Jeff Halper's An Israeli in Palestine (Part II)
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 II continues the story.
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
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.
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
Immediately after the 1967 war, the Labor government began "integrating Judea,
-- 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
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
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:
-- 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 email@example.com.
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 lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.