- According to Israeli-based author and journalist Jonathan
Cook, Halper's book is "one of the most insightful analyses of the
Occupation I've read. His voice cries out to be heard" on the region's
longest and most intractable conflict. Part II continues the story.
- Part III: The Structure of Oppression - Expanding Dispossession,
The Occupation and the Matrix of Control
- What 1948 left undone, 1967 completed - securing control
over the entire "Holy Land" with the seizure of Gaza, the West
Bank and all of Jerusalem. Nishul's fifth stage began and today includes
expanding West Bank settlements and continued displacement inside Israel.
- After the Six-Day War, all Palestinians came under military
rule, and "a comprehensive Matrix of Control was implemented to perpetuate
Israeli control forever." A problem arose, however, as international
law prohibits an occupier from remaining permanently. Israel's Attorney
General, Meir Shamgar, got around it in typical Israeli fashion. No "occupation"
exists so Israel didn't violate Geneva or other international law. In other
words, "occupation" only occurs when one sovereign state conquers
another, so presto - Palestine wasn't sovereign and Israel did nothing
- This has no legitimacy in international law, yet Israel
gets away with it, and it's the reason it calls the West Bank (and formerly
Gaza) "disputed," not "occupied." Furthermore, Shamgar's
ruling affected Supreme Court decisions ever since and lets Israel expand
its settlement project on annexed Palestinian land.
- Immediately after the 1967 war, the Labor government
began "integrating Judea, Samaria and Gaza to Israel." After
Menachem Begin's 1977 election, he appointed Ariel Sharon to head a Ministerial
Committee on Settlements and gave him the job to do it. He was charged
with two tasks:
- -- create irreversible "facts on the ground;"
-- prevent any chance of a sovereign Palestinian state; and begin implementing
a formal "Matrix of Control" - an almost "invisible system...behind
a facade of 'proper administration,' thus protecting Israel's" democratic
image to this day.
- It has four modes of control:
- (1) Administrative, Bureaucracy, Planning and Law as
Tools of Occupation and Control
- They include rules, restrictions, procedures and sanctions
under Military orders regulating everything in Occupied Palestine. For
example, 72% of the West Bank was classified as "state lands"
making seizure a simple administrative task. A further 400 square miles
were designated as closed "military zones," and more restrictions
covered zoned "nature reserves."
- Military commanders also have authority to prohibit Palestinian
construction for security reasons or to ensure "public order."
Hundreds of other military orders forbid Palestinian building around army
bases, installations, settlements, or within 200 meters on each side of
main roads. This effectively closes off tens of thousands of acres from
their rightful owners. At the same time, settlement expansion continues,
and measures in place use every means possible to advance them.
- Administrative restrictions among them like requiring
Palestinians to get permits to plant crops on their own land, sell it,
or have them for their own use. Opening banks and businesses are also curtailed
through a process of licensing and inspections to harass the owners and
harm the Palestinian economy.
- Control encompasses everything. Resistance is called
"terrorism," and legal gymnastics justify assassinations in the
name of national security. Mass imprisonments as well. Uncharged victims
held administratively. Extensive use of torture. All of it under the radar
with a wink and a nod from the West.
- (2) Economic Warfare
- From 1967 to the Oslo process, "asymmetric containment"
defined economic policy in the Territories. The idea was to keep cheap
products and labor from competing advantageously with Israel and to prevent
Palestinians from gaining economic strength. So constraints were placed
- -- preventing their opening a bank;
- -- implementing tariffs and subsidies to advantage Israeli
- -- various import controls disadvantaging Palestinians;
- -- de-developing the Palestinian economy through lack
of infrastructure development, housing and key services;
- -- expropriating agricultural land;
- -- preventing Palestinian produce from reaching Israeli
- -- implementing internal closure policies to impede Palestinian
business inside the Territories.
