A Jewish activist promoting a one-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which would effectively put an end to Israel as a Jewish state, was in Pittsburgh last week hoping to gain support for his initiative.
Jeff Halper, the founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions — a group “dedicated to ending the Israeli Occupation” — gave a presentation on Sunday, Feb. 3 at the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh on Morewood Avenue to a mostly receptive crowd, despite his opinions teetering on the line between anti-Zionism and what most mainstream Jewish institutions would consider anti-Semitism.
His talk was peppered with conspiracy theories against Israel, and false statistics he presented as facts.
In addition to labeling Israel a “colonial-settler enterprise” and an “apartheid state,” Halper accused Israel of being responsible for much global unrest, connecting Israel to several shady undertakings, including arming the rebel groups in Syria, being “involved with the Kurds,” “involved with Saudi Arabia” and partly responsible for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, pointing to Israel’s purported sale of “eavesdropping equipment” to the Saudis, according to a video recording of the event.
“Israel has publicly taken the side of the Sunnis in the Sunni-Shiite Muslim civil war, basically,” Halper alleged. “In many ways, Israel has become the hegemon, the leader of the Sunni Arab world.”
Israel, he charged, is a country with a “laboratory that has millions of people that it can literally experiment on. I know it’s hard to say that with all the connotations, but it’s true. You can’t explain the disproportionate attack of the Israel army on Gaza repeatedly by the actual military threat. Those primitive rockets of Hamas that have killed three people over the last 20 years do not pose the military threat that would justify the destruction of Gaza and the use of the whole arsenal that Israel has employed. The only way you can explain it is it is a testing ground for the development and perfection of weapons of wars against the people.”
Palestinians are not responsible for any of the turbulence in Israel, he said.
“The Palestinians are the guinea pigs, and the people that are in Gaza are simply people who live in a laboratory that are on the receiving end of this type of weaponry. But the whole point of this weaponry is to export it. It is the basis of the Israeli economy.”
Halper proposes abandoning hope for a two-state solution and uniting the Palestinians and Israelis into one state instead, granting all Palestinian refugees the right of return.
If that were to occur, Jews in Israel would no longer be a majority, but that is the point, according to Halper. To be a true democracy, he said, Israel must shed its identity as a Jewish state.
“Our job is crystal clear,” he said. “It is to transform an apartheid regime into a democratic state of equal rights for all its citizens which should not be such a hard sell in the United States.”
He has formed a group along with “about 50 Palestinians and about 20 or 25 Israeli Jews” called the One Democratic State Campaign to promote his plan. At the conclusion of his presentation, he “passed the hat” seeking donations to the group.
Not everyone in attendance agreed with Halper’s narrative of the Israel/Palestinian conflict.
Halper is “working for the elimination of the Jewish state of Israel and the promotion of what will turn out to be a majority Palestinian state,” said attendee David Ainsman. “He is blaming Israel for many of the world’s woes.”
During a Q&A following Halper’s lecture, one audience member commented: “The real problem is the Jewish people and the way the Jewish people conceive of themselves.”
In response, another audience member shouted: “That’s anti-Semitism. You went over a line.” PJC
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.