Ilan Pappé, whose PhD is from the University of Oxford, is professor of history at the University of Exeter in the UK, and co-director of the Exeter Center for Ethno-Political Studies. Until 2007, he was a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Haifa.
Pappe, a Jewish Israeli, born to a German Jewish family in Haifa in 1954, has been described by the Palestinian Salman Abu-Sitta (a prominent writer on the Palestinian right of return) as "an honourable academic with integrity and conscience". He is one of the Israeli "new historians", a group of historians who are so-called because their writings, based on access to material recently released by the British and Israeli archives, has started to undermine myths about the foundation and early years of the Israeli state, myths that were promoted by an earlier generation of Israeli historians who were more concerned about building up the self-image of the new state than in historical accuracy.
In November 1999, Baudouin Loos (a journalist for the Brussels paper "Le Soir") conducted a very interesting interview with Pappé. In an article which he wrote in Al-Ahram in May 2002, Pappé gives an interesting account of his experience as a Jewish child growing up in Haifa in the 1950s and how he finally became aware of the fact that he was living in a city whose Palestinian inhabitants had been expelled in 1948.
In early 2002, when Pappe was still at the University of Haifa, he was threatened with dismissal by the university because of his support for Teddy Katz, a Jewish graduate student at the university whose dissertation had brought to public attention the massacre, by Israeli forces in 1948, of a large portion of the population of the Arab village of Al-Tantura, on the coast south of Haifa. (See an article about the treatment meted out to Katz for daring to write about the subject. See a letter written by Ilan Pappe about his threatened dismissal.) After an international protest, the university withdrew the threatened dismissal proceedings. This threat to academic freedom was not covered in most Western media; however, there was an article in the English weekly edition of Al-Ahram about it. You can also read the on-line petition in support of Dr. Pappé, which was signed by several thousand intellectuals from many countries around the world, including many from within Israel. One of the most prominent supporters of Dr. Pappe during these attacks was another Jewish Israeli, another of the new historians -- Avi Shlaim, Professor of International Relations and a fellow of St Antony's College at the University of Oxford. On 16 May 2002, Prof. Shlaim wrote to Aharon Ben-Ze'ev, the Rector of the university in Haifa, stating that the charges against Dr. Pappé were "a blatant violation of Dr Pappe's right to academic freedom and it is your duty, as Rector of Haifa University, to uphold his right".
While the Katz controversy brought the Al-Tantura massacre to public attention in Israel, it had been well-known among Palestinians -- see a collection of eye-witness accounts from survivors of the massacre. (It is interesting to note that the Tantura massacre was carried out by the 33rd Battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade and that, during the 1948 War of Independence, Ariel Sharon commanded an infantry company in the Alexandroni Brigade. One cannot help wondering whether there is any causal psychological connection between the Al-Tantura massacre and later massacres in which Sharon was involved: the massacre of 66 villagers at Kibya (Qibya) in October 1953, committed by Commando Unit 101 of the IDF which was led by Sharon; the massacre at Qalqilyah in 1955; the murder of 273 unarmed prisoners, Egyptian soldiers and Sudanese workers, during the 1956 Suez invasion; the more famous massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps outside Beirut in September 1982.)
Dr. Pappé is a member of the Advisory Board of the Council for Palestinian Restitution and Repatriation (CPRR), an organization which declares that "every Palestinian has a legitimate, individual right to return to his or her original home and to absolute restitution of his or her property."