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Jeff Halper says Israel and the Palestinian Authority are partners in repression

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Violence is spreading in the West Bank and across Arab cities in Israel, reaching levels synonymous with previous uprisings from the ’80s and the early 2000s, leading some to refer to incidents as marking the beginning stages of a third intifada. Some of you may have seen the point-blank shooting of a demonstrating young Arab boy by Israeli plainclothes officers. These incidents were spurred following a September 13 raid on Temple Mount, located in Jerusalem’s old city, a sacred site for Arabs worldwide. Leaders on both sides are attempting to curb any perception of a third intifada. Netanyahu is saying, on Saturday in fact, that the attacks have been mostly unorganized and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calling the clashes potential for an intifada, which we don’t want. Now joining me from [the UK] to discuss all of this is Jeff Halper. He is with the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions. He is the author of many books. Among the most recent is War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians, and Global Pacification. Jeff, I thank you so much for joining us today. JEFF HALPER: Thanks for having me again. PERIES: So Jeff, give us a sense of what’s happening there. You just left a few days ago, but prior to your departure what was actually happening on the ground that concerns you? HALPER: Well, in some ways it’s kind of a lashing out on both sides. I mean, I don’t like this both sides analogy, because there’s no symmetry of both sides. But I think simply the oppression and repression has gotten so great that, that especially Palestinian kids–I mean, that’s one of the interesting things about this. We’re talking about five-year-old kids, six, seven, ten, and teenagers, have simply been kind of lashing out. It began, it’s true, with the Al-Aqsa mosque, and the closing of the mosque and threats on the mosque on the part of Israel. But it spread all through the country. And I think it’s a kind of, of desperation. I mean, one of the interesting things is that it isn’t organized. And isn’t political in that sense. It’s kind of a, almost a self defense, a resistance against, against the final stages of this permanent occupation, permanent apartheid, permanent imprisonment, being imposed on the Palestinians. And I think what’s significant is that it spread outside of the occupied territories. It’s spread inside Israel. Because the condition of Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are 20 percent of the Israeli population, isn’t really much better than that of the people in the occupation. They’re also subject to all kinds of restrictions, and more and more being seen as a fifth column, as an enemy of Jewish Israel. From the Israeli point of view I think this is mopping up operations. Israel simply sees the conflict is over. It’s saying to the Palestinians there’s no more political process, no negotiations. There’ll never be a Palestinian state. You’re going to be imprisoned. And you either submit or you leave or you die. And I think the repression, this repression on the part of Israel, you know, where mandatory prison sentences, hundreds of kids being arrested, house demolitions increasing and so on, really shows that Israel is in the final stages of repressing any kind of resistance and what it sees as pacifying the Palestinian population permanently. PERIES: And what do you make of Netanyahu saying on Saturday that their attacks have been mostly unorganized, trying to calm down the population? This seems out of character for him, who in the past has sort of seen these opportunities to escalate the violence against Palestinians. HALPER: Well, I mean, I think he sees that opportunity. His messages are mixed, because what he’s also been saying–I mean, he said it in the UN last week–is that this is incitement on the part of Abu Mazen, it’s incitement on part of the Palestinian Authority, that it is organized. And you know, he’s been saying that until just a few days ago the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security services, said publicly no, there is no incitement on the part of the Palestinian Authority. And he’s had to change his line a little bit and say it’s unorganized and so on. I mean, Netanyahu has a problem, because he’s trying to explain violence and resistance. And really, self-defense. And despair, and frustration, all these things, without dealing with the cause of it all, which is of course occupation. Which is a word he would never utter. And so all he’s left with is somehow blaming the Palestinians. So you’ve got to blame them individually, you blame them as unorganized groups. You blame Abu Mazen. You blame the northern Islamic movement inside Israel. You blame Arab Knesset members inside–I mean, you find all kinds of people to blame. But he can’t really come out with a good, coherent explanation of what’s happening because he can’t admit that the actual cause is repression and occupation. PERIES: So Jeff, what are we to make of all of this now moving forward? Some people are warning that a third intifada might be in the works. Do you think that is actually happening? HALPER: I don’t think so. It’s hard for me to see that, because–not because it shouldn’t be a third intifada, and not because the anger and the rage and the frustration isn’t there, but because Israel just has it too sewn up. You know, we have to understand that the IDF is there as a–and the police as a permanent presence, not only in the occupied territories but again inside Israel. In addition you’ve got the settlers, who are kind of a militarized force, semi-legitimate in Israel, that have been increasingly attacking the Palestinians. And they’re part of the repression. And then in addition to that we have to be honest, the Palestinian Authority itself, in my view, is a collaborationist regime. The Palestinians are living under two occupations. And they’ll tell you that openly. And the Palestinian Authority has been a repressive force. Its militias working for Israel, arresting people, torturing people as well. And they’re a major source–I mean, ironically. Netanyahu blames Abu Mazen, Abbas, for incitement. But in fact as the Shin Bet says, they’re actually very close collaborators. Nothing, nothing has interfered with the security cooperation, as it’s called, between the Palestinian Authority and the IDF. So you know, the Palestinians are really facing not only an Israeli repressive force that’s trying to imprison them permanently and take their country, but a Palestinian Authority that’s collaborating with that as well. So it’s really a very desperate time, I think, for the Palestinians. PERIES: Now, how similar are these events compared to, say, 2008-2010 events? HALPER: I think they’re different because those were political. They were much more organized. There was a sense that, that in a way the intifada is a push towards starting a political process or creating pressures even internationally that would force Israel into genuine negotiations, and in fact you could end the occupation. I think the difference is today that there are no Palestinians, almost, I would say that think the occupation can be ended. I think they see it as a permanent situation. Many are leaving, actually. And there’s really a sense of despair among the Palestinians. And that’s why I think, I’m seeing that this is more of a lashing out. Almost as self-defense, because the pressures put on the Palestinians on the part, not only the army and police, but again of the settlers, is such that they’re really living in a pressure cooker. But it’s not organized. It’s not political, in a way. And the fact that it’s mainly young people and kids that are doing this kind of shows that, in a sense. So the problem is that we’ve reached a place in which Palestinians have nothing to lose, on the one hand. But on the other hand they have nothing to gain. There’s no political process that’s possible today. And I think personally we have to sit down, critical Israelis and our Palestinian partners, and begin to formulate our own solution to this conflict that I think is, forget end the occupation, forget the two-state solution, certainly, which is over. Forget negotiations. Forget the PA, which I hope will leave the scene soon. We have to start talking about one democratic, bi-national state in Israel-Palestine and start to move towards that in order to really give a new sense of hope and possibility to both peoples. PERIES: Jeff Halper, I appreciate those comments and that idea, and I thank you so much for joining us today. HALPER: Thanks for having me on. PERIES: 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."