Personal report from Ilan Pappe

... on the demonstration at the Herzl Institute's conference on 17th May 2005.

This morning a group of Palestinian and Jewish students demonstrated outside the hall of the conference in the university of Haifa titled 'The demographic problem and the Demographic policy of Israel' - the euphemism used for talking about the Arab Demographic threat and the need to encounter it; by transfer even, if need be. The posters against the conference were brutally torn and taken away by the security guards of the university, bruising and beating some of the students on the way. The students were unable to go into the whole as a wall - what else - of tables and chairs blocked their way into the seats. Cameras were working overtime, taking photos of the Arab students, so that they could be charged with violating public order and brought in front of a disciplinary committee.

My student, L. H., a fragile young Palestinian woman, succeeded in getting in: "they thought I was Jewish", she told me later. She managed to stay calm when one demographer elaborated on the dangers of loosing a Jewish majority, and even when Professor Arnon Sofer, claimed that it was me who sent the students to demonstrate as part of my alliance with 'contemptible' Europe and 'despiable' Britain. She even sat through when he explained that he will not allow Tel-Aviv to become Cairo. The kind of rhetoric one hears in the meetings of the national fronts meetings across Europe and in the neo-Nazi rallies in Berlin. Here it was in an academic conference sponsored and honoured by the Rector.

But she had enough when Yoav Gleber claimed that any numbers of Palestinians living before 1948 were fabricated for political reasons, and in any case if he had to choose between a Jewish State and a Democracy, he prefers the former. She stood up and condemned him and was silenced by the crowed as being stupid and later ushered out of the meeting by the security people.

L.H. is afraid to go into classes today if this is the university she studies in. But she will overcome her fear and continue to demand what is hers by right and virtue. The important question what does it tell us of the University of Haifa. The speakers in the conference came from among its top professors, but also the demonstrators came from that university. The former threw out the latter: oppressed and silenced them. Another question is how best can we help the Palestinian and Jewish students who demonstrated bravely and will be probably charged? I have answered these questions in the past and suggested that only outside pressure can help, but far more important is the question of what will happen if nothing is done? Can you, like me, conjecture the titles of next year's conferences: 'The Meaning and Objective of Transfer'; 'Encouraging Abortion Among Palestinian Women' etc. Sometimes you feel that the authorities of this university deserve every bit of the trouble that came its way recently."

Footnote by Avraham Oz:


So far Ilan Pappe. And now, a comic relief: In accordance with the somewhat hysterical behaviour of my university's administration, an official - this time Dean of Students Professor Ron Rubin - was sent to express the official view of the administration. After bashing Ilan Pappe as a liar, a common practice of my university's official publications since the AUT boycott was announced, Ron wrote on the university email circuit:

"There was no confrontation of any kind, and the sheer nonsense reported by Ilan does not deserve a response. But for the benefit of those interested in the facts: no violence of any kind, no ripping of posters, and as for the bruising of participants, please...I expect a bit more imagination!! But please don't believe me: Turn on your TV news this evening (all channels were represented at this demonstration). Or better still: why don't you ask some of the members of Forum Smol who were present (David Blanc, Kobi Pertrozil, Micha Leshem and others)." [Forum Smol is the tiny gathering of Left-wing faculty at the University of Haifa, founded by Ilan, myself, and a handful of others about six years ago - A.O. ].

This came about 15 minutes BEFORE the 8pm news came on our screens. Come the news, and lo and behold, as another member of faculty reported to the circuit: "Ron, Just now on chanel 10 they showed ripping of posters by security guards and plenty of shoving. Perhaps your message was premature."

And a bit later, two of the left-wing "witnesses" referred to by the Dean of Students to corroborate his defamation of Ilan's account, responded indeed:

"Dear Ron, Sorry to disagree, you should have checked with the security people first.

In the first few minutes of the demonstration, before you arrived (as you recall you were not there from the start), there was indeed some heavy pushing and shoving by the security people (one in particular stands in mind). Some posters were indeed torn, and at least one student was slightly bruised, as far as I could see. He was very shaken by the whole thing and had to be calmed down. It is true that very soon after that, someone was wise enough to instruct Security to calm down and there was no violence, as far as I could see, by the time you arrived and from then on. I am sure that the security will confirm that. Kobi"

"I came after teaching at 11h. A line of security guards were stopping the students from getting in. I asked Micha Rav (our Head of Security) why they were not allowing the students in. He told me they had made trouble, and if he let them in they would make trouble inside. I asked how he knew which had made trouble and which had not - he told me they had all of them on tape. So I suggested, and he concurred, that any students who had not made trouble would be allowed in - and I told that to the students. In the meantime the guards had made a barrier of tables, as Ilan reported. Then I went and had a pee. Then I went into the hall, and listened to Prof. Yoav Gelber. Yoav was telling us that the numbers of refugees were overestimated by UNRWA and Arabs, but there were some fair Israeli estimates. For example only 80 were killed in Tantura, and only 40% of the Ezel figure were killed in Dir Yassin. From the number of those that "ran away" (that was the term he repeatedly used. He did not use the term "expelled" even once), we need to deduct 15,000 that were killed, 80,000 who weren't even Palestinians, many who weren't refugees, e.g. in Tulkarm they were receiving UNRWA aid although they had run away, but their land, and therefore income, had been taken away. Yoav was quite a Hevreman - he used his military experience to make the point that as Company Commander he too inflated figures to obtain more food rations for his company, and deflated the figures to reduce their guard rota. The audience thought this was an amusing analogy, and laughed.

Toward the end of his presentation, when I could take no more, we had gotten down from 700,000 plus who "ran away" to 520,000 who "ran away". I found this quite difficult to hear, and left before having to listen to Prof. Sofer. I am sorry I left before Ilan's student LH spoke out, I would at least have been able to give her some support that might also have restored some of my self respect. The audience were rapt, and clapped at the end of the talks. I can report to you that it was not a pleasant experience. The videos will be on the Herzl Center website in a few weeks time.


PS in no way am I writing this to corroborate what Ilan wrote. It is none of my business what he wrote, and I do not understand why if Ilan writes something, someone else needs to corroborate it. I find that quite offensive."

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It was last updated on 20th May 2005.