Ilan Pappe to Israeli friends: This is why I support Palestinians

Our moral compass should point towards decolonisation and liberation, guiding us through the fog of poisonous propaganda, hypocrisy and inhumanity.

Palestinian women mourn in Gaza as thousands of civilians are relentlessly bombed. This latest bid to complete the work that was begun in 1948 will ultimately prove unsuccessful. There is no path to peace except through the destruction of the zionist state.

The following article is reproduced from the Palestine Chronicle, with thanks.


It is challenging to maintain one’s moral compass when the society you belong to – leaders and media alike – take the moral high ground and expect you to share with them the same righteous fury with which they reacted to the events of last Saturday, 7 October.

There is only one way to resist the temptation to join in: if you understood, at one point in your life – even as a jewish citizen of Israel – the settler-colonial nature of zionism, and were horrified by its policies against the indigenous people of Palestine.

If you have had that realisation, then you will not waver, even if the poisonous messages depict Palestinians as animals, or ‘human animals’. These same people insist on describing what took place last Saturday as a ‘holocaust’, thus abusing the memory of a great tragedy. These sentiments are being conveyed, day and night by both Israeli media and politicians.

It is this moral compass that led me, and others in our society, to stand by the Palestinian people in every way possible; and that enables us, at the same time, to admire the courage of the Palestinian fighters who took over a dozen military bases, overcoming the strongest army in the middle east.

Also, people like me cannot avoid but raise questions about the moral or strategic value of some of the actions that accompanied this operation.

Because we always supported the decolonisation of Palestine, we knew that the longer Israeli oppression continued, the less likely the liberation struggle would be ‘sterile’ – as it has been the case in every just struggle for liberation in the past, anywhere in the world.

This does not mean we should not keep an eye on the big picture, not even for a minute. The picture is that of a colonised people fighting for survival, at a time when its oppressors had elected a government that is hellbent on accelerating the destruction, in fact the elimination, of the Palestinian people – or even their very claim to peoplehood.

Hamas had to act, and quickly so.

It is hard to voice these counterarguments because western media and politicians went along with the Israeli discourse and narrative, however problematic it was.

I wonder how many of those who decided to don the Parliament house in London and the Eiffel tower in Paris with the colors of the Israeli flag truly understand how this seemingly symbolic gesture is received in Israel.

Even liberal zionists, with a modicum of decency, read this act as a total absolution of all the crimes Israelis have committed against the Palestinian people since 1948; and therefore, as a carte blanche to continue with the genocide that Israel is now perpetrating against the people of Gaza.

Fortunately, there were also different reactions to the events which unfolded in the last few days.

As in the past, large sections of civil societies in the west are not easily fooled by this hypocrisy, already at full display in the case of Ukraine.

Many people know that since June 1967, one million Palestinians have been imprisoned at least once in their lives. And with imprisonment, come abuse, torture and permanent detention without trial.

These very people also know about the horrific reality Israel had created in the Gaza Strip when it sealed the region, imposing a hermetic siege, starting in 2007, accompanied by the relentless killing of children in the occupied West Bank. This violence is not a new phenomenon, as it has been the permanent face of zionism since the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Because of that very civil society, my dear Israeli friends, your government and media will ultimately be proven wrong, as they will not be able to claim the role of victims, receive unconditional support, and get away with their crimes.

Eventually, the big picture will emerge, despite the inherently biased western media.

The big question, however, is this: will you, my Israeli friends, be able to clearly see this same big picture as well? Despite years of indoctrination and social engineering?

And no less important, will you be able to learn the other important lesson – one that can be gleaned from recent events – that sheer force alone cannot find the balance between a just regime on the one hand and an immoral political project on the other?

But there is an alternative. In fact, there has always been one.

A de-zionised, liberated and democratic Palestine from the river to the sea; a Palestine that will welcome back the refugees and build a society that does not discriminate on the basis of culture, religion or ethnicity.

This new state would labour to rectify, as much as possible, the past evils, in terms of economic inequality, the stealing of property and the denial of rights. This could herald a new dawn for the whole middle east.

It is not always easy to stick to your moral compass, but if it does point north – towards decolonisation and liberation – then it will most likely guide you through the fog of poisonous propaganda, hypocritical policies and the inhumanity, often perpetrated in the name of ‘our common western values’.


Ilan Pappé is a professor at the University of Exeter. He was formerly a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa. He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, The Modern Middle East, A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, and Ten Myths about Israel. Described as one of Israel’s ‘new historians’, Pappé has been invovled in the project of rewriting the history of Israel’s creation in 1948 that began after the release of pertinent British and Israeli government documents in the early 1980s.