Tag Archives: Jeff Halper

Palestinian Struggles for Rights and a Political End-Game

The status quo in Palestine & Israel is an interminable nightmare for Palestinians living under military occupation for 70+ years, and a shameful failure of the human rights framework adopted and promoted during that same time.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

The Israeli declaration of independence in May 1948 was the Palestinians’ Nakba (disaster, catastrophe).

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December 1948) was (is?) the world’s beacon of hope, an aspiration for a better life for every person.

 

Our failure (the international community’s failure) to secure a just and lasting resolution in Palestine & Israel cannot be swept under the rug and forgotten. It’s an indictment upon all of us.

Sam Bahour, a Palestinian American living in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, captured a succinct history of the military occupation and the current struggle when he spoke with his daughter. (He shares that beginning at 18:50).

How does the unbearable status quo change?

In reality, the status quo is bearable to Israel and that government has no incentive to change it.

In reality, the international human rights regime is impotent and won’t change the status quo.

In reality, the U.S. is a hindrance, not a facilitator, to ending the status quo.

In reality, the Palestinian political leaders (Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Fatah) have proven themselves to be incapable of rising to the challenge and have not earned the respect and recognition from the Palestinian people they purport to represent.

There are individuals within Palestine and Israel who are asking and answering that question: how does the unbearable status quo change?

Jeff Halper, an American Jew who has lived most of his adult life in Israel, thinks the two state solution is no longer feasible. He and his compatriots are currently traveling around the world to build support for the One Democratic State program.

Sam Bahour frames the question differently. It’s not a matter of two states or one state, but a matter of political and individual rights in either case. What Sam fears is that more time will be lost (time measured in decades) as people and governments negotiate territorial jurisdictions while the rights of Palestinians continue to take a back-seat in those discussions. Sam writes:

We must get political. Civil society must build the necessary alliances to bring Palestinian rights to the forefront of the international agenda on Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution. Today, we have no choice but to accept the apartheid one-state reality that we are living in now, and keep the two-state door open, while simultaneously bringing the issue of rights to the forefront of our demands. Our strongest ally is international civil society, but we cannot stop at civil society; it would be stopping short of affecting change. Instead we must leverage the widespread support of civil society in all corners of the world to get states to act, politically and otherwise, to support our just and internationally aligned struggle for freedom and independence.

In May 2016, Mr. Bahour spelled out the dangers and opportunities available to the Palestinian civil society in changing the status quo.  (The paper is available here.) I hope the next generation of Palestinian leaders (whoever and wherever they may be) will read the paper.

In this paper, I will argue that a rights-based approach is the most conducive one to the current Palestinian national agenda and that a political end-game cannot be open-ended. Moreover, I will also argue that the struggle for national self-determination cannot come at the expense of the struggle for rights – and vice versa. I view these two processes as simultaneous dynamics: one process focuses on the rights of the individual (political, human and civil rights), while the second focuses on the rights of the nation (national rights, specifically self-determination). My argument is based on the mutuality of these two processes: the ‘individual’ sphere centered on rights, and the ‘national’ sphere focused on independence.

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Filed under Israel, Nakba, Occupation, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations, Video

To Dream the Impossible Dream: One Democratic State

Iris Keltz is a member and cofounder of Jewish Voice for Peace in Albuquerque, NM and the author of Unexpected Bride in the Promised Land: Journeys in Palestine & Israel, an award winning book available in print and Ebook.  Iris extends an invitation (see below) to a zoom chat on May 7th about the proposal for a One Democratic State in Israel.

Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to listen to Andy Williams (1971), watch the zoom chat on May 7, and read two books (Iris’s and Deb Reich’s No More Enemies and here.)

Iris Keltz explains the zoom meeting:

Jeff Halper and Awad Abdelfattah, two leaders of the One Democratic State Campaign in Israel will be speaking on May 7th at 2:00 pm Eastern time.  Here’s the link to connect to the Zoom meeting.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85769809039?pwd=cGhnOXl0djhhMkMrVytpVENBcC9Ydz09.

Awad Abdelfattah is former General Secretary of the National Democratic Assembly party (Balad in Hebrew), one of three parties in the Israeli Knesset that represents Israel’s Palestinian 1.4 million minority population.

Dr. Jeff Halper is head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and author of War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification (2015).

Are these men tilting at windmills, dreaming an impossible dream? Both Abdelfattah and Halper believe that for the sake of future generations of Israelis and Palestinians a single democratic state is the best way forward, albeit something that might not happen in our life time. They agree that in order to dismantle the current settler-colonial regime, a detailed political plan is necessary. Halper, who once reluctantly accepted the idea of two-states, pointed out that “BDS” (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) is a strategy— not an endgame.

