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Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion, SUNY 2003Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Books: Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (SUNY, 2003), and The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus (Kindle, 2020).

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Debunking Israel Myths

Ilan Pappé's Ten Myths About Israel

Frank Visser / ChatGPT-3.5

  1. Palestine was an Empty Land
  2. The Jews were a People without Land
  3. Zionism is Judaism
  4. Zionism is not Colonialism
  5. The Palestinians Voluntarily Left their Homeland in 1948
  6. The 1967 War was a War of "No Choice"
  7. Israel is the Only Democracy in the Middle East
  8. The Two-State Solution is the Only Way Forward
  9. The Oslo Mythologies
  10. The Gaza Mythologies

Me to ChatGPT:

  • Jewish historian Ilan Pappé wrote the book Ten Myths About Israel (2017). Please list these myths and elaborate on his arguments.[1]

Follow-up questions:

Ilan Pappé
Ilan Pappé
  • What criticism has been raised against his thesis?
  • He belongs to the New Historians school. Who else?
  • Can a synthesis or consensus be reached between the Old and New Historians?
  • What about the myth of the Promised Land from Exodus? Are there parallels and differences to the current situation in the Middle East?
  • Why are orthodox Jews against Zionism?
  • Does Islam have the notion of a Promised Land as well?
  • Are religious differences the major stumbling block to reaching peace or are there more material reasons?
  • The US and Israel have ignored uncountable UN resolutions against Israel. What dynamic is behind this?
  • We see a new alliance between Russia, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, forming a front against western interests.
  • Isn't it ironic that the Jews were once not welcome in Europe but are now seen as a foothold of the West within the Arabic world?


Certainly, here's a brief elaboration on each of the myths as presented by Ilan Pappé in his book "Ten Myths About Israel":

1. Palestine was an Empty Land:

This myth challenges the notion that Palestine was a sparsely populated or "empty" land before the arrival of Jewish immigrants. Pappé argues that this narrative ignores the presence of Palestinian Arab communities and their historical ties to the land.

2. The Jews were a People without Land:

Pappé disputes the idea that Jewish immigrants to Palestine were a people without a land, arguing that Jewish communities existed in the region before the establishment of Israel and that Jewish immigrants were part of broader Zionist colonization efforts.

3. Zionism is Judaism:

This myth challenges the conflation of Zionism (the political movement advocating for a Jewish homeland) with Judaism (the religion). Pappé emphasizes that not all Jews identify with Zionism, and there is a diversity of Jewish opinions on the matter.

4. Zionism is not Colonialism:

Pappé argues that Zionism's establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine involved elements of colonialism, including land expropriation, displacement of the indigenous population, and the imposition of foreign rule.

5. The Palestinians Voluntarily Left their Homeland in 1948:

This myth disputes the notion that Palestinians left their homes voluntarily during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Pappé contends that many Palestinians were forcibly expelled or fled due to violence and insecurity.

6. The 1967 War was a War of "No Choice":

Pappé challenges the idea that Israel had no choice but to wage the 1967 Six-Day War in self-defense. He argues that Israel played a proactive role in provoking the conflict.

7. Israel is the Only Democracy in the Middle East:

Pappé critiques the assertion that Israel is the sole democracy in the Middle East, highlighting issues of inequality and discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel and those living under occupation.

8. The Two-State Solution is the Only Way Forward:

This myth questions the notion that a two-state solution is the only viable path to peace. Pappé suggests that alternative solutions, such as a single, democratic state, should be considered.

9. The Oslo Mythologies:

Pappé scrutinizes the Oslo Accords and the myths surrounding the peace process, arguing that it did not lead to a just and lasting resolution of the conflict.

10. The Gaza Mythologies:

This myth deals with the situation in Gaza, challenging the narratives around the Israeli blockade, the 2005 disengagement, and the status of Gaza as an isolated territory.

It's important to note that these are Pappé's interpretations and arguments, and there are differing viewpoints on each of these issues within the broader discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Reading Pappé's book provides a more comprehensive understanding of his perspective and the evidence he presents to support his arguments.

What criticism has been raised against his thesis?

Ilan Pappé's thesis and perspectives on Israel and its history have been met with criticism and debate, particularly from those who hold different views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some of the key criticisms raised against his work include:

Historical Accuracy: Critics argue that Pappé's interpretation of historical events can be selective and one-sided. They contend that his emphasis on the "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians in 1948 may oversimplify complex historical circumstances.

