Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A boulevard (esplanade) in Paris to be named after Ben-Gurion. Ilan Pappe writes to the Mayor

Dear Mr. Delanoé !

On the face of it one can understand the wish of the Counsel of Paris to honour David Ben Gurion with a boulevard. He was the founding father of the state of Israel and its prime minister for many years. And indeed as mentioned in the communique he was responsible for the development of good relationship with France in the attempt to topple President Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1956 and oversaw the improvement of the military and strategic ties between the two countries up to 1967. And one can see how the supporters of Israel in the Jewish community and beyond would welcome such a move. But I am writing to you today to consider the other side of the argument. One which to my mind outweighs the positive reasons for such a decision. David Ben Gurion was the architect of, and the mastermind behind, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948. An operation that begot the Palestinian problem as we know it today and dragged not only Arabs and Jews into an endless and bloody conflict, but the Middle East as a whole.

He was not alone but he was the most important figure in the systematic expulsion of almost one million Palestinians from their houses, fields and homeland. He also oversaw the demolition of thundreds of their villages and dozens of their towns and personally ordered their transformation into either Jewish settlements or recreational parks.

He then oversaw the imposition of a ruthless and cruel military rule over the Palestinian minority left in Israel, which included the expropriation of their lands, the exile of many and the Kafar Qassim massacre of November 1956 in which dozens of innocent Palestinian were killled by the Israeli border police.

Had contemporary Israel come to terms with the criminal side of his policies and strategies, as did the White community in Apartheid South Africa, then one could consider some sort of a more comprehensive commemoration of the man and his achievements. But as this crime, the Palestinian Nakbah, is still denied today by official Israel, that act of calling an avenue after him would mean accepting and legitimizing the denial. This would undoubtedly seem as an offensive and insensitive act to the vast majority of your citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or cultural affiliation.

I beseech you as an activist and as a historian of the Nakbah, born in Israel and teaching today in the United Kingdom rethink that decision and leave it until both Palestinians and Israelis would be able to face the unpleasant past and reconcile. Any other decision would alas contribute to the continuation of the conflict and cast a doubt on French politicians’ sincere commitment to

Yours sincerely,
Professor Ilan Pappe
The European Centre for Palestine Studies
Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies
University of Exeter
United Kingdom
(Thanks v)


  1. Thanks you for translating this TGIA :)

  2. v
    I was saved by the gong. After I started translating it occured to me that since Pappe usually writes in English then an original must exist somewhere and I was lucky to find it on the same link as 'English version'

  3. I hope Delanoë has the decency to reply and let the world know if this was intended as a deliberate insult to the Palestinian people. I'm finding it difficult to come up with an alternative explanation. Though maybe there's more in the way of "donations" to be garnered from a pro-Israel stance.<span>


  4. Well Jemmy I'm guessing that for <span>Delanoë</span>, Israel is a matter of fact country and a 'friend of France' as it is always heard on TV.."Un pays ami de la France"..Ben-Gurion being perceived as an Israeli "de Gaulle" of sorts and having in mind the very strong pro Israeli supporters mainly among French Jews electorate with the additional benefit of having a rather weak pro Palestinian side in comparison, Delanou<span>ë</span> must have quickly made his maths and opted for that to go ahead. There could be other incintives of course but that is not something we can confirm one way or another.

  5. I was wondering about the ratio of Jewish voters to voters of Maghrebi origin, and if a calculation of some sort had been made. Of course, the residents of the banlieues will be far less likely to vote if their attitude to politics is anything like that of us council estate dwellers in the UK.
    I wonder what FN mob have to say about this. Our British fuehrer has become rather fond of Israel since Operation Cast Lead. Anybody who kills Muslims can't be all bad, is his position.  

  6. <span>I don't have the figures Jemmy but I'm guessing that since the Maghrebis are higher in numbers the ratio of votes should follow. The issue as you highlight is how many among this Arab population would vote? Again I have no figures, I haven't been following the French politics in a while. I used to watch the French news on SBS, a station which broadcasts national news of different countries. Not anymore. I, somehow, lost interest. "Loin des yeux, loin du coeur".  As for the FN their focus of attention is generally on the Arabs as they're a much easier target, so they're careful in their rhetoric about the Jews, the backlash would be too much to handle.</span>