Ilan Pappé speaking in Frankfurt/M, Germany, on June 10, 2017. L.Willms, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By Brett Wilkins / Common Dreams

In what one observer called “a whole new level of insanity and paranoia,” renowned Israeli historian and professor Ilan Pappé—a staunch critic of Zionism—was detained and interrogated this week by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents as he entered the United States at Detroit’s airport.

In a Wednesday Facebook post, Pappé said that he was questioned by FBI agents for two hours after arriving at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport on Monday.

He wrote:

The two-men team were not abusive or rude, I should say, but their questions were really out of the world! Am I a Hamas supporter? Do I regard the Israeli actions in Gaza a genocide? What is the solution to the “conflict” (seriously this what they asked!) Who are my Arab and Muslim friends in America… What kind of relationship [do] I have with them?

“They had [a] long phone conversation with someone, the Israelis?” he added, “and after copying everything on my phone allowed me to enter.”

“I know many of you have fared far worse,” Pappé wrote, referring to Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah, a British Palestinian plastic surgeon and rector of Glasgow University in Scotland who last month was denied entry to Germany—and by extension all 29 Schengen Area nations—before the ban was overturned earlier this week.

“The good news is—actions like this by the USA or European countries taken under pressure from the pro-Israeli lobby or Israel itself smell of sheer panic and desperation in reaction to Israel’s becoming very soon a pariah state, with all the implications of such a status,” he added.

Pappé’s treatment sparked outrage among Palestine defenders.

“The detention and interrogation of internationally renowned Israeli anti-Zionist historian Ilan Pappé at Detroit airport by the FBI is latest in the long list of episodes of intimidation and bullying across the West to defend the indefensible—the Israeli genocide of Palestinians,” University of California, Berkeley history professor Ussama Makdisi said on social media Wednesday.

Entrepreneur and geopolitical commentator Arnaud Bertrand said, “We’ve reached a whole new level of insanity and paranoia.”

Pappé, 69, is a scholar of Palestinian history at the University of Exeter in England. He’s published over 20 books including The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, an examination of the Nakba expulsion of more than 750,000 Arabs from Palestine by Zionist militants—who sometimes massacred Palestinians to sow terror among them—during the establishment of the modern state of Israel in the late 1940s.

He has also been a leading Israeli critic of Israel’s ongoing assault on Gaza, which according to Palestinian officials has killed, maimed, or left missing more than 125,000 people since the October 7 attacks. During a Wednesday interview with Al Jazeera marking the 76th anniversary of the Nakba, Pappé asserted that Israel’s current onslaught is “even worse” than the 1948-49 ethnic cleansing in many ways.

“What we see now are massacres which are part of the genocidal impulse, namely to kill people in order to downsize the number of people living in Gaza,” he said. “Ethnic cleansing is a terrible crime against humanity but genocide is even worse.”

Pappé’s latest title, Lobbying for Zionism on Both Sides of the Atlantic, details “how pro-Israel lobbying groups influence the Middle East policies of Britain, the U.S., and others.”

Reacting to the author’s detention, ACLU human rights lawyer and New York University professor Jamil Dakwar said, “One wonders if this ‘VIP welcome’ related to his anti-genocide activism and his new book.”

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Brett Wilkins

Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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