- Israel eased off somewhat during the Oslo years, but
the Paris Economic Protocol annex to Oslo II (in 1995) assured total Israeli
control over the Palestinian economy. Today economic closure is total under
strict Israeli measures:
- -- control over industrial and commercial enterprise
- -- issuance of import and export permits; and
- -- a nightmarish bureaucracy controlling all facets of
- It devastated the economy. Most manufacturing is shut
down, and 70% of Palestinians companies either closed or severely cut production
and staff. Unemployment is staggering - 67% in Gaza and 48% in the West
Bank at the time of Halper's writing. Today it's higher. Without jobs,
Palestinians have no income source. Poverty levels are at 75% or higher.
Most people live on $2 a day or less. External food and other aid is essential.
Still 30% or more of Palestinian children under age five suffer from malnutrition.
With Gaza now under siege, it's far higher there and dangerously so. It
remains to be seen what effect the cease-fire will have.
- Israel also controls fuel, water, electricity, phone
and other services, and when available they're at higher prices than Israelis
pay. The result is "profound structural imbalances in the Palestinian
economy and (an) artificial dependence upon Israel." A "deliberate
de-development" scheme as well is in place with international investment
cut off and Gaza's airport and sea port destroyed during the second Intifada.
- Conditions are so extreme that one UN official complained
that he doesn't "know of another conflict area in the world"
with these type problems. Nor is there one the entire world is so dismissive
of or practically so.
- (3) Creating "Facts on the Ground"
- Israel began the process with the Six Day War still raging.
Ever since, disconnected cantons were created to cement settlements and
make control irreversible. Following the Gulf War, the Madrid peace conference
promised hope and was the catalyst for Oslo. They established a vaguely-defined
negotiating process, specified no outcome, and let Israel delay, refuse
to make concessions, and continue colonizing the Territories.
- In return, Palestinians got nothing for renouncing armed
struggle, recognizing Israel's right to exist, and leaving major unresolved
issues for indefinite later final status talks. They include an independent
Palestinian state, the Right of Return, the future of Israeli settlements,
borders, water rights, and status of Jerusalem as sovereign Palestinian
territory and future home of its capital.
- Oslo I led to Oslo II in September 1995. It called for
further Israeli troop redeployments beyond Gaza and major West Bank population
centers and later from all rural areas except around Israeli settlements
and designated military zones. The process divided the West Bank into three
parts - each with distinct borders, administrative and security controls
- Areas A, B and C plus a fourth area for Greater Jerusalem:
- -- Area A under Palestinian control for internal security,
public order and civil affairs;
- -- Area B under Palestinian civil control for 450 West
Bank towns and villages with Israel having overriding authority to safeguard
its settlers' security; and
- -- Area C and its water resources under Israeli control;
settlements as well on the West Bank's most valuable land.
- The Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum followed and was agreed
to by Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak in September 1999. It implemented Oslo
II and other post-Oslo I agreements. Months later came "permanent
status" talks in July 2000. Promises became betrayal, and Barak's
"generous offer" was fake leaving Arafat no choice to reject
it. But not without being blamed for spurning an "unprecedented"
chance for peace. Barak insisted Arafat sign a "final agreement,"
declare an "end of conflict," and give up any legal basis for
additional land in the Territories. There was no Israeli offer in writing,
and no documents or maps were presented.
- Barak's offer consisted of a May 2000 West Bank map dividing
the area into four isolated cantons under Palestinian administration surrounded
by expanding Israeli settlements and other Israeli-controlled land. They
got no link to each other or to Jordan. They consisted of:
- -- Jericho;
- -- the southern canton to Abu Dis;
- -- a northern one, including Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm;
- -- a central one, including Ramallah. Gaza was left in
limbo as a fifth canton and "resolved" when Israel "disengaged"
in August and September 2005 but kept total control; the right to reenter
any time for any reason; and, as it turned out, to impose a medieval siege.
- Barak's deal was no deal, all take and no give, with
no chance for reconciliation or resolution of the most intractable issues.
Halper calls it "a subtle yet crucial tweaking of the Matrix."
Rather than defend all Israeli settlements, Barak defined seven "blocs"
to remain under Israeli control under any future agreement.
- Overall, Israel maintains total control of the Territories
and occupies most of the West Bank with expanding settlements, by-pass
roads, Separation Wall, military areas and no-go zones. Palestinians are
tightly confined in disconnected cantons. Checkpoints and other obstacles
restrict free movement, and no possibility exists for a viable sovereign
state as of now.
