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Wed

06

Aug

2008

Jeff Halper's An Israeli in Palestine
Wednesday, 06 August 2008 15:34
by Stephen Lendman

Jeff Halper is an American-born Israeli Professor of Anthropology as well as a peace and human rights activist for over three decades. In 1997, he co-founded the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD), and as its Coordinating Director "organized and led nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience against Israel's occupation policies and authorities."

ICAHD's mission is now expanded well beyond home demolitions. It helps rebuild them and resists "land expropriation, settlement expansion, by-pass road construction, policies of 'closure' and 'separation," and much more. Its aim is simple, yet hard to achieve - to end decades of Israeli-Palestinian conflict equitably and return the region to peace. For his work, Halper was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

Besides his full-time work, he writes many articles, position papers, and authored several books. His latest and subject of this review is An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel. Israeli-based journalist Jonathan Cook (jkcook.net) authored two insightful books on the conflict that are highly recommended. Information can be found on his web site and much more. He calls Halper's book "one of the most insightful analyses of the Occupation I've read. His voice cries out to be heard" on the region's longest and most intractable conflict.

Halper is a "critical insider" and insightful commentator of events on the ground that he witnesses first hand. This review covers his analysis in-depth - in two parts for easier reading. It exposes Israeli repression and proposes remedial solutions. It provides another invaluable resource on the conflict's cause, history, why it continues, and a just and equitable resolution.

Introduction

Halper's observation about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is accurate. Knowing how to end it isn't the issue. Overcoming fear and Israeli obstruction is at its heart. There are "no sides," and Halper stresses that as a "chief claim of (his) book." Critical discussion and effective action must involve everyone this conflict affects as the way to "get out of this mess" and achieve justice.

Thinking "out of the Box" is key, reframing the issue, offering an alternative way, and using it to open "possibilities for resolution foreclosed (by) security framing." Halper has a "clear, empowering message: if we the people lead, our governments will follow." But it takes empowering ourselves to do it and a commitment for the task. The goal - a "win-win" peace for all parties on a global scale taking into account "equality, human rights, international law, justice, peace and development." Make no mistake. Israel bears most responsibility for the conflict, continuing it, and preventing its just resolution. Overcoming that is no small task, and 60 years of trying so far have failed.

Part I: Comprehending Oppression - The Making of a Critical Israeli


One home demolition transformed Halper from a progressive, liberal-left Zionist to his post-Zionist state. It was a year after ICAHD's creation, but he'd yet to see demolitions firsthand. He described his background and values - third-generation American, small town midwest, Conservative Jew (as differentiated from Orthodox or Reformed), not religious, but believing in the "essential rules of life" that he learned as a child: play fair, don't hit other kids, ask forgiveness when fall short, and take nothing belonging to others. He's now lived in Israel for 35 years, arrived as a young doctoral student, is very much an Israeli, and saw his Jewishness transform into "Israeliness."

He was never a committed Zionist, then over time saw how destructive and racist it is. It made Israel a colonial state and redemption requires that it "transverse a long and painful trail from de-colonization through reconciliation" to a new political form that's just, equitable and inclusive for all its inhabitants.

Conflict was never inevitable, but a combination of "exclusivist nationalism" and high-level ideologues led pre-1948 Jews to be confrontational, not conciliatory toward Arabs. Conflict resulted and normalcy was sacrificed. Sixty years later, Israel is deeply polarized, a colonial enterprise, hugely repressive to Palestinians, including Israeli Arab citizens. In Halper's judgment and many others, "the present situation is untenable." His task is "hasten a just peace and, in the process, help Israel" transcend Zionism and "redeem itself from (its) worse-than-colonial situation...." He begins with a vital question. "Why in the hell did (Israel) demolish (one) family's home" that he witnessed with horror.

The Message of the Bulldozers

What bulldozers destroy, 200 settlements restored for 500,000 Jews in 150,000 housing units. It's on Palestinian agricultural land where zoning restrictions deny them building permits. Since 1967, Israel demolished over 18,000 Palestinian homes, a process now routine, and nearly always for no security reason. Halper calls it a "national obsession," collective punishment, in defiance of international law that Israel disdains. For Palestinians, it's traumatic and devastating. It renders men powerless and emasculating for being unable to provide a family home.

For women, it's worse - dispossession and loss of one's life that's like losing loved ones. Children as well are affected, traumatized, and rendered scared and insecure. It causes bed-wetting, nightmares, fear of abandonment, a drop in grades, leaving school, and exposure to domestic violence that results from parents' emotional upheaval.

Palestinians have no recourse. They get demolition notices. No formal legal, administrative process or orders accompany them. No warning or time to remove belongings. Barely time enough to escape alive, and at times not that when army policy destroys homes on top of residents suspected of being "wanted." Demolitions may be carried out immediately, months later or even years, and nearly always in early morning when inhabitants may be sleeping or at other times when they're most vulnerable.

Five government bodies control the process on both sides of the Green Line:

— the Civil Administration under the Ministry of Defense in the West Bank and formerly in Gaza;

— the Ministry of Interior and Jerusalem municipality in the city; and

— the Ministry of Interior, Israel Lands Authority and Ministry of Agriculture inside Israel with jurisdiction over Bedouin homes; in addition, Jewish-dominated municipalities control the process in "mixed" cities like Lod, Ramle and Jaffe.

It affects Palestinians, never Jews and is part of a process to "de-Arabize" lands and confine their inhabitants to small disconnected enclaves (Sharon's "cantons") on about 15% of the entire country. It encompasses Areas A and B in 42% of the West Bank and 3.5% of Israel where Arabs are confined by zoning, social pressure and plain fear if they show defiance. Another 1% is in East Jerusalem.

