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Jeff Halper Breaks Israeli Left Into 3 Groups And Explains Why Each Is Incapable Of Ending The Occupation

by on Monday, October 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm EDT in Middle East, World

Chris Cox’s piece in openDemocracy is a ‘must-read’ for those who often wonder why the Israeli Left appears impotent in stymieing Israel’s ethnic cleansing policy in the occupied territories. 

To find some answers, Cox turned to 2006 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Jeff Halper, one of the Israeli Left’s most prominent voices.

Halper co-founded the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) in 1997 — an NGO whose volunteers literally risk their lives resisting the occupation. Its members place their bodies between Israeli bulldozers and Palestinian family homes, and when homes and villages are demolished they mobilize to rebuild them. 

Most recently, Halper appeared on RT to discuss a single Palestinian village which had been demolished by Israel 38 times. The village was being registered for consideration in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Unfortunately, the sheer scale of the occupation project is just far too massive for ICAHD to overcome. Israel has successfully demolished around 27,000 Palestinian structures since 1967, effectively cleansing Palestinian families from choice real estate which Israel desires for Jewish-only settlements.

So where is the Israeli Left, and why are they incapable of overturning policies that are reminiscent of those from some of the darkest periods in human history? Halper breaks the group into three “concentric circles,” and addresses why each has largely been ineffective:

Group One: ‘Mainstream Liberal Zionist Left’

[T]ypified by Israeli Labour Party[, t]his camp “fell asleep” after the failure of the Oslo process, says Halper. “They internalized (the then Israeli Prime Minister) Ehud Barak’s declaration that Israel had no partner for peace.” Since then they have been largely silent.

“[They] only woke up again last summer with the protests in Tel Aviv,” says Halper, referring to the domestic Israeli protests for social justice which continued this summer, making international headlines after one man fatally set himself on fire.

Halper criticizes this movement for being solely concerned with “creating an equal situation within Israel”, without looking beyond its borders into the Palestinian territories. “They’ve completely erased the occupation as an issue,” he says. “It’s not finished, it’s not normalized; it’s just non-existent.” […]

Group Two: ‘Activist Zionist Left’

[T]ypified by veteran Israeli NGOs such as Peace Now and Meretz, and more recently joined by groups such as Breaking the Silence, Rabbis for Human Rights and Gush Shalom.

“This group is still active against the occupation. The occupation for them is the issue. They are Zionist, so if there has to be a Jewish state, then there has to be a Palestinian state.” But this, for Halper, is where the problem with this camp lies.

They all support the two state solution. The problem with that, of course, is that it’s gone.” This is a point that Halper has been making for many years now. In 2003, he presented a paper at the UN called ‘One State: Preparing for a Post-Road Map Struggle Against Apartheid’. “So they’re caught. They’re depressed. Because the only solution they can envisage is gone – or, in their terms, going.” Halper pauses, wryly adding: “It’s never gone – it’s always ‘going’.”

“These groups are not going to get too much into the politics, because they can’t go there. So these groups are drifting away, because they can’t deal with the reality.” […]

Group Three:  ‘Non-Zionist, Anti-Zionist, Post-Zionist’ (Halper places his own NGO in this group):

“This group says, forget Zionism: we’re Israelis. We’re not defined by ideology.”

“Because these groups are not Zionist they can think outside the box. They can think in terms of, ‘Okay, so now what?’ They can talk about all kinds of possibilities – one state, bi-national state, a confederation, etc… but for the left groups that are still Zionist, there is no ‘now what?’”

But meanwhile these groups have their own problems, says Halper. “Because it is essentially a collection of activists – pure activists – they have no impact on policy. In my view, you can only be useful if you effect policy – if you have a strategy.”

“These activist groups have no political programme,” he continues. “One week they’re at Sheikh Jarrah [a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem whose residents are struggling against eviction and demolitions], then they’re in the south Hebron hills giving food to the Bedouin communities, then the next minute, boom, they’re in Tel Aviv protesting against the government. There’s no strategy.” […]

Halper believes that the Israel Left are virtually incapable, if not largely disinterested, in liberating the Palestinians, and that only outside pressure can succeed in accomplishing this feat. For this reason he is focusing more and more of his energies on unifying the global Left in confronting the occupation.

Halper’s forthcoming book, Global Palestine: Exporting the Occupation, will expand on this theme of internationalizing the conflict.

Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein: U.S. policy to Israel, Palestine must change

by on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 12:21 am EDT in Election 2012, Middle East, Politics, World

Dr. Jill Stein, the prospective Green Party presidential nominee, just released a policy statement regarding Israel / Palestine on her website (which follows below).

