Jeff Halper Breaks Israeli Left Into 3 Groups And Explains Why Each Is Incapable Of Ending The Occupation
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.
WATCH: Jeff Halper On Israel Arming Its Settlers In Anticipation Of Palestine Vote
Ha’aretz reports that Israel is now arming its Jewish settlers in the West Bank with riot gear in preparation for Palestinian ‘mass disorder’, which they say will result from a vote in favor of Palestinian Statehood at the UN General Assembly this September.
Palestinian leaders have maintained that any and all September protests will be peaceful, but Israeli leaders — such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman — are conversely advancing the notion that “Palestinians [are] preparing for ‘bloodshed the likes of which we’ve never seen before'”.
The IDF are being green-lighted to shoot Palestinian protesters in the legs should they cross over an Israeli-imposed ‘red line’ which circles each of the illegal settlements. Settlers are being armed with tear gas and stun grenades, and the Israeli Army Spokesperson refused to state whether they were also being provided with additional arms.
This military buildup and arming of Israel’s most extreme right-winged elements in the occupied territories has peace activists worried:
Hagit Ofran, of Peace Now, an Israeli organisation which monitors settlement activity, said: “We hope the army is making clear that non-violent protest is legitimate and no settlers should use any violence against unarmed demonstrators.”
Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights said there were already “serious questions and problems” with settlement security officials acting outside their designated boundaries. “We’re very concerned that [the IDF move] will not reduce conflict but increase it,” he said.
In an interview with RT News, Jeff Halper, the Co-founder of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, explains why Israel is reacting like a cornered animal in anticipation of the UN General Assembly vote to recognize Palestine:
RT: Are the preparations justified? Is the unrest as inevitable as the Defense Forces are making it out to be?
Halper: I wouldn’t call it ‘unrest’. I would call it a demonstration of Palestinian independence. Because if in fact in September the General Assembly recognizes the state of Palestine within the 1967 borders, it means that the settlements, the checkpoints, the Israeli wall — everything that Israel has is now illegally in the sovereign territory of Palestine. And there is actually no legal justification for stopping Palestinians from walking into settlements and crossing checkpoints.
And that, I think, is a real concern to Israel. That simply, they will ignore the fact the army is there. The army cannot shoot at Palestinians, because it has no legal standing there.
Halper: It is clear that Israel is not going to allow — or gonna try not to allow — September to happen. Israel has no intention of giving up its control of the occupied territory.
Until today, Israel has managed to keep its whole settlement enterprise, because it succeeded in getting the United States to characterize the occupation as ‘disputed territories’ and not real occupation. Once the UN recognizes Palestine within these borders — now there’s no argument: This is occupation. International law applies.
Probably 140 countries will recognize Palestine, and Israel is gonna be under a lot of pressure to try to maintain the occupation.
I don’t think the military resistance to the Palestinians is going to help. I think it is actually going to make the entire international community impose sanctions on Israel. The big campaign will be after September — getting the Israeli presence out of the sovereign state of Palestine.