the quotes are only around the first six words of this quote, but in a paperback copy of the published text, printed in 2007, the quotes appear around the entire sentence.)
The quote also appears in a Pappé-authored article titled “The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” published in the Autumn, 2006 edition The Journal of Palestine Studies. In this text, the quotation marks appear around the entire sentence.
It is a damning quote, but it’s almost certainly a fabrication. In Dec. 2006, soon after the quote first appeared in print, another historian, Benny Morris, declared that the quote was an invention in a letter to The Independent.
Quote Not in Pappé’s Sources
Morris is on solid ground in his assessment. The quote does not appear in any of the references that Pappé cites for it.
In Ethnic Cleansing, Pappé cites the July 12, 1937 entry in Ben-Gurion’s journal and page 220 of the August-September issue of New Judea, a newsletter published by the World Zionist Organization. The quote appears nowhere in these texts. Pappé provides yet another source for this quote in the academic article published by The Journal of Palestine Studies. In this article, Pappé reports the quote appears in the 2004 edition of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict written by Charles D. Smith. The quote doesn’t appear in this reference either.
Morris’ statement that the quote attributed to Ben-Gurion was an “invention” should have prompted Pappé to either provide an accurate, verifiable source for the quote or to issue a retraction to prevent others from using it. Instead, the quote, which lacked a valid citation, lingered on – without correction or retraction – in the fever swamp of anti-Zionist commentary. For example, it eventually made its way into With God on Our Side, an anti-Israel documentary produced by American filmmaker Porter Speakman, Jr. in 2010.
After CAMERA challenged Speakman about the use of this quote in his movie, the filmmaker issued a correction. Speakman acknowledged that the quote could not be found in any of the sources Pappé cited and promised that it would be removed from future editions of the movie.
CAMERA has contacted Oneworld Publications, The Journal of Palestine Studies and officials at the University of Exeter, where Pappé serves as a professor.
Oneworld Publications has stated in a “tweet” that it is “looking into” the matter, but has provided no details.
The Journal of Palestine Studies reports that it has asked Pappé to write a clarification. If Pappé does not respond, JPS reports it will issue a statement of its own in its next issue, which is headed to the printer in late January.
An official from University of Exeter’s Ethics Committee has stated that the matter is currently under review, that the university takes such concerns “very seriously” and that a report will be forthcoming.