This morning The Jerusalem Post ran a commentary by Jeff Halper, Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)–called Right of Reply: There’s no correct way to be pro-Israel. In the piece he accuses NGO Monitor head Gerald Steinberg off “accosting” him on a plane from Israel to NY a few months ago:
“I am Gerald Steinberg,” he trumpeted. “I am the person who will put you out of business.” Then he abruptly lurched off. But he apparently had one more thought he wanted to share with me. Suddenly he turned around, pointed at me and bellowed: “You are a Jewish anti-Semite!” Now accosting me in the street is one thing, but accusing me of anti-Semitism in a voice everyone could hear on a planeload of Jewish passengers was virtual incitement to a lynching. Fortunately, my fellow passengers had their seat-belts on, and the incident passed peacefully.
Having met Professor Steinberg a few times I can imagine him using those words but to be honest I cannot imagine him using the tone described by Halper. Steinberg is a very tall man (6 foot 3-ish) but he is a gentle man with a folksy speaking style, I just can’t imagine him “bellowing” at anyone.
Perhaps the bigger issue is what Halper says in his piece about ICAHD—NOTHING. While he defends his right to say what he wants (and I would defend it also). He doesn’t try and refute Steinberg’s claims that ICAHD is an anti-Israel NGO–all he says is there is no one right way to defend Israel. He is right in that statement, there is no ONE right way to defend Israel–but what Halper leaves out is that there are plenty of wrong ways. And if he say that ICAHD is defending Israel, it is doing it the wrong way.
Below is a Summary of the NGO Monitor reports about ICAHD, the ones that Halper does NOT refute but claims its just his way of defending Israel. With defenders like this who needs enemies.
International Advocacy ICAHD regularly participates in United Nations sponsored events, and Halper takes an active role in pro-Palestinian activities, serving as a member of the steering committee of the UN Conference on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP). Representing ICAHD, Halper delivered a speech at the United Nations Latin America and Caribbean Meeting on the Question of Palestine in Caracas on 13 December 2005. In his comments, Halper ignored Israeli security concerns, noting that “Israel’s moves were all unilateral to create an illusion of a Palestinian state, but which would leave Israel in control.” Halper also stated that “Ninety-five percent of the cases of house demolitions had nothing to do with security,” providing no source or evidence for his claims. In May 2005, ICAHD took part in a session of CEIRPP, which discussed implementation of the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the construction of Israel’s separation barrier. The session emphasized adverse affects on the Palestinian population, while neglecting to mention the reduction in terrorist attacks since its construction. Other NGO participants in the session included Al-Haq, Ha-Moked, and World Vision International. As in the past, ICAHD publicly expresses support for the imposition of a broad range of punitive measures by the international community upon Israel. A 2005 statement published on the ICAHD-UK website entitled “A Statement on Sanctions,” outlined support for “a multi-tiered campaign of strategic, selective sanctions against Israel” and “selective divestment and boycott as tools of moral and economic pressure.” On 30 January 2007, ICAHD joined with Interpal, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, War on Want, Medical Aid for Palestinians, and Pax Christi in a new “anti-occupation” coalition that called for sanctions against Israel. In February 2007, ICAHD invited Judge Juan Guzman, the judge who indicted Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, to visit Israel and provide “his legal opinion … to build an international legal case against Israelis involved in the demolition of Palestinian homes.” (Guzman stated “that he had not formally agreed to work for ICAHD, nor was it clear to him that there was a basis for … a case”). Additionally, a 31 January 2007 posting on ICAHD’s website announced a “two-day mobilization on June 10/11, 2007 in Washington, DC, including a massive rally, teach-in, and grassroots lobbying day,” which will be organized in tandem with the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation and United for Peace and Justice . Publications In its publications and interviews, ICAHD consistently promotes the “Durban strategy” of demonizing Israel, continuing to use terms such as “apartheid” to describe policies of the Israeli government. A 2006 working paper begins by stating that “…within the next year – four at the most – an expanded Israel will officially and unilaterally impose an apartheid regime over the remaining tiny, isolated and impoverished islands of a Palestinian Bantustan.” In a 2 February 2007 article on Al-Jazeerah’s website, Halper is quoted referring to the separation barrier as the “Apartheid Wall” and describes its purpose as being “to continue ethnically cleansing Palestinians and keep those remaining virtual prisoners in restricted cantonized OPT areas.” Additionally, Halper states in an April 29, 2004 article entitled “Towards a Middle East Union” that “two states, Palestine and Israel, [will] eventually join in a bi-national federation that in time will include Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and ultimately Egypt and other countries of the Middle East – a Middle East Union.” In a 25 November 2006 article, Halper wrote that “the problem in the Middle East is not the Palestinian people, not Hamas, not the Arabs, not Hezbollah or the Iranians or the entire Muslim world. It’s us, the Israelis.” Halper used this article to promote his radical views that erase any Palestinian reasonability for conflict, deny serious existential threats to Israel, ignore key contexts of terrorism and Arab rejectionism, and promote a clearly pro-Palestinian narrative that describes Yasser Arafat as “by far the most congenial and cooperative partner Israel ever had.” Activities in Israel ICAHD’s major activities in Israel involve conducting tours for international groups, individuals, and organizations in order to disseminate the NGO’s views, and rebuilding houses. In contrast to the terms of its funding from the EU, which was for “Providing a Coherent Paradigm of Peace to the Israeli Public”, many of ICAHD’s activities focus on introducing visiting foreign nationals to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, presenting a paradigm that excludes or greatly distorts the State of Israel. Participants in ICAHD’s annual summer camp in 2007 will be “rebuilding a house and demonstrating non-violent resistance to the Occupation.” Additionally, participants in the summer camp “will have the opportunity to learn about the facts on the ground through a full program which includes presentations from key organizations working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel, films about aspects of the conflict, and tours to other parts of the Occupied Territories, Jerusalem and Israel.” These tours present “settlement activity, the emergence of a ‘Greater’ Jerusalem and the ‘Matrix of Control’” to international audiences. In Spring 2007, ICAHD will promote its highly biased view of the conflict during a “Study Tour” that will include “meetings with organizations such as Breaking the Silence, Zochrot, Christian Peacemakers Teams, BADIL, Sabeel and many more.” Participants will be afforded the chance “to hear different voices ranging from a member of the Knesset to an extremist settler and a British diplomat.” The International Solidarity Movement, which has been involved in tragic confrontations with the IDF and has been linked to terrorist figures, including two suicide bombers of British nationality, sends volunteers to participate in ICAHD house rebuilding campaigns. Outside Contributors ICAHD regularly publishes articles on its website by British-born journalist Jonathan Cook, who has written for Al-Jazeerah’s online English edition and Electronic Intifada. In a 1 December 2006 article, Cook describes a suicide bombing as a choice between “death and resistance over powerlessness and victimhood.” Another article by Cook from 7 December 2006, entitled “The Struggle for Palestine’s Soul,” argues that Israel “has not for one moment renounced violence against Palestinian resistance to occupation.” He continues by writing that if Hamas wins its political and military battles with Fatah “then the Palestinians will have the chance to re-energize the intifada, and launch a proper, consensual fight to end the occupation.” Collaboration with Radical NGOs ICAHD networks with a significant number of NGOs to publish reports, coordinate speeches, and organize events. In tandem with politicized NGOs such as Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, BADIL, and Ittijah, ICAHD authored a Joint NGO submission in May 2006 to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN CERD). ICAHD’s contribution to CERD claims to provide “statistics” on the numbers of Palestinian homes demolished in the West Bank. No sources or evidence for these statistics are provided, making independent verification of ICAHD’s allegations impossible. Sabeel, which leads international church divestment campaigns and uses anti-Semitic imagery to attack Israel, continues to be one of ICAHD’s main partners. In 2006, Halper appeared at Sabeel’s Kansas City Conference with Phyllis Bennis, co-founder of the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation as well as at a conference on divestment from Israel sponsored by the Canadian Friends of Sabeel. Halper also spoke at the 2006 Sabeel Washington DC Conference, demanding that civil society be “mobilized in an urgent and effective campaign, calling for the use of boycott, divestment and sanctions.” In February 2007, Halper joined the founder of Sabeel, Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek at a “public hearing” sponsored by the Council on National Interest. The event was co-sponsored by the CNI and the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace, organizations who stress the need for a “just solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict” and a “just peace”, but whose websites advertise activities such as the selling of “two-sided cards with maps showing Israel’s takeover of Palestinian lands since 1946.” Such activities undermine Israel’s legitimacy, even within pre-1967 borders. Halper used this platform to repeat his mantra of Israel’s “apartheid” state, its “matrix of control,” and to argue against the two-state solution. ICAHD is a partner of the UK-based Christian Aid (CA), which provides it (and Halper) with additional international exposure. CA publishes material that erases Palestinian responsibility, ignores terrorism and demonizes Israel and the NGO’s activities have reflected classical anti-Semitic themes. Pressureworks.org, Christian Aid’s youth arm, promotes ICAHD house parties and features an interview with Halper on its website. ICAHD also works with LAW, an NGO that led the Israel demonization during the 2001 Durban Conference, in order to bring international delegations to Israel to tour the West Bank and “to engage in solidarity actions and help mobilize international public opinion.”