Israeli zoning and master plans authorize demolitions and deny building permits in ways to seem non-discriminatory. It's hardly so in a country where Jews control 95% of the land from which Palestinians are barred.

Take Jerusalem for example. West Jerusalem is for Jews and its East portion maintains an artificial 72-28% Jewish majority over Arabs for a 220,000 Palestinian population. They're in highly circumscribed enclaves. Israeli settlements took 35% of their land, and over half of East Jerusalem is designated "open green space." Palestinians can own but not build on it. The result: Palestinian housing and communal needs are confined to 11% of East Jerusalem and only 7% of all Jerusalem as Palestinians can't live in Jewish West Jerusalem. Here's how it works:

— Palestinian Jerusalem residents can't get building permits; the result is a 25,000 housing unit shortage;

— fewer homes mean higher prices; impoverished Palestinians can't afford them; not even cheaper ones unless they build their own;

— unlike Jews - to retain their Jerusalem residency, Palestinians must continually prove that the city is their "center of life;"

— in spite of inadequate housing, Israel's Municipality grants Arabs only around 150 to 350 building permits a year, yet demolishes 150 or more existing homes at the same time;

— even when obtainable, permits are too expensive for most Palestinians to afford; for Jews, however, fees are often waved or subsidized;

— even with a permit, Palestinians may only build on 25% of their land; the result is severe overcrowding;

— Jews, in contrast, have spacious accommodations in West and East Jerusalem;

— Palestinians also face discrimination for municipal services; they're marginalized on budgets and essential needs like water, sewage, roads, parks, lighting, post offices, schools and other services; and

— East Jerusalem "neighborhoods" serve isolated Palestinian populations in disconnected enclaves, and the city is being transformed "into a region dominating the entire central portion of the West Bank."

A similar system exists for the West Bank and for the same reasons - confinement, induced emigration and continued Israeli expansion. Civil Administration "Master Plans" zone 70% of the West Bank as "agricultural land" and prohibit Palestinian building. The 1995 Oslo II agreement also divided the Territory into Areas A, B, C and D (for Jerusalem) and H-1 and H-2 in Hebron. Further division established reserves for Jews only; security zones; closed military areas; "open green spaces" for Jewish-only housing developments in over half of East Jerusalem leaving Palestinians confined to unconnected cantons surrounded by Israeli settlements, restricted roads and hundreds of permanent and "flying" checkpoints.

A restricted interconnected highway and bypass road system links settlements and effectively incorporates them into Israel proper like suburbs are to downtown cities. These and other Israeli measures violate international law under which home demolitions constitute war crimes. They violate Fourth Geneva Convention provisions, especially Article 53 that states: "Any destruction by an Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons....is prohibited."

UN Resolution 1544 (May 2004) obligates Israel to observe Fourth Geneva law and deplores the deteriorating conditions on the ground. Israel remains defiant. Creating a Jewish "ethnocracy" on both sides of the Green Line takes precedence. Home demotions continue, and Israel's "nishul" displacement policy advances it overall. Halper refers to "the Message of the Bulldozers: Get out. You do not belong here." We uprooted you in 1948, and we'll do it again throughout the "Land of Israel." Palestinians have no right to claim a home in "our" country.

Part II: The Sources of Oppression - The Impossible Dream, Constructing a Jewish Ethnocracy in Palestine


War or peace. Conflict or resolution. What do Israelis think? Halper believes most "want to get on with their lives. 'Peace and quiet' best describes (their) aspirations." But things are never that simple in the "Holy Land." Most Jews think ending the conflict is unattainable and accept Ehud Barak's notion that we have "no partner for peace." What then? Confrontation is inevitable, "hunker down, get on with our lives," and let the army and government keep us safe. Everything comes down to personal security, so let the devil take the hindmost.

Barak's contention and the second Intifada's (September 2000) onset highlight the issue. Israelis also "live in a bubble," much like Americans. Their perceptions and opinions are formed. They don't grasp political realities, and affairs of state aren't their thing. Nor do they care. They have their own lives to get on with, but Halper asks why can't they "break out of the Box?" Three elements explain it:

— a national ideology - an ethnocracy and its political system;

— an obsession with security; and

— "small group decision-making."

Understanding Zionism is important; its reliance on suppression, violence and dispossession; its belief in exclusivity and privilege; and how politics derives from ideology. It purports to be democracy but won't countenance it for non-Jews. It demands an ethnically pure state where half of its inhabitants aren't Jewish and have few rights afforded Jews and virtually none that matter most.

Zionism justifies it, and its roots explain. The Jewish Diaspora "maintained an ethno-nationalism within a (religious) framework." Especially for 1000 years in Europe, mostly Eastern and Central. Jews were poor and lived apart from Christians in segregated communities. They embraced nationalism that was "organic, tribal as opposed to (western) civil nationalism." From this crucible, Zionism emerged and the notion that Jews deserve a homeland. Palestine was chosen to be returned to its rightful owner. Arabs have no claim to a land exclusively for Jews. It explains the "Israeli bubble," an ideological myopia, and an inability to admit any shortcomings when it comes to relations with Arabs.

Israel is an ethnocracy. It's the antithesis of democracy. Israelis won't admit it, but its leaders refer to a "Jewish democracy." A notion right out of Orwell. Structural inequalities highlight it. Israeli Arabs may vote, sit in Parliament, but government decisions aren't "legitimate" without a "Jewish majority." The Law of Return affords it to Jews alone. Then there's land, housing, education and many other examples of Jewish favoritism compared to discrimination and denial to Arabs. On virtually everything, even small things. What holidays are celebrated, having Jewish (not civil) law regulate marriages, citizenship, death, inheritance, and so forth. It's forbidden to bury non-Jews (even soldiers) in Jewish cemeteries.