Sources and Evidence: Some scholars have questioned the quality and objectivity of the sources Pappé uses in his research. Critics argue that he relies heavily on Palestinian oral histories, which can be subject to bias and memory distortion.

Political Bias: Critics suggest that Pappé's political activism and strong support for the Palestinian cause may influence his scholarly work, potentially leading to a lack of objectivity in his analysis.

Debate Over Terminology: Pappé's use of terms like "ethnic cleansing" to describe events in 1948 is debated. While he characterizes the displacement of Palestinians as a deliberate policy, others argue that it was a complex result of a war with multiple factors.

Alternative Narratives: Some historians and scholars present alternative narratives and interpretations of events, challenging Pappé's conclusions and arguing that there were differing motivations and intentions among Zionist leaders during the establishment of Israel.

Cherry-Picking Evidence: Critics claim that Pappé may selectively choose evidence that supports his thesis while ignoring or downplaying other evidence that contradicts it.

Lack of Engagement with Counterarguments: Some argue that Pappé's work does not engage sufficiently with opposing viewpoints, which could provide a more balanced and nuanced understanding of the historical events he discusses.

It's important to note that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a highly contentious and emotionally charged topic, and interpretations of history often vary widely based on one's perspective and biases. As with any historical analysis, it's advisable to consider multiple sources and viewpoints to form a comprehensive understanding of the subject. Reading critiques of Pappé's work alongside his writings can provide a more well-rounded perspective on this complex issue.

He belongs to the New Historians school. Who else?

Ilan Pappé is indeed associated with the "New Historians" school, a group of Israeli historians who emerged in the late 20th century and challenged traditional narratives of Israeli history. Besides Pappé, some other prominent figures associated with the New Historians school include:

Benny Morris: Benny Morris is one of the most well-known figures among the New Historians. He conducted extensive research on the Palestinian refugee issue and published works that shed light on the expulsion of Palestinians during the 1948 war. Morris' early works were critical of Israel's actions during its establishment but later took a more controversial stance in support of some of those actions.

Tom Segev: Tom Segev is another Israeli historian who has contributed to the revisionist approach to Israeli history. His works often explore the social and cultural aspects of Israeli history and have challenged conventional narratives.

Avi Shlaim: While not considered a New Historian in the same sense as Pappé and Morris, Avi Shlaim is an Israeli-British historian known for his critical perspective on Israel's history and policies. His works often focus on Israel's relations with its neighbors and the dynamics of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Simha Flapan: Simha Flapan was an early contributor to the revisionist approach. His book "The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities" challenged traditional narratives of Israel's founding, particularly regarding the displacement of Palestinians.

It's important to note that the New Historians do not share a uniform viewpoint, and their perspectives on Israeli history and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can vary. While they collectively challenged established narratives, they often had differing interpretations and conclusions. Their work has generated significant debate and discussion within both scholarly and public circles.

Can a synthesis or consensus be reached between the Old and New Historians?

Reaching a synthesis or consensus between the "Old Historians" and the "New Historians" regarding the history of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be challenging due to the deeply entrenched and polarized nature of the debate. However, there have been efforts to bridge the gap and encourage a more nuanced understanding of the historical events in question. Here are some considerations:

Historical Research: Historians from both camps can continue to conduct rigorous and objective research, drawing on a wide range of primary sources, including newly declassified documents, oral histories, and archives. This can help build a more comprehensive and accurate historical record.

Interdisciplinary Approaches: Combining historical research with insights from other disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, and political science can provide a more holistic understanding of the complex factors at play in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dialogue and Debate: Encouraging open dialogue and debate between scholars with differing perspectives can lead to a better exchange of ideas and potentially identify areas of agreement or common ground.

Recognition of Complexity: Acknowledging the complexity of the historical narrative is essential. Both sides should recognize that historical events are rarely one-dimensional and may involve multiple factors, actors, and interpretations.

Teaching and Education: Promoting a more balanced and nuanced approach to teaching history in schools and universities can help future generations develop a more comprehensive understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

International Initiatives: International organizations and institutions can facilitate efforts to bridge historical divides by supporting research projects, conferences, and dialogues that encourage a broader understanding of the historical context.

