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.
Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein: U.S. policy to Israel, Palestine must change
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.
Two State Solution: Why A Jewish Democracy Is An Impossibility
In Peter Beinart’s NY Times Op-Ed, To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements, he begins by painting the picture of a ‘noble’ ideal being attacked by two antithetical extremes:
TO believe in a democratic Jewish state today is to be caught between the jaws of a pincer.
He first points out the threat to Israel’s status as a democracy, namely Israel’s continued occupation and settlement expansion of Palestinian lands, where “millions of West Bank Palestinians are barred from citizenship and the right to vote in the state that controls their lives.”
He then points towards what he feels threatens Israel’s Jewish majority, namely BDS supporters’ calls for “the right of millions of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes,” which if were to happen, would “dismantle Israel as a Jewish state.”
What strikes me as odd, is the fact that Beinart cannot see the blatant incongruity of the two core components of his Utopian ideal for Israel: ‘democratic Jewish’ state.
It is farcical to believe that a two-state solution, even if it prohibited the Palestinians’ right of return (which international law, by the way, accords every human being on the planet), would bring a ‘Jewish Democracy.’
Democracy is a government by the people, as ruled by the majority. If one subgroup within what constitutes ‘the people’ is permitted to enforce discriminatory laws to ensure that their group always enjoys a ruling majority, then the government is not really one of ‘the people’ — i.e. a democracy — but a government of that one subgroup.
Those outside that dominant subgroup, in this case non-Jewish Israelis, could not claim to enjoy democracy inside their own country, because the laws have been stacked against them to ensure they will always remain outnumbered, and thus, their voices forever silenced in government.
To predetermine that ANY group will always remain powerless within their own government is to pervert the very concept of democracy in ways that might even make Vladimir Putin blush.
Liberal Zionists should at least be honest, like Netanyahu has been, and state unequivocally that their notion of Israel’s ‘survival’ is predicated on a country where ONLY Jews will have a voice in government, and all non-Jews effectively silenced by a permanent minority status, which can only be ensured by systematic discrimination.
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If U.S. Liberals Share Same Values As Israel, Why Do You Applaud Pat Buchanan’s Ouster From MSNBC?
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WATCH: Max Blumenthal Discusses Role Of US Media In Normalizing Israel’s Occupation
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