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February 16, 2011

People liberating Egypt, next Gaza, says Jeff Halper

Scott Stockdale

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In the same way that people power liberated Egypt, it should also break the siege of Gaza, according to Jeff Halper, co-founded the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). Born in Minnesota, Mr. Halper is an author, lecturer, and political activist based in Jerusalem, who holds Israeli and U.S. citizenship.

Speaking recently at a fundraiser for the Canadian Boat to Gaza – part of an international flotilla planned for this spring – Mr. Halper recounted being on the first boat into Gaza in August 2008 – one of the few that was actually allowed through the blockade. He said 40,000 people came out to greet them as they were the first boats to reach Gaza in 40 years.

“We were representatives of the outside world. The International Community allows Israel to isolate 1.5 million people – something our governments have to be held accountable for.”

By way of introducing Mr. Halper, Sandra Ruch, head of the Steering Committee for the Canadian Boat to Gaza Campaign, said this campaign is giving a voice to Canadians who're not being represented by the Canadian government, which has chosen to do nothing about the siege of Gaza.

“We've received overwhelming support from the Canadian people ... If the Canadian people are not being represented by this government sitting doing nothing; we're going to break the siege. Fifteen to twenty countries will be part of this flotilla. The whole world will be watching.”

With the assistance of community groups, unions, faith communities and other activists, the Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign has raised $200,000 – two thirds of its goal. March 30 is its target sailing date.

Meanwhile, Mr. Halper stressed that the common theme of these flotillas is that they are political actions: they're not humanitarian efforts.

“The people of Gaza are suffering a humanitarian crisis, whose roots are political.”

Because they wanted to do what they could to help when they went to Gaza on the first boat in 2008, Mr. Halper said they asked the people of Gaza what they needed; and he was amazed by the answer: 9,000 pairs of hearing aids.

“The noise of the war is deafening them. When Israel wants to punish them, it sends U.S. fighter airplanes – without U.S. weapons and financial support the siege couldn't last a week. They fly low, 30 feet above the ground. They break the sound barrier. In every country in the world it's illegal to fly that low. You can't imagine it. It cracks buildings, it smashes glass. They fly every three minutes for 48 hours. It's torture; it terrifies and deprives the people of sleep.”

The siege of Gaza involves planned, deliberate actions which amount to scientific oppression, Mr. Halper said.

“An Israeli committee - which includes doctors - calculates the number of older people, middle aged people, babies, people with disabilities and illnesses; and then it determines the minimum caloric requirements for that category. One hundred forty trucks a day take these requirements into Gaza. It's a starvation diet, but Israel can get away with it because it keeps the people a little above starvation, so the International Community – the UN and the Red Cross – won't do anything.”

While Israel and its American ally become increasingly isolated in the Middle East, more American commentators are questioning the country's unconditional support for Israel: What benefit does this policy offer America?  Mr. Halper said he thinks it's the defense industry – which has contracts to sell $125 billion worth of arms to Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries between 2008 and 2018 - that is driving this America policy.

Moreover, he sees the Israeli-Palestinian issue as a microcosm of what is happening in the world in general: a Pentagon policy he calls “Global Palestine.”

“Palestine represents 2/3 of humanity (in the entire world). Under the capitalist system, they're called surplus humanity. They have no education; they'll never be in the workforce and they have no chance of mobility. They're being warehoused: fed by humanitarian organizations. Palestine has long ceased to be a military threat. It's being used as a laboratory.”

Under the Pentagon's World Systems Theory, Mr. Halper said the world map is divided into three sections: The Core (western industrialized countries), the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and the Non-Integrating Gap (NIG), which happens to be sitting on many of the resources the other countries need.

He said The BRIC countries have been invited into The Core, largely because their economic development and political clout that goes along with it, no longer makes it possible to exclude them. The Core is trying to discreetly firewall itself from the NIG, which is seen as exporting pandemics, narcotics, and terrorism.

He added that until 9/11 the U.S. has not fought a counterinsurgency, so it's learning from Israel, which is fighting a counterinsurgency in half the country.

“The Core has to improve its ability to withstand a 9/11 type attack. That's why internal security and policing have become priorities. Israel and Canada have a public safety agreement. You now have foreign powers on your home turf. Since 9/11 there has been a coming together of police forces and the military. It's a militarization of the police.”

Moreover, the focus on security and increasing the number of prisons is due to the fact that The Core's own citizens have become the enemy.

“With the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, the Non-Integrating Gap is coming into our own cities. We're seeing the Gazafication of Toronto.”

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