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Jeff Halper says that the Israeli public does not generally put the cycles of violence with Gaza and the West Bank in the context of decades-long military occupation, and that this leads to support for further domination of the Palestinians

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ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore.

A hundred thousand Gazan residents were warned to evacuate their homes as Israel prepared to launch more airstrikes against this Gaza Strip and called for an additional 8,000 reservists to participate in a now nine-day-long offensive against the Gaza Strip. Palestinian deaths have reached 214, according to sources cited by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and four boys were reportedly killed on a Gaza beach due to shelling from an Israeli naval ship. This comes a day after Hamas objected the Egyptian-proposed ceasefire, saying it would only agree if Israel ended its blockade on the Gaza Strip, allowed an opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, and released Hamas prisoners, who were rearrested during IDF raids throughout the West Bank last month. And the latest report for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that 79 schools and 23 health facilities and Gaza have sustained damage, and at least 25,000 children whose families experienced death, injury, or loss of homes are in need of specialized psychosocial support.

Here to give an analysis of the situation is Jeff Halper. He is the cofounder and director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He is also the author of many books, including An Israeli and Palestine: Resisting Possession, Redeeming Israel and Obstacles to Peace: A Reframing of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict.

Thanks for joining us, Jeff.


WORONCZUK: So you’re in Jerusalem right now. Let’s get the latest update on what’s going on now that Hamas rejected the ceasefire.

HALPER: Well, the latest update is Hamas is throwing more rockets towards Israel, and Israel’s retaliating. You know, the Israeli strategy is disproportionate response, so that Israel is hitting Gaza with everything it has. And as you just mentioned, there were four kids playing on the beach in Gaza that were killed by artillery shells from the Navy, so that this is really an attack that continues on a densely populated Palestinian population center. So it just goes on and on and on with no real [incompr.] Israel I don’t think knows where it’s going with this. I don’t know why Israel actually started this whole thing. But it seems to be just kind of pointless violence.

WORONCZUK: And now with the international media mostly focused on what’s going on with Gaza, has there been anything going on in the West Bank that’s of interest?

HALPER: Well, the West Bank is always going on. The levels of violence are higher or lower. Of course, they were very high a couple of weeks ago in the wake of the kidnappings, when you had a military operation called Operation Brother’s Keeper that really had nothing to do with searching for the teens that were kidnapped, especially ’cause it was know that they were dead even at the beginning, but it was trying to impose a kind of reign of terror on the Palestinians. Now in the last few days there’s been a tremendous rise in house demolitions of Palestinians all over the West Bank.

So in a sense–I just wrote an article about this on Mondoweiss–the message of Israel in general to the Palestinians, whether it’s a military operation in the West Bank that really continues or whether it’s the military operation in Gaza which continues is you have three choices: you can submit to us, you can get out of this country, or you can die. And in this equation, there is no more political process. Israel is disabusing the Palestinians of the illusion that they’re a side, that they have anything to say, that they’ll ever have a state. As a matter of fact, a couple of days ago Netanyahu finally came out and said, yes, there will never be a Palestinian state, so that this is all really a campaign to break the Palestinian resistance and to simply say, it’s over, you are going to be imprisoned, there’s no more peace process, it’s over, and you can either submit or you can get out if you want to or you die. And those are the options–no more political options on the table.

WORONCZUK: So, Jeff, in Israel, what’s the popular support for the ongoing campaign, and as well for a potential ground invasion?

HALPER: Well, there’s tremendous support in Israel for the campaign that’s going on. According to the polls, more than 80 percent of the Israeli Jewish public supports the operation as it’s been so far, and more than half of the Israeli Jewish population supports a ground invasion, something like what happened in Operation Cast Lead in 2008. So there’s really–the support goes way beyond left-right differences, and it goes way into the more liberal Zionist camp, I would say.

