Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June/July 2016, pp. 67-68

Waging Peace

Halper on Judaization, De-Arabization in Israel/Palestine

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JEFF HALPER ARRIVED AT Princeton University on April 28 directly from a Tel Aviv via Moscow flight to New York. He apologized for being jetlagged, then, without notes, spoke lucidly and with deep insight about “Where we are heading in Israel/Palestine.” As a former professor of anthropology as well as co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, the American-born Halper unites the research skills of an academic with an activist’s firsthand experience. 

In his latest book, war against the people (available from AET’s Middle East Books and More), Halper draws on both to help us understand how “Israel gets away with it.” He asked why, when the two-state solution had the support of nearly the whole world, including Palestinians since 1988 and the Arab League since 2002, Israel blocked it. He believes the reason has to do with the $2.5 trillion a year homeland security industry, in which Israel has a big share. Israel uses the occupation as a resource, Halper explained, a laboratory for developing, testing and then marketing tactics of control: weapons, surveillance, biometrics, policing tactics, airport security. Israel produces 40 percent of the drone market, and is the second largest arms supplier to China, as well as to the other BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia and India), to which Halper said we can now add the second tier of MINT countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey). Halper argues that Israel has more military/technology influence in the global south than the U.S., something he describes as “exporting the occupation.”

In an ironic aside, Halper noted that President Barack Obama recently offered Israel a new military aid package of $37 billion over 10 years. The New York Times describes this as “the largest package of military aid ever provided by the United States to another nation.” But, Halper reported, Israel is balking. On April 25, two days before he spoke, 83 senators wrote to Obama demanding that the amount be increased to $45 billion. This, he added, to a country the size of New Jersey, and evidence that the U.S. is on the side of the oppressor.

Halper described Zionism as “a century-long campaign to turn Palestine into Israel.” At its center is Judaization, a term Halper acknowledged sounds anti-Semitic, but is one the Israeli government officially uses. The result has been the deliberate fragmentation of the Palestinian people. The PLO, which represented all Palestinians wherever they lived—in the diaspora, in refugee camps, in Israel, and under occupation—in effect no longer exists. According to Halper, the peace process destroyed it. The legislative body of the PLO, the Palestinian National Council, has not met in 20 years. Add to that “Israel’s long campaign of assassinating or imprisoning any Palestinian leadership,” and the result, Halper said, is that Palestinians have no effective leadership, nor any mechanism to get together and plan.   

“De-Arabization” of the land, Halper continued, has by now succeeded. East Jerusalem now has more Jews than Palestinians. Within Israel, planning and zoning laws confine the 20 percent of the population who are “Israeli Arabs” (never, he noted “Israeli Palestinians”) to 3.5 percent of the land. Gaza is caged. Palestinians in “Judea and Samaria” are restricted to Areas A and B, less than 40 percent of the West Bank. There is no longer any detachable contiguous territory, meaning the two-state solution is dead. 

In Halper’s view, Israel is exactly where it wants to be: in control of the whole area with a collaborative Palestinian Authority. True, the existing one-state reality fits the U.N.’s definition of the crime of apartheid—one population maintaining separation by a regime of domination—but Halper claimed that within Israel, apartheid is considered the liberal option. Worse is warehousing, as already exists in Gaza. Halper predicts that, in either order, the PA will collapse and Israel will formally annex the 62 percent of the West Bank that is Area C, leaving it officially in control of 85 percent of the area. The U.S. and the EU, through the U.N., would then make the remaining bits of Palestine international protectorates, taking on the responsibility of feeding and sheltering the inhabitants, like zookeepers. 

With humility, “because only Palestinians can lead the struggle,” Halper suggested an alternative: one Binational Democratic State (BDS). Palestinians might say to Israel: “You eliminated the solution of two states and therefore a democratic Jewish state. Israel can only be Jewish with apartheid. We accept the reality of an Israeli-created single state, but we do not accept apartheid.” Settlers can remain and refugees return; both can live anywhere. Halper acknowledged that ideologue settlers would not accept this, but noted that they are only 1 percent of Israel’s Jewish population. Palestinians in the diaspora and within Israel would accept it, but those in refugee camps and in the West Bank might see this as a legitimization of Zionism and oppression. 

Therefore, Halper stressed, there must be a Palestinian discussion of what the end game should look like among all four sectors. Most of the world, the U.S. Congress excepted, is in support of peace with justice in Israel/Palestine. The BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) is gaining force everywhere. Halper therefore suggests a new slogan: BDS 4 BDS.

—Jane Adas

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