- Halper gave a "brief tour" of Israel's settlement
blocs. Below they're listed briefly:
- -- the Jordan Valley as Israel's eastern "security
border;" it separates Palestinians from Jordan;
- -- the "Western Samaria" bloc centered around
the city of Ariel; it virtually divides the West Bank;
- -- the Modi'in bloc connects the Western Samaria Bloc
to Jerusalem; it contains some of the West Bank's richest agricultural
- -- the three settlement blocs of (1)Givat Ze'ev, (2)
Ma'aleh Adumim and (3) Gush Etzion, Efrat-Beitar, Illit, comprise "Greater
Jerusalem;" they contain 97 square miles and house 80,000 settlers;
along with Israeli-controlled Jerusalem and its 240,000 settlers, it dominates
the West Bank, destroys its territorial contiguity, and prevents any hope
for a viable Palestinian state; and
- -- the Hebron bloc in the southern West Bank.
- They're all linked by 29 highways and by-pass for-Jews
only roads. Finally, there's the Separation Wall. Construction began in
June 2002. The World Court ruled it illegal. Israel continues building
it. It's nearly complete, and when finished will be 721 kilometers in length
or five times longer than the Berlin Wall and more imposing with its sensors,
trenches, security roads, mine fields, checkpoints, terminals, watchtowers,
surveillance cameras, electronic sensory devices and military patrols using
killer dogs. It entraps 50,000 Palestinians, steals their land, and has
nothing to do with purported security. It's a plain and simple land grab
combined with enclosing Palestinians inside disconnected cantons.
- (4) Military Controls and Military Strikes
- Israel's Matrix conceals its "Iron Fist" that
when unleashed is very visible and destructive. During both Intifadas,
major operations were launched killing hundreds of Palestinians and wounding
thousands more, mostly innocent civilians. Operations Defensive Shield
(March-April 2002), Rainbow (May 2004), Summer and Autumn Rains (second
half 2006) are just three among many. Israel's "Iron Wall" shows
- Concluding Dispossession: Oslo and Unilateral Separation
- Oslo represented nishul's sixth stage, "a kind of
occupation-by-consent," according to Halper. It's explained above
with a few more comments to add. Israel's "security" is key to
any peace process. So is getting Palestinian acquiescence to all Israeli
demands and being willing to act as its enforcer. The process was flawed
by design, collapsed under its own weight, led to the second Intifada,
and awakened peace activists to be more proactive for their cause. It also
inspired Halper to establish ICAHD, and he's been active in it since.
- Oslo's failure got Israelis to "hunker down"
and make "security" their foremost issue. It also explains their
willingness to elect Ariel Sharon Prime Minister. Halper says "Everything
he did had a clear focus and purpose: beating the Palestinians into submission,
extending Israel's sovereignty to the Jordan River and preventing the establishment
of a viable Palestinian state." He would complete the final nishul
stage, and by luck he took power along with George Bush, his close friend
and willing co-conspirator. They had a common agenda and 9/11 advanced
it - in four decisive stages:
- (1) Defeating the Palestinians Once and For All
- It began with Sharon's controversial visit to the Haram/Temple
Mount on September 28, 2000 before he was elected Prime Minister. It ignited
the second Intifada the result of years of frustration over a "dead-end"
peace process. It was also inspired by Hezbollah's forcing Israel's May
2000 South Lebanon withdrawal.
- Anger and discontent built and finally erupted on September
29. Israel responded harshly. A cycle of resistance and retaliation followed,
and the struggle persisted since despite its formal 2005 end. The first
five days were especially bloody. Before a single Israeli soldier was targeted,
the IDF unleashed over a million projectiles - bullets, shells, air-to-surface
missiles, chemical weapons and more against a civilian population in clear
violation of international law that classifies this as war crimes. Palestinian
deaths numbered over 170. Another 7000 were wounded. It was just the beginning,
and Sharon once in office unleashed it full force with Khan Yunis and its
refugee camp one of his first targets.
