Azman Abdul Hamid

Azman Abdul Hamid

At the coffee house of a hotel here, people were moving about oblivious to the presence of a renowned Israeli historian.

“I only arrived just hours ago, but I am impressed with what I have seen and heard so far.

“I envy all of you for the peace and harmony that you enjoy here. Hopefully, we can have this one day back home.”

Professor Ilan Pappe, 65, is a professor at the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

He was on his first visit to Malaysia. Pappe has for many years fought against the Zionist regime’s oppressive policies towards the Palestinians.

Because of his views, he has not only come under fire and criticism from fellow Jews, but has also suffered in many ways.

“As an Israeli with such a stand in support of the Palestinians and for peace as well, I have paid a heavy price. I was kicked out of the University of Haifa in 2007.

“Since then, I am unable to teach in any academic capacity in Israel, so this is why I moved partly to England because I needed an academic position.

“The effect of this is that you lose contact with your society, and in a way in their eyes (Jews), you are seen and labelled as a traitor, so it has been anything but easy.

“But I’m not the only one, as there are several of us. When I talk to colleagues or compatriots who underwent a similar journey or trajectory, there is an interesting point.

“Despite the fact that we cannot go back any more to where and what we once were, we are at total peace with ourselves, because we know we are doing the right thing and it’s much stronger than tribal affiliations.

“Despite losing some of our reference points in society, I should also make it clear that I am very strongly supported by the Palestinians which gives me a lot of strength.

“My suffering is nothing compared to what they have and are still going through,” said Pappe.

He also revealed that when more of the Jewish public began to know of his efforts in defending the human and civil rights of the Palestinians, things began to get out of hand. The safety of his family came under threat.

“The main problem were the death threats. This is the main reason why I left for England.

“Such threats started when my children were very young. But then a few years ago, the situation got better so my wife and children went back because I wanted them to know and see first-hand the struggles on both sides of the divide.

“With Israel being such an indoctrinated society, the Israeli government does not have to deal directly with people like me.

“It is society, as in the university, the neighbours from who we bore the brunt of most of the dissent and dissatisfaction. Even some of our family members and relatives shunned us.”

Being an accomplished academician, for years Pappe has been trying to change the mindset of fellow Israeli Jews towards their Palestinian neighbours through education and subtle social engagement.

“I do what I can with other people. I am not just working for the Palestinians, which is the most important thing for me.

“I am also of the opinion that I am doing a good service for my fellow Jews despite the fact that they think otherwise.”

Growing up in Israel, at the age of 18, Pappe was drafted into the Israeli Defence Force.

He saw action in the Golan Heights during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, and the experience was just part of what shaped his outlook and stand against Zionism.

“For me, it’s very difficult to talk about an epiphany or the big event that started or changed it all. As a soldier during the war, I never thought philosophically, all I wanted was to survive the war and get home.

“The big moment was getting out of Israel for the first time, going to study abroad in England

“While I was at Oxford University in the early 80s pursuing my tertiary education, I chose an Arab supervisor and then suddenly I began to see things from a different perspective.

“I do not think that I would be who I am today if I had stayed back in Israel and completed my education there,” stressed Pappe.

From a young age, he already had a different outlook from his peers and he was not afraid to speak up or question what he thought was incorrect or a fabrication of the truth.

“I was born and grew up in Haifa, and there is a big piazza called the Liberation Piazza. And once, during a school field trip there, I remember asking my teacher how and why did such a place get its name.

“My teacher replied that it was to commemorate liberation from the Palestinians.

“Then I retorted that the Palestinians did not occupy us and in fact it was the other way around.

“For me it should have been called the Piazza of Occupation,” he recalled.

At present, Pappe is the director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies and a fellow of the Institute of the Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter.

He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and 1978 and after he received a doctorate in history from Oxford University in 1984, he taught at the University of Haifa until 2007.

During those years, he was also the chair of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies in Haifa.

Pappe is also the author of 20 books and many articles on the history of the Middle East in general and Palestine in particular.

Among his works are A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples (2003); The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2007) and On Palestine (with Noam Chomsky 2014).

His most recent book is The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Israeli Occupation (2018).

Pappe delivered his lecture entitled ‘Palestine is still the issue’ at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation on Saturday, organised by the International Movement for a Just World (in cooperation with the institute)

Published in: New Straits Times, Monday 20 January 2020

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Thursday, 17 October 2019 17:02

Speak about oppression, Muslims urged

Kuala Lumpur: Ascertaining the cause is one thing but finding the solution is quite another for panellists and participants at The Palestine-Kashmir Forum: The Struggle for Freedom & Self Determination, as the question that hit hardest and most lingered on was ‘What more can we do?’

It was posed during a question-and-answer session by a participant who acknowledged all the points raised and debated by the panellists but was unconvinced on the plan forward in terms of protecting the rights of Palestinians and Kashmiris for self-determination in the face of hostile forces.

In her keynote address at the forum held at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) on Monday, Pakistan High Commissioner to Malaysia, Amna Baloch, described the Indian government’s action on Kashmir as crossing all lines of cruelty after sending thousands of troops there upon withdrawing Kashmir’s special status.

“Kashmir is burning,” she said, referring to a communication shutdown that brought daily life to a standstill and contributed to a shortage of commodities. Soldiers targeted Kashmiri youths, sending those arrested to distant locations outside the territory despite protests from some of India’s well-known opposition leaders and non-governmental organisations.

To recap, the government of India revoked the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir on Aug 5 this year. Article 370 conferred power on Jammu and Kashmir to have a separate constitution, a state flag and autonomy over the internal administration of the state.

Now no longer bound by the article, Kashmir is ruled directly from New Delhi. However, some including Amna’s deputy, Atif Sharif Mian, believe that India was planning to annex the territory by revoking Kashmir’s special status.

However, revoking the special status would permit outsiders to reside in the territory which could reduce and replace the Muslims as the majority populace there. With such a demographic change, Kashmir would no longer be a majority Muslim state which may be the intent.

As for Palestine, Director for Palestine Cultural Organisation Malaysia, Muslim Imran, said that US President Donald Trump’s adminisration has only worsened the situation for Palestinians by declaring Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel while the Jewish nation continued to usurp Palestinian land.

Trump also became the first US president to stop funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

Other developments that hamper the Palestinian cause come from Arab countries themselves attempting to normalise relations with Israel and the failure among Palestinian factions to establish a unified platform.

Despite that, Palestinian resistance endures because the Palestinians themselves are fighting Israel’s subjugation and oppression while the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement has so far been more and more successful.

Talking among the panellists, the president of the Malaysian Consultative Council For Islamic Organisation, Azmi Abdul Hamid, made a stark observation — that 1.8 billion Muslims can make a difference but are hesitant due to the narrative that Muslims can’t do much.

“Muslims have the will to not go down (easily). They must speak about oppression like we are doing through this forum. Don’t wait for government to act,” he said

Back to the question of “what more can we do?” Being united as an ummah is one, continuing to support BDS and trying to seek ways to reconcile one another’s interest despite differing opinions and methods is another.

To that is another question — do Muslims have the will to do so?

Published in: The New Straits Times, Wednesday 16 October 2019

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The event was held at IAIS Malaysia on 14 October 2019, click here for more information about the event.