And the problem is, of course, that Israelis don’t really see the whole picture. When we talk about the conflict here, we begin with the occupation, that there’s an occupation, and in that context the Palestinians are resisting. Now, you can accept or not accept their forms of resistance, whether or not Hamas should be throwing rockets on Israeli civilian populations, but nevertheless it’s in the context of the political struggle, their struggle for liberation against a 47-year-old occupation. But Israelis don’t start there. Israelis don’t think of occupation. We don’t use the word occupation. And so they start with the symptoms. In other words, they begin with the Hamas rockets. They begin with what they call a terrorist attack. They begin with the violence or with–and it’s not resistance, because if you don’t have that context, it’s simply an attack. It’s like I’m walking down the street, and all of a sudden somebody mugs me. In other words, there’s no political context for the way Israelis look at these things, and in that situation, then it makes sense, of course: they’re throwing rockets at us; we have to stop it. You see? Rather than saying, well, why are they throwing rockets at us, or what do we have to do to stop it that addresses the grievances of the Palestinians themselves? So the whole operation, just like the whole discourse in Israel, has been completely depoliticized. And that’s why the Israeli public really doesn’t understand the conflict itself and what’s happening.

WORONCZUK: Okay. And so last weekend it was also reported that leftist demonstrators in Tel Aviv were beaten by right-wing counterprotesters.

HALPER: That’s right.

WORONCZUK: Do you think that this is representative of the hostility that the Israeli left faces?

HALPER: No, it’s very representative. We work in a very hostile environment, obviously, for the reasons I gave, in other words, if you don’t see it as an occupation and the Arabs–because we also don’t use the word Palestinians, because we don’t want to give recognition and distinctiveness and legitimacy to another collective in this country that are called Palestinians. So if you look at Arabs as our enemies, as our permanent enemies, and there’s no political context, they’re simply attacking us because that’s the way they are or because we’re Jews, which is the other way to look at it, then leftists that are talking about living with them or making peace with them or we should be like them or trying to understand where they’re coming from are the enemies. In other words, we’re sympathizing with and supporting the enemies of Israel at a time of war. And therefore we become the enemies of the people as well.

And it’s very difficult to be a leftist here, because even our protest isn’t understood by the Israeli public. They don’t see, again, the context to it. They don’t hear what we’re saying. The media certainly doesn’t reflect our views at all. If you look at the TV, it’s all military experts that are explaining what’s going on. And so the attack on the leftists in Tel Aviv, I mean, it’s more violent than usual.

I think what’s happened–and I think it’s true with Netanyahu as well–is that the genie’s out of the bottle now. With the end of a political process, Netanyahu saying there will be no Palestinian state at all, everything is possible. Now it’s simply a matter of violence. You can hate Arabs, you can say anything you want to about Arabs, you can beat up leftists, you can admit that we’re not going to go to a political solution–everything is out. And in a sense what’s coming out now, the violence and the hatred and the racism and the commitment to continuing the occupation, this is all–it’s been under the surface all this time. And Israel’s been very careful to control it and present its image as a Western democracy and so on.

Now, in a sense, that’s over, and Israel feels it’s won. And now its job, like I said, is to control the Palestinians, to really pacify the Palestinians. And it doesn’t have to care anymore about public opinion in the world. It can say and do what it wants to do. And that–I think the attack on the leftists very much reflects the whole atmosphere of hatred and fear and of triumphalism that we won that Netanyahu projects all the time.

WORONCZUK: And what about the traditional leftist parties in the Knesset? What role are they playing in this as well?

HALPER: They’re really not playing a role at all. In other words–they’re not really leftist parties, either. They’re kind of central, center-left, maybe. They’re Zionist center-left liberal parties. And, you know, I mean, they say we shouldn’t have a ground invasion. That’s about the–they’re not really attacking the military, the bombardment of Gaza. But they’re saying we shouldn’t have a ground invasion, which is about as far as they go. In other words, they’re also not putting it into context. The Labor Party that was in power all during the Oslo peace process, except for a year or so when Netanyahu was in office, never seriously pursued the two-state solution.