- With 60,000 residents, it's one of the most crowded places
on earth. The IDF attacked it and obliterated an entire neighborhood. In
April 2002, it invaded Jenin's refugee camp, home of 13,000 Palestinians
in the northern West Bank. It cut it off from outside help. Jenin city
as well. Hundreds of buildings were destroyed. People were buried under
rubble. Power and water were cut off. Food and essentials kept out, including
medical aid, and dozens of mostly civilian men, women and children were
killed and many more injured and displaced.
- Similar campaigns went on throughout the West Bank that
took a terrible toll on the people and left all its cities "smoldering."
Palestinian infrastructure was notably targeted - houses, roads and physical
infrastructure. Institutional also, including government ministry data
banks for Health, Education, and Higher Education. Affected were NGOs,
research institutes, human rights organizations and everything a modern
state needs to function.
- It was the beginning of the end for Yasser Arafat. No
longer a "reliable" ally, he was targeted for removal. His Ramallah
headquarters was destroyed, save for a room or two where Sharon imprisoned
him. Every Palestinian city, town and village was under siege as well and
subjected to police state repression, curfews and midnight raids against
helpless civilians. Thousands of acres of farmland and olive groves were
leveled. "Security" is always the reason. Harassment explains
it better - the beating of all resistance out of contained people with
no outside support for help. David v. Goliath hardly defines it.
- (2) Completing the Matrix of Control
- The Separation Wall is the end process and is now nearly
complete. Israel has all the choice land and settlements it needs, and
in September 2004 unveiled a plan for Palestinian-only roads to assure
they stay disconnected from Israeli ones.
- (3) Getting American Approval for the Annexation of the
- For this, the Road Map was announced in March 2003. George
Bush was reluctant but agreed. If serious, it held promise, but that was
too much to expect. From the start, it was a dead letter, and Israel's
intransigence killed it although technically it's still alive. It promises
a two-state solution, but not the one Israel envisions - disconnected,
cantonized and no state at all for Palestinians who reject it out of hand.
It can only work if imposed unilaterally and only for so long. For now,
Bush is on board with Israel. Negotiations are at a dead end, and the year
end Annapolis conference was a combination tragedy and travesty. It was
the first time in memory the legitimate government of one side was excluded
from discussions, and that alone doomed them.
- (4) Implementation of the Cantonization Plan
- In December 2003, Sharon launched some called "the
maneuver of the century." It refers to his 2005 Gaza "disengagement"
as a ploy to secure greater West Bank control and give up nothing in return.
In March 2006, he suffered a stroke, became incapacitated, and Ehud Olmert
took over to "nail down" Sharon's key objective - "a permanent
solution, an end of the Occupation based on the notion of cantonization."
It would have to be unilateral as Palestinians were offered nothing.
- Olmert conceived his "Convergence Plan" to
control all land Israel wants and maintain separation from Palestinians.
It's the same idea as Begin's Palestinian "autonomy," Sharon's
cantonization, unilateral separation, the Matrix of Control, and the Oslo
process while it lasted. A Palestinian state would be offered between Israel's
two eastern borders, a mere truncated territory with no potential and little
sovereignty. It will be imposed unilaterally, but that contradicts the
Road Map that requires negotiation. So Olmert switched his "convergence"
to "realignment" - finessing a border one. Palestinians get their
state but a "transitional" one with "provisional borders,"
according the Road Map's Phase II. The problem is no Phase III will follow
to assure an "independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state."
- If Israel manages this, it wins and Palestinians lose.
It can claim the Occupation's end, a two-state solution in place, and the
conflict for the victor ended. So far, Palestinians want none of it. Olmert
is beset with corruption problems, and final resolution remains a long
- Part IV: Overcoming Oppression - Redeeming Israel
- Here's where things now stand. "Israel/Palestine
(is) at a crossroads." Israel's political leadership believes it's
won. The settlement project is in place. It "ensures permanent control
over the entire Land of Israel." Palestine is cantonized. The "facts
on the ground" are established. America is on board. So are Europeans.
The Arab world is indifferent. A mere political act will make Occupation
permanent. Israel offers no concessions, Palestinians have no say, and
as of now have no chance for a fair and equitable solution - or so Israel
thinks. Is it so?
