When Fatma Kassem submitted her PhD proposal, Yigal Ronen, the director of the Kreitman School of Advanced Graduate Studies in Ben Gurion University required her to make a series of changes. Unless she removed the term ‘Nakba’, the discussion of the Hebreicisation of place names, the term ‘first generation since the Nakba’ (‘first generation’ apparently refers only to the Holocaust), and eliminated the claim that life stories convey broader socio-cultural understandings – she would be unable to pursue her PhD. Under the guise of scientific truth, Ronen – and the university – not only doubted Kassem’s competence as a researcher, but also humiliated her as a [Palestinian] citizen of Israel, questioning her right to name her world in her own words.
Ironically, BGU is home to several radical Israeli (Jewish) scholars, including Neve Gordon, Uri Ram, and Kassem’s supervisor Lev Grinberg. It is also home to the ‘new historian’ Benny Morris, whose studies of the 1948 Nakba exposed the atrocities (though not the deliberate Zionist Plan D, detailed later by scholars such as Ilan Pappe, to ethnically cleanse Palestine). The anti-Zionist Pappe was forced out of Haifa University into exile in Exeter, where he continues to produce politically-committed scholarship about Israel-Palestine. However, the Zionist Morris, despite his important revelations, refutes ethnic cleansing or the existence of a Zionist plan to evict the Arab population, and has repeatedly said that he regrets the Nakba was not more complete; had Ben Gurion, he wrote in 2008, ‘carried out a full expulsion – rather than a partial one – he would have stabilized the State of Israel for generations’. Read more