The early desire of Jews to settle in Palestine has to be accepted

October 12, 2012
Sarah Benton

Jeff Halper

‘Radio Against Apartheid’ interviews Jeff Halper of ICAHD

By Matthew Graber, Mondoweiss
October 11, 2012

Interview: Dr. Jeff Halper . Oct. 3, 2012 from Radio Against Apartheid on Vimeo.

I caught up with Jeff Halper last week, and did an interview for Radio Against Apartheid. In his recent ICAHD position paper, Jeff and ICAHD endorsed the one state solution and the Palestinian right of return. So I wanted to sit down with him and hear Jeff elaborate on his position. I also asked him about his own personal background, and what made him decide to make Aliyah.

Here’s an excerpt:

MG: What do you see as the Palestinian claim to the land of ’48?

JH: I tend to see the country as binational – having two national groups there. But the problem was that Zionism came in with this idea of exclusivity. That this land belongs exclusively to the Jewish people – it’s the land of Israel. And Arabs – because we don’t use the word Palestinians, because that gives too much recognition, legitimacy to a collective – so the Arabs, in a very general way, are the intruders in our country.

MG: Well, with the Sudanese, it’s becoming apparent that it’s non-Jews, isn’t it then?

Yeah, we’re getting rid of them. I mean, see, that’s the problem. When you adopt […] an Eastern European, Russian form of nationalism that couldn’t allow for multiculturalism. It had to be a purely Jewish place. You’re carving out a Jewish space, in a sense. So even today, when you have, you know, the Sudanese coming, Eritreans coming, others from West Africa coming, you can’t let them stay because then you wouldn’t have a Jewish country. You see, in other words, multiculturalism – Jewish multiculturalism – Jews from Yemen, from Kurdistan, from the States, from Russia, whatever – but not multiculturalism in that wider sense, including Arabs of course.

So I think that Israel got locked in to a kind of nationalism that we call an ethnocracy. You have an ethnocracy, rather than a democracy, when a country belongs to one particular people. You know, Russia belongs to the Russians. South Africa, in the days of Apartheid, was defined as belonging to white people. And Israel follows that model – an ethnocracy means that Israel belongs to the Jews. And therefore it wasn’t able to deal with Palestinian nationalism. So from that point of view, it was very colonial. I mean, it displaced the Palestinians until today. There’s no place for Palestinians in the country.

MG: So you’re saying it is colonial?

It was colonial. It was a colonial movement, although… I don’t know. I don’t want to get too much into details, but this is an important point here, and that is that there was an impulse to Zionism. In other words, it wasn’t the story of a British farmer that gets up one day and decides to go to Kenya to get free land. I mean, there was a genuine historic tie between the Jewish people and that country. Even if it’s a narrative, even if it’s a story, every country has its narratives. You know, this country has a couple. So, y’know, the point is that the Jews living abroad really saw the land of Israel as their territory and so what I’m saying is that it was a genuine national movement coming back to its territory.

Then it became – ten minutes later it became – colonial; because it was displacement and it was denial of Palestinian identity and rights and everything else. Why is that important? Because if in fact Zionism was simply a settler-colonial movement, like the colonial movement – the French in Algeria, or the British in Kenya – it’s irredeemable, I mean, then when Palestine is liberated the Jews …. go home. And one reason why I think it’s not a colonial movement, was there wasn’t a mother country to go home to. … The French in Algeria could go back to Algeria, you could go back to France. Jews have nowhere to go back to. But if in fact you give at least acknowledgement that there was a genuine national kernel, [a] nucleus to this thing, then Zionism can be de-colonized. In other words, then you can envision one state – binational or democratic, however it’s worked out – in which the people stay there but but only if Zionism is… cut that slack, [if you accept] that at the first ten minutes it was a genuine movement. It has to be held accountable for all of the terrible things it did after that, of course, but I think to completely call it a colonial movement it misrepresents what Zionism is about.

About Matthew Graber
I am a [male] feminist community organizer with a variety of interests – writing, photography, philosophy, and radio broadcast. I am an organizer with the Philadelphia Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Coalition and a co-host of Radio Against Apartheid on West Philadelphia’s community radio station, WPEB 88.1.

The full interview can be seen on Vimeo

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