Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Jeff Halper of ICAHD - The Myth of the "Generous Offer"

Today is Day 14,263 of the Maintenance of the Immoral (and Illegal) West Bank Settlements and almost the 40th anniversary of the start of the immoral (and illegal) occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Micah.6:8 “He has told you, O man, Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God

Jeff Halper is the coordinator of the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) a non-violent, direct-action group originally established to oppose and resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories. From "About Us" on its website "As our activists gained direct knowledge of the brutalities of the Occupation, we expanded our resistance activities to other areas - land expropriation, settlement expansion, by-pass road construction, policies of 'closure' and 'separation,' the wholesale uprooting of fruit and olive trees and more. The fierce repression of Palestinian efforts to 'shake off' the Occupation following the latest Intifada has only added urgency to our efforts."

As I mentioned in the last post, I had the privilege to listen to a presentation by him two years ago. He is not only intelligent and full of insight, he is extremely courageous as he stands in front of Israeli bulldozers intent on destroying the homes of Palestinians for reasons unrelated to security.

While it is beyond belief that anyone would demolish the home of an innocent family, what ICAHD has felt the need to do is to extend its scope to other despicable acts such as the wholesale uprooting of olive trees owned by Palestinians, the primary source of income of many Palestinians, again for reasons not related to security. When you read in this Blog, as you will often about incidents in which representatives of the Israeli government or Jewish squatters destroy olive trees, keep in mind this quote from the Torah:

Deuteronomy 20:19 “When you besiege a city … you shall not destroy its (fruit) trees … You eat of them, do not cut them down; for man’s life depends on the trees of the field.

Here is an Op-Ed piece by Jeff Halper with his analysis of the "generous offer" and an article about his appearances both of which appeared in The Day, a newspaper in Connecticut.

For more information about ICAHD and how you can support its efforts, go to

The Day
Published on 3/15/2005

In peace-making, as in law, business and other areas of life, the devil is in the details. The crux of the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is not over a Palestinian a state. The "quartet" of the Middle East Road Map - Europe, Russia, the U.N. and even the U.S. – all agree that a Palestinian state must emerge. Even Ariel Sharon himself, the father of the settlements and a fervent proponent of the Greater Land of Israel ideology, has come to understand that he needs a Palestinian state in order to relieve Israel of the four million Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. No, the problem is not a Palestinian state but a viable Palestinian state.

Consider this: Israel has deliberately de-developed the West Bank and Gaza over the past four decades so that today all the Palestinians have is a scorched earth: No economy (70 percent of the Palestinians live on less than $2 a day), no agriculture (Israel has cut down a million olive and fruit trees since 1967), no homes for the young generation (Israel has demolished 12,000 Palestinian homes since the occupation began). Add to that the fact that 60 percent of the Palestinians are under the age of 18. These young people have never known freedom, only military occupation. They are brutalized, traumatized, under-educated, with few skills and little hope of employment. Then add in the fact that whatever Palestinian state emerges, small as it may be, will be responsible for the thousands of refugees, themselves impoverished, who will come home. Even President Bush, distinguished by his total support for Sharon, said recently in Brussels that a Palestinian state had to be "truly viable." "A state of scattered territories will not work," he stated emphatically.

So the issue is a viable Palestinian state. At the end of the Oslo Process then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak was supposed to have extended a "generous offer" of 95 percent of the occupied territories to the Palestinians. It's not true (the 95 percent figure came from a Bill Clinton proposal that both the Israelis and Palestinians accepted, but which never materialized), but let's say it was. Ninety-five percent indeed sounds "generous." But what about the other 5 percent? What about viability? Israel, it turns out, could relinquish 95% and still control the borders, freedom of movement, Palestinian water resources, the Jerusalem area (around which tourism, Palestine's major industry, is concentrated), the airspace and even the communications sphere. The Palestinians could get 95 percent of the occupied territories and still be locked into a truncated prison-state.

Offer was a setup

Barak's "generous offer," then, was a setup. Though it was never made, Barak insisted that it had. Since Arafat did not say "yes" to Barak's hint of a generous offer - especially before nailing down just what 95 percent meant in terms of sovereignty and viability - he was demonized by Barak and later Sharon. "See?" said Barak, "the Palestinians are the intractable ones. Israel has no partner for peace. I have exposed Arafat as a terrorist." Armed with that, the in-coming Sharon government suppressed the Palestinian uprising against the prison where they are today confined behind 26-foot walls while further expanding Israel into the occupied territories under the cover of "security."