- Halper's view is this, and many share it: Ultimately,
Israel will fail in its attempt "to transform its Matrix of Control
(and permanent Occupation) into a stable, peaceful state of affairs."
Oppressed people everywhere "have one source of leverage: the power
to say 'no.' " And Palestinians have said it for six decades. For
six more if they have to. For as long as it takes to get the justice they
deserve. For all their wishes? Maybe not, but enough to matter and be able
to end the most intractable conflict anywhere. Be assured - it will happen,
one way or other, at some future time.
- Hamas is a powerful symbol - of the future - the power
to say "no," or as Halper puts it: "To hell with"......Israel,
its Matrix of Control, America, the international community, the dismissive
Arab world, and corrupted Fatah. We won't submit; won't play your rigged
game; won't let you crush us; won't let you deny us our rights; in the
end you'll come to us, and we'll prevail. If six decades of struggle doesn't
prove it, what then will. We'll give you six more, and more still. Had
enough? Now we'll set the terms. Think it can't happen? Read on.
- One day Israel and the world community will reach an
inevitable conclusion. The price of Occupation is too great - regional
instability, global also, continued war, maybe nuclear, and a potential
cost far too great to risk. Push will come to shove when it's too great
- Palestinians like Jews and people everywhere have national
rights of self-determination provided they don't impinge on others with
equal rights. Ethnocracies like Israel don't work. Nor do they in the Muslim
or Christian worlds. And understand the distinction. France for the French
and Mexico for Mexicans aren't the same as Israel for the Jews. France
like most countries have Christians, Jews, Muslims, whatever - all entitled
to equal rights under law. Israel only affords them only to Jews - an untenable
system doomed to fail. When it's realized, push will have come to shove,
and then some.
- So where are we, and what's ahead? Halper doesn't have
a solution, but he offers an approach based on "indispensable"
- (1) National expression for the two peoples -
- Jews and Palestinians both claim self-determination rights
in the same country. Logically, it calls for a two-state or bi-national
- (2) Viability -
- The two-state option requires real sovereignty for Palestinians
to be viable - self rule, over borders, basic resources, and so forth.
- (3) Refugees -
- The Right of Return is essential or something close enough
to matter. Most important - Palestinians have the right to choose. International
law backs them. It doesn't give Israel a pass.
- (4) A regional dimension -
- Adopting a regional approach opens new options. Middle
East countries have a stake in what affects them.
- (5) Regional Security -
- Israel's only chance for peace and stability is to achieve
a just peace with the Palestinians and integrate fairly in the greater
region. Playing hegemon won't do it. In the end, militarism always fails.
- Enormous obstacles must be overcome to achieve any meaningful
settlement: locked in attitudes, decades of failure, unresponsive governments,
much the same for the UN, so where does that leave things - world public
opinion, people of conscience, on a global scale, from the grassroots,
creating a groundswell for change. Can it happen? Not easily, but Halper
offers a "reframing."
- (1) Conceptualizing the conflict: how to secure mutual
national rights -
- Reconciling mutually opposing rights is key to a meaningful
- (2) Defining the problem: security v. occupation and
a proactive expansion policy -
- Palestinians have been conciliatory; willing to compromise;
accept a two-state solution based on pre-1967 borders (22% of historic
Palestine); Israel flatly refuses; diktats, not compromise is its strategy;
"security" the mantra; the outcome - win-lose.
- Only a rights-based win-win solution can work; one under
international law; apartheid is untenable; human rights reframing advances
the de-colonization argument; why elsewhere but not in Israel.
- Sum it up and here are Halper's choices:
- (1) a traditional two-state solution -
- A viable Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories
is unrealistic given Israeli settlements with 500,000 Jews in them.
- (2) An "Israel plus-Palestinian minus" two-state
solution: the Israeli option -
- It's a non-starter for Palestinians - a semi-sovereign,
hardly viable, disconnected, South African-style apartheid system.
- (3) A single-state solution: multi-national and democratic
- The best choice, but is it workable? Transforming a Jewish
state into a democratic one faces enormous obstacles. Maybe one day but
- (4) A regional confederation -
- It's more complex, "less elegant," but for
Halper the only workable choice, and he compares it to the EU - balancing
national autonomy with freedom to live and/or work anywhere in the union.
