Swans Commentary » swans.com May 21, 2007  



Locate A Lecture: Look, Listen, Learn


by Philip Greenspan





(Swans - May 21, 2007)  When I was showing the film Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land, I noticed that the DVD consisted of two discs that besides the featured film contained pertinent interviews, news clips, lectures, etc. One of those lectures was delivered by Jeff Halper, a professor at Ben Gurion University and the founder of the non-violent activist Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Because I had often read and been moved by Halper's articles that appeared on various websites I decided to give a look at his 2004 Seattle speech. He was an enlightening and forceful speaker who concluded the talk by explaining how the long-term Israeli/Palestinian conflict could be resolved fairly.

Neither a single nor a two-state solution within the land area currently occupied by the two antagonists seems workable. A single state is objectionable to Israel because it would effectively destroy its concept of a Jewish state. The two-state solution is also a non-starter. Why? Those intransigent settlers are unmovable and the encroaching wall has so shriveled the size and desirability of what remains that a viable Palestinian state could not be established.

Halper's solution envisions a regional confederation of Middle Eastern states like the European Union. Citizens of each country would be free to reside and work within any of the states in the confederation but would retain their existing citizenship. Palestinians in the Occupied Territories would no longer be imprisoned in there. If they moved and chose to live in Israel they would not upset the national Jewish demographic majority. Settlers in the West Bank, although in Palestinian territory, would remain Israeli citizens. Irrespective of where they lived in the confederation, citizens would vote in their country's elections and retain all the rights and privileges of their citizenship.

I was impressed by the cogent presentation of his entire lecture in which he analyzed the situation in the West Bank regarding the settlements, the bypass roads, and the wall.

A dynamic, intelligent, and well-informed speaker can hold an audience spellbound. Prominent individuals -- boosted by puffery to confer wisdom and prescience on these establishment-spawned geniuses -- rake in substantial sums on the lecture circuit. In some instances it is a payoff for unethical services rendered -- politicians who vote the right way, doctors who promote new pharmaceuticals. But in most instances those high fees are what the prevailing market willingly pays. Not all the speakers collect superstar fees. Many knowledgeable and reliable individuals lecture because they are committed to a cause and wish to inform. I search out and attend such lectures regularly. In less than three weeks I went to four of them! The first had Charles Hardy -- a resident of Venezuela since 1985 when as a Maryknoll priest he lived in a Caracas barrio -- explain how Hugo Chávez miraculously achieved his electoral victory and why he retains the intense loyalty of an overwhelming majority of the people (described in my previous essay). Three days later, the next lecture took place at the Westchester People's Action Coalition (WESPAC) annual awards dinner.

WESPAC -- an activist organization that my wife Fran and I belong to -- had selected Tanya Reinhardt to deliver the keynote speech. Reinhardt, an Israeli linguistic professor, was an outspoken critic of the Israeli actions against the Palestinians, so much so that she favored an academic boycott of Israeli academia and had moved to New York, where she was to teach at New York University. She died unexpectedly a month before the scheduled speech was to be delivered. I suggested Halper as a suitable replacement and was pleased to learn that he had been selected and engaged.

His talk explained (excerpts follow) how Israel is able to avoid retribution for its unconscionable actions, why it has such a hold on the United States, and what underlying dangers are inherent in this relationship.

Framing is crucial... In the framing as represented by Israel, Israel is the victim. Israel is this little, peace loving country, that's facing terrorism . . . . And in this whole framing, of course, there is no occupation! Israel formally denies it has occupation... The entire country is the land of Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, and how can you occupy your own country? So if you take out occupation...and you make it out to be: us and them, good and bad, clashes of civilizations and all this stuff. Then you can reduce it all to terrorism.

