Israeli activist Jeff Halper says the recent tension and violence in Jerusalem is a product of defeated Palestinian political resistance and Israel’s policy of Judaization
ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to the real news network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore.
The city of Jerusalem is under great tension after a string of somber events this week. On Friday, a 14-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by IDF troops in the neighborhood of Silwan, where Jewish settlers moved in earlier this week, to the outrage of Palestinian residents throughout occupied East Jerusalem. And on Wednesday, a three-month-old Jewish baby was killed when a Palestinian man hit at least seven people with his car as they were exiting the light rail in East Jerusalem. The man, who was shot and killed by Israeli police after attempting to leave the scene, was a resident of the Silwan neighborhood. The deceased baby was a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, and her death came days after reports that a settler ran over two Palestinian children in the West Bank, resulting in the death of a five-year-old girl. And it comes more than a week after a Palestinian was shot dead by the IDF in the West Bank.
With weeks of clashes taking place at the Temple Mount, an extremely important religious site for both Jews and Muslims, the Israeli state has responded by increasing security throughout the city and restricting access by Muslims to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Joining us now to discuss this 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 in Palestine: Resisting Possession, Redeeming Israel.
Thanks for joining us, Jeff.
JEFF HALPER, COFOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, ICAHD: Thanks for having me again.
WORONCZUK: So, Jeff, can you put the recent violence taking place in Jerusalem in the context of the security and occupation policies of the Israeli state?
HALPER: Well, I think–look, I think the basic problem is that there’s an entire disconnect between, on the Palestinian side, resistance and, on the Israeli side, occupation and military force, and any political process. In other words, there is no more political process. The two-state solution is gone. The Kerry initiative failed.
And Israel is in the process of finalizing its Judaization of Jerusalem. There is no more Palestinian East Jerusalem. It’s buried under the weight of settlements and Israeli highways. Israelis are moving in just freely into Palestinian neighborhoods and taking them over. And in a sense, then, what was resistance to try to get a Palestinian state or try to resolve the problem is simply there is no resistance because there’s no political process. And so it’s all declined into just lashing out, you know, the driving of cars and killing people by trains. [incompr.] there’s nothing else to do if you’re a Palestinian but just to lash out or be solemn and stay at home and watch your home being taken or being demolished.
And on the Israeli side as well, the attack on Gaza this summer, the everyday killing of Palestinians in Jerusalem, in the West Bank, everywhere, is also indicative of the fact that the violence on the Israeli side is disconnected from anything political. In other words, we’re in a stage where Israel says, no more [two-state] solution, it’s over, and you either live with us and submit or you get out or you die. That’s really the Israeli message, so that I think on both sides the violence is increasing, but it’s increasing with no political context whatsoever.
WORONCZUK: You know, Jeff, this comes as an interesting poll was released by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs that said that about 75 percent of Israeli Jews oppose a two-state solution. But what seems to be actually even more interesting is that of the roughly, I think, 16 vpercent of Israelis who identified as left-wing, about half of them oppose the division of Jerusalem, and this seems to be quite a commentary on the state of the left, being that half of the self-identified left in Israel doesn’t even–their opinions don’t even conform with the dictates of international law.
HALPER: Well, a lot of what’s called the left in Israel–Peace Now, the Labor Party, the Meretz Party, and so on, are really liberal Zionists. And so, as long as you insist that there has to be an Israel and a Palestinian state next-door to Israel, then you’re locked into this problem of on the one hand you want the Palestinian state, but on the other hand, if you don’t have it, it’s not a big deal, because you still have your own Zionist Israeli state of Israel. So in a way it becomes academic. So a lot of people on the Zionist left say, yes, in principle we’d like a two-state solution, but if the Arabs are going to be the problem that–and that’s what Israel succeeds in doing is telling its people and others that we want peace, we do generous offers, it’s they that deny or that resist and so on. So Israelis say, okay, well, we tried and they don’t want peace, then we’re off the hook. And that really gets into the liberal left.
I’ll tell you another statistic that’s no less surprising than the 75 percent that are against two-state solution. Ninety-three percent of Israeli Jews supported the last assault on Gaza this summer. In other words, millions of people went out in the world to protest; 93 percent of Israeli Jews supported that attack, which is the same amount that supported the attack in 2008.