The Ciitizenship and Entry into Israel Law prohibits Israeli Arab spouses from the West Bank, Gaza or any Arab country from entering Israel, getting residency rights or citizenship. It's to counter the "demographic problem" or the threat that a faster-growing Palestinian population will one day outnumber Jews in the land of Israel and change its Jewish character.

Policy stems from this and the notion of a two-state solution, one unacceptable to Palestinians, because it's based on an unworkable idea - keeping Arabs out of "our land" and having all of greater Israel's best parts for Jews. Palestinians get what's left, what's least valued, with settlement blocs kept untouchable, and expanding them as well. So some kind of Palestinian state will be finessed that by definition will amount to separated cantons in an "artificially supported prison-state." It can't work and assures no end to conflict.

It's so untenable, yet Israelis buy it. How so? Because security framing sells it. Jews are isolated and endangered, Arabs hostile, conflict inevitable, and everything comes down to "either we 'win' or 'they' do" - a clash of civilizations with no political solution and "civilian militarism" essential in daily life. This justifies "tribal nationalism and ethnocracy," and Halper lists its main elements:

— Israel the victim; fighting to survive; Arabs are permanent enemies; reject peace; are bent on Israel's destruction; conflict is inevitable;

— Palestinian "terrorism" is the core of the problem; Israel's not responsible and acts only in self-defense;

— no Occupation exists; the Territories are "disputed;" and

— no political solution is possible; Israel must retain total control; maintain "Fortress Israel;" allow a separate Palestinian state; bantustan-style only, non-viable, semi-sovereign, encircled by Israel, and subject to the will of its powerful neighbor.

These notions are untenable. They foreclose any chance for peace, reconciliation, real security, and a fair and equitable solution to the region's longest and most intractable conflict. Yet Israel continues it for its own purposes, blames the victims for its own transgressions, and gets away with it because of western backing, mostly by America, and Palestinians have to fend for themselves.

Repeatedly through the years, Israel spurned compromise, avoided peace, and opted for conflict and repression. Halper cites examples. There are many, but few in the West know them:

— Israel met with Arab states in 1949; it rejected territorial concessions and refused to let 100,000 Palestinian refugees return - a small percent of those displaced;

— also in 1949, Israel refused Syria's peace treaty offer;

— before his assassination, Jordan's King Abdullah negotiated, but Israel rejected his peace overtures;

— in 1952-53, Syria's pro-American leader tried and failed as well;

— so did Egypt's Nasser;

— overall, Israel remained inflexible; it felt empowered by its successful armistice negotiations that left it politically, territorially and militarily superior to its neighbors;

— in 1965, Egypt extended peace overtures and was rejected;

— after the 1967 war, Palestinians wanted peace, an independent state, but were rebuffed as well;

— so was Sadat in 1971;

— Arafat as well in the early 1970s; Henry Kissinger flat turned him down and rejected all contact;

— Sadat was again rebuffed in 1978, a year before Camp David;

— in 1988, the PLO publicly recognized an Israeli state within the Green Line;

— in 1993, the PLO did again;

— doubling the settler population between 1993-2000 foreclosed a viable two-state solution;

— Sharon was uncompromisingly rejectionist;

— in 2006, Olmert dismissed the Prisoners' Document whereby all Palestinian factions (Hamas included) sought a politically-crafted two-state solution;

— since fall 2006, Syria's Assad made repeated peace overtures; Israel dismissed them and remains hostile to Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas' democratically elected government; it's confined to Gaza; kept under siege; relentlessly targeted for removal; and since June 19 sticking to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire that may in the end prove tenuous.

Israel chooses conflict over peace. It continues its settlement program. Palestinians are shut out, and something has to give. Without rethinking Zionism and reframing an obsession with security, nothing will. Things will keep worsening, resolution will get harder, and global fallout greater. There's a bad ending out there unless decisive measures counteract it far greater than a momentary letup in fighting.

Dispossession (Nishul): Ethnocracy's Handmaiden

Security alone can't explain decades of Israeli policy. "Something else was going on," according to Halper - Nishul, dispossession, transfer, "de-Arabization," "Judaization" ethnocracy's "natural extension." Its logic is simple. A Jewish state can't be viable with a sizable Arab population. Worse still is a majority one even more able to demand equality. Preventing it and empowering Jews is thus policy. It defines Zionism's agenda, its roots go back over 100 years, and nishul is at its core. In seven stages according to Halper:

— localized from 1904-1914; early Zionist arrivals began it; they saw themselves as "returning natives" and used terms like "conquest" and "colonization;" buying land from absentee Arab landlords and removing Palestinian peasants began the process; resistance to the idea began early; nishul progressed slowly;

— from 1918-1947, systematic Jewish expansion along with nishul; the 1917 Balfour Declaration spurred it; it gave Arabs assurances but betrayed them; Jewish population grew; it was 17% of Palestine by 1932; grew faster in the 1930s; Arabs revolted from 1936-1939; Zionists adopted a "compulsory transfer" policy to counter it; Jewish sovereignty over all Palestine became a priority; accommodation with Arabs was rejected; the 1942 Biltmore Program was firm - "Palestine (would) be constituted as a Jewish Commonwealth;" Palestinians were left out entirely;

— active nishul - 1948; post-war, Jews were one-third of the population; partition was considered; the UN's 1947 resolution gave Jews 56% of the land, the Arab majority 42% with 2% left under internationalized trusteeship (including Jerusalem); nishul became necessary; at minimum, Gen Gurion wanted 80% of Palestine; the 1948 war secured 78%; ethnic cleansing (mass-nishul) out of which Israel was created; born in blood; thereafter immersed in it; all the while blaming the victims;

