Jeff Halper is co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and a Professor of Anthropology at Ben Gurion University. He has researched and written extensively on Israeli society and Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.
He accused Canada of complicity in Israeli violations of international law, in its treatment of Palestinians. The Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Canada is a signatory, states that an occupation is a temporary military measure. This occupation has lasted 41 years. The convention also prohibits the transfer of populations from the occupying power. Yet, Canada has a security pact with Israel, an arrangement never presented to Parliament. As well, foundations and charities that support Israel and the occupation have favorable treatment under tax laws. For example, the Jewish National Fund (Canada), which can give tax receipts to donors, founded Canada Park partly on land confiscated in the West Bank. The land became available because Israel leveled three Palestinian villages for the purpose. The Jewish National Fund (Canada) continues to maintain the Jewish-only park.
According to Halper, only half the population in Israel-Palestine is Jewish. 30% in Israel itself is non-Jewish. The average Palestinian, he said, lives on less than $2 a day.
People who criticize Palestinian violence suggest that they should negotiate instead. However, Israel is not interested in any lessening of its hold. Thus, during the seven-year Oslo peace process, it increased the number of settlers from 200,000 to 400,000. Much is made of the so-called Road Map for Peace, but the real road map is the Fourth Geneva Convention, he said.
Halper pointed out that Gaza has not been free from occupation, even before the recent military assault. Its borders were closed by Israel, which engaged in a program of economic strangulation. As for the West Bank, there are 650 barriers to movement. The reality is apartheid, separation combined with domination.
Well, if negotiations are not a solution, what about non-violent resistance? Halper cited the decision of the West Bank Christian town of Beit Sahour to resist with a tax strike. Israel responded by confiscating merchandise from shops and seizing money and bank accounts from the residents.
Yet, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions does use non-violence. They stand in front of homes threatened with demolition, to stop the bulldozers. When houses are demolished, Israelis, Arabs, and foreign volunteers rebuild them.
Halper finds it a challenge to change the Israel-Palestine narrative. The international community tends to see Palestinian resistance as terrorism against a democratic Israel. To shift the narrative, it is necessary to focus on international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.
Two parliamentarians were present, retired former Conservative Party cabinet member Flora MacDonald and socialist New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Libby Davies. Davies spoke in support of the concerns raised by Halper. The meeting was sponsored by Independent Jewish Voices. It was also supported by a number of other organizations, including the Ontario Division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, and the Canadian Arab Federation.
Not surprisingly, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) killed planned interviews with Halper, in spite of the strong desire on the part of CBC staff to air such a program.
Woman war resister told to leave
Seven U.S. military deserters are under orders to leave Canada. The most recent is Kimberly Rivera, a 26-year-old mother of three. There may be around 200 deserters in Canada, according to the War Resisters Support Group.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was leader of the opposition at the time that George W. Bush invaded Iraq, favored full Canadian participation, changing his mind only when it became clear that participation would be highly unpopular with the voters.
Noah Richler, writing in the Toronto Globe and Mail, argues that the differences between these war resisters and those from the Viet Nam conflict create a different situation for the current wave. The massive protests against the Viet Nam War have not been repeated this time around.
One factor that differentiates the current crop from the previous one is that the bulk of the earlier resisters were draft dodgers rather than deserters. The earlier batch were victims of the draft, affecting all classes of society, while most of the current ones joined, drafted, as it were, by poverty. Poor people simply do not have the same clout as people from middle and upper classes.
In some cases, unscrupulous recruiters told them that they would not have to go into combat. Recruiters, after all, have quotas to meet.
These seven, as we have said, are on notice, but many more are in Canada, often underground.
The Canadian Jewish Congress has expressed outrage at some of the things that have been said at the demonstrations against the Israeli attack on Gaza. They pointed to threats to kill Jews and Jewish children in particular.
In response, the Canadian Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) condemned such language. Ihsaan Gardee, the Executive Director, said, “As Canadian Muslims, we stand firmly and without reservation against all hateful or malicious representations of any ethnic, racial, or religious group, and de denounce all acts and statements of racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia.”