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.