24 October 2004 - ICAHD: Irreverent Criticism Against Halper's Distortions
Tonight I attended a presentation by Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) at the Kennedy School of Government, hosted by the KSG’s Palestine Awareness Committee. The audience was a mix of Cambridge crazies and pro-Palesitnian activists, so of course I felt right at home. The topic was “Countdown to Apartheid,” and the event was as a lead-in to this week’s Tutu event.
Halper began with this brilliant statement: “We’re going to formally enter an apartheid situation next month, in Annapolis. That’s what I’m expecting.” He later explained that this “apartheid” would be achieved through an elaborate conspiracy in which—gasp!—the U.S. would try to move Israelis and Palestinians to the second stage of the Middle East Road Map towards a two-state solution to the conflict.
Next, he described what he saw as the Israeli mindset. Arabs are “just terrorists” for most Israelis, he claimed. They are people to whom a viable state cannot be granted. Israelis, he added, deny that Palestinians exist as a people; they deny there is an occupation of Palestinian territory; and they deny Palestinian statehood. He claimed this was the view of Ehud Barak, among others, even to the present day.
Halper claimed that the provisional Palestinian state proposed by the Road Map was the “Palestinian nightmare” (neglecting to mention that the Palestinians accepted the Road Map without reservation). This was to be Sharon’s program of “cantonization,” a “Palestine Bantustan,” and “occupation by consent,” which the Palestinians would have to accept or else face being labeled the enemies of peace.
“Israel formally denies it has an occupation,” he continued. “No element of the occupation is explained by security,” he added. The lies kept on coming. He presented a 2003 map of the West Bank: “I didn’t make this map. This is the map.” The map happened to include information about its creator: a Palestinian firm based in Bethlehem whose logo is a red map of Palestine from the Jordan to the sea.
“There isn’t both sides here,” he asserted. “There’s only one occupying power.” He noted helpfully that we had to take “the power differential” into account—which would break the idea that “the Jews are the ultimate victims.” And “how does Israel get away with this?” he asked. Well, it’s not AIPAC, “the Jewish lobby,” “the Israeli lobby,” or even “Christian evangelicals.” No—it’s “the military-industrial complex.”
The “military-industrial complex” is formed by the American and Israeli defense industries, he said, which plan to use the West Bank as an experimental laboratory for counter-insurgency warfare—because, of course: “Nobody’s looking. Nobody cares.” The next stage is the development of nanotechnology—“microscopic military weapons…[that] can be sent into your bedroom.”
From there, Halper said, it was a “slippery slope”—soon American police would be using Israeli gadgets to spy on, and kill, Americans—“without anyone noticing.” He threw in some selective quotes from the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defence Review—which translated, he said, into “We’re gonna beat the fuckers.” This is the third straight time I’ve heard anti-Israel Israelis use gutter language at public lectures.
I thought of pointing out that the Palestinians have built a nanotechnology lab at Al-Quds University, to which I was alerted last month by a young pro-Palestinian researcher. Instead, I asked Halper whether he had ever been arrested. Oh, yes! He replied proudly. He showed us photos of police dragging him away from protests. “But they don’t beat us or shoot us because we’re Jews,” he said smugly.
“But have you ever been arrested for your beliefs?” I asked. “No,” he replied. “Well, I am from South Africa, and I have family and friends who joined the anti-apartheid struggle despite being white, and they were arrested for their beliefs, and they were beaten. That’s apartheid.” It was clear Halper didn’t know or care what apartheid really was. Here’s how he actually defined it—I am quoting his exact words:
“Apartheid is a system. It is not a policy. It’s a system with two parts. One is separation of populations. And that’s exactly what Israel calls its policy. Its policy is a policy of separation. This is a separation barrier. This is a demographic border. Israel calls it a separation barrier. The second element is domination. Where one group separates itself from another and takes power over it.”
Oh, I see. “A relatively powerful country establishes a border = apartheid.” A graduate student—the same one who challenged Sari Nusseibeh over non-violence last semester—then asked how to organize against Israel “in a way that doesn’t seem extremist.” She claimed pro-Palestinian activists were censored at Harvard: “We don’t want to get thrown out of school.” (Should she ever have been admitted?)
Halper went on to declare that “human rights are universal.” But ICAHD never protests the demolition of Jewish homes in Gaza or the West Bank. Halper’s a big shot on the anti-Israel circuit, acting out his crusty Vietnam-era radicalism before willing dupes. He’s also a buffoon and a conspiracy theorist, who regrettably has a large audience of the uninformed and the uninformable that takes him at his word.