- Israel-based professor of anthropology
- Founder and Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
- Speaker for the International Solidarity Movement
Born in 1949 in Hibbing, Minnesota, Jeff Halper was active in the American civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s. After attending Macalester College (in Minnesota) and then a rabbinical school, he immigrated in 1973 to Israel, where he taught anthropology at Ben-Gurion University. Today Halper is best known as the founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), and as a speaker for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). He is especially popular among U.S. church-based, Palestinian-allied activists, and he speaks frequently on American college campuses. He portrays Palestinians as the permanent, innocent victims of intractable Israeli aggression.
Halper’s efforts are focused primarily on condemning Israel's practice of demolishing Palestinian houses where suicide bombers reside, where bombs are assembled, or where secret entrances to illegal arms-smuggling tunnels are located. Charging that 96 percent of the Palestinians whose homes have been demolished had no criminal record, Halper says: "Israel's razing of houses ... is clearly a war crime" and "may be likened to rape." He claims that the demolitions violate the internationally accepted right to housing; are part of a plan to permanently expel Palestinians from their traditional lands on the West Bank; have “nothing to do with security” but are intended “to break the will of the Palestinians”; and preclude any possibility of ever establishing an independent Palestinian state.
Halper personally has taken part in direct actions designed to hinder the Israeli Defense Forces in their efforts to raze targeted houses. He once told an audience at Macalester College that "sitting under a bulldozer with a Palestinian [to prevent its use in a house demolition] is a bonding experience."
In September 2002 Halper spoke at the United Nations International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People (UNIC) -- an event whose theme was “End the Occupation!” -- along with core anti-Israel activists such as Pierre Galand, Phyllis Bennis, and Adam Shapiro.
Several days after the accidental death of ISM activist Rachel Corrie in March 2003, Halper expressed condolences to Corrie's family and to his other "comrades in the International Solidarity Movement."
According to Halper:
"Israel has become a Sparta, an aggressive country with no moral brakes that endangers its neighbors, peoples of far-away lands and, in the end, its own population. The fact [is] that Israel has become a handmaiden ... to American Empire, that it has compounded the sins of occupation by joining forces with chauvinistic neo-cons, corporations pursuing war profits, anti-Semitic fundamentalists and other dubious forces subverting progressive civil society elements around the world."
Halper frequently refers to Israel as an "apartheid" state, where the living conditions of Palestinians are similar to those of blacks in pre-1990s South Africa.
Drawing a moral equivalence between Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli anti-terror measures, Halper calls into question the very definition of “terrorism”; he characterizes the “state terrorism” (or “terrorism from above”) allegedly practiced by Israel as worse than what he terms the “small-scale” acts of Palestinian “terrorism from below.” Says Halper:
"The acts of terrorism most condemned by the U.S. and other states are those of non-state actors, in which the legitimate resistance of oppressed peoples to their oppression gets tragically lumped with the loony and pointless terrorism of bin Laden, Carlos, and other 'professional terrorists' ... The Palestinians' need to resort to terrorism raises questions of fundamental fairness. One cannot expect a people to suffer oppression forever, to abrogate their own human rights in favor of those of others."
"If the Palestinians are forbidden to engage in terrorism,” Halper states, “so too is Israel forbidden to employ the two forms of terror implicit in the Occupation and the measures required to maintain it: systematic and massive violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention protecting civilians living under occupation; and state terror embodied in Israel's indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations."
In Halper’s calculus, the impoverishment of modern-day Palestinians can be traced directly to Israeli injustices:
"After … decades of deliberate Israeli de-development … the Palestinians are left today with scorched earth. No functioning economy … no agriculture (since 1967 Israel has uprooted or cut down a million olive and fruit trees) … no homes for the young [due to Israeli demolition policies]."
Halper has called for sanctions against Israel “until it gives up its occupation.” He also has lent his support to a campaign to boycott of the Caterpillar company, which manufactures the bulldozers that are used in Israel’s house demolitions.
Halper believes that Israel has no right to exist as an independent entity. "A Jewish state has proven politically, and in the end, morally, untenable," he said at the UNIC in 2003. "The "two-state" solution envisioned by all Israeli governments since 1967 ... is simply unacceptable." “[A] just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he concludes, will require “an international campaign for a single state."
In 2006 the American Friends Service Committee nominated Halper and ISM co-founder Ghassan Andoni for the Nobel Peace Prize -- in recognition of their work "to liberate both the Palestinian and the Israeli people from the yoke of structural violence" and "to build equality between their people by recognizing and celebrating their common humanity."
In 2008, Halper became an organizer of the newly formed organization Free Gaza. In this role, he worked closely with the Palestinian Center for Human Rights