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April 18, 2020

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By Ilan Pappe

During the year 1948, Zionist forces, and later the Israeli army, ethnically cleansed half of Palestine’s indigenous population. The forces demolished half of Palestine’s villages and depopulated most of its towns. Palestinians lost their lands, real estate, houses, businesses, bank accounts and their homeland.

More than seventy years after the Nakba, it is still denied widely and ignored within the Western World. I have devoted all my adult life, both as a scholar and an activist, to struggle against the Nakba denial. I have contributed to the struggle by altering the discourse on the Nabka when I introduced in 2007 the concept of ‘ethnic cleansing’ to the public conversation on Palestine. Committing an ethnic cleansing in 1948 meant that Israel perpetrated a crime against humanity and has been doing so ever since. However, the denial is still widespread and has to be confronted more forcefully, in particular at this moment in time, with a global coalition that is intent in erasing both Palestine and its memory from history.

There were some significant achievements in this struggle. In many academic centres around the world, the joint work of Palestinian historians and critical Israeli historians has proved beyond doubt that the Palestinians were victims of a crime against humanity in 1948. Much of the basis for this scholarly conclusion has been drawn from declassified documents in the Israeli archives.

Since 2016 however, the Israeli government reclassified the documents relating to the Palestinian Nakba. What this has meant in practice is that historians are prevented from accessing both new documents, and those used in the past by researchers. It is quite clear that the documents will not be released in the foreseeable future and it is quite possible that they will be destroyed. There are many copies of these documents and they have to be salvaged, archived and protected.

There is a direct link between this policy of erasure and the “Deal of the Century” of Donald Trump and the international political indifference to the question of Palestine. The basic idea behind “the deal” is to transform the Palestinian question from a political issue into an economic problem. This, the architects of the programme hope will bury any Palestinian national aspiration for independence, freedom, self-determination and return.

One of the important means of achieving this is by delegitimising the Palestinian narrative on the Nakba, and al-Nakba al-Mustamera, the on-going Nakba. Zionism is a settler colonial movement and Israel is a settler colonial state. What this means is that as long as Israel adheres to this ideology, the native and indigenous Palestinians are its main obstacle for taking over historical Palestine in its entirety. Scholars of settler colonialism note that such movements work upon the logic of “the elimination of the native”, which in the past led to the genocide of native Americans and aboriginals, apartheid in South Africa and ethnic cleansing in Palestine.

The only space where this denial is now being fought energetically and in a committed way, is within Western civil society. This struggle will continue but it is diffused and not focused. It needs to be backed up by a professional organisational structure that would enable the archiving of the material that has been closed by Israel and many other sources on the Nakba and the expertise of historians who worked on the topic. This campaign also needs coordination between scholars, activists and various people who can disseminate the message: artists, actors, playwrights, cinema people and anyone working in PR and in public spaces.

The struggle against the Nakba denial is closely associated with the struggle for justice in Palestine today. That crime is an open wound and the policies that were behind it continue to oppress the Palestinians. The incompletion of the 1948 ethnic cleansing has informed Israeli policies ever since: the imposition of military rule on the Palestinians in Israel (until 1966) and in the occupied territories since 1967, and recently the siege on the Gaza Strip since 2005. The Palestinians quite accurately call this state of affairs, the on-going Nakba, (al-Nakba al-Mustamera).

Israel is still faced with the presence of six million Palestinians inside historical Palestine and millions of refugees demanding to return (and having this right sanctified by various UN resolutions). The Zionist project is incomplete. Without the physical erasure of any Palestinian political demands and as long as their narrative is still alive and their demand for return is still intact, the Zionists will be unable to complete their project.

While in many sections of global civil society there is now unprecedented support for the Palestine cause, the mainstream media and academia, as well as the political elites, refuse to acknowledge both the Nakba and the ongoing “logic of elimination” of the Israeli settler state.

Proving the horrors of 1948 is therefore not just a project of salvation, but a moral imperative to show that the destruction of the Palestinians happened and could happen again in the future.

Even seventy years after the event, and despite all the great scholarly work done on the topic, the Nakba is still denied in mainstream academia, media and politics. This denial has informed the policies of the West in the last seventy years vis-à-vis the Palestine question. The denial of the Nakba is behind the refusal of the international community to force Israel to respect resolution 194 that grants the right of all the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. Ignoring the Nakba also reduces Palestine to a mere 22 percent of the country (as if it only exists in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) and excludes from any future solution almost half of the Palestinian people.

