Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jeff Halper Speaks at UC-Irvine

Jeff Halper-American-born, Israeli by naturalization and apparently hates both countries. (Can you say misfit?)

Jeff Halper is an anti-Israel activist who heads an organization called Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He travels extensively giving anti-Israel talks. Keep in mind that this is a man born in the US (an Anthropology professor) who left the US and moved to Israel 40 years ago, eventually becoming an Israeli citizen.Today, he appeared at the University of California at Irvine, where I teach. His first appearance was at 11 am in a large lecture hall. The event was part of a class taught by UCI professor and anti-Israel activist Chuck O'Connell. The talk was entitled, " Israel/Palestine-Peace, Apartheid or Warehousing?"  He also appeared at an evening event which will be described later. There were probably about 100 people in the hall, most of whom I believe were students of the class (Sociology 63- Race, Ethnicity and Nationality) . I should mention at the outset that I could only attend the first 20 minutes or so of the morning event due to a class commitment. I left at 11:30.

O'Connell gave the introduction by stating that the emphasis on his (O'Connell's class) was that people are identified by a pre-set legal structure set up by authorities for legal reasons to contain or restrict legal activities of the groups. He also made some reference to previous laws (in the US) that were set up to defend racism (segregation).

OK. I am paraphrasing. Don't ask me what he meant.

Halper (who received a call on his cell phone as he was being introduced) was dressed in blue jeans and t-shirt. (casual) His presentation, from the time he opened his mouth at least until I left, was completely one-sided against Israel. Propaganda, in other words. He called the region an occupied state.  On his power point, there were two maps on the wall, one labeled "Israel and Occupied Territories, the other "The State of Israel and Palestine Bantustan." He described the region as really one country made up of approximately half Jews and the other half Palestinians. In addition, he said, there some 4 million refugees in the surrounding areas. He said if they can return, the region would be majority Palestinian.

Halper gave a brief history of the conflict dating back to the time after the Ottoman Empire and British Mandate until Israel "claimed" the country. (Post WW II). As a result of the 1948 war, (no mention of how it started), Israel took the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He told his audience that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes. (No mention of the some 700,000-900,000 Jews driven from Arab countries post 1948). He then told how, as a result of the 1967 war, Israel took the Golan Heights (from Syria). No mention of how that war began either.) Presently, Israel controls 78% of the country while Palestinians have 22%. "It's not fair. It's not just", he said. Halper also stated that in 1998, the Palestinians agreed to accept a 2-state solution, taking the 22 % of the land they occupied in exchange for the right to have their own state. The Israelis refused.

He also made some negative comments about the US support for Israel-principally from both houses in Congress and the weapons given to Israel, as well as their veto power at the UN.  He also referred to the events in Egypt when people rise up against oppression and "your president" (Obama) talks about listening to both sides (I am paraphrasing).

He also stated that Palestinians have been living under occupation for 44 years, and he also stated that armed struggle was a legitimate response to  occupation (but they cannot attack civilians).

"250,000 Palestinians homes demolished by the Israelis over the years since 1967 for the purpose of driving them out or restricting where they reside." (No mention of terrorists living in those houses or tunnels built to smuggle arms.)

Halper then described how he began his organization 14 years ago to oppose house demolitions. He described his work as not only standing in front of bulldozers, but going around governments to talk to people in other countries and get them to educate governments.

He also described how the US government for years supported the state of South Africa during Apartheid, only reacting when there was world-wide pressure to condemn it.

Somewhere at this point, I had to leave to teach a class.

It is astounding to me that a university professor would bring in someone to give such a biased and one-sided view of such a complex problem. I can only hope that Professor O'Connell will seek to balance that presentation by bringing in an Israeli who can speak with expertise for the pro-Israel side and counter Halper's points.

This evening, Halper will speak again at UCI. I will report on that separately.


Anonymous said...

proofread your blog before posting. 25,000 homes. not 250,000.

Gary Fouse said...

Hey anonymous! The figure I heard at the morning event was 250,000. In the evening event, I recall hearing 25,000. Maybe Halper should review his notes. 250,000 does seem like a lot of bulldozers.

Of more importance is the reason for the demolitions. According to Halper it is because the Israelis wanted to drive the Palestinians out or restrict where they live. From what I understand the homes are those of terrorists, bombers or being used to dig tunnels-something Halper conveniently forgot to mention.

Just as he conveniently forgor to mention the reason for the infamous wall-to keep out suicide bombers who were blowing themselves up in pizza parlors and buses in places like Tel Aviv. He didn't tell you that, did he?

Nor did he tell the am class about how those wars occurred when Israel "conquered" those territories like Gaza, W Bank, Sinai or Golan Hts. That was because in 1948, 1967 and 1973, the Arab armies tried to invade Israel and wipe them out.

Oh yes, in 1967, Israel did launch a prre-emptive strike because the Arab armies were gathered on their borders about to strike.

Of course, Halper neglected to mention those facts.