— from 1948-1966 - consolidating nishul; most Arabs were removed (up to 80%); the problem was how to keep them out; as a condition for its creation, Israel agreed to UN Resolution 194 and international law guaranteeing the Right of Return; on June 16, 1948, its Cabinet barred it; it remains policy today; Kafkaesque laws let Israel appropriate Palestinian land, bar them from owning it, and give refugees no rights in perpetuity; Halper cites four policy stages from other sources he quotes:

(1) Israel claims sovereignty - the "Abandoned Areas Ordinance" Section 1 (A) defines them as "any area captured by the armed forces or surrendered to them" or land abandoned;

(2) freezing the 'lack of ownership" - the (1948) Provisional Council of State created a "Custodian" for "abandoned areas;" various laws, regulations, military orders, and extra-legal means facilitated the expropriation of Palestinian land;

(3) "Israelification" - from "lack of ownership" to Israeli ownership; various laws and legal maneuvers empowered government agency seizures; and

(4) De-Arabization - land was nationalized to protect its "Jewish character;" by 1962, 92.6% of the land belonged either to the state or Jewish National Fund; Palestinians got the remaining 7.3%; they were classified "internal refugees" (more Orwell) and prohibited from returning to their homes; laws were strengthened; the "Basic Law: Israel Lands - 1960" prevents lands or houses built on State Lands or on Jewish National Agency-controlled ones from being sold, leased or rented to Israeli Arabs; they've seen their ownership shrink from 93% pre-1948 to 25% in the immediate aftermath to 4% in 2007;

— from 1967 to the present - occupation, colonization, and a permanent "Matrix of Control;" it defines the Palestinian dilemma today;

— from 1993-2000 - post-Oslo attempts to complete nishul; de-Arabization and Judaization formalized an apartheid system; permanent domination defines it; from 1948 to 1966, the military administered it; thereafter, a mixed regime replaced it - martial law for Arabs; expansive space exclusively for Jews with generous subsidies for enticements; and

— from 2001 to the present, adopting unilateral "separation" - completing the nishul process; de-Arabization shifted to confinement; nishul proceeds in the Territories as well; its goal is to expand Israeli control over the entire country and confine Palestinians to isolated bantustans under Israeli control.

The Narrative of Exodus

It refers to Leon Uris' novel about a "heroic little Israel standing bravely against hoards of bad Arabs....(a) familiar colonial narrative (portraying) an idealized image of Israel" that boils down to bad fiction. Arabs are villainous while Jews come off as "righteous victims" after centuries of persecution. They were "attacked by five Arab armies" bent on their destruction, and have fought to survive ever since. Powerful stuff and in hardcover sold over 550,000 copies in more than 40 printings. In paperback it topped seven millions sales by the late 1980s, still sells, and became a hit film in 1960.

Poor little Israel. It's the world's fourth most powerful military power, has a formidable nuclear arsenal, yet it still casts itself as victim. Against what must be asked as no regional country threatens it nor do the Palestinians with light arms and crude homemade rockets for protection.

Halper says he's often asked: "How can Jews (treat Arabs so harshly) after what they have been through? It does not come from Jewish culture." Biblical times perhaps but not thereafter. But some believe a "latent manifestation of power, violence, exclusivity and cruelty," surfaced as an ethnocracy after 2000 years of latency. Palestinian rights are denied, and showing compassion is seen as "weakness." Israel's existence as an ethnically-defined state requires it to be hard line against adversaries, external enemies and internal ones. Otherwise, its whole colonial enterprise is jeopardized. Unless victims come off as unworthy, Israel can't justify its actions. Maintaining the Exodus spirit allows them. It filters out reality with a reverse narrative of truth.

According to Israeli-based author and journalist Jonathan Cook, Halper's book is "one of the most insightful analyses of the Occupation I've read. His voice cries out to be heard" on the region's longest and most intractable conflict.

Part III: The Structure of Oppression - Expanding Dispossession, The Occupation and the Matrix of Control


What 1948 left undone, 1967 completed - securing control over the entire "Holy Land" with the seizure of Gaza, the West Bank and all of Jerusalem. Nishul's fifth stage began and today includes expanding West Bank settlements and continued displacement inside Israel.

After the Six-Day War, all Palestinians came under military rule, and "a comprehensive Matrix of Control was implemented to perpetuate Israeli control forever." A problem arose, however, as international law prohibits an occupier from remaining permanently. Israel's Attorney General, Meir Shamgar, got around it in typical Israeli fashion. No "occupation" exists so Israel didn't violate Geneva or other international law. In other words, "occupation" only occurs when one sovereign state conquers another, so presto - Palestine wasn't sovereign and Israel did nothing illegal.

This has no legitimacy in international law, yet Israel gets away with it, and it's the reason it calls the West Bank (and formerly Gaza) "disputed," not "occupied." Furthermore, Shamgar's ruling affected Supreme Court decisions ever since and lets Israel expand its settlement project on annexed Palestinian land.

Immediately after the 1967 war, the Labor government began "integrating Judea, Samaria and Gaza to Israel." After Menachem Begin's 1977 election, he appointed Ariel Sharon to head a Ministerial Committee on Settlements and gave him the job to do it. He was charged with two tasks:

— create irreversible "facts on the ground;"

— prevent any chance of a sovereign Palestinian state; and begin implementing a formal "Matrix of Control" - an almost "invisible system...behind a facade of 'proper administration,' thus protecting Israel's" democratic image to this day.

It has four modes of control:

(1) Administrative, Bureaucracy, Planning and Law as Tools of Occupation and Control

They include rules, restrictions, procedures and sanctions under Military orders regulating everything in Occupied Palestine. For example, 72% of the West Bank was classified as "state lands" making seizure a simple administrative task. A further 400 square miles were designated as closed "military zones," and more restrictions covered zoned "nature reserves."