In spite of the fact that Palestinian citizens of Israel (aka ’48 Palestinians) are second class citizens, their significance and influence has long been underestimated and undervalued. They are a rising force in the Knesset and in emerging grassroots initiatives related to the containment of COVID-19. Abdelfattah proudly pointed out that 17% of doctors in Israel are Palestinians who are caring for people during this frightening pandemic regardless of ethnicity or religion.

The strong Palestinian middle class in Israel can be attributed to the value they place on education. Since 1948, they have suffered the loss of ancestral lands, homes and villages. Most families have relatives in refugee camps around the Middle East. The Nakba has continued for them as well as for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. They expose the internal nature of Israeli apartheid. However, Abdelfattah remains open to working with Progressive Jewish-Israelis. He expressed great regret for the end of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid and credits this Jewish-American as having started a powerful social justice movement supported by a majority of Muslim-Americans.

In order to promote the dream of a single democratic state, a critical mass of Palestinians and Israelis is essential. At least 1,000 Palestinians are needed to sign on to this agreement, a seemingly modest number. Once embraced by the PLO, this idea is typically rejected by Israel because of “security concerns” where control of the military is the most important question for the one-state.

According to Halper, the Israeli psyche has become more Fascist and more right wing. It was profoundly disappointing to hear that even among progressive Israelis the idea of one democratic state is not strong. Palestinian-Israelis remain divided. Abdelfattah emphasized the importance of unifying ’48 Palestinians with West Bank Palestinians who are further oppressed by the Palestinian Authority, and with Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza. Arguably both movements are essential and can be worked on simultaneously.

Being an idealistic pragmatist, Halper pointed out that different models are available for the greater Middle East. “Consider bio-regionalism, bi-national, a confederation, etc. The possibilities are limited to our imagination.” Both leaders agree that the idea must be framed in a way that is acceptable to both people. Words like “secular” or “religious” should be avoided. “One person, one vote” is a more neutral description. Unfortunately human rights and international law have no teeth and the impossible dream seems to be slipping further into the future.

“We don’t even have a name for this new country,” said Halper, leaving me to ponder about the significance of names. To name someone or something is to recognize their humanity. And that’s just what is needed.

Recommended read— “The Wall & the Gate” by Michael Sfard, an Israeli attorney who represents various Israeli and Palestinian human rights and peace organizations, movements and activists.

 

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Filed under Book Review, COVID-19, Israel, Nakba, Peaceful, People, Politics, Uncategorized, Video

Who is a Zionist?

Labels are meant to elucidate, clarify and explain but I suspect that the ‘Zionist’ label is not as helpful as I originally thought.

Merriam-Webster defines ‘Zionism’ as

an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel.

And a ‘Zionist’ is someone who is

a supporter of Zionism; a person who believes in the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.

In the context of Uri Avnery’s recent hospitalization, I expressed sadness that this Israeli peace activist may be on his death bed because I believe Israel needs more voices like his.  A friend countered that Uri Avnery is a Zionist and so everything he says is suspect.

Avnery, 94, has written opinion pieces on a regular basis for Haaretz. He is a former Knesset member and a founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement who worked as editor-in-chief of the Haolam Hazeh weekly. He has been an advocate for the past 70 years for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Uri Avnery

An activist friend of mine informs me that —

The definition of a Zionist among Palestinian solidarity activists is any person who believes that it is legitimate that there be a country for Jews in historic Palestine. Dorothy Naor, a prominent Israeli-American (native of San Francisco) Palestinian solidarity activist who has lived in Israel for more than 50 years and knows Uri Avnery personally, says that Avnery is definitely a Zionist.

I believe that definition — “any person who believes that it is legitimate that there be a country for Jews in historic Palestine” — is counter-productive and undermines the goal (as I understand it) of securing for Palestinians the human rights and the most basic right of self-determination that justice and international law demands.

Using that broad definition —

Former President Jimmy Carter, author of Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid, and We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land — A Plan That Will Work is a Zionist.

Jeff Halper, author of An Israeli in Palestine–Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel and the founder of ICAHD, is a Zionist.

This broad definition of who qualifies as a Zionist must absorb every Israeli living in the State of Israel today because their mere presence affirms the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

In fact, some Palestinians I know in Gaza would be considered Zionists by this awkward definition because, although they detest the way in which the State of Israel was founded 70 years ago and they recognize the ongoing trauma of the Nakba, they have come to terms with the legitimacy of the State of Israel and wish to work towards a One State solution where every person in the Holy Land can live in peace with equal rights for all.

