AlterPolitics New Post

Jeff Halper Breaks Israeli Left Into 3 Groups And Explains Why Each Is Incapable Of Ending The Occupation

by on Monday, October 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm EDT in Middle East, World

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.

Two State Solution: Why A Jewish Democracy Is An Impossibility

by on Monday, March 19, 2012 at 3:04 pm EDT in Middle East, World

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. 

If U.S. Liberals Share Same Values As Israel, Why Do You Applaud Pat Buchanan’s Ouster From MSNBC?

by on Monday, February 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm EDT in Middle East, Politics, World

On Thursday, February 16th, MSNBC effectively dropped its go-to conservative pundit Pat Buchanan, after having suspended him four months earlier, due to the uproar caused by his latest book, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?

The controversy stemmed from one of the book’s premises that America’s identity will cease to exist as it loses its white Christian majority. Buchanan wrote, “America is being transformed into a multiracial, multicultural, multilingual, multiethnic stew of a nation that has no successful precedent in the history of the world.”

Take a look at the names of his chapters to get an idea of just why this book has so inflamed liberal American sensibilities:

1. The Passing of a Superpower
2. The Death of Christian America
3. The Crisis of Catholicism
4. The End of White America
5. Demographic Winter
6. Equality or Freedom?
7. The Diversity Cult
8. The Triumph of Tribalism
9. “The White Party”
10. The Long Retreat
11. The Last Chance

To sell his book, Buchanan appeared on a white-nationalist radio program called The Political Cesspool, which describes itself as representing “a philosophy that is pro-White and … against political centralization.” It says, “We wish to revive the White birthrate above replacement level fertility and beyond to grow the percentage of Whites in the world relative to other races.” 

Buchanan’s attempt to peddle his white Christian-supremacy message to the American public would not stand uncontested. Liberals coalesced around the controversy, arguing that a network that claims to “lean forward” has a responsibility to shun this sort of polarizing and destructive bigotry; not to continue to empower its advocates with a mainstream media platform. 

Progressive groups CREDO Action and quickly gathered 275,000 signatures on a petition, demanding that MSNBC President Phil Griffin and NBC News President Steve Capus fire Buchanan at once.

Last month Griffen consented that he didn’t believe Buchanan’s book “should be part of the national dialogue, much less part of the dialogue on MSNBC.” And so last Thursday, he fired Buchanan. 

After his ouster, Buchanan was invited to appear on right-winger Sean Hannity’s TV program (on Fox News) to defend himself. Attempting to rationalize his beliefs, Buchanan said:

“The year 2042, people had talked about where the European majority in the country, the white majority, would be a minority. Now, there was a cover story in The Atlantic titled ‘The End of White America,’ and this fella who was a professor celebrated it. Bill Clinton went out to Portland State and said by 2050, there’s going to be no racial majority in the country, and everybody applauded.

“So I took up that issue and I said, ‘Wait a minute. This… it’s not known for sure that this is going to be beneficial because I don’t know a country in this day and age where there’s no ethnic majority that is not in danger of coming apart. And my question is, why can everybody else celebrate this and say it’s wonderful, and I can’t even write about it without being blacklisted?”

The Left’s reaction to Buchanan’s beliefs just exemplify how prominent the virtues of inclusiveness and equality are to liberal values. Any Buchanan-like ideology predicated on the belief that demographic shifts (in race, religion, or ethnicity) represents a ‘threat’ to the country, is considered so bigoted, so immoral, so un-American, that all responsible gatekeepers must denounced it, and expunged it from mainstream American discourse.

So why wasn’t there a similar display of outrage by these ‘principled’ liberals, including groups CREDO Action and, when nearly every Democratic member of the U.S. House and Senate gave 29 exuberant standing ovations during Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech last year to a joint session of Congress? This adoration trumped the reception they displayed for our own Democratic U.S. President, who received 25 standing ovations at his State of the Union Address, earlier that year.

And Netanyahu’s and Buchanan’s bigoted views are virtually indistinguishable from one another’s. They each regularly cite potential demographic shifts away from their own religious/ethnic majorities as existential threats to their respective countries.

In fact, Netanyahu likens anything short of a lopsided Jewish-majority in Israel as the literal destruction of Israel. He considers Arab-Israelis to be an existential threat to Israel, in much the same way that Buchanan sees Mexican Americans, African Americans, and other minorities as existential threats to America.

As an example, while speaking at the Herzliya Conference on security, Netanyahu said:

“If there is a demographic problem, and there is, it is with the Israeli Arabs who will remain Israeli citizens,” he said. The Declaration of Independence said Israel should be a Jewish and democratic state, but to ensure the Jewish character was not engulfed by demography, it was necessary to ensure a Jewish majority, he said.