While achieving a complete consensus between Old and New Historians may be difficult, striving for a more comprehensive and accurate historical narrative is a valuable endeavor. It's essential to remember that history is continually evolving as new evidence emerges and interpretations change, and fostering constructive dialogue can contribute to a more informed and nuanced understanding of the past.

What about the myth of the Promised Land from Exodus? Are there parallels and differences to the current situation in the Middle East?

The concept of the "Promised Land" from the biblical Exodus narrative is indeed an important part of the historical and religious context in the Middle East, particularly in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are parallels and differences between the biblical narrative and the current situation in the region:


Religious Significance: The Promised Land is a central theme in the Abrahamic religions, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It is considered a sacred and significant territory with deep religious and historical ties for all three faiths.

Claims to the Land: The biblical narrative in the Exodus story includes the idea of a divine promise to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the modern context, both Israelis and Palestinians lay claim to the same geographical region, often citing historical and religious connections.


Modern Political Reality: The current situation in the Middle East is primarily a complex political and territorial conflict, with competing national identities, sovereignty claims, and geopolitical interests. While religious and historical narratives play a role, they are entangled with contemporary political factors.

Diverse Populations: The region today is home to a diverse population of Jews, Muslims, Christians, and others, with various national and ethnic identities. Unlike the biblical narrative, the situation involves multiple communities and nations, each with their own aspirations and grievances.

Secularism: Modern Israel was established as a secular state, and many Israelis approach the conflict from a political and nationalistic perspective rather than solely a religious one. This differs from the biblical narrative, which is primarily religious.

International Relations: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is influenced by international actors, including foreign governments and international organizations. The geopolitical dynamics add layers of complexity that were not present in the biblical narrative.

Peace Efforts: Over the years, numerous peace initiatives and negotiations have been attempted to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These efforts reflect a recognition of the need for political solutions in the modern context, rather than relying solely on religious narratives.

In summary, while the concept of the Promised Land from the Exodus story holds religious and historical significance, the modern Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex and multifaceted issue influenced by political, historical, and national factors. While religious narratives may inform some perspectives, reaching a resolution in the region requires addressing contemporary political and territorial concerns alongside historical and religious sensitivities.

Why are orthodox Jews against Zionism?

Orthodox Jews are not universally against Zionism, but there is a subset of Orthodox Jewish communities that hold anti-Zionist views. The reasons for this opposition to Zionism among some Orthodox Jews are rooted in religious, theological, and historical beliefs. Here are some of the key reasons why certain Orthodox Jewish groups are against Zionism:

Theological Objections: Some Orthodox Jews believe that the establishment of a Jewish state in Israel should only occur when the Messiah comes and redeems the Jewish people. They argue that human efforts to create a Jewish state before this divine intervention are against God's will.

Secular Nature of the State: Many Orthodox Jews are concerned about the secular nature of the modern state of Israel. They believe that the state does not adhere to strict religious observance and that its secular policies and laws contradict traditional Jewish values.

Religious Minority Status: Some anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews argue that the establishment of a Jewish state in Israel endangers the status of religious minorities, particularly Palestinians. They believe that the presence of a Jewish state may lead to the mistreatment or displacement of non-Jewish populations.

Historical Opposition: Historically, some prominent Orthodox Jewish leaders, such as Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum of the Satmar Hasidic dynasty, strongly opposed Zionism. They saw it as a secular, nationalist movement that ran counter to traditional Judaism.

Anti-Political Stance: Some anti-Zionist Orthodox groups reject political involvement altogether, believing that Jews should focus solely on religious observance and not engage in state-building or political activism.

Differing Interpretations of Jewish Identity: There is a diversity of views within the Orthodox Jewish community, and some believe that Jewish identity is primarily religious and should not be tied to nationalism or statehood.

It's important to note that these anti-Zionist views are not held by all Orthodox Jews. There are also Orthodox Jews who support Zionism and are actively involved in the political and social life of Israel. The Orthodox Jewish community is diverse, encompassing a wide range of beliefs and practices, and perspectives on Zionism can vary significantly within this community.

Does Islam have the notion of a Promised Land as well?

In Islam, there isn't a concept of a "Promised Land" in the same way it exists in the Judeo-Christian tradition. However, there are references to specific places with religious significance in Islamic tradition. These places are considered holy but are not framed as a "Promised Land" in the sense of a divinely pledged territory for a particular group of people.

