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 ICAHD Newsletter 2014 - Autumn


Jeff Halper

This is the first newsletter since the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, which obviously preoccupied our attention. It showed the political bankruptcy of all the actors. For Israel, it was an attempt to finally break all Palestinian resistance – mopping up in Gaza after Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in 2002 destroyed Fatah resistance there. Then the idea was to create “industrial quiet” with the Palestinian Authority serving as Israel’s policeman and enforcer in all the Occupied Territory so that the Palestinian issue would simply disappear from view as the world’s attention moves to ISIS, the Ukraine, China and Russia, Ebola and all the other urgent problems. As I wrote in this piece, the situation in Israel/Palestine has gone way beyond the two-state solution, beyond even apartheid (which would have at least a symbolic Palestinian Bantustan) to outright warehousing. Its message to the Palestinians: There is no longer any “peace process.” You have three options, submit, leave or die.

It didn’t work. If one message came through, it was that Israel had discovered the limits of military power. It could not destroy Hamas and the Palestinian resistance even if it destroyed Gaza. The message sent by Hamas to Israel was not received, as I wrote in this piece, Israel has not been disabused of the notion that it can defeat the Palestinians once and for all, but that message of dealing justly with the Palestinians was received by the world at large, even if Hamas was the messenger. Still, resistance without a political plan is futile, and so Hamas’s fight with Israel did little to change the situation. True, almost $4 billion were donated by various countries for “reconstruction” (Israel, of course, was not asked to contribute a penny), but Israel was given veto power over building materials going into Gaza, which has led to charges that the UN has now become a party to Israel blockage, which has not ended. Unless the Palestinians can reopen their port and airport, there cannot be genuine economic growth – but it is extremely unlikely that Israel will allow that. In many ways, then, we seem to be going back to the status quo ante, with little changed politically.

If anything, Israel’s political bankruptcy was exceed by that of the Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. Israel at least has a plan: warehousing. The PA has nothing: no resistance, no plan for the future, and certainly no effective strategy for rallying its greatest ally, grassroots public opinion the world over, which has swung dramatically to the Palestinians’ side. No turning to the International Criminal Court; a willingness, even eagerness, to continue to act as Israel’s policeman, this time extended to Gaza; and no initiative except a futile plan to take the Palestinian case to the UN Security Council where it will undoubtedly vetoed by the US and other members as being “unilateral.” Only the threat of Abu Mazen to dismantle the PA if the US vetoes his initiative in the Security Council promises meaningful progress.

And, as I’ve commented before, there is little if any meaningful strategizing going on at the civil society level as well in Israel and Palestine, so we also must accept responsibility for the process of warehousing. This is serious, since I stand by my guns (so to speak) and contend that the Occupation is in the process of collapse, protracted as it may be. Its disruptive influence felt throughout the increasingly unstable Middle East will render it unsustainable, and the collapse of the PA, which will happen sooner rather than later, will be one of the main game-changers. My fear, then, is collapse without agency on our part, the inability of the critical just-peace forces to exploit the opportunity and present its own solution, something around one democratic state.

But we carry on, doing what advocacy we can in the absence of an end-game for which to advocate. ICAHD activists also spoke at demonstrations against the Gaza invasion in different parts of the world. Here are a couple pictures:

Prof. Peter Slezak, head of ICAHD Australia, addressing a rally in Sydney

ICAHD UK activists at huge rally in London

We still keep a focus on house demolitions, of course. According to UN figures, Israel destroyed 18,000 housing units in Gaza during the July/August attacks – plus continuing to demolish in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – bringing the total of Palestinian homes demolished in the Occupied Territory to more than 48,000 since 1967. In addition to homes destroyed as “collateral damage” in military incursions and homes demolitions for lack of building permits, Israel has recently renewed its policy of “punitive” demolitions, demolishing homes of people suspected of carrying out security offenses and their innocent families. Cody O’Rourke, a member of the CPT team in Hebron (and the father of my grandson) and I wrote a report on punitive demolitions in Hebron, and I published an analysis of the illegality of the policy in Hebrew for a legal journal. I also spoke on al-Jazeera’s Inside Story program on this topic.