Military commanders also have authority to prohibit Palestinian construction for security reasons or to ensure "public order." Hundreds of other military orders forbid Palestinian building around army bases, installations, settlements, or within 200 meters on each side of main roads. This effectively closes off tens of thousands of acres from their rightful owners. At the same time, settlement expansion continues, and measures in place use every means possible to advance them.

Administrative restrictions among them like requiring Palestinians to get permits to plant crops on their own land, sell it, or have them for their own use. Opening banks and businesses are also curtailed through a process of licensing and inspections to harass the owners and harm the Palestinian economy.

Control encompasses everything. Resistance is called "terrorism," and legal gymnastics justify assassinations in the name of national security. Mass imprisonments as well. Uncharged victims held administratively. Extensive use of torture. All of it under the radar with a wink and a nod from the West.

(2) Economic Warfare

From 1967 to the Oslo process, "asymmetric containment" defined economic policy in the Territories. The idea was to keep cheap products and labor from competing advantageously with Israel and to prevent Palestinians from gaining economic strength. So constraints were placed on them:

— preventing their opening a bank;

— implementing tariffs and subsidies to advantage Israeli businesses;

— various import controls disadvantaging Palestinians;

— de-developing the Palestinian economy through lack of infrastructure development, housing and key services;

— expropriating agricultural land;

— preventing Palestinian produce from reaching Israeli markets; and

— implementing internal closure policies to impede Palestinian business inside the Territories.

Israel eased off somewhat during the Oslo years, but the Paris Economic Protocol annex to Oslo II (in 1995) assured total Israeli control over the Palestinian economy. Today economic closure is total under strict Israeli measures:

— control over industrial and commercial enterprise licensing;

— issuance of import and export permits; and

— a nightmarish bureaucracy controlling all facets of Palestinian commerce.

It devastated the economy. Most manufacturing is shut down, and 70% of Palestinians companies either closed or severely cut production and staff. Unemployment is staggering - 67% in Gaza and 48% in the West Bank at the time of Halper's writing. Today it's higher. Without jobs, Palestinians have no income source. Poverty levels are at 75% or higher. Most people live on $2 a day or less. External food and other aid is essential. Still 30% or more of Palestinian children under age five suffer from malnutrition. With Gaza now under siege, it's far higher there and dangerously so. It remains to be seen what effect the cease-fire will have.

Israel also controls fuel, water, electricity, phone and other services, and when available they're at higher prices than Israelis pay. The result is "profound structural imbalances in the Palestinian economy and (an) artificial dependence upon Israel." A "deliberate de-development" scheme as well is in place with international investment cut off and Gaza's airport and sea port destroyed during the second Intifada.

Conditions are so extreme that one UN official complained that he doesn't "know of another conflict area in the world" with these type problems. Nor is there one the entire world is so dismissive of or practically so.

(3) Creating "Facts on the Ground"


Israel began the process with the Six Day War still raging. Ever since, disconnected cantons were created to cement settlements and make control irreversible. Following the Gulf War, the Madrid peace conference promised hope and was the catalyst for Oslo. They established a vaguely-defined negotiating process, specified no outcome, and let Israel delay, refuse to make concessions, and continue colonizing the Territories.

In return, Palestinians got nothing for renouncing armed struggle, recognizing Israel's right to exist, and leaving major unresolved issues for indefinite later final status talks. They include an independent Palestinian state, the Right of Return, the future of Israeli settlements, borders, water rights, and status of Jerusalem as sovereign Palestinian territory and future home of its capital.

Oslo I led to Oslo II in September 1995. It called for further Israeli troop redeployments beyond Gaza and major West Bank population centers and later from all rural areas except around Israeli settlements and designated military zones. The process divided the West Bank into three parts - each with distinct borders, administrative and security controls - Areas A, B and C plus a fourth area for Greater Jerusalem:

— Area A under Palestinian control for internal security, public order and civil affairs;

— Area B under Palestinian civil control for 450 West Bank towns and villages with Israel having overriding authority to safeguard its settlers' security; and

— Area C and its water resources under Israeli control; settlements as well on the West Bank's most valuable land.

The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum followed and was agreed to by Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak in September 1999. It implemented Oslo II and other post-Oslo I agreements. Months later came "permanent status" talks in July 2000. Promises became betrayal, and Barak's "generous offer" was fake leaving Arafat no choice to reject it. But not without being blamed for spurning an "unprecedented" chance for peace. Barak insisted Arafat sign a "final agreement," declare an "end of conflict," and give up any legal basis for additional land in the Territories. There was no Israeli offer in writing, and no documents or maps were presented.

Barak's offer consisted of a May 2000 West Bank map dividing the area into four isolated cantons under Palestinian administration surrounded by expanding Israeli settlements and other Israeli-controlled land. They got no link to each other or to Jordan. They consisted of:

— Jericho;

— the southern canton to Abu Dis;

— a northern one, including Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm; and

— a central one, including Ramallah. Gaza was left in limbo as a fifth canton and "resolved" when Israel "disengaged" in August and September 2005 but kept total control; the right to reenter any time for any reason; and, as it turned out, to impose a medieval siege.

Barak's deal was no deal, all take and no give, with no chance for reconciliation or resolution of the most intractable issues. Halper calls it "a subtle yet crucial tweaking of the Matrix." Rather than defend all Israeli settlements, Barak defined seven "blocs" to remain under Israeli control under any future agreement.

Overall, Israel maintains total control of the Territories and occupies most of the West Bank with expanding settlements, by-pass roads, Separation Wall, military areas and no-go zones. Palestinians are tightly confined in disconnected cantons. Checkpoints and other obstacles restrict free movement, and no possibility exists for a viable sovereign state as of now.