Some of the important religious sites in Islam include:

The Kaaba in Mecca: The Kaaba, located in the city of Mecca in present-day Saudi Arabia, is the most sacred site in Islam. It is believed to have been built by the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and is the focal point of the Hajj pilgrimage, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

The Prophet's Mosque in Medina: The Prophet's Mosque in the city of Medina is the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad. It is also one of the holiest sites in Islam and is visited by millions of Muslims every year.

Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem: While not considered a "Promised Land," Jerusalem holds great religious significance in Islam. Al-Aqsa Mosque, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, is the third-holiest site in Islam, and it is associated with the Night Journey of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Cave of Hira: This cave, located near Mecca, is where the Prophet Muhammad received his first revelations from Allah (God) through the Angel Gabriel. It is considered a sacred place in Islamic history.

It's important to emphasize that the concept of a "Promised Land" is more closely associated with Jewish and Christian traditions, particularly in relation to the biblical narratives of the Exodus and the covenant between God and the people of Israel. In Islam, the emphasis is more on religious sites, rituals, and the importance of faith and adherence to the teachings of Islam, rather than a specific promised territory.

Are religious differences the major stumbling block to reaching peace or are there more material reasons?

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a complex and multifaceted issue, and while religious differences are a part of it, there are also significant material, political, and historical factors that contribute to the ongoing challenges in reaching a peaceful resolution. Here are some of the key factors:

Territorial Disputes: One of the central issues in the conflict is the control and ownership of land, particularly in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Both Israelis and Palestinians have competing claims to these territories, leading to disputes over borders and sovereignty.

Security Concerns: Israel has faced security threats, including conflicts with neighboring states and militant groups. Ensuring the safety and security of its citizens has been a priority for Israel, which has influenced its policies in the region.

Political and National Aspirations: Both Israelis and Palestinians have their own national aspirations, and the conflict involves questions of statehood, self-determination, and the pursuit of political sovereignty.

Settlements: The construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank is a major point of contention. Palestinians view these settlements as illegal and as an obstacle to the creation of a viable Palestinian state.

Refugees: The issue of Palestinian refugees and their right of return is a deeply emotional and contentious issue. Palestinians who were displaced during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and their descendants seek recognition and resolution of their status.

Economic Disparities: Economic disparities exist between Israelis and Palestinians, contributing to social and political tensions. Economic development and opportunities for Palestinians are seen as important for peace.

Water Resources: Access to water resources, which are limited in the region, is a source of tension. Equitable distribution of water is essential for both Israelis and Palestinians.

International Factors: The involvement of international actors, including the United States, the United Nations, and regional powers, has a significant impact on the conflict. Different countries have varying levels of support for either side, which can complicate peace efforts.

Historical Narratives: Historical narratives and memories of past conflicts and injustices play a role in shaping perceptions and attitudes on both sides.

While religion is a component of the conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not solely a religious conflict. It involves complex geopolitical, historical, and material factors that have contributed to its persistence. Achieving a lasting peace in the region would require addressing all of these interconnected issues through negotiations, diplomacy, and compromise.

The US and Israel have ignored uncountable UN resolutions against Israel. What dynamic is behind this?

The perception that the United States and Israel have ignored or not fully complied with numerous United Nations resolutions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a longstanding and contentious issue. Several dynamics help explain this situation:

Strong US-Israel Relationship: The United States and Israel have a historically close and strategic relationship. The U.S. has been a staunch ally of Israel since its founding and provides significant political, military, and economic support to Israel. This alliance often leads to alignment on key issues, including those related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

U.S. Veto Power: As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the United States has the power to veto resolutions. It has used its veto authority on multiple occasions to block resolutions critical of Israel. This has led to perceptions that the U.S. shields Israel from international censure.

Bilateral Negotiations: The U.S. has at times favored bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians as the preferred method for addressing the conflict, rather than relying solely on UN resolutions. This approach aims to encourage direct negotiations to reach a mutually agreed-upon solution.

Complex Geopolitics: The Middle East is a region with complex geopolitical dynamics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict intersects with many other regional issues. The U.S. often factors in these broader regional considerations when formulating its policies.

Domestic Politics: In the United States, domestic politics plays a significant role. Support for Israel has bipartisan backing, and politicians often align with pro-Israel positions to garner support from influential interest groups and voters.

