by Jeff Warner
Jeff Halper is an American who moved to Israel in the 1970s to affirm his Jewish identity, and has lived and worked in Israel ever since. He has been an on-the-ground activist resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestine for 20 or more years. Halper is the director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions headquartered in Jerusalem. He points out that the over 18,000 Palestinian homes that the Israelis have demolished since 1967 is at the heart of the occupation and the destruction of Palestinian life.
Halper gave talks in the greater Los Angeles region on Sunday, June 29, 2008. He appeared at The Workmen’s Circle in Los Angeles, the Pilgrim Place Retreat Center in Claremont, and the Cousins Club of Orange County. Halper’s main points are summarized under three headings: Resolving the Israel-Palestinian Conflict, Understanding the Basis of U.S. Support for Israel, and Israeli vs. Diaspora Jewish Identity. Halper did not cover every point mentioned below in each of his talks.
Resolving the Israel-Palestinian Conflict
Halper notes that neither the two-state solution nor the one-state solution is possible. He transcends the problem by suggesting a regional solution.
Halper’s analysis starts with recognition that any solution must satisfy Palestinian aspirations and resolve Israel’s dilemma. Palestinians have two aspirations: (1) a national identity and (2) economic viability. Israeli’s have three aspirations: (1) a Jewish state, (2) a democratic state, and (3) a “Greater Israel” (Eretz Yisreal) in all of Mandate Palestine, but recognize that can only achieve two of the three. Most Israelis have given-up the goal of a Greater Israel, but significant segments of the population, namely the settlers, are determined to achieve a Greater Israel and have given-up their democracy.
The two-state solution of an economically viable Palestinian state along side Israel is not possible because the footprint of the occupation – i.e., the settlements, Israeli-only roads, and the wall – breaks-up any future Palestinian state up into four large fragments that are known as “Bantustans,’ and preclude economic viability. The only solution is for the United States to “order” Israel to end the occupation and abandon the settlements, but that does not seem to be politically possible.
The one-state solution is a “non-starter.” A one-state solution will immediately displace Jews as the majority of Israel’s population, thus terminating the Jewish nature of the state. Jewish Israeli’s will not accept that because they are committed to a Jewish state. In any case, there is no organized support for a one among Palestinians living in Palestine.
Halper proposes a regional solution consisting of two parts that must occur simultaneously. In one part, the Palestinians would accept a Bantustan state to achieve their national identity. In the second part, a regional consortium of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria would provide the Palestinians with economic viability and freedom of travel. (see Halper’s 2007 essay titled “Israel-Palestine: Apartheid or Confederation?” at http://icahdusa.org/2007/85).
French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently suggested a Mediterranean union that is a similar to Halper’s regional solution (see, e.g., http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article3736045.ece).
Understanding the Basis of U.S. Support for Israel
Halper rhetorically asks why Israel has such strong bipartisan support from the American government. He admits that the pro-Israel lobby has some influence, as does the Christian Zionists (like Reverend Hagee and the Christians United for Israel). But Halper argues that those two forces are not enough to explain the enormity of support Israel receives relative to the total of U.S. foreign aid. Halper reminded us that the United States has its own interests that are not always the same its support for Israel.
Halper notes that as long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved, it will remain central to anti-American sentiment in the Arab and Muslim world. For example, Bin Laden cites the conflict in each of his messages. This was pointed out by the Iraq Study Group. So resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be central to American foreign policy. But the unconditional, bipartisan U.S. support for Israel actually props-up the occupation and perpetuates the conflict.
Halper suggests that the “elephant in the room” that explains such apparently self-defeating U.S. policy is the military. He says that Israel provides the U.S with three things:
Halper quotes from Naomi Klein’s 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism to suggest that the U.S. and Israel have bought-into the idea of extreme laissez-faire capitalism. Under this concept, as many as half the earth’s population is “surplus” and must be “warehoused.” Halper suggests that this warehousing is the underlying driver for the war on terror and world-wide counter insurgency.
Israel is a world leader in counter-insurgency techniques. Israel uses the West Bank and Gaza as an experimental laboratory; with four million Palestinians living there as unwitting test subjects.
Israel is also leading the world in military applications of nanotechnology. Halper fears that new Israeli-developed nano-weapons will be used against all people on earth and completely destroy any privacy.
Halper asserts that spreading counter insurgency techniques, especially nanotechnology, is a direct threat to American’s civil liberties.
Halper made the point that too many US Jews don't have a positive notion of what it means to be a diaspora Jew. Rather they base their Jewish identity on a mythical vision of Israel. He emphasized that Israel is not a myth; it is a real country with positive and negative aspects. Halper said that diaspora and Israeli Judaism are separate and the Judaism in each is developing along a separate track. His advice to Jewish Americans is to “get your own [Jewish] life” and let Israel go.
Halper ended his talk on a positive note by describing the worldwide awakening to the plight of the Palestinians.