And I’ll give you one more statistic to tell you why Israelis don’t care: because at the height of the assault on Gaza in August, when the people were being killed, the infrastructure destroyed, Israel demolished 18,000 homes in Gaza, the U.S. Senate voted to–a resolution to support Israel by a vote of 100 to nothing for Israelis is not only, you know, can we simply take over Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem. We can do anything we want to to Palestinians. We can kill them, we can invade them, whatever. There’s no more political solution. But whatever happens, we have the uncritical support of the American Congress, and that’s all we need. We don’t need the UN. We don’t need Europe. We can thumb our nose at Kerry and Obama. As long as the U.S. Congress’s bipartisan [incompr.] we’re [incompr.] the Israeli public. And the Israeli public says, okay, even if we’d like a two state solution, if the Arabs aren’t going to be cooperative, then the hell with them and we can just continue our lives.
So really the whole issue of occupation and East Jerusalem has been rendered a nonissue in Israel. It’s hard to convey that, but that’s really the reality. People just don’t care.
WORONCZUK: In terms of blaming the Palestinians for the situation, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently said that the problem is this is part of a global battle against extremist Islam, that we can’t claim the conditions or the constructions of new homes for terrorist attacks. But just what are the living and working conditions for Palestinians in East Jerusalem?
HALPER: Well, it’s miserable. You know, Jerusalem in general is not a very rich city. You know, the industry, the Israeli industry is on the coast. Israel has never allowed Palestinians to develop industries or an economy or tourism of their own, so that these are people in East Jerusalem, Palestinians, who are basically reduced to being casual laborers in the Israeli economy. You know, they’re cooks in restaurants or they clean the streets for the municipality or are unemployed. Seventy percent of the Palestinians and East Jerusalem live under the poverty line. They have inadequate housing. There’s 25,000 housing units lacking in the Palestinian sector. Those that do build in order to give themselves some modest shelter are demolished. House demolitions happen virtually every day. There’s a tremendous amount of violence, especially against children. And international lawyers have spoken out about this, that thousands of children are arrested all the time for rockthrowing, even though you catch any kid you can catch, not necessarily the kid that threw the rock. The settlers are taking over entire neighborhoods, like Silwan. So really the Palestinians are facing a bleak, poor future in which there is no political process again.
And what Israel’s hoping–and that’s where Lieberman’s statement comes from: it’s reflecting what Netanyahu said in the UN a few weeks ago: forget the Palestinians. They’re really not the problem. The problem is ISIS. The big problem is Iran. We should all be going after Iran. And forget the Palestinians. That’s little stuff. Israel always claims that there’s no linkage, that the Israel-Palestine conflict is self-standing, and therefore it doesn’t affect wider processes in the Middle East, even though John Kerry said last week that you’re not going to resolve all the instability of the Middle East without resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. So that’s a basic claim on the part of Israel, that we can forget about the Palestinians and get on to the bigger issues. And that’s where Israel is trying to convince the world that really the Palestinian issue is not that big a thing.
And it hopes, then, that it can squash Palestinian resistance, which it feels it did in 2002 in the West Bank. Now it’s trying to do the same thing in Gaza with Hamas. It can make the situation quiet. I think that’s the strategy.
And, of course, all the Palestinians can really do is to lash out violently. They can’t appeal to the United States and the international community for negotiations. That’s over. They’re not going to get a state of their own. The international community wouldn’t allow that. And so in a sense Israel feels that it’s won, and the Palestinians have little to do except just to try to resist in whatever way they can, with their own Palestinian Authority not really supporting them very much at all.
WORONCZUK: But it seems like the continued Israeli opposition to a viable independent Palestinian state is creating more of these conditions for violence. I mean, it’s hard to say that the state of Israel can win if the outcome of all of these policies is going to create and generate more and more increased violence and terrorist attacks.
HALPER: Yeah. But, you know, the terrorist attacks, I mean, in a sense a very localized, these isolated incidents and so on. But there isn’t really a concerted [incompr.] [campaign (?)]. I don’t think it’s that organized. And I would even doubt if the Palestinians have the capability of mounting an intifada. I think they’re exhausted. I think the control that both Israel and the Palestinian militia exert on the ground prevents any kind of organization, any kind of real resistance. And in that situation, I think Israel feels that it can win.
WORONCZUK: And t hank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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