For those who have longed to hear a U.S. Presidential candidate bravely step up with a Middle East policy platform grounded in international law, human rights, and equality and justice for ALL, her statement will not disappoint: 

United States policy regarding Israel and Palestine must be revised to make international law, peace and human rights for all people, no matter their religion or nationality, the central priorities. While the U.S. government sometimes voices support for this principle in name, in practice U.S policy towards Palestine and Israel has violated this principle more often than not.

In particular, the United States has encouraged the worst tendencies of the Israeli government as it pursues policies of occupation, apartheid, assassination, illegal settlements, blockades, building of nuclear bombs, indefinite detention, collective punishment, and defiance of international law. Instead of allying with the courageous proponents of peace within Israel and Palestine, our government has rewarded consistent abusers of human rights. There is no peace or justice or democracy at the end of such a path. We must reset U.S. policy regarding Israel and Palestine, as part of a broader revision of U.S. policy towards the Middle East.

On taking office, I will put all parties on notice – including the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, and the Hamas administration in Gaza – that future U.S. support will depend on respect for human rights and compliance with international law. All three administrations will also be held responsible for preventing attacks by non-state actors on civilians or military personnel of any nationality. The parties will be given 60 days to each demonstrate unilateral material progress towards these ends.

Material progress will be understood to include but not be limited to an end to the discriminatory apartheid policies within the state of Israel, the removal of the Separation Wall, a ban on assassination, movement toward denuclearization, the release of all political prisoners and journalists from Israeli and Palestinian prisons, disarmament of non-state militias, and recognition of the right of self-determination for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Failure by any party to demonstrate sufficient material progress will result in the end of U.S. military and economic aid to that party. Should the end of U.S. aid fail to cause a party to redirect its policies and to take steps resulting in sufficient material progress within an additional 60 days, I will direct my State Department to initiate diplomacy intended to isolate and pressure the offending party, including the use of economic sanctions and targeted boycott. In this way, U.S. policy will begin to become consistent with its practices regarding other violators of human rights and international law in the region.

Consistency in U.S. policy regarding human rights and international law will begin, but not end, with Palestine and Israel. I will apply this same approach to other nations, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Yemen, among others. I will also ensure that the United States begins to honor its obligations to protect human rights, and will expect that the world community will hold us to the same account we hold others.

Finally, as President I will put the full weight of the United States behind the establishment of a Palestine and Israel Truth and Reconciliation Commission as the vehicle for shifting from an era of human rights violations to one based on trust and bringing all parties together to seek solutions. Any stakeholder who enters into this process must pledge to work for a solution that respects the rights of all involved. This will bring America’s Middle East policy into alignment with American values. I understand that in the end, a dedicated commitment to justice will further American interests in the region much better than the current policies of supporting abuses and violence by one side against the other. And I believe that this is in the best interests of all people living in Israel and Palestine.

Obama’s Veto of UN Resolution On Settlements Harms His Own Standing in World

by on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm EDT in Egypt, Middle East, World

The Arab world has long suffered as a direct consequence of misguided U.S. policies in the Middle East. From propping up their brutal dictators, to funding and granting immunity to Israel as it colonizes Palestinian lands and bombs its neighbors with impunity, the U.S. has underwritten most of what is wrong in the region.

Until recently, the voices on the Arab streets have largely been muzzled by their oppressive (U.S. supported) regimes. But all that is finally changing. The people have had enough. They want a voice. They have taken to the streets, and are demanding their inalienable rights: freedom from repression.

First came the protests in Tunisia, and that quickly spread to Egypt. Like wildfire, the protests and demonstrations soon moved on to Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Oman, Algeria, etc.

One could argue that the seeds were sown when President Obama made his famous 2009 Cairo speech to the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims. In it, he asked for a new beginning between the U.S. and the Muslim world — one “based on mutual respect.”

On promoting democracy in the Muslim world, Obama stated:

I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

He stated, “America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs.”

He said of Israel’s colonization of Palestine:

… Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Though generally well received, the speech provoked a large degree of skepticism from much of the Arab world. Like Americans at home, they wanted to believe Obama was an authentic ‘change agent’, but as everyone knows, the status quo is the status quo for good reason. Powerful entrenched interests work 24/7 to massage ‘change agents’ into ‘status quo’ agents.

The Muslim world wondered if this new U.S. President, with an Arab-sounding name, would be true to his words. Would he apply pressure to their oppressive rulers to implement democratic reforms? Would he take the necessary political risks in the United States (See: Israel Lobby) to force Israel to end its colonization, and to forge peace with the Palestinians?

As far as promoting democracy, WikiLeaks cables revealed that the Obama Administration did next to nothing to press Mubarak to end his brutal policies and adopt democratic reforms.

Even after Egyptians took to the streets, the Obama Administration cautiously waffled around — never really taking a strong position until the smoke had all but cleared, and they knew definitively that the protesters would prevail.

