Discussing nuances of Israeli-Palestinian conflict
There were nods of approval circulating through the crowd as speaker Jeff Halper described the need for human dignity in Israel-Palestine.
Inside the University United Church of Christ, Halper — anthropologist, activist and resident of Israel for 45 years — addressed Palestine’s chronic instability and its global and local impacts on the community.
Hosted by the Seattle Pacific University English department, Jeff Halper spread awareness about the Israel-Palestine conflict through a compelling presentation highlighting Israel’s conquest of Palestine and the oppressive impacts it has on Palestinian citizens.
As an Israeli citizen for 45 years and a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Halper shared his observations of injustice that are rampant in Palestine. His diverse audience listened intently as Halper explained the history behind this growing issue.
It began when a European-founded movement known as Zionism — with a purpose to create a Jewish homeland — came about. As Zionists began immigrating in large numbers into Palestine, the then-current residents resisted. Fighting erupted. Violence swept Palestine and has never left the area since.
To settle the eruption of hostility, the United Nations intervened. According to the informational pamphlets distributed at the event, by declaration of the U.N. Partition Plan, 55 percent of Palestine became a Jewish state, despite only representing 30 percent of the population.
“This country is actually an apartheid regime,” Harper explained, which mirrors a South African system of segregation based off of identity. When there are separations between populations into regimes of power, effective diplomacy becomes nearly impossible.
As an example, the Israeli government never recognized the existence of Palestinians and Halper explained that “this isn’t a conflict.”
As Halper observed the crowd, he appeared eager to correct misconceptions. With great emotion, he explained that a conflict implies a solution; that a conflict assumes two-sides are willing to sit down and compromise to reach that solution.
But the anthropologist noted that this isn’t the case. He called it a “settler colonial situation,” where settlers invade to take over the country. He explained that these forceful movements allow the invader to mold a believable story that proves the have stolen property is rightfully theirs.
With his eyes remaining on the crowd, Halper asked, “So how did Israel get away with this?” Silence follows as the attendees rest on the question. “The U.S. government!” he declared. A wave of understanding rolled through the crowd and set off nods of disapproval.
According to activism group IfAmericansKnew, the U.S. government gives Israel more than $8 million per day due to Israel’s powerful U.S. lobby. More disapproval engulfs the audience and a woman in the far corner proclaims with passion, “We don’t want our taxes to be blowing up Palestinian homes!” More heads nodded in approval.
However, Halper elaborates that a majority of the homes are no longer occupied by Palestinians. Nearly 55,000 homes have been demolished since the Israeli conquest. Outraged by this, 45 Israeli citizens creating the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition which opposes Israeli land settlement and home occupation.
“We live in a capitalist system … it’s not friendly,” Halper explains. The more exclusive capitalism gets, the more violent they become. The system is “predatory” as Halper defined it. But he offered an approachable solution: “We resist.”
Excitement traveled through the crowd. Claps and hopeful glances were shared among the audience. Halper defended the notion of zero tolerance and a need for resistance. “The wars today are wars against the people,” and this global concern touched the hearts of his audience.
Harper ended the presentation with calls not only for resistance, but for unity, describing us “in some ways like an international family.”