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.
How The U.S. Has Undermined Its Own Vital Interests To Appease Israel At The UN
This move will help to prevent the Palestinians’ cultural-heritage sites and artifacts from being plundered, as Israel continues its efforts to Judaize the occupied territory.
But what might come as a surprise to many in the United States, is that the U.S. Congress created virtual ‘UN poison pills’ in past legislation that automatically damages the U.S.’s own strategic interests the moment Palestinians gain membership at any UN agency:
Legislation dating from 1990 and 1994 mandates a complete cutoff of American financing to any United Nations agency that accepts the Palestinians as a full member. State Department lawyers judged that there was no leeway in the legislation, and no possibility of a waiver, so the United States contribution for 2011 and future years will not be paid.
This means the U.S. (as confirmed by the State Department) will withhold its $80 million annual commitment to UNESCO’s funding (with a $60 million portion of this total being stopped immediately). The U.S. is responsible for 22% of the organization’s total funding.
The Palestinians are reported to be seeking membership in other UN organizations as well, which too would face U.S. funding cuts. These include: UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), World Health Organization (WHO), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and others.
How will this damage U.S. strategic interests?
President of the UN Foundation and former U.S. Senator (D-CO) Timothy Wirth writes that the U.S. will lose its leverage over these international bodies, and with it, the ability to advance America’s interests and ideals around the world. He believes some of America’s global rivals might even volunteer to cover America’s reneged financial commitments, filling its leadership void in the process.
Sen. Wirth explains the significance of UNESCO’s work:
To Americans, UNESCO is best known for designating World Heritage Sites. It also leads global efforts to bring clean water to the poor, promotes educational and curriculum building in the developing world, and manages a tsunami early warning system in the Pacific, among other important tasks. This critical work would be jeopardized if UNESCO’s top funder stops paying its bills.
UNESCO’s director general, Irena Bokova, reveals that the U.S. funding cut will directly impact America’s security interests in Afghanistan and Iraq, where UNESCO is “helping governments and communities prepare for life after the withdrawal of U.S. military forces.”
Sen. Wirth details how U.S. economic interests abroad will be negatively impacted when it cuts its funding for WIPO:
This is a lesser known UN agency that serves American businesses and brands by setting global standards for copyrights and adjudicating cross border patent disputes. In the last year alone, dozens of major American companies brought cases before WIPO — the American Automobile Association, Apple, The North Face, Costco and Facebook to name just a few. If Palestine joins WIPO, the United States will have to pull out, limiting its ability to steer policies in ways that advance American economic interests and create jobs here at home.
He explains how IAEA is critical to U.S. national security interests:
In recent years the IAEA has been a critical part of American attempts to constrain the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea. In 2006, the Bush administration successfully lobbied other members of the IAEA executive board to refer Iran’s nuclear program to the Security Council for sanctions. Should the United States stop paying membership dues to the IAEA–which it could be forced to do under current legislation if Palestine is admitted as a member — the United States would give up our vote on the executive board. It would literally lose a seat at the table during the next nuclear crisis.
And he stresses the importance of WHO:
The WHO works closely with the United States–particularly the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — to keep infectious diseases like the Avian Flu from reaching our shores. If the Palestinians are admitted to the WHO, that cooperation would have to stop under the current law.
Here is the irony: These legislative ‘poison pills,’ so harmful to U.S. interests, were passed entirely for the benefit of Israel, and yet Israel has no similar legislation of its own to trigger a cut in funding for UNESCO (Israel contributes 3% of the organization’s funding). In fact, while U.S. international interests have been marred by this automatic funding cut, Israel is rationally mulling over what it might do. Because, of course, only a fool would rush to action, and risk harming his own vital interests in the process.
When the U.S. State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland was asked why the Administration felt it was even necessary to vote against this Palestinian membership bid at UNESCO, she stated that it undermines the ‘peace process.’
The peace process?
The U.S.-lead Israeli-Palestinian peace process was effectively buried in December 2010 after Benjamin Netanyahu refused Obama’s unprecedented offer of an additional $3B in military aid, plus a guarantee that the U.S. would veto any UN Security Council Resolutions against Israel for 1 year, regardless of what Israel might do; all this for a mere 3-month extension of a partial moratorium on Israel’s illegal settlement expansions.
