When I first started reading about political activist, Dr. Jeff Halper, I was surprised to note that he grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota—the same town where Bob Dylan (then Robert Zimmerman), lived during most of his childhood. I have no idea if they knew each other—Dylan was about six years older than Halper--but both went on to give voice to significant and profound humanitarian issues. The yearning for a peaceful world that is so poignantly expressed in Dylan’s “Blowin in the Wind” is reflected in the books, speeches, and non-violent actions and civil disobedience of Jeff Halper. I invite you to read the following brief biography and then to follow the links to hear Dr. Halper speak, to read what he has written, and to listen to his responses in interviews. His life and his works are thought provoking and inspiring to all those who feel helpless to bring about change in an increasingly global world.
In the 1960’s in America, Jeff Halper was involved in the civil rights movement and was a Vietnam War resister. He left the country in 1973 and became an Israeli citizen, but during his required military service, he refused to bear arms or to serve in the occupied territories. Since then, two of his children have been imprisoned as conscientious objectors. With an educational background in anthropology (Halper was awarded a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee), he lectured at the University of Haifa and Ben Gurion University and also was an active participant on issues of social justice within Israel.
Searching for a way to make a difference in the culture of modern Israel, Jeff Halper became a co-founder and currently serves as Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD: www.icahd.org/ ). Since 1997, ICAHD has formed coalitions with other Israeli groups as well as Palestinian organizations to resist the demolition of Palestinian homes, and to help rebuild those homes that have been demolished. During this time, Dr. Halper has shown personal courage in confronting both bulldozers and Israeli soldiers sent to carry out Israel’s house demolition policy. He has been arrested many times for such actions. This resistance, though meaningful in itself, is meant not only to expose the injustices of the current situation but also to affirm the importance of international civil society in bringing about change. Nominated by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for the Nobel Prize in 2006, Halper now travels to other countries to provide first-hand information about the realities of Israeli society.
Halper’s published books include An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel (2008), and his lectures, speeches, and interviews are easily available online. In a published speech, “Palestine 2011,” (www.middleastpost.com/2523/palestine-2011-jeff-halper/ ), Halper attempts to analyze the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his attempt to “find ways to get out of this interminable and absolutely superfluous conflict.” He sets forth his responses to three questions: What is the problem? How can the conflict be resolved? How do we get there? He indicates that he is optimistic that “2011 will witness a game-changing ‘break’ that will create a new set of circumstances in which a just peace is possible.” And he puts forth the following warning: “Life in the Occupied Territories is about to get even more difficult, I believe, but perhaps we are finally approaching the breaking point. If that is the case, we must be there for the Palestinians on all the fronts: to protect them, to play our role in pushing the Occupation into unsustainability, to resist re-occupation, to act as watchdogs over political ‘processes’ that threaten to impose apartheid in the guise of a two-state solution and, ultimately to ensure that a just and lasting peace emerges.”
Bob Dylan’s lyrics affected an entire generation as he asked, “How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?” Dr. Jeff Halper has heard the cries, and he wants all of us not only to hear the cries but to take action to bring about a more peaceful world.
Israeli Barrier: Security or Apartheid? - Jeff Halper
Jeff Halper, co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, explains why he believes Israel's "separation barrier" enforces apartheid between Israelis and Palestinians. He compares the Israeli West-Bank barrier to the Berlin Wall.
Jeff Harper's story was written by Barbara A. Kerr. Barbara conceived and designed Creating an Emotionally Intelligent World, a computer-based training game for organizational development. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Temple University and is an executive coach who has successfully run her own consulting business for more than twelve years.