Will 2011 Bring the End of the Israeli State as We Know It?
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I first heard of Jeff Halper at Israel-Palestine-related events, where people would ask me if I was related to him. It took me 30 seconds of Googling to realize that I’d love to be related to this Minnesotan anthropologist, activist, writer, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and founder and coordinator of Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions (ICAHD).
Though kindred spirits, we don’t seem to come from the same Halper stock. But we are Facebook friends, and it was through a Facebook message that Jeff informed me he’d be coming to the U.S. to raise awareness and money for ICAHD and conduct research on his next book on the Israeli arms industry. During our Halper-on-Halper interview, the non-Zionist explained why he had to move to Israel, how the most hawkish Israeli politicians are the biggest anti-Zionists, and how the recent events in Egypt are fulfilling his prediction that 2011 will be the end of Israel as we know it.
Katie Halper: What does ICAHD do?
Jeff Halper: I’ve lived in Israel now for 40-something years by now and I’ve been involved in the peace movement from the very beginning. We started the ICAHD in the middle of the 1990s, in the context of Netanyahu’s first election. Most of us knew there was no peace process anyway, but now it was really clear. Netanyahu’s election was the wake-up call. So a number of us from different organizations got together to think about how to re-engage resistance to the occupation. And we went and talked to Palestinians and asked them what their priorities were. We asked them what they would like us to work on, what they’d like to work with us on. And the issue of house demolitions always came up.
So we took up that issue. It’s a powerful approach for a number of reasons. It’s very visual. The occupation can become very abstract. But here’s a family, here’s a bulldozer, this is their story. It’s something people can relate to. It’s also a very important source of solidarity with the Palestinians. And it’s a vehicle to show how the occupation works and to re-frame the conflict, which is really important. Israel has succeeded in capturing the public discussion, the discourse. The Israeli case can be put out in three seconds: it is a small Western democracy (read white), besieged by Arab Muslim terrorists.
That’s it, you got every buzzword in there. it’s clear--even Glenn Beck can get it--and it's compelling. It fits into the clash of the civilizations theory, the idea of the us versus them, the good guys against the bad guys, the white people against everyone else. It reduces the entire conflict to terrorism, which itself is such a loaded term. So it effectively cuts off every type of discussion because if we get into a discussion on the basis of Israeli framing, you lose. The minute somebody says, “We're defending ourselves against terrorism,” what are you going to say to that?
It’s a trap and, of course, it deflects all attempts to get at what the conflict is really about and holding Israel accountable.
What’s left out of Israel’s framing is the word “occupation.” Israel denies it has an occupation. So you've got to re-frame the conflict. Out of the 25,000 homes that have been demolished, almost none of them have been demolished over security. Here in these photos, are men in front of demolished houses. If these were terrorists they wouldn't be there. They’d be in jail or they'd be dead. They wouldn't be just hanging around. The knee-jerk reaction if you’re coming from Israeli framing is these are houses of terrorists.