If Israel’s Arabs become well integrated and reach 35-40 percent of the population, there will no longer be a Jewish state but a bi-national one, he said. If Arabs remain at 20 percent but relations are tense and violent, this will also harm the state’s democratic fabric. “Therefore a policy is needed that will balance the two.”


Netanyahu said that the “separation fence” would … help to prevent a “demographic spillover” of Palestinians from the territories.

And yet this obscenely bigoted policy statement — built upon the same rationale used throughout history to incite ethnic cleansing and genocide — does not cause a stir in American liberal circles. In fact, liberal leaders line up enthusiastically to shake Netanyahu’s hand, to pledge their allegiance to Israel, and to repeat (almost mechanically) that Israel and the United States share common values, and that our countries’ interests are identical. 

Our Democratic President, our Democratic Congresspeople, and some of our most popular ‘liberal’ political journalists and pundits either refuse to acknowledge or discuss Netanyahu’s bigoted beliefs and policies, or more often than not, subordinate their own progressive values on equality to his bigoted ones.

Take, for instance, President Obama speaking to the Union for Reform Judaism’s biennial conference:

“We stand with Israel as a Jewish democratic state because we know Israel was born of values that we share. America’s commitment and my commitment to Israel and Israel’s security is unshakable.”

“Israel was born of values that we share” might be true, if you are Pat Buchanan. Think about it, Buchanan’s cardinal sin, which got him tarred/feathered, and ultimately fired, was for insinuating that the U.S. should remain a state with a white Christian majority.

Obama’s commitment above, to Israel as a ‘Jewish’ state, could lead one to reasonably conclude that our President and Buchanan share identical anti-progressive values when it comes to racial, religious, and ethnic equality.

And Netanyahu is far more dangerous than political pundit Pat Buchanan ever was, or ever could be. Buchanan merely whines aloud, or on paper, about losing his idealistic ‘white Christian’ America. Netanyahu actually implements this line of bigotry as Israeli policy, and then states unapologetically that Israel’s very existence depends upon it. 

And this bigotry didn’t just begin with Netanyahu. As he stated in his speech above, it goes back to the founding of Israel. It is the central tenet of Zionism, as a political ideology. The country was founded on this very goal of creating and then solidifying a Jewish majority in a country that was predominately inhabited by Arab non-Jews. 

We see this Buchanan brand of bigotry implemented on the ground today in East Jerusalem and in the West Bank, as Palestinian homes continue to be demolished — entire families made homeless, for having had the audacity of being born as non-Jews. Their lands and their homes wiped clean from the map, and quickly supplanted by Jewish-only settlements, interconnected by Jewish-only roads.

This is ethnic cleansing. 

And any so called ‘liberal’ who subscribes to, defends, or even acquiesces to an ideology that incites or rationalizes ethnic cleansing, has absolutely no ground to stand on when it comes to criticizing Pat Buchanan for merely writing similar extremist opinions down on paper.

Obama’s Veto of UN Resolution On Settlements Harms His Own Standing in World

by on Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 3:04 pm EDT in Egypt, Middle East, World

The Arab world has long suffered as a direct consequence of misguided U.S. policies in the Middle East. From propping up their brutal dictators, to funding and granting immunity to Israel as it colonizes Palestinian lands and bombs its neighbors with impunity, the U.S. has underwritten most of what is wrong in the region. Until recently, […]

Video: Norman Finkelstein Exposes Benny Morris As Propagandist

by on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm EDT in Middle East, World

Here’s a heated debate on Russian Television (h/t Mondoweiss) between Norman Finkelstein and Israel’s ‘famed historian’, Benny Morris. Finkelstein, as always, displays an impressive command of the facts, leaving Morris looking frazzled for much of the debate.  On Gaza, for instance, Finkelstein cites the details of the Goldstone Report (details which had been cross-corroborated by […]

Max Blumenthal Attended Pro-Israel Rally In NYC Celebrating Gaza Attack

by on Monday, December 28, 2009 at 11:43 am EDT in Middle East, World

Max Blumenthal attended a Pro-Israel rally in New York City in celebration of the annihilation of Gaza (Operation Cast Lead).  He interviewed many of the rally attendees to get their perspective on what had just happened. He reran this video on his blog today, under the title: ‘Gaza, Never Forget’ in memory of the Gaza […]

CNN: Israel Ethnically Cleansing Palestinians From Jerusalem At Fastest Rate In History!

by on Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 4:13 pm EDT in Middle East, World

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 […]

Ha’aretz: E.U. Presidency Document Calls For Division Of Jerusalem & Return To 1967 Borders

by on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 5:34 pm EDT in Middle East, World

The pressure continues to mount on the far-right Likudnik government in Israel.  Ha’aretz has just obtained a copy of a document, drafted by the European Union Presidency, which effectively backs a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood, based on the 1967 borders.  The document follows: The world is clearly getting sick and tired of Netanyahu’s refusal […]