For my part, partly because we are somewhat stuck when it comes to articulating an end-game to the conflict, I have begun exploring what I call “global Palestine,” how Israel is exporting the Occupation. This is the subject of a book I’m just finishing on Israel’s involvement with the global arms trade, domestic security and policing. I therefore wrote a piece following the assault on Gaza about how Israel is attempting to change international humanitarian law (IHL) in order to allow it, and other states, to suppress popular uprisings unencumbered by the protections IHL extends to both non-combatants and combatants who, in the framework of IHL, resist occupation, repression, colonialism and exploitation, even if they do so by armed force.

As you will see below, ICAHD in Jerusalem and all its chapters abroad continue to be active, focused and strategic. I truly believe there will be major break-throughs – or potential break-throughs, if we are prepared to exploit them – in the next few months. ICAHD has positioned itself to make its strategic contribution to (1) formulating a detailed plan of a just solution with our Palestinian, Israeli and international partners and (2) effectively advocating for it when the time is ripe.


Participate in the November political study tour and connect with ICAHD on the ground. Following Israel’s recent bombardment of Gaza, the situation in Israel/Palestine is changing rapidly, so don’t miss this opportunity to received updated information and analysis.

The next study tour will take place in mid November. Consisting of eleven days, participants will have the opportunity to gain an overview of some of the main issues facing a population living under occupation - house demolitions, displacement, education, refugees, water, lack of freedom of movement, women's issues – and discrimination within the state of Israel. Engage with more than twenty organisations and local individuals. Meet in Jerusalem upon arrival and go as far south as Hebron and later north to Maghar in the Galilee. Visit the Mediterranean on the west coast and the Jordan Valley to the east.

Tour price - £900, single supplement if required £230

Cost per person includes full tour programme and staying in good three star hotels at half board (bed, breakfast and evening meal), sharing a twin-bedded room with ensuite facilities.  Also included in the price is your tour leader, tour bus, guides and tips.  Not included: flights, travel insurance, lunches. Tour groups travel in a small mini bus.
Information about the appointments and practical information covering all aspects of the visit are provided. Hundreds of people from around the world have joined the tours and many recommendations are available. The tours provide unique access for discussion and on going involvement with key people and organisations that would otherwise be difficult to meet when travelling on one's own.  For many the tour has proved life-changing.

The Tour schedule was put together brilliantly and with deep insight. There were opportunities for us to meet a number of Palestinians and support agencies, from which one could begin to understand something of the terrible reality of the Occupation – at least from an observer’s viewpoint. Interwoven with these events were informative talks, advice, debriefing and discussion sessions, and meetings with Israelis involved in the resistance struggles. Plus downtime in Palestinian cultural settings. The tour was sensitive, eclectic and powerful. An entirely unique experience. Thank you so much. Judy G – Brighton


During the attack on Gaza, there were weekly demonstrations in Helsinki, seven in all. People from ICAHD Finland spoke at all of the demonstrations, and we took part in organising the last three ones, in cooperation with local Palestinian community organisation and the Finnish Peace Committee. Bruno Jäntti, ICAHD Finland Chair, spoke at a demonstration against the war in Gaza in Tampere, and we both have given a number of talks also in smaller cities outside Helsinki.
One of the central demands of the demonstrations was ending the arms trade between Finland and Israel. Perhaps partly as a result (but by no means only because of it), prominent Finnish politicians spoke out against the arms trade with Israel during the assault, including the chairs of the Social Democrats, Greens and the Left Alliance, which together have 1/3 of the seats in the parliament. We will use the increased prominence of the issue to deepen our campaign against the arms trade. Bruno Jäntti, the head of ICAHD Finland, wrote this piece for al-Jazeera arguing that it's time for the EU to impose sanctions on Israel.
In September, we organised a Peace Forum, in cooperation with the Hakunila International Organisation, funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Our guests this time were Amira Hass and Jamal Zahalka, the latter being a member of the Israeli Knesset and head of the Balad party, which has three seats. (Haneen Zoabi was due to come as our guest, but she was unable to come because she had to deal with the political persecution against her.) We had about 200 people at the event, and organised a number of interviews for press and radio. Zahalka also briefly met with a few members of the Finnish Parliament, organised by a sympathetic MP. Hass met with and interviewed the Finnish foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja (the article is here.) Like with earlier guest, we did a series of short interviews, which will appear on our Vimeo page.
Last December, we came out with a report on Veolia and sent it to the media and to city council members in the capital area, as well as board members of the Helsinki Regional Transport (which is run jointly by a number of cities in the capital area). There was subsequently a motion in the city council to stop using Veolia. The matter is still being evaluated, and has attracted attention in the mainstream media. Our press release from last May is here.
We've come out with a report on Ahava and Sodastream, and in September sent it to retailers. We intend to follow up with phone calls to ask them to meet with us, and may then follow up with protests if products are not deshelved.
We have gotten our first grant from the Foreign Ministry, for communications.

