Histories and Historians in Israel & Palestine

Ilan Pappe


One of the most obvious reasons why historians — both professional and academic — find it difficult to challenge hegemonic narratives is psychological. No one wants to be a pariah in their own society by running against the mainstream and finding themselves in an isolated position. But I think there’s a deeper level to why historians have found it so difficult (maybe unlike some of their colleagues in the social sciences) to provide narratives which challenge the one which dominates their society’s media, culture and academia. And that reason, I think, is that challenging historiographical mythology is not just about facts, it’s also about rethinking the role of the historian. It is about being able to update oneself on developments in historiography and even (which is perhaps more difficult I think for historians) in philosophy. This focuses the question on what is reality, what is fiction, what is myth, and what is a fact. I found that one of the most challenging tasks in dealing with the history of my own country, both for Jewish and Palestinian historians, was not just to provide a different narrative to the one that prevails, but also to be able to tie in the concrete discussion with a more epistemological understanding of what history is and how history is received by the public at large.

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