So I would say the idea today of one Israel that controls the Palestinians without any political horizon of a two-state solution is–there’s a consensus. It isn’t agreed upon by the center-left. They’ll say, yes, we want a two-state solution, but they did nothing to pursue it when they were in office, and now that it’s gone, they can’t, obviously, admit that it’s gone, because that’s really the end of Zionism: Israel becomes an apartheid state, and the whole country controlling millions of Palestinians. So their in a sense complicit. They’re stuck. The center-left here has to keep supporting an illusionary two-state solution, because it can’t go anywhere else and it can’t admit that Israel is a permanent apartheid state. So the left has really in some ways neutralized itself.

WORONCZUK: Okay, Jeff. And to wrap up, what do you think the outcome of the IDF raids in the West Bank and this ongoing offensive against the Gaza Strip, what do you think the outcome will be for the occupation?

HALPER: Well, I think the outcome–I think we’re in the middle of–I think it’s in the middle of a process that began with the failure of the Kerry initiative. I think the immediate outcome is going to be, again, trying to defeat the Palestinians, trying to pacify them. And, you know, there’ll be a lot more violence. It’ll be much more difficult for Palestinians.

But I think it’s a part of a bigger collapse. I see the Palestinian authority that’s kind of keeping the lid on right now. It’s really Israel’s policeman. The Palestinian Authority, I think, is going to leave the scene. It’s either going to collapse or it’s going to resign or it’s going to leave the scene. And in that situation, then Israel is going to have to reoccupy, I think. You know, Lieberman was talking now it’s trying to urge the government to reoccupy Gaza, not simply attack it, but to reoccupy it permanently. And I think Israel’s going to have to do that with the rest of the West Bank.

And from the Israeli point of view, we win. Now the whole country is ours, and the Palestinians are pacified. But I think in the bigger picture, the global picture, it creates an absolutely unsustainable situation. I don’t think the world, including the American-Jewish community in the end, I think, cannot accept a new apartheid state in the world. They can’t accept–especially if it’s an Israeli-Jewish state. And I think it’ll just increase the pressures. And I think BDS will play its role.

And I’m hoping and I think that maybe in the next few months or so we’ll see a complete collapse of the situation. And that will open new possibilities for resolving a conflict that don’t exist today. Especially what I’m trying to work on is the idea of one democratic state. I think that’s the only way out of this conflict. And Israel is the one that’s eliminated the two-state solution and has created one state in this–there is one state already. Now we have to make it one state where everyone has equality. That’s the job. And I think in a sense Israel is overplaying its hand. You know, when you’re so far powerful you can do anything you want, you don’t know when to stop. And I think Israel has overplayed its hand. This collapse is happening. And in the end I think it’s going to prove unsustainable for Israel. So I’m actually kind of optimistic that this terrible time we’re going through is going to lead to possibilities, especially a one-state solution, that don’t exist today.

WORONCZUK: Okay. Jeff Halper, cofounder and director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.

Thanks for joining us.

HALPER: Thank you for having me on.

WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Jeff Halper is the co-founder and director of ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He was born in 1946 in Minnesota and emigrated to Israel in 1973. Since then he has been a tireless advocate for justice and civil rights for all Israelis and Palestinians. He spent ten years as a community worker in Jerusalem aiding low-income Mizrahi families. He co-founded ICAHD in 1997 to help resist Israel's strategy of house demolitions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He is the author of three books, Between Redemption and Revival: The Jewish Yishuv in Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century, An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Possession, Redeeming Israel, and Obstacles to Peace: A Reframing of the Palestinian - Israeli Conflict. In 2006 Dr. Halper was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, citing ICAHD's work "to liberate both the Palestinian and the Israeli people from the yoke of structural violence" and "to build equality between their people by recognizing and celebrating their common humanity."