Syksy Räsänen from ICAHD Finland has signed a contract for a book with the working title "Israeli apartheid", due to come out next fall (in Finnish).


During Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, clashes also erupted in the West Bank, just before ICAHD’s annual rebuilding camp was about to begin. We considered merely curtailing the camp, but after discussions with our Palestinian partners, including the family whose home we intended to build, we decided it was not appropriate to host the participants at such a time of national strife, struggle and mourning.

We had laid the foundations for the home of the family in Anata in preparation for the camp, and when the heads of the Israeli, British, American and German ICAHD chapters visited the family, we committed ourselves to completing the rebuilding, perhaps in a special camp in April.

Planning the new home.Salim Shawamreh on the right, the head of the family on the left

       The site of the home is almost adjacent to the Apartheid Wall surrounding Anata

 Some of the kids looking forward to their new home


Although the rebuilding camp was postponed, the heads of ICAHD chapters abroad, who were planning to attend anyway, decided not to cancel their tickets so we could have a few days of strategizing. We, indeed, covered a lot of ground, from an evaluation of “where we are” in the Israel-Palestine conflict and the role of ICAHD in the struggle for a just peace, through reviewing our areas and strategies of activity and on to planning new campaigns and materials.

                                                 Meeting of (some) ICAHD chapter heads in Jerusalem
Clockwise from left: Ken Boas, Chair of ICAHD USA, Claus Walischewski and Doris Flack, heads of ICAHD Germany, Lisa Arnold of ICAHD Australia, Linda Ramsden, head of ICAHD UK, Ofer Neiman and Ruth El-Raz of the ICAHD Board in Jerusalem, and Jeff Halper, head of ICAHD


ICAHD UK’s stall, which for a decade has been prominent at the annual four-day Greenbelt festival, again proved to be a great way to keep people talking about the subject of house demolitions and displacement. The Greenbelt Festival, for those of you who don’t know, is a progressive Christian festival of arts, faith and justice held annually in England since 1974. It attracts some 20,000 participants, who campout at the site. The festival regularly attracts the biggest names of Christian music and many mainstream musicians. It is also a venue for teaching and discussion with a wide variety of workshops around (though not exclusively) Christian faith and issues. The festival welcomes, however, anyone who the organisers believe 'speaks for justice', and ICAHD speakers have appeared regularly over the years. Palestine has always been a central issue and Linda Ramsden a central organizer. More than 2,000 people attended the Bethlehem Unwrapped event in the Big Top, at which Linda spoke about ICAHD’s work.

                                                            Linda speaking to an audience of 2000 at the Greenbelt Festival


Ruth Edmonds’ UK Speaking Tour

                                                                 Ruth (and Bruno) at the Rebuilding Camp

From 26th September to 5th October, Ruth Edmonds, ICAHD’s Advocacy Officer and activist, participated in a UK speaking tour. She spoke about the changing political situation and ICAHD’s work. She shared some of her stories that illustrated how Palestinian peace activists are dealt with much more harshly than their Jewish colleagues and she ended by speaking about what activists can do to help end the Occupation.  

Ruth was the special guest for ICAHD UK’s sponsored walk weekend. Public meetings were held in Thursley, Leamington Spa, London, Ascot, Witney, Birmingham, Worcester and Brighton. Ruth finished the tour by speaking at a fringe meeting at the Lib Dem Party Conference in Glasgow sponsored by Lib Dem Friends of Palestine.

And….congratulations to the British Parliament for recognizing the state of Palestine. It was gratifying to hear ICAHD’s name being invoked several times by speakers (together with Breaking the Silence, Peace Now and others), and to see so many MPs that have taken ICAHD tours or been briefed by us in Parliament. Recognizing Palestine as a state is somewhat problematic at this stage, of course, because it locks us into a two-state situation at a time when it seems clear that is not a realistic option, making it more difficult to move beyond it. But the intent was genuinely supportive of the Palestinians and all of us working for a just peace, so it was greatly appreciated.

Jeff Halper’s US Speaking Tour



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