Halper gave a "brief tour" of Israel's settlement blocs. Below they're listed briefly:

— the Jordan Valley as Israel's eastern "security border;" it separates Palestinians from Jordan;

— the "Western Samaria" bloc centered around the city of Ariel; it virtually divides the West Bank;

— the Modi'in bloc connects the Western Samaria Bloc to Jerusalem; it contains some of the West Bank's richest agricultural land;

— the three settlement blocs of (1)Givat Ze'ev, (2) Ma'aleh Adumim and (3) Gush Etzion, Efrat-Beitar, Illit, comprise "Greater Jerusalem;" they contain 97 square miles and house 80,000 settlers; along with Israeli-controlled Jerusalem and its 240,000 settlers, it dominates the West Bank, destroys its territorial contiguity, and prevents any hope for a viable Palestinian state; and

— the Hebron bloc in the southern West Bank.

They're all linked by 29 highways and by-pass for-Jews only roads. Finally, there's the Separation Wall. Construction began in June 2002. The World Court ruled it illegal. Israel continues building it. It's nearly complete, and when finished will be 721 kilometers in length or five times longer than the Berlin Wall and more imposing with its sensors, trenches, security roads, mine fields, checkpoints, terminals, watchtowers, surveillance cameras, electronic sensory devices and military patrols using killer dogs. It entraps 50,000 Palestinians, steals their land, and has nothing to do with purported security. It's a plain and simple land grab combined with enclosing Palestinians inside disconnected cantons.

(4) Military Controls and Military Strikes


Israel's Matrix conceals its "Iron Fist" that when unleashed is very visible and destructive. During both Intifadas, major operations were launched killing hundreds of Palestinians and wounding thousands more, mostly innocent civilians. Operations Defensive Shield (March-April 2002), Rainbow (May 2004), Summer and Autumn Rains (second half 2006) are just three among many. Israel's "Iron Wall" shows no mercy.

Concluding Dispossession: Oslo and Unilateral Separation

Oslo represented nishul's sixth stage, "a kind of occupation-by-consent," according to Halper. It's explained above with a few more comments to add. Israel's "security" is key to any peace process. So is getting Palestinian acquiescence to all Israeli demands and being willing to act as its enforcer. The process was flawed by design, collapsed under its own weight, led to the second Intifada, and awakened peace activists to be more proactive for their cause. It also inspired Halper to establish ICAHD, and he's been active in it since.

Oslo's failure got Israelis to "hunker down" and make "security" their foremost issue. It also explains their willingness to elect Ariel Sharon Prime Minister. Halper says "Everything he did had a clear focus and purpose: beating the Palestinians into submission, extending Israel's sovereignty to the Jordan River and preventing the establishment of a viable Palestinian state." He would complete the final nishul stage, and by luck he took power along with George Bush, his close friend and willing co-conspirator. They had a common agenda and 9/11 advanced it - in four decisive stages:

(1) Defeating the Palestinians Once and For All

It began with Sharon's controversial visit to the Haram/Temple Mount on September 28, 2000 before he was elected Prime Minister. It ignited the second Intifada the result of years of frustration over a "dead-end" peace process. It was also inspired by Hezbollah's forcing Israel's May 2000 South Lebanon withdrawal.

Anger and discontent built and finally erupted on September 29. Israel responded harshly. A cycle of resistance and retaliation followed, and the struggle persisted since despite its formal 2005 end. The first five days were especially bloody. Before a single Israeli soldier was targeted, the IDF unleashed over a million projectiles - bullets, shells, air-to-surface missiles, chemical weapons and more against a civilian population in clear violation of international law that classifies this as war crimes. Palestinian deaths numbered over 170. Another 7000 were wounded. It was just the beginning, and Sharon once in office unleashed it full force with Khan Yunis and its refugee camp one of his first targets.

With 60,000 residents, it's one of the most crowded places on earth. The IDF attacked it and obliterated an entire neighborhood. In April 2002, it invaded Jenin's refugee camp, home of 13,000 Palestinians in the northern West Bank. It cut it off from outside help. Jenin city as well. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed. People were buried under rubble. Power and water were cut off. Food and essentials kept out, including medical aid, and dozens of mostly civilian men, women and children were killed and many more injured and displaced.

Similar campaigns went on throughout the West Bank that took a terrible toll on the people and left all its cities "smoldering." Palestinian infrastructure was notably targeted - houses, roads and physical infrastructure. Institutional also, including government ministry data banks for Health, Education, and Higher Education. Affected were NGOs, research institutes, human rights organizations and everything a modern state needs to function.

It was the beginning of the end for Yasser Arafat. No longer a "reliable" ally, he was targeted for removal. His Ramallah headquarters was destroyed, save for a room or two where Sharon imprisoned him. Every Palestinian city, town and village was under siege as well and subjected to police state repression, curfews and midnight raids against helpless civilians. Thousands of acres of farmland and olive groves were leveled. "Security" is always the reason. Harassment explains it better - the beating of all resistance out of contained people with no outside support for help. David v. Goliath hardly defines it.

(2) Completing the Matrix of Control

The Separation Wall is the end process and is now nearly complete. Israel has all the choice land and settlements it needs, and in September 2004 unveiled a

plan for Palestinian-only roads to assure they stay disconnected from Israeli ones.

(3) Getting American Approval for the Annexation of the Settlement Blocs


For this, the Road Map was announced in March 2003. George Bush was reluctant but agreed. If serious, it held promise, but that was too much to expect. From the start, it was a dead letter, and Israel's intransigence killed it although technically it's still alive. It promises a two-state solution, but not the one Israel envisions - disconnected, cantonized and no state at all for Palestinians who reject it out of hand. It can only work if imposed unilaterally and only for so long. For now, Bush is on board with Israel. Negotiations are at a dead end, and the year end Annapolis conference was a combination tragedy and travesty. It was the first time in memory the legitimate government of one side was excluded from discussions, and that alone doomed them.