For that matter, I’m a Zionist!

I believe the injustices perpretrated on the indigenous people of Palestine was a historic wrong that needs to be rectified, and justice needs to be secured for the millions of Palestinian refugees in the occupied Palestinian Territories as well as in the diaspora.  I also believe that Americans are uniquely responsible for the ongoing Nakba because of our disgusting “special relationship” with Israel.

I’m a Zionist because I also recognize that the State of Israel exists, it will and should continue to exist, that securing justice for Palestinians in the 21st Century doesn’t require eliminating the State of Israel, and this isn’t a zero-sum game where one must suffer for the other to thrive.  Both Palestinians and Israelis deserve our empathy and love in this very difficult time.

I also fear for the future of the State of Israel, not because I think Iran or its Arab neighbors pose an existential threat to Israel’s security.  I believe the government and powers in the State of Israel are behaving in ways that cast a shadow on the country’s own viability in the future.

So when I use the term “Zionist” in social media or elsewhere, please consider that my definition is drawn more narrowly than perhaps many other Palestine solidarity activists draw it.

A “Zionist” is someone who supports the occupation, supports the Israeli apartheid regime, and someone who believes that Israel’s future requires the subjugation and humiliation of millions of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, in Jordan and elsewhere in the diaspora.

I can’t wait until the first Palestinian-American Congresswoman visits her family in the West Bank. Israel’s security establishment (COGAT) is going to be apoplectic.

 

 

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“Go back where you came from!”

Within the past 24 hours, I’ve heard two passionate versions of the ugly refrain “Go back where you came from!”    

Mind you, neither was directed to me personally.  I feel very welcomed in Gaza.  In fact, I think “welcome” must be in the lexicon of every taxi driver, shopkeeper and student in Gaza.

But two Palestinians, one from East Jerusalem who now lives in the United States, and the other living in Gaza, both told me they think Jews in Israel should “Go back where they came from!”

In the first instance, I posted this photo on my Facebook page with the following note:

Jeff Halper

Jeff Halper in front of sign “Join With Us”

Lora wrote:  An Israeli and a Palestinian with their grandchildren who want to live in peace with each other. Jeff Halper was originally from Minnesota, USA ….. a long-time resident of Israel. Kudos Jeff. Minnesota’s enlightenment (at least in the 1950-60-70) is paying off.

Jeff Halper is an Israeli Jew who founded the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.  Jeff was born in Minnesota (same state where I was raised) in 1946 and emigrated to Israel in 1973.   In 2006, he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, certainly more deserving than Obama in my humble opinion.

A Palestinian now living in the USA responded indignantly to my Facebook post.

Please stop spreading this propaganda! The “enlightened” thing would be for Jeff to return to the US and stop assuming Jewish entitlement and privilege that allows him to take the place of indigenous families!! Your comment about “refusing to be enemies” is a cuddly Zionist mantra that creates an illusion of parity in a situation marked by domination, oppression, and daily savage violence by a military state!

This writer wants Jeff to go back where he came from!  Regardless of the fact that he has lived in Israel for 40 years and worked tirelessly against the Israeli occupation for most of that time, speaking around the world and educating thousands of people about the inhumane and destructive policies of house demolitions, she can’t envision a world where Jews and Palestinians may live together in peace one day.

In the second instance, a well-educated Palestinian man with two advanced university degrees told me that all of historic Palestine will eventually be returned to its rightful owners.  The Qur’an says so.  I asked “What will happen to the people currently living in Israel?”    “That’s not my concern,” he said. “They should go back where they came from!”  

There is no denying the pain that still exists.  The Nakba is fresh in the memories of Palestinians — for those who survived the catastrophe and their descendants.  On the walls in Gaza, I see daily reminders of their longing to return to their homes and villages.

Palestinian holding his key to return.

Palestinian holding his key to return.

The key (miftah) to open the door to return.

The key (miftah) to open the door to return.

The 65- year occupation has not erased these memories. Moreover, Israeli soldiers and government officials seem hellbent on reinforcing these injustices, reminding the roughly 4 million Palestinians in the occupied territories on a daily basis that they don’t belong here.

Is it too much to dream and hope that Palestinians and Israelis will one day be able to live together peacefully?  Maybe everyone should just go back where they came from.

That Garden of Eden is going to fill up pretty darn quickly!

Garden of EdenLucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553)

Garden of Eden
Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553)

 

 

 

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