Peace Process Dynamics: Some argue that strict adherence to UN resolutions may not always be conducive to advancing the peace process. Diplomatic efforts often involve negotiations, compromises, and concessions, which may not align with the wording of UN resolutions.

Selective Enforcement: Critics of U.S. and Israeli policy point out that while they may be accused of ignoring UN resolutions, other countries have also been subject to criticism and resolutions, and not all are equally enforced.

It's important to note that perspectives on this issue vary widely. Supporters of Israel argue that UN resolutions can be one-sided and unproductive, while critics contend that they represent a framework for addressing longstanding grievances. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains a highly complex and deeply rooted issue, and the dynamics surrounding UN resolutions are just one aspect of the broader challenges involved in achieving a peaceful resolution.

We see a new alliance between Russia, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, forming a front against western interests.

The alignment of Russia, Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah in the Middle East does have the potential to impact the geopolitical landscape in the region. Here are some ways it may influence regional dynamics:

Counterweight to Western Influence: This alliance could serve as a counterbalance to Western and U.S. influence in the Middle East, challenging the traditional alliances in the region.

Increased Regional Power: The alliance may enhance the influence and reach of these actors collectively, potentially affecting regional conflicts and negotiations.

Support for Non-State Actors: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza are non-state actors with significant military and political influence. Support from Iran and Russia could strengthen their positions in their respective areas.

Impact on Regional Conflicts: The alliance may play a role in ongoing conflicts in the region, such as the Syrian civil war, Yemeni conflict, and broader Middle East stability.

Challenges to Israel: The presence of these groups in the alliance could present challenges to Israel's security and regional interests.

It's important to note that the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East is complex, and the implications of such alliances are multifaceted. The specific impact will depend on various factors, including the actions of the involved parties, the response of other regional and global actors, and the evolving dynamics of the region.

Isn't it ironic that the Jews were once not welcome in Europe but are now seen as a foothold of the West within the Arabic world?

The historical trajectory of Jewish communities in Europe and the evolving relationships between Jews, Israel, and various Arab nations are complex and multifaceted. The situation of Jews in Europe has indeed evolved over time, and so has the perception of Israel in the Arab world. Here are some key points to consider:

Historical Anti-Semitism in Europe: Europe has a long history of anti-Semitism, with Jews facing persecution and discrimination for centuries. The most horrific manifestation of this persecution was the Holocaust during World War II. As a result, many Jews sought refuge elsewhere, including in Palestine, which later became Israel.

Establishment of Israel: The establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was a significant development in the Middle East. It provided a homeland for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust and other Jewish communities around the world. However, it also led to tensions and conflicts with Arab nations, as well as the displacement of Palestinian Arabs.

Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Arab-Israeli conflict has been a major driver of tensions in the region for decades. Israel's establishment and the subsequent Arab-Israeli wars have shaped regional geopolitics and perceptions.

Evolving Arab Attitudes: Over time, some Arab nations have shifted their attitudes toward Israel. The signing of peace agreements like the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel in 1978 and the Jordan-Israel peace treaty in 1994 marked significant steps toward normalization. More recently, the Abraham Accords have seen some Arab states establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.

Geopolitical Considerations: The changing dynamics in the Middle East, including concerns about Iran's regional influence and the desire for economic cooperation, have influenced some Arab countries to reevaluate their relationships with Israel.

Complex Perspectives: It's important to recognize that attitudes toward Israel and Jews in the Arab world are diverse and not uniform. While some countries have moved toward normalization, others maintain a more critical stance, often tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The situation is indeed complex and reflects the historical, political, and geopolitical factors at play in the region. While some Jews found refuge in Israel, the Arab-Israeli conflict remains a deeply contentious issue with historical roots, and perceptions of Israel among Arab nations continue to evolve.[2]


[1] Ilan Pappé, Ten Myths About Israel, Verso, 2017. (Online version at

[2] In 2007 IntegralWorld authors Ray Harris and Jeff Meyerhoff debated about the Middle East, each taking sides: Harris defended Israel as the most evolved democracy in that area and Meyerhoff pointed to the New Historians for a more critical look at history. See: Integral Thoughts on the Middle East Conflict for an overview of the various essays. The exchanges showed how difficult it is to find common ground, even among integrally informed authors.

Ilan Pappé - Ten Myths About Israel, 16 jun 2017

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