(4) Implementation of the Cantonization Plan

In December 2003, Sharon launched some called "the maneuver of the century." It refers to his 2005 Gaza "disengagement" as a ploy to secure greater West Bank control and give up nothing in return. In March 2006, he suffered a stroke, became incapacitated, and Ehud Olmert took over to "nail down" Sharon's key objective - "a permanent solution, an end of the Occupation based on the notion of cantonization." It would have to be unilateral as Palestinians were offered nothing.

Olmert conceived his "Convergence Plan" to control all land Israel wants and maintain separation from Palestinians. It's the same idea as Begin's Palestinian "autonomy," Sharon's cantonization, unilateral separation, the Matrix of Control, and the Oslo process while it lasted. A Palestinian state would be offered between Israel's two eastern borders, a mere truncated territory with no potential and little sovereignty. It will be imposed unilaterally, but that contradicts the Road Map that requires negotiation. So Olmert switched his "convergence" to "realignment" - finessing a border one. Palestinians get their state but a "transitional" one with "provisional borders," according the Road Map's Phase II. The problem is no Phase III will follow to assure an "independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state."

If Israel manages this, it wins and Palestinians lose. It can claim the Occupation's end, a two-state solution in place, and the conflict for the victor ended. So far, Palestinians want none of it. Olmert is beset with corruption problems, and final resolution remains a long way off.

Part IV: Overcoming Oppression - Redeeming Israel


Here's where things now stand. "Israel/Palestine (is) at a crossroads." Israel's political leadership believes it's won. The settlement project is in place. It "ensures permanent control over the entire Land of Israel." Palestine is cantonized. The "facts on the ground" are established. America is on board. So are Europeans. The Arab world is indifferent. A mere political act will make Occupation permanent. Israel offers no concessions, Palestinians have no say, and as of now have no chance for a fair and equitable solution - or so Israel thinks. Is it so?

Halper's view is this, and many share it: Ultimately, Israel will fail in its attempt "to transform its Matrix of Control (and permanent Occupation) into a stable, peaceful state of affairs." Oppressed people everywhere "have one source of leverage: the power to say 'no.' " And Palestinians have said it for six decades. For six more if they have to. For as long as it takes to get the justice they deserve. For all their wishes? Maybe not, but enough to matter and be able to end the most intractable conflict anywhere. Be assured - it will happen, one way or other, at some future time.

Hamas is a powerful symbol - of the future - the power to say "no," or as Halper puts it: "To hell with"......Israel, its Matrix of Control, America, the international community, the dismissive Arab world, and corrupted Fatah. We won't submit; won't play your rigged game; won't let you crush us; won't let you deny us our rights; in the end you'll come to us, and we'll prevail. If six decades of struggle doesn't prove it, what then will. We'll give you six more, and more still. Had enough? Now we'll set the terms. Think it can't happen? Read on.

One day Israel and the world community will reach an inevitable conclusion. The price of Occupation is too great - regional instability, global also, continued war, maybe nuclear, and a potential cost far too great to risk. Push will come to shove when it's too great to chance.

Palestinians like Jews and people everywhere have national rights of self-determination provided they don't impinge on others with equal rights. Ethnocracies like Israel don't work. Nor do they in the Muslim or Christian worlds. And understand the distinction. France for the French and Mexico for Mexicans aren't the same as Israel for the Jews. France like most countries have Christians, Jews, Muslims, whatever - all entitled to equal rights under law. Israel only affords them only to Jews - an untenable system doomed to fail. When it's realized, push will have come to shove, and then some.

So where are we, and what's ahead? Halper doesn't have a solution, but he offers an approach based on "indispensable" elements:

(1) National expression for the two peoples -

Jews and Palestinians both claim self-determination rights in the same country. Logically, it calls for a two-state or bi-national one-state solution.

(2) Viability -

The two-state option requires real sovereignty for Palestinians to be viable - self rule, over borders, basic resources, and so forth.

(3) Refugees -

The Right of Return is essential or something close enough to matter. Most important - Palestinians have the right to choose. International law backs them. It doesn't give Israel a pass.

(4) A regional dimension -

Adopting a regional approach opens new options. Middle East countries have a stake in what affects them.

(5) Regional Security -

Israel's only chance for peace and stability is to achieve a just peace with the Palestinians and integrate fairly in the greater region. Playing hegemon won't do it. In the end, militarism always fails.

Enormous obstacles must be overcome to achieve any meaningful settlement: locked in attitudes, decades of failure, unresponsive governments, much the same for the UN, so where does that leave things - world public opinion, people of conscience, on a global scale, from the grassroots, creating a groundswell for change. Can it happen? Not easily, but Halper offers a "reframing."

(1) Conceptualizing the conflict: how to secure mutual national rights -

Reconciling mutually opposing rights is key to a meaningful just solution.

(2) Defining the problem: security v. occupation and a proactive expansion policy -

Palestinians have been conciliatory; willing to compromise; accept a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders (22% of historic Palestine); Israel flatly refuses; diktats, not compromise is its strategy; "security" the mantra; the outcome - win-lose.

Only a rights-based win-win solution can work; one under international law; apartheid is untenable; human rights reframing advances the de-colonization argument; why elsewhere but not in Israel.

Sum it up and here are Halper's choices:

(1) a traditional two-state solution -

A viable Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories is unrealistic given Israeli settlements with 500,000 Jews in them.

(2) An "Israel plus-Palestinian minus" two-state solution: the Israeli option -

It's a non-starter for Palestinians - a semi-sovereign, hardly viable, disconnected, South African-style apartheid system.