It now seems like Abu Mazen's turn to be set up for another "generous offer." The euphoria generated around the "moderate and pragmatic" Abu Mazen in this "post-Arafat era" has put him in a corner. Sharon "generous offer" will consist of Gaza plus 75 percent of the West Bank and a symbolic presence in East Jerusalem. Sounds not bad, but what of viability? Sharon has worked tirelessly and openly for a "cantonized" Palestinian entity for the past quarter century, always rejecting the notion of a viable Palestinian state. Nothing has changed this on the ground. If he says "yes" and Israel's massive settlement blocs in the West Bank remain, he has become the quisling leader Israel seeks. If he says "no," Sharon will pounce: "See? The Palestinians refused another generous offer. They do not want peace." And Israel, let off the hook, will be free to expand its control of the occupied territories for years to come.

The Chinese expression has it: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." The "generous offer" worked once. It is our responsibility as those who seek a just and lasting peace to ensure that it not happen again. Viability is the devil in the details.

Jeff Halper is the coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

Israel-Palestine Conflict Is Called A 'Human Rights Challenge To Us All'
Education Reporter
The Day
Published on 3/7/2005

Old Lyme - An activist for non-violence said Sunday that peace can be achieved in the Israel-Palestine conflict through a global commitment to human rights. Jeff Halper, a Jewish American who is the coordinating director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, said this is possible because basic human rights both transcend and join diverse religious beliefs.

"If, in the light of day, right in our faces, the (Israeli) occupation wins and almost four million Palestinians are confined and imprisoned behind 26-foot walls, a new apartheid can emerge," said Halper. "It compromises human rights and makes a mockery of religious values." Calling himself as an "engaged anthropologist," Halper said his group seek peace through nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience to the Israeli Occupation Authorities. The group opposes the demolition of Palestinian homes, settlement expansion, land and water confiscation and a separation/barrier wall. Halper has taught at Haifa and Ben Gurion Universities in Israel.

Halper delivered a sermon called "The Israel-Palestine Conflict: A Human Rights Challenge to Us All" as part of an Interfaith Worship Service Sunday morning at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. During his sermon, Halper said two elements "blur the sacred and secular" because they are essential to both religion and human rights: that human dignity must be preserved because humans are created in image of god; and, that humans can distinguish between right and wrong.

Halper said that he stands in front of Israeli bulldozers ready to demolish homes because he is in a "privileged position as a Jew:" Israelis would shoot a Palestinian attempting the same civil disobedience. He said his group also helps Palestinians to reconstruct their homes as a sign of "political solidarity and resistance."

He said 12,000 homes have been demolished in the occupied territories since 1967. He called on people to oppose the United States sales of arms and bulldozers to Israel and called on Jewish organizations worldwide to oppose occupation and construction of a separation wall.

At a discussion following the service, some criticized Halper's presentation as "biased" because he neglected to address civilians killed by Palestinian suicide bombers or the Israeli proposal to withdrawal from Gaza and four West Bank settlements.

Halper said "any attack on civilians is unacceptable." But he said terrorism's central place in news coverage illustrates how Israel has been able to "frame" perceptions of the conflict. He said Israel is a nuclear power with U.S. backing "who portrays itself as a victim, when it is not."

He also said the withdrawal plan was a diversion, meant to "put the peace process in formaldehyde" by drawing attention away from flashpoints and caging Palestinians behind the barrier wall.

Halper also discussed global perceptions Saturday at a retreat at the Voluntown Peace Farm hosted by the Westerly Friends Meeting. The committee is a member of the trust supporting the farm, which is a gathering place for peace advocates.

Halper appeared with representatives from the American Friends Service Committee, who has an international office in Jerusalem and is a partner of Halper's group.

Halper's sermon in Old Lyme comes one month before First Congregational Church will sponsor a Tree of Life Journey to Israel and Palestine with Jews, Muslims and Christians.

"When you think of the enormity of the crisis, you ask, 'What can we, in New London County do, it can be so overwhelming," said Imran Ahmed, a member of the Islamic Center of New London who will travel with the group. "But when you think of the ocean, it is made of single drops of water. If communities come together, we can be an ocean."

Deutoronomy 16:20 – “Justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which God gave you” and the footnote in the 1980 Hertz Edition “(T)here is international justice, which demands respect for the personality of every national group, and proclaims that no people can of right be robbed of its national life or territory, its language or spiritual heritage.

No comments: