Controversial Israeli historian Ilan Pappe declared his warm friendship with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday afternoon.
When asked if he was nervous that Hamas's Haniyeh could be elected prime minister in a bi-national state, Pappe replied "Haniyeh doesn't make me nervous at all. He is a good friend of mine." With a slight smirk, Pappe then suggested that Hassan Nasrallah, secretary-general of Hizbullah, "should be put on the committee to decide the future of Israel."
Pappe made the statement after a promotional event for his new book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine at the American Colony hotel in Jerusalem. Guests included nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vananu, UN officials and at least one ambassador.
Pappe, who is a senior lecturer at the University of Haifa's Department of Political Science, was unsparing in his criticism of Israel. He claimed that Israel's policy in both war and peace has been that of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians. The Labor party specifically, Pappe said, has always been responsible for this "crime against humanity." He blasted Shimon Peres' receiving the Nobel Prize but made no mention of Arafat winning the same accolade.
Former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's decision to build up Har Homa in the late 1990s was also labeled "ethnic cleansing" by Pappe. The cooperation between right and left in Israel was "a consensus that Stalin would have prayed for," the professor said. Pappe called the peace process a "veil" under which Israel continues its policy of ethnic cleansing.
Vanunu asked the last question of the event regarding the potential impact of a nuclear armed Iran, to which Pappe noted sympathetically that there would be benefits to Middle Eastern countries finally being strong enough to resist Western pressure. America, he said, "maintains the occupation of Palestine" and the UN has shown contemptible inaction on behalf of the Palestinians.
Pappe also declared his opposition to the two-state solution saying that it was "not possible anymore."
There was standing room only as approximately 150 attendees, many of them young Europeans, packed into the hall to hear Pappe's remarks. Over a dozen guests stood in the adjacent corridor trying to catch a glimpse of the speaker. At the end of his lecture, the audience thunderously applauded and some gave him a standing ovation. The event was followed by a book signing in which Pappe was warmly received by fans.