During one of my three interviews with Jeff at his ICAHD office on Ben Yehuda Street, West Jerusalem, he informed this reporter that the reason he moved to Israel from Hibbing, Minnesota in 1973 was because there was something about Israel that spoke to him, and why in 1997, he founded ICAHD, "It was at the time when the Oslo peace plan collapsed and the occupation reasserted itself. Many Israeli peace activists began asking Palestinians what the best way to engage with each other was and the answer was blowing in the wind: 'STOP the home demolitions!'
In the 40 years of occupation, 18,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished.
Jeff informed this reporter that, "95% of the cases have nothing to do with security. All these homes are on Palestinian private property. The Israeli government will not grant permits for them to build on their own land, and in reality are quietly transferring the Palestinians administratively from the land. They make conditions so intolerable that the Palestinians give up and leave and this is exactly what they are after. Not only do the Palestinians receive no warning when their homes are to be destroyed they are fined $1, 500.00!
"I'll get a call at 5 AM from a Palestinian telling me the bulldozers have arrived and we activists go out and engage in civil disobedience by standing up to the bulldozers. We also raise funds to rebuild these homes right where they had been before. The reasons for the demolitions are: for The Wall, to establish illegal settlements, build roads and because the Israeli government wants to keep Palestinians confined to the islands [areas A and B] in the West Bank, and so Palestinian land remain under the control of the Israeli government."
Jeff can no longer count how many times he had been arrested and sentenced to community service. His eyes sparkled as he told me, "When I tell the judge I am serving the community they just don't get it! The Israeli government simply does not want to take responsibility and the USA government ignores the situation. Do you know why Israel does not want to become America's 51st state? Because then they would only have two senators!
"Israel has no constitution but has a Declaration of Independence which promised that Israel would abide by conditions and UN resolutions. They have not fulfilled the agreement which was the basis of their independence...One out of three Israeli children lives below the poverty line. It's probably about 80% for Palestinians. Jews are like everyone else, those who have been abused grow up to be abusers. Things here have been turned on their head: its victim mentality and denial about the occupation. Once Israelis accept the fact that they are occupiers they will have to admit their State Terrorism."
Prior to 1948, 70% of West Jerusalem was Palestinian. From '48 to '67, Jerusalem was divided into Israeli West Jerusalem and Palestinian East under Jordan's control. When Israel captured and occupied the West Bank in 1967, the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem were also redefined. Israel annexed the greater Jerusalem area but did not 'adopt' the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem as Israeli citizens.
Today, Palestinians living in Jerusalem are classified differently from those in the West Bank. They are called permanent residents, they can vote in local elections but not in Israeli national elections. Most do not bother to vote as a statement against the occupation.
According to Halper, West Jerusalem is now nearly 100% Jewish. The Palestinians in East Jerusalem pay the same taxes as those on the West side, but receive only 8% of the total municipal budget. Orthodox Jews pay no taxes. Palestinians make up 1/3 of the total Jerusalem population, but pay over 40% of the taxes. One is immediately aware when one walks from the East to the West that one is truly in two different worlds. On the West side of town there are many parks, the roads and streets are well maintained and sanitation pick up is predictable. Twenty-six of the thirty-one City Council members of Jerusalem are Orthodox Jews. The East side of Jerusalem is more like the lower east side of New York.
While the Israeli government considers Jerusalem the capitol of Israel no foreign country does. There are no international embassies in Jerusalem, except for the fundamentalist International Christian Zionist one, which espouses an inherently anti-Semitic theology and neo-con political ideology.
On March 17, 2006, the 7th day of my third journey to Israel Palestine, Jeff Halper, greeted my group of nearly one hundred Internationals attending a Sabeel [Arabic for THE WAY] reality tour through the West Bank, in the East Jerusalem YMCA conference room with, "I don't want to depress you too much but the issue of the occupation is a global issue that transcends boundaries and Israel Palestine impacts all global realities...We have a country created by the UN and supported by the USA that has a brutal occupation while International Law defines occupation as a temporary situation.
"The USA is complicit in starving the Palestinians and it is going to get worse. We have a situation in which America and Israeli actions are illegal. Three weeks ago in the USA the Pentagon issued the QDR: Quadrennial Defense Review which is a twenty year plan to contain China and commit to a long war with the Islamic Empire. The USA sees Iran as the center of its war against Islam and wants to make the entire world safe for the USA and wants to contain any power who will rise and challenge America...The USA will shield itself so it can continue to extract 35% of the earths resources. The American lifestyle is not sustainable.
"When you incorporate occupied territories, highways, settlements and use resources it is all illegal according to the Fourth Geneva Convention which states the status quo must be retained so that negotiations can happen. Unilateral actions are illegal. The occupying power is responsible for those under its control.
"Tony Blair said 70% of all the conflicts in the world can be traced back to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. What gives us hope is that as this conflict worsens maybe Europe will figure out that American policies are against their interests and intervene...This conflict impacts the global community and especially everyone in the USA.
"If we do fix this conflict it would be a tremendous step forward in global reconciliation...This whole issue is based on Human Rights and it is a global issue requiring global intervention. …Israel is not a democracy, it is an ethnocracy: full rights to Jews, but not Palestinians."
There are currently forty-two illegal settlements in the Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters of Jerusalem. The only green area for children to play will soon have a high rise for the settlers which will be 7 meters taller than the walls of the Old City.