To further undermine U.S. commitment to democratic change, once it became clear that Mubarak was finished, the Administration brazenly tried to insert Mubarak-equivalent (and alleged torturer) Omar Suleiman to take the reigns.

The so called ‘peace process’ between Israelis and Palestinians has been a much more transparent failure for the Obama administration, due in part because the U.S. is supposed to have more leverage over the Israelis — showering them with billions in aid and holding veto power over UN condemnations against their actions.

But what has forever been etched into the world consciousness is a disturbing image of the United States playing a subservient role to Israeli interests.

First the Netanyahu government outwardly defied the Obama Administration, by refusing to extend a 10-month partial ‘moratorium’ on its illegal settlement expansions in the West Bank, which brought the ‘peace process’ to a screeching halt.

The humiliated U.S. President undermined his own standing further by cowering back to the Israelis with an unbelievable display of servility. Obama offered them $3B — in addition to the $3.5 billion in annual aid — and pledged to grant them preemptive immunity for 1 year against any prospective UN Security Council resolutions (regardless of what Israel might do).

All this, for merely extending the partial moratorium — only in the West Bank — for an additional 90 days. And Israel refused.

Robert Fisk of The Independent rightly castigated Obama as an ‘appeaser’:

In any other country, the current American bribe to Israel, and the latter’s reluctance to accept it, in return for even a temporary end to the theft of somebody else’s property would be regarded as preposterous. Three billion dollars’ worth of fighter bombers in return for a temporary freeze in West Bank colonisation for a mere 90 days? Not including East Jerusalem – so goodbye to the last chance of the east of the holy city for a Palestinian capital – and, if Benjamin Netanyahu so wishes, a rip-roaring continuation of settlement on Arab land. In the ordinary sane world in which we think we live, there is only one word for Barack Obama’s offer: appeasement. Usually, our lords and masters use that word with disdain and disgust.

Anyone who panders to injustice by one people against another people is called an appeaser. Anyone who prefers peace at any price, let alone a $3bn bribe to the guilty party – is an appeaser. Anyone who will not risk the consequences of standing up for international morality against territorial greed is an appeaser … Yet that is precisely what Obama has done in his pathetic, unbelievable effort to plead with Netanyahu for just 90 days of submission to international law. Obama is an appeaser. […]

After the U.S. proved itself to be powerless in forcing Israel to cease stealing Palestinian land, the Palestinians naturally concluded that the United States would never do what was necessary to force Israel to recognize a Palestinian state. So they turned to the United Nations Security Council and asked for a resolution that does little more than recognize international law (as it already exists) — condemning Israel’s illegal settlement building.

The language in the UN Security Council resolution is ironically the official US stated policy on the matter, and so the Muslim world watched with interest to see if Obama would do as he promised them, and “align [his] policies with those who pursue peace”.

Obama — because Israelis rejected his unprecedented $3B offer — had essentially laid the political groundwork to allow this resolution to pass. This was Obama’s grand moment to show some fortitude. He offered the Israelis the world, for almost nothing in return, and they swiftly rejected it. Here was Obama’s moment to make good on his promise that the United States indeed sought a more just and equitable future for the Muslim world — one based on mutual respect …


By doing so, President Obama has squandered any remaining credibility he might have had as a champion for democracy, human rights, and international law. And he has reaffirmed to the world that the United States is not now, nor ever has been, a fair and honest broker for middle east peace.


WATCH as Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, struggles to justify the U.S. veto to Al Jazeera:

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WATCH: ADL’s Abe Foxman Exposed In Television Interview

by on Friday, October 29, 2010 at 12:58 pm EDT in Middle East, Politics, World

Ha’aretz writer David Sheen interviews the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman in this 53 minute video clip (h/t Max Blumenthal), and Foxman literally flips his wig over what would seem to be softball questions. Sheen asks the ADL’s National Director about many topics, including: his bestowing Rupert Murdoch with the ADL Award, his denunciation of PETA, […]

Watch: What Ethnic Cleansing Looks Like (In Occupied East Jersulem)

by on Monday, November 9, 2009 at 12:55 pm EDT in Middle East, World

Here’s a video of Jewish Settlers literally taking over a Palestinian family’s home in East Jerusalem — dumping the family’s possessions out onto the street, the furniture into their garden — while the Israeli police stand guard in case the Palestinians try to stop the settlers from taking the home for themselves.  Once emptied, the […]

Hillary Clinton’s Pandering To Israel Destroys U.S. Credibility On Middle East Peace

by on Tuesday, November 3, 2009 at 2:33 pm EDT in Middle East, Politics, World

U.S. Middle East policy has effectively come full-circle again, as it has done repeatedly for the past forty-plus years.  Every blue moon we get a U.S. President who dares to challenge Israel on its ethnic cleansing — as demonstrated by continued Palestinian home demolitions and Jewish-ONLY settlement expansion within the occupied territories (all interconnected by […]