Jeff Halper, anthropologist and Israeli peace activist, does not shy from unconventional positions. In his latest book, “War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification,” he argues that nations around the world allow Israel to continue its repression of Palestinians because they benefit from Israeli technology and security support to pacify their own people.
Halper lays out how Israel provides military and security technology across the globe and has developed an international military and security web that has engendered often unexpected support from around the world, including from China and India. He argues that Israel has used the Palestinian territories as a laboratory for this military and security technology, which it now proffers worldwide.
Halper still sees a way forward to peace.
Co-founder and Director of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition (ICAHD), Halper was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, engaged in anti-Vietnam war protests, and then emigrated to Israel in 1973, where he has lived and engaged in peace activism ever since. He is currently on a book tour, which included a stop in Madison, Wisconsin.
Until about five years ago, Halper believed that the much-touted two-state solution, through which an independent Palestine would be created out of the West Bank and Gaza, was the pathway to a just and peaceful resolution. But he now believes Israel has intentionally made this solution impossible with its ever-expanding settlements in the West Bank.
At the time of the Oslo accords in 1993, he notes, there were 200,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank. That number doubled by the year 2000, and currently there are 600,000 settlers there. Israeli building plans project a settler population of about 1 million in the foreseeable future.
In Halper’s view, the current state of affairs amounts to the warehousing of Palestinians, and that most Israelis do not approve of the radical settlers (90 percent of settlers are not political, but merely seeking cheap subsidized housing). His proposed solution for the future of IsraelPalestine (he combines the name into one word): a bi-national democratic state that would recognize the importance and viability of both the Jewish and Palestinian people. He proposes that citizens would get two votes for members of a bicameral legislature, one vote for a democratically elected house, and the other vote for a house whose purpose would be to protect the rights of each people from a possible tyranny of the majority.
Israel does not currently have a constitution, so Halper believes that to make a bi-national state work, a constitution would need to be adopted to protect the integrity and rights of both peoples.
Of course, the real question is what needs to change to make such a binational state a reality. Halper sees the current leadership of both Israel and Palestine as incapable or unwilling to come to any resolution of their conflict. Noting President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas’s poor health and the lack of widespread support for him among his people, Halper sees the PA as verging on collapse. Halper believes that collapse will create sufficient chaos to shake up the status quo. Halper is quick to admit that a binational state cannot come into being without strong popular Palestinian support, which is currently not there.
As for the role of progressives in the United States, Halper argues that they cannot force a solution on Israelis and Palestinians. He supports what he calls “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” of Israel, and has coined the phrase, “BDS 4 BDS,” or “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for a Bi-national Democratic State.” He is concerned that the current BDS movement must become connected to an end game, because as only a protest movement it is unlikely to accomplish anything meaningful.
Jeff Spitzer-Resnick is a civil rights attorney in Madison, Wisconsin. He blogs at systemschangeconsulting.wordpress.com.