Dr. Jeff Halper has been a peace and human rights activist for more than three decades. Born in Minnesota in the United States, he participated in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s. Halper immigrated to Israel in 1973 after attending rabbinical school and resisting military service in the Vietnam War.
In Israel, Halper taught anthropology at Haifa and Ben-Gurion Universities. His academic research has focused on the history of Jerusalem in the modern era, contemporary Israeli culture, and the Middle East conflict. He is the author of Between Redemption and Revival: The Jewish Yishuv in Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century. During his mandatory Israeli military service, he refused to bear arms or serve in the occupied Palestinian territories. In 1997, Halper co-founded the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) to challenge and resist the Israeli policy of demolishing Palestinian homes.
Israel has pursued a policy of expanding its civilian population into the Occupied Palestinian Territories (which includes the Gaza Strip, West Bank, and East Jerusalem) through settlement construction and land confiscation. At the same time, Palestinian population growth has been severely limited, confined to shrinking enclaves.
Under the guise of urban planning and civil law, the natural development of Palestinian towns and villages has been frozen by land expropriation, discrimination in planning and zoning policies, restrictions of building permits, and the demolition of Palestinian homes. According to ICAHD research, the Israeli military or civil authority has destroyed more than 18,000 Palestinian homes since 1967. This constitutes a massive violation of international law both by inflicting collective punishment on a civilian population, and by pursuing a goal of territorial acquisition through force.
“We think, as Israelis, that Jews and Arabs should live together,” Halper says. “Palestinians have rights of self-determination just like we have. We have to fight also for their rights. One of our slogans is ‘we refuse to be their enemies.'”
As the Coordinating Director of ICAHD, Dr. Halper has organized and led nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience against Israel’s occupation policies and authorities. He has put his own personal safety on the line, facing bulldozers in front of Palestinian homes and confronting Israeli soldiers. He also organizes Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals to help rebuild demolished Palestinian homes.
A tireless writer and speaker, Halper travels extensively to build international support for ICAHD and its international sister organizations, ICAHD-USA and ICAHD UK. He realized early on that the Israeli government did not intend for the Oslo peace process of the 1990’s to lead to the recognition of Palestinian rights. He developed the “Matrix of Control” framework that accurately predicted the course the Israeli Occupation would take as the Oslo process collapsed and Israel continued to build settlements, settler-only highways, and the Separation Wall. Dr. Halper was an early voice warning about the development of Israeli apartheid policies in the Occupied Territories, a subject on which he frequently speaks.
His book, Obstacles to Peace, is a resource manual of articles and maps on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and is published by ICAHD. Dr. Halper will be publishing An Israeli in Palestine in 2008, which follows his work against the Israeli Occupation.
For this work, the American Friends Service Committee nominated him, along with Palestinian activist Ghassan Andoni, for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Dr. Halper has also served on the steering committee of the United Nations Conference on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
As Jeff Halper explains, “We are against the Israeli policy of occupation and displacement. If you create an apartheid situation, if you lock another people into prison, in the end, you cannot develop a healthy, normal, and prosperous society. The Occupation, conflict, terrorism, and settlements all affects the Israeli society and economy. As long as the Occupation continues, Israel itself cannot be free.”