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.
Ha’aretz Journalist, Gideon Levy: “Israel Is Addicted To The Occupation”
Israel’s most prominent journalist, Gideon Levy, follows up on his recent column — one where he blasted the U.S. for continuing to ‘suck up to Israel’ — with an interview on The Real News Network. Here he describes Israel as a country “addicted to the occupation.”
He pleads with the U.S. to be a friend of Israel’s and save it from itself. He considers the relationship between U.S. and Israel as “twisted and unprecedented” in the world. “There is no country in the world that acts like Israel vis a vis the United States — vis a vis dependence on the United States.”
Israel is addicted to the occupation, because it benefits a lot from the occupation — economically, and politically, and above all, because it doesn’t pay any price for the occupation. Israelis are living wonderfully, especially in the last years. They are having a wonderful life, even quite secure life most of the times. There’s no reason to change the status quo from the point of view of Israel. It is very convenient. There’s a total separation between Israel and its occupation. Most of the Israelis have no idea what’s going on there, don’t also care about what’s going on there, have never been there — most of the Israelis. And so why should they bother? The occupation will continue…
Levy believes the U.S. Presidents “who were called friendly to Israel were the worst for Israel.” He singles out George W. Bush as the very worst, “because in his spirit, Israel really had the full liberty to do whatever it wants — settlements, two wars, assassinations …”
Levy comments on the emergence of J Street — the new, left-leaning pro-Israel lobbying group (hoped by many to offer an alternative to the hard-right, extremely powerful AIPAC):
I know there is a change in the Jewish community in the United States, but it is too little, and too late. Still the conservative Jewish establishment is so powerful, and I don’t see signs that it is losing its power. J Street is a wonderful initiative, very promising, but still the power of AIPAC, of the Anti-Defamation League, and other organizations is still very very strong. And I don’t think it’s a question of months or years that this will change dramatically.
Israel is so much not willing to make peace that someone has to push Israel, and the only actor who can push Israel is the United States. This can only happen with American pressure. It will never come from inside Israel — no way. Most Israelis are passive, couldn’t care less, …
The interview is over seven minutes long — definitely worth viewing:
The second part of the interview with Gideon Levy was just released by The Real News Network.
There is no peace process. It’s a joke. There is no peace process, there is some games going on — masquerades — but not a real peace process, because no one has the intention of talking to implement major steps. Israel wants negotiations, because when negotiations are on the pressure on Israel is much smaller, and something is going on, and they are meeting once in two weeks, and then there is a big peace conference, without paying any price. Why not? You only gain. For Israel the negotiations are a win-win situation, because no one intends to implement anything, and we saw it now for 16 years — ever since Oslo. […]
This is the time to put an end to all negotiations, because there is no room for negotiations, because the solution is very clear to everybody. This is the terrible mistake that the Obama Administration did — or they fell into this trap. […]
The alternative to the two-state solution is the one-state solution — which is not a good solution for the Palestinians — mainly for the Palestinians — because there is a big gap between the two societies. And there will not be equality, and not be justice, and therefore at least in the first stage the Palestinians deserve their own state. But I agree to what the PA officials say, that maybe we missed the train, maybe it is too late with almost half a million settlers in E. Jerusalem and the West Bank. […]
Here’s the full second part of the interview: