The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) claims to be “a non-violent, direct-action group … to oppose and resist Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories.” A recipient of EU funding, ICAHD partners with radical NGOs such as Sabeel, Christian Aid, and LAW to campaign against the two-state solution, promote the “Durban Strategy” of boycotts and demonizing Israel, using terms such as “apartheid”, and grossly distorting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Founded in 1997, ICAHD is led by Jeff Halper, formerly affiliated with Ben Gurion University. At best Halper is biased against Israel at worst he has become a major anti-Israel propaganda tool. While some of ICAHD’s activities are coordinated by others, such as Amos Gvirtz and Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, Halper is the public face of ICAHD, both in Israel and internationally. As the NGO’s highest profile representative, Halper’s activities are indistinguishable from ICAHD’s, and his visibility is facilitated by the NGO. As documented in NGO Monitor reports, ICAHD continues to use its EU funding to promote a highly one-sided view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It consistently ignores the context of ongoing Palestinian terror attacks, promotes the “Durban strategy” of demonizing the Jewish state, campaigns against the two-state solution, and partners with radical NGOs. ICAHD’s international backing lends the NGO a legitimacy and credibility that is highly disproportionate to its status in Israel.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.” (source NGO Monitor)
The latest example of Halper’s twisted ways is his claim that Israel’s destruction of Palestinian Houses violates international law and the Geneva convention. Sorry Jeff you should have listened to your mom and gone to law school because as CAMERA is reporting below….you are very wrong.
Jeff Halper Distorts International Law
The adoption of the Geneva Conventions in 1949 was preceded, in the words of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) official François Bugnion, by “four years of intense and almost continuous negotiations” (“The Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949: From the 1949 Diplomatic Conference to the Dawn of the New Millennium,” International Affairs, January 2000). During these post-war years, the ICRC, representatives of relief organizations, and government experts worked together to study data, analyze existing agreements and draft the new conventions. The drafts were discussed and amended over the course of a number of conferences and Commissions of Experts. Finally, the representatives of 63 governments met in the summer of 1949 for the Diplomatic Conference for the Establishment of International Conventions for the Protection of Victims of War, which entailed an additional “four months of continuing and exhaustive debate” (Jean S. Pictet, “The New Geneva Conventions for the Protection of War Victims,” The American Journal of International Law, July 1951). But never mind all that rigorous effort. In its relentless quest to demonize the Jewish state, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), a virulently anti-Israel activist organization headed by Jeff Halper, has in effect rewritten the Fourth Geneva Convention, the main achievement of those years of work. Here is what visitors to the Frequently Asked Question of the ICAHD Web site are told:
Q. Are Israel’s house demolitions legal under international law? A. No. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention Occupying Powers are prohibited from destroying property or employing collective punishment. Article 53 reads: “Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons…is prohibited.” Under this provision the practice of demolishing Palestinian houses is banned, as is the wholesale destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure.
If Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention indeed asserts that the destruction of private property “is prohibited,” period, it might be reasonable to claim, as does ICAHD, that “the practice of demolishing Palestinian houses is banned” under international law, period. But this is not what the Convention says. Through manipulative editing, Halper’s organization substantially changes and effectively misquotes Article 53, which in actuality says:
Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. (emphasis added)
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In other words, the paragraph’s tail section, which ICAHD lopped off without so much as an ellipsis, makes clear that the organization’s blanket assertion about the illegality of Israeli demolitions is simply untrue. Certain demolitions are prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention, but demolitions under specific circumstances are obviously permissible. This is no minor point. The passage that ICAHD surreptitiously conceals from readers is described in the official commentary to the Convention as “an important reservation.” Even critics of specific types of Israeli house demolitions (punitive demolitions) acknowledge that the official commentary to Article 53 leaves it to the occupying power to determine what is “necessary” destruction. One critic, for example, points to this commentary and concludes that “so long as the occupying power is authorized to make that determination, the legal argument that demolitions violate Article 53 will be difficult to make” (Brian Farrell, “Israeli Demolition of Palestinian Houses as a Punitive Measure: Application of International Law to Regulation 119,” Brooklyn Journal of International Law, Vol. 28(3), 2002). (Note that, as of February 2005, Israel no longer practices punitive demolitions, the type of demolition opposed by the critic.) Of course it is still reasonable for people to debate which house demolitions by Israel (or any other country) are a “necessary” part of military operations. But it is neither reasonable nor ethical to circumvent such debate and automatically impart guilt to Israel by lying to the public about what the relevant legal statues actually say.