Sunday, November 06, 2011

Filmmaker Porter Speakman, Jr., producer and director of the 2010 movie With God on Our Side, has issued a press release acknowledging that a quote attributed to David Ben-Gurion by historian Ilan Pappé is not reliable.

In his 2006 book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oneworld Publications), Pappé  reported that in a 1937 letter to his son, David Ben-Gurion wrote the following: “The Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war.”

It's a damning quote and is featured prominently in With God on Our Side. But it does not appear in any of the sources Pappé cites.

In his book, Pappé provided two references for this quote. The first reference is the July 12, 1937 entry of Ben-Gurion's diary. The second is page 220 of the August-September 1937 issue of New Judea, a newsletter published by the World Zionist Organization.

CAMERA provided electronic copies of both of these sources – neither of which include the quote attributed to Ben-Gurion – to Speakman earlier this week.

In response Speakman issued a press release that states in part:

… this quote cannot be found in the original sources of Ben Gurion's diary and therefore cannot be verified as authentic. While references to this quote exist, we could not find it in its original form. In an effort to be transparent and accurate, the producers have decided to take the extra step of removing it from future printings of "With God On Our Side." We apologize for this change.

The quote attributed to Ben-Gurion also appears in a 2006 article published in The Journal of Palestine Studies. In this article, Pappé provides another source for the quote. He states it appears on pages 167-168 of Charles D. Smith's Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Boston and New York: Beford/St. Martin's Press, 2004.

The quote does not appear here, either.

The editors at the Journal of Palestine Studies are currently investigating the issue.

CAMERA has made numerous attempts to contact Dr. Pappé at the University of Exeter, but the historian has not responded.
The fake Ben Gurion quote is all over the Internet and has been quoted in The Independent, after which Benny Morris wrote in and said that the quote was a falsification.

We've seen before that Pappe makes stuff up whenever he feels like it. We also have seen him admit:

There is no historian in the world who is objective. I am not as interested in what happened as in how people see what's happened....I admit that my ideology influences my historical writings...Indeed the struggle is about ideology, not about facts. Who knows what facts are? We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and we do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truthseekers.
He has also said
My bias is apparent despite the desire of my peers that I stick to facts and the "truth" when reconstructing past realities. I view any such construction as vain and presumptuous. This book is written by one who admits compassion for the colonized not the colonizer; who sympathizes with the occupied not the occupiers.

But this is the first time that every single source Pappe supposedly had for a specific quote has been shown to be definitively falsified. He didn't make a mistake - he made up three separate sources for a quote that was nonexistent.

This is not sloppiness. This is historian malpractice. The University of Exeter should take a long, hard look at whether they want their own name sullied by supporting a pseudo-historian who decides what the history would be before he tried to make up facts supporting his pre-existing ideas.

And all who approvingly quotes Pappe, like Richard Falk and John Pilger, are suspect as to their own interest in truth as well.

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