(3) A single-state solution: multi-national and democratic -

The best choice, but is it workable? Transforming a Jewish state into a democratic one faces enormous obstacles. Maybe one day but not soon.

(4) A regional confederation -

It's more complex, "less elegant," but for Halper the only workable choice, and he compares it to the EU - balancing national autonomy with freedom to live and/or work anywhere in the union. It neutralizes Occupation, gets Palestinians out of their trap by allowing them wider economic, social, and geographic opportunities within the region. It's fair and win-win, and he suggests a "two-stage" process:

(a) A Palestinian State alongside Israel -

Essentially what now exists for starters with "stage two" to follow; a "way out of the trap" - an international community regional confederation guarantee within, for example, a decade. That assures viability.

(b) A regional confederation leading to a wider Middle East confederation -

The international community must take charge; set the terms; get everyone on board; and begin say with Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Later bring in Egypt, others and eventually all regional states - a full-blown Middle East Union, like the EU.

Settlements can stay in place; Israel needn't offer Palestinians citizenship; but nishul must stop, allow Palestinians out of their trap; and bring an end to conflict because its reason no longer exists. Details are important and must carefully be worked out, but on a fair and equitable basis to both sides and all regional states. It's no simple task, maybe one too great, but look at the possibilities:

— ending the longest and most intractable conflict anywhere;

— stopping it from getting worse; endangering the region; beyond it as well;

— transforming Israel from an ethnocracy to a legitimate democratic state diplomatically recognized by its neighbors; and

— allowing Jews and Muslims to live in peace; then both with everyone everywhere; imagine the possibilities; the alternative is hopelessness: Jews will also suffer; ethnocracy is self-destructive; the way out is justice; a little compromise for a lot of gain; win-win; Halper sees Israel going beyond peace to redemption, committed to human rights, and beginning the journey to get there.

What About Terrorism?


First off, distinguish between individual/group v. the far greater state kind. Then consider aggressors and victims, one act begetting another, an eventual vicious circle, and nations claiming the high ground when they're at fault - "worthy" victims of "unworthy" ones even when they act in self-defense.

The real issues is life. It's sacred, and taking it from non-combatants is terrorism. It's also "illegal, immoral and prohibited." Self-defense against combatants is another matter fully justified under international law as is the right to resist with arms. Israel says otherwise, blames its victims, and so far has avoided accountability. That no longer can stand, and Halper suggests a "better language" to hold all terrorist acts accountable.

It exists so let's use it - the language of human rights. It's codified in law, and it's high time it's applied universally. It's precise, inclusive and condemns all forms of terror - by individuals, groups and most importantly states. And judicial bodies exist to enforce it - the International Criminal Court (ICC) for example to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression. The principle of "universal jurisdiction" also exists that requires other states to bring rights violators (including heads of state) to trial if their own nation won't do it.

Halper sees human rights and applying international law as key to genuine peace and conflict resolution. States, of course, are the obstacle. They won't police themselves, and in-place institutions have proved weak. Changing things requires people action - international civil society demanding justice; doing it proactively; marshaling enough voices to make them heard; refusing to take no for an answer. Think impossible? Think again.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Here's the problem. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict involves far more than two peoples. Far more than the region. It's global and resonates everywhere and affects everyone. For the Middle East alone, regional peace is impossible without a just settlement of the conflict. Absent that and anything is possible - all bad.

Globally, the entire world is affected. For Halper, it's brought him "full circle," a Jew, an Israeli in Palestine seeing his "own people coopted by Israel's security framing and disempowered." Disadvantaged as well considering the alternative. He's part of an effort to change things and suggests four strategic elements:

(1) A global, regional, local and personal vision


The last two decades have seen the emergence of a vibrant international civil society - thousands of peace and human rights organizations of all types together with activists, intellectuals and concerned people everywhere standing up against injustice and demanding resolution. So far, the other side outmuscles them, but who knows for how long. New tools are around like the Internet that connects people everywhere. Alternative media as well, including online choices attracting growing audiences fed up with the mainstream's mind-numbing array.

That combination against injustice has power. Omnipotent - no. Effective - why not, and in enough numbers it works. Social movements comprised of ordinary people have enormous political clout. They can win when they're of a mind to, but it's no simple task. It takes muscle-flexing, exercising "disruptive power," according to Frances Fox Piven, and look what it brought America - ending slavery, labor and civil rights and a liberating revolution from Britain. Why not one freeing Palestinians from Occupation. But it needs an effective program for action. Here's Halper's:

— reframe the conflict; make it rights-based; include other choices also; mobilize civil society; get support within governments; UN officials; anyone from anywhere to stand up for justice.

ICAHD has "two meta-campaigns:

— an "anti-apartheid" one involving resistance and ending the Occupation employing various tools and strategies; once an apartheid regime is in place, have planned responses to counteract it;

— a "60 Years Later: Marking 1948" one highlighting displacement and dispossession;

— both campaigns focus on other issues as well - home demolitions, the Separation Wall, the entire Matrix of Control, boycotts, disinvestment, sanctions, holding Israel accountable, and framing everything within a "Big Picture" meta-campaign strategy.

Redeeming Israel fits in as well. Making it an "exclusive patrimony" created a "violent nightmare....a self-defeating enterprise." The more Jews "try to Judaize Palestine, the more (they) destroy it" and themselves. The situation is untenable and begs for an alternative. Political Zionism is "exhausted." A prosperous and formidable Jewish state has failed - to achieve "accommodation, justice, peace and reconciliation" with Palestinians, the region, and international civil society.

A "New Cultural Zionism" is needed, disassociating itself from self-defeating politics and its corrupting violence. What's good for Jews is good for Arabs is good for everyone. Halper "can't argue with that." Can anyone? His book is powerful, enlightening, and important to read and act on.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM - 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM - 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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