This rejection made it clear to the entire world that Israel has no intentions of ever ceding any part of the occupied territories to the Palestinians to foment peace. No one, outside the Obama Administration, pretends the U.S.-led Middle East peace process is still a legitimate undertaking. Yet, this is the only excuse the Administration can come up with to explain why it continues to sabotage America’s own vital interests in the name of Israel.
Just as banking lobbyists have seized control of our political establishment, making it impossible for politicians to regulate them, or to hold them to account for bringing the entire U.S. economy to its knees, the Israel Lobby has effectively hijacked our political establishment with regards to U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Will it take an #OccupyAIPAC movement to ensure that U.S. politicians put the national security interests of American citizens — all 100% of us — above the interests of a foreign country?
Breaking News: U.S. Threatens Aid To Israel In Pursuit Of Peace Deal
In speaking with PBS on the eve of his visit to the Middle East, U.S. special envoy George J. Mitchell delivered an unveiled threat to Israel:
George Mitchell threatened that his country would freeze its aid to Israel if the Jewish state failed to advance peace talks with the Palestinians and a two-state solution.
Mitchell clarified in an interview to the PBS network that the United States would use incentives or sanctions against both sides.
According to American law, Mitchell said, the US can freeze its support for aid to Israel. He added that all options must remain open and that the sides must be convinced about what their important interests are.
The US envoy noted that some progress had been made and that his country would continue its efforts to resume the negotiations.
The American guarantees allow Israel to raise funds at low interest rates and improve the Jewish state’s credit rating. The last time the US threatened to freeze the guarantees was during the term of President George Bush Sr. and former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
Mitchell is reported to be delivering letters to both the Israelis and the Palestinians, outlining U.S. positions, and offering “guarantees” it hopes will relaunch final-status negotiations.
Let’s hope the Obama Administration understands that Israel will never again take them seriously if this turns out to be just another empty threat. I predict Netanyahu will remain defiant — he’ll call Obama’s bluff on suspending U.S. aid — knowing full well that the U.S. Congress is much more likely to take its marching orders from the Israel Lobby than from a weakened President.
Yes, I’m anticipating another embarrassing display of U.S. impudence (i.e. more Netanyahu intransigence with Obama ultimately cowering away from the threat of suspending U.S. aid) . Let’s face it, Obama has yet to show a hint of fortitude on any single policy initiative. Ultimately, he subjugates to entrenched interests — that’s his governing style. Don’t expect him to finally grow a pair when pitted against the formidable Israel Lobby.
Mondoweisse has transcribed a portion of the transcript of George J. Mitchell telling Charlie Rose, after much prodding on Rose’s part, that the U.S. has the option of withholding aid at its disposal. Adam Horowitz seems to believe it’s just a hollow threat that never would have been made without Rose pressing him on it.
Here’s the video of Charlie Rose and George J. Mitchell having this discussion.
U.S. Pushing Mideast Peace Deal ‘Guaranteed’ To Be Completed in 2 Years
Several news sources are reporting that the US Administration is about to propose a new Middle East peace initiative whereby Israel and the Palestinians would resume final status talks — suspended since Operation Cast Lead (Israel’s military excursion into Gaza) last year. The proposal would be based on the following parameters: 1. The issue of […]
CNN: Israel Ethnically Cleansing Palestinians From Jerusalem At Fastest Rate In History!
A startling story by CNN shows how Israel has ramped up its Zionist policies of cleansing Palestinians from East Jerusalem. Israel’s Ministry of Interior reported that in 2008 alone, Israel revoked residency permits of 4,577 Palestinians, originally from East Jerusalem. Compare that 2008 number with the number of Palestinians — 8,558 total — who had […]
Israel Minister Cancels UK Trip Fearing Arrest for War Crimes
The legal ramifications of Israel’s 22-day pummelling of Gaza – resulting in the deaths of 1,400 Palestinians – continue to be felt by its leaders: Israel’s vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon recently cancelled a planned trip to London over fears that he could be put on trial for alleged war crimes, his spokesman said on Monday. British activists seek his arrest […]