One of the UK’s leading academics says supporters of Israel need to accept historical facts that Israel committed “ethnic cleansing” in 1948 — and be clear that there is no contradiction between this and their support of Israel.
Oxford’s first professor of Israel studies, Derek Penslar, made the comments to the JC following a well-attended lecture at Manchester University’s Centre for Jewish Studies. The chair was made possible in 2011 through a £3 million endowment from the Stanley and Zea Lewis Foundation.
Professor Penslar said pro-Israelis needed to catch up with the past 30 years of academic scholarship that has accepted the “vast bulk of findings” by Zionist revisionist historians such as Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe about Israel’s actions in 1948.
He said: “What happened to the Palestinians, the Naqba, was not a genocide. It was horrible, but it was not a genocide. Genocide means that you wipe out a people. It wasn’t a genocide. It was ethnic cleansing.”
In his lecture, Professor Penslar made clear that there was no evidence to accept the conclusions of some who claimed that early Zionist leaders had a policy or programme of forced expulsions of Palestinians.
But, the professor said afterwards, people like him “could not lie about ethnic cleansing because of some concern that some extremist is going to try to use my words, to back up a point of view that he or she holds anyway.
“So people are refusing to believe [what happened], not because it’s not true, but even if it is true they do not want to distribute it. What I’m saying is that scholars have an obligation to tell the truth”.