It neutralizes Occupation, gets Palestinians out of their trap by allowing
them wider economic, social, and geographic opportunities within the region.
It's fair and win-win, and he suggests a "two-stage" process:
- (a) A Palestinian State alongside Israel -
- Essentially what now exists for starters with "stage
two" to follow; a "way out of the trap" - an international
community regional confederation guarantee within, for example, a decade.
That assures viability.
- (b) A regional confederation leading to a wider Middle
East confederation -
- The international community must take charge; set the
terms; get everyone on board; and begin say with Israel, Palestine, Jordan,
Syria, and Lebanon. Later bring in Egypt, others and eventually all regional
states - a full-blown Middle East Union, like the EU.
- Settlements can stay in place; Israel needn't offer Palestinians
citizenship; but nishul must stop, allow Palestinians out of their trap;
and bring an end to conflict because its reason no longer exists. Details
are important and must carefully be worked out, but on a fair and equitable
basis to both sides and all regional states. It's no simple task, maybe
one too great, but look at the possibilities:
- -- ending the longest and most intractable conflict anywhere;
- -- stopping it from getting worse; endangering the region;
beyond it as well;
- -- transforming Israel from an ethnocracy to a legitimate
democratic state diplomatically recognized by its neighbors; and
- -- allowing Jews and Muslims to live in peace; then both
with everyone everywhere; imagine the possibilities; the alternative is
hopelessness: Jews will also suffer; ethnocracy is self-destructive; the
way out is justice; a little compromise for a lot of gain; win-win; Halper
sees Israel going beyond peace to redemption, committed to human rights,
and beginning the journey to get there.
- What About Terrorism?
- First off, distinguish between individual/group v. the
far greater state kind. Then consider aggressors and victims, one act begetting
another, an eventual vicious circle, and nations claiming the high ground
when they're at fault - "worthy" victims of "unworthy"
ones even when they act in self-defense.
- The real issues is life. It's sacred, and taking it from
non-combatants is terrorism. It's also "illegal, immoral and prohibited."
Self-defense against combatants is another matter fully justified under
international law as is the right to resist with arms. Israel says otherwise,
blames its victims, and so far has avoided accountability. That no longer
can stand, and Halper suggests a "better language" to hold all
terrorist acts accountable.
- It exists so let's use it - the language of human rights.
It's codified in law, and it's high time it's applied universally. It's
precise, inclusive and condemns all forms of terror - by individuals, groups
and most importantly states. And judicial bodies exist to enforce it -
the International Criminal Court (ICC) for example to prosecute individuals
for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.
The principle of "universal jurisdiction" also exists that requires
other states to bring rights violators (including heads of state) to trial
if their own nation won't do it.
- Halper sees human rights and applying international law
as key to genuine peace and conflict resolution. States, of course, are
the obstacle. They won't police themselves, and in-place institutions have
proved weak. Changing things requires people action - international civil
society demanding justice; doing it proactively; marshaling enough voices
to make them heard; refusing to take no for an answer. Think impossible?
- Where Do We Go From Here?
- Here's the problem. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict
involves far more than two peoples. Far more than the region. It's global
and resonates everywhere and affects everyone. For the Middle East alone,
regional peace is impossible without a just settlement of the conflict.
Absent that and anything is possible - all bad.
- Globally, the entire world is affected. For Halper, it's
brought him "full circle," a Jew, an Israeli in Palestine seeing
his "own people coopted by Israel's security framing and disempowered."
Disadvantaged as well considering the alternative. He's part of an effort
to change things and suggests four strategic elements:
- (1) A global, regional, local and personal vision
- The last two decades have seen the emergence of a vibrant
international civil society - thousands of peace and human rights organizations
of all types together with activists, intellectuals and concerned people
everywhere standing up against injustice and demanding resolution. So far,
the other side outmuscles them, but who knows for how long. New tools are
around like the Internet that connects people everywhere. Alternative media
as well, including online choices attracting growing audiences fed up with
the mainstream's mind-numbing array.