And here, again, the language is so important. There is no internationally accepted definition of terrorism...if we adopt a human rights language, you don't use the word terrorism because it's such a loaded term. In human rights language, it is forbidden to kill, or attack, or harm civilians. Period! I don't care who you are. If you're a state, if you're a freedom fighter, if you're anything you cannot attack and harm civilians. . . . A terrorist is a non-state actor...whose intent is to kill civilians, and therefore they're bad guys... But because the United States is a state...it's off the hook.

. . . . A fellow named Rummel [author of "Death by Government"] calculates that over the course of the whole 20th century, about 170,000 innocent people -- non combatants -- were killed by what we would call terrorists...at least 170 million...up to 380 million innocent people were killed by states.

Yes, the terrorists, the bad guys, killed 170 thousand and they are truly bad guys but the states, the good guys, killed 170 to 380 million! They're the good guys?

in the Israeli framing, Israel is the victim...if you're the victim you have no responsibility. No one can hold you accountable; international law, or human rights, or whatever.

. . . . The fourth largest nuclear power in the world, and an occupying power, and you're the victim...all this talk about both sides...have to end the violence...have to negotiate -- that's a false way of presenting it because one side has the power. There's a power differential in here; one side is a state, it's a global military power, the Israeli economy is three times larger than Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon put together. It's a small country, true, but it's a very powerful country...it has a lot of buying power, it can be held accountable. And so this reframing, to present Israel as it is, with the policies that it has, opens the door to accountability...

How does Israel get away with it? . . . . A powerful country. . . . The third largest arms exporter in the world...an occupying power, violating human rights and international law in the light of day...in this most transparent of all conflicts?

. . . . Look into its involvement in the world's arms trade, and especially in the American military-industrial complex. . . . Israel has inserted itself very squarely in the center of the military industrial complex in the United States...very much in the center of American military and foreign policy.

The US has budgeted 1.4 trillion dollars for developing new weapons systems. Twenty percent of that amount is for what is called "counter insurgency warfare."

Insurgents are the people. . . . It's only now we've co-opted the vocabulary, and insurgents become terrorists and they're non-state, and so the non-state people, rebelling against unjust regimes are the bad guy.

Yes, the US Long War is actually a war against the people.

. . . . Israel's contribution to all of this is. . . . in developing high-tech components for weapons systems... That's where Israel gets access to American military technology and that's where it becomes tremendously useful for the United States.

. . . . Israel specializes in these kinds of technologies but also in counter-insurgency because there is another way to look at the occupied territories...they're a laboratory. . . . The counter insurgency; urban warfare...is the cutting edge of counter insurgency. . . . There's no oversight. Nobody cares. Nobody's looking.

The sophistication of the technology has advanced to where it becomes possible to see through walls, fire bullets that easily penetrate concrete, send swarms of microscopic cameras into homes for surveillance, equip them with poison to assassinate targeted individuals.

. . . . This presents a tremendous danger to civil liberties... This isn't contained within the military; these kinds of technologies get into security firms. . . . Israeli security firms run the New York City security system of the New York City Police Department. Every year, twice a year, there is a conference of police chiefs of major American police departments in Israel. You have Israeli security firms all over the United States. And going from military to security firms to police forces with kinds of technologies designed for urban warfare. . . . This is a real violation, a danger to civil rights... Don't think that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is just another conflict far away... But it is a domestic issue; . . . .in terms of protecting your own civil liberties...

And I think we really have to be the ones that raise the alarms, and we have to be on top of these issues, and part of our job is to relate all these issues in a coherent way for the people so they begin to see what's going on.

Halper disclosed many more troubling facts that I and those attending were unaware of. Only snippets appear above. An awful lot can be learned by attending the lectures of those in the know and who are anxious to impart vital information. Many speakers travel extensively to give their talks and are appreciative of those who attend.

If you're not already augmenting your knowledge at lectures then it's time to get moving!


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In Praise Of Anger - Charles Marowitz

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On Choosing A Way Of Life - Michael DeLang

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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art13/pgreen112.html
Published May 21, 2007