In the Trump and Netanyahu era, every part of historical Palestine seems to be destined to be under permanent Israeli control (whether they live in Israel, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip). A control that carries the danger of further ethnic cleansing and destruction. The wiping out of a people, quite often is accompanied by an attempt to expunge them out of history. The Palestinians are still there and the attempt to expunge them out of history will be resisted. This project will be part of this resistance and will play a central role in the struggle for years to come.

An effective, structured and independent campaign against the denial of the Nakba requires a centre. Such a centre would collate the documents that are still there, protect them and archive them for the future. It will constantly and effectively campaign against the Nakba Denial through education, culture, scholarship and media – disseminating the message in every possible way in the public space.

Structure and Responsibilities

Location: The Centre against Nakba Denial (CAND) will need its own building in order to operate effectively and independently and be registered as a private centre. Its preferred location should be in London, given Britain’s responsibility for the Nakba and its centrality in the international engagement with the Palestine question. It is also within a reasonable distance from Palestine itself.

The Director: Professor Ilan Pappe will have a full time salary and this would be his main employment and job as the academic director of CAND. Professor Ilan Pappe has devoted all his adult life to the struggle against the Nabka denial and wishes to enhance its struggle, in particular now that he is about to retire from his CURRENT academic post.

He founded in 2007, the European Centre for Palestine Studies (ECPS) in AT the University of Exeter (the first ever academic centre on Palestine studies in the West; today there are eight such centres). Until today, and hopefully also in the future, the ECPS, provides a safe space for post graduate students to work freely on topics associated with the Palestine question and which contribute to the Palestinian cause. This will continue, but it is impossible to undertake the mission of a structured and effective struggle against the Nakba denial in the West inside a university that is susceptible to pressure and criticism and would regard this is a political, rather than as a scholarly project.

Administrative Director: Coordinating and overseeing the maintenance and work of the various individuals in CAND and those associated with it.

Archivist and Librarian: Responsible for the archiving the Nakba documents, scholarly work, fiction, poems, film and documentaries. Overseeing occasional exhibitions and displays (alternate and permanent).

Media and Internet Person: Responsible for maintaining the CAND Website and other media communication and handle the PR issues together with the director. This person will also work closely with the academic director on a series of publications (in cooperation with an established publisher).

Annual visiting fellows: this program will include PhD Students, post-doctoral students and scholars, either associated with other institutions of freelance activists, wishing to work in the archive and library of CAND and join its monthly seminars and annual conferences.



One area suggested Brixton were suitable commercial property for sale is between £10-15 million. See websites Prime location and (for property around 25,000 sq. ft.)


OFFICE Furniture (CABINETS, DESKS, CHAIRS, TABLES) estimate:         £15,000

Photocopiers for digitization:: (eg Versalink, C405,    MF, Xerox)        £2,000

Software for digitization such as JANOME Digitizer MX:             £5,000

Software for archiving (date capture, access and management)

per annum        £15,000

Protection from cyberattack. A conventional anti-virus should be fine to begin with as most of the material would be kept on discs on key. Its cost IS built into the sums that are rounded in this section:                            per annum        £1,000

Buying a domain, establishing a website and maintaining it.

for five years      £2,000

Sub total:

Sum of hardware: original investment:                £25,000

Annual investment from the year after:               £17,000


Collating material in archives, personal collections and from individuals.

5 researchers in Israel/Palestine: two days a week, 120x4x12

(around £6000) for one year:        £30,000

5 researchers globally: £3000 a year x 3 years x 5:   £45,000

Sub total:

Sum for material collection for the first year:   £39,000

Annual amount form the year after another?  per annum   £9,000


Director (net salary including tax and national insurance):  £165,000

Administrative director: including tax and national insurance:  £75,000

Archive and librarian including tax and national insurance:   £75,000

Total budget summary

PROPERTY (including maintenance):  £15,000,000


HARDWARE:  £17,000

COLLECTION first year:   £39,000

FOR NEXT TEN YEARS:    £90,000

SALARIES at £315,000 per annum for ten years   £3,150,000

TOTAL SUM:   £18,311,000

18 April 2020