Op-Ed Columns Opinion

Ilan Pappé, Check Your Sources

By Dexter Van Zile ~

Ilan Pappé is the author of “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,”, a book that is regularly invoked by anti-Zionists to justify their enmity toward the state of Israel.  In this book, Pappé portrays David Ben-Gurion and others as war criminals.  To make this stick, Pappé quotes Ben-Gurion as writing the following in a letter to his son in 1937: “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as war.”
As it turns out, the sources Pappé provides for this quote do not check out, indicating the quote is in fact a fabrication.  This was pointed out by Benny Morris in 2006, but sadly enough, the quote made its way into a documentary film titled “With God on Our Side.”  CAMERA recently challenged the movie’s producer, Porter Speakman, Jr., to correct the record.  Speakman stated that Morris’ assessment was insufficient to demonstrate the quote was false, but did agree to correct the record if CAMERA could provide proof.  CAMERA checked the original sources and elicted a correction.  The details follow.
Filmmaker Porter Speakman, Jr., producer and director of the 2010 movie “With God on Our Side,” has issued a press release acknowledging that a quote attributed to David Ben-Gurion by historian Ilan Pappé is not reliable.
In his 2006 book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oneworld Publications), Pappé reported that in a 1937 letter to his son, David Ben-Gurion wrote the following: “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.”
It’s a damning quote.  But it does not appear in any of the sources Pappé cites.
In his book, Pappé provided two references for this quote.  The first reference is the July 12, 1937 entry of Ben-Gurion’s diary.  The second is page 220 of the August-September 1937 issue of New Judea, a newsletter published by the World Zionist Organization.
CAMERA provided electronic copies of both of these sources – neither of which includes the quote attributed to Ben-Gurion – to Speakman earlier this week.
In response Speakman issued a press release that states in part:
… this quote cannot be found in the original sources of Ben Gurion’s diary and therefore cannot be verified as authentic.  While references to this quote exist, we could not find it in its original form.  In an effort to be transparent and accurate, the producers have decided to take the extra step of removing it from future printings of “With God On Our Side.”  We apologize for this change.  The quote attributed to Ben-Gurion also appears in a 2006 article published in The Journal of Palestine Studies.  In this article, Pappé provides another source for the quote.  He states it appears on pages 167-168 of Charles D. Smith’s Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Boston and New York: Beford/St.  Martin’s Press, 2004.
The quote does not appear here, either.
The editors at the Journal of Palestine Studies are currently investigating the issue.

CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) contacted Ilan Pappe for comment,, but he has not responded.

Dexter Van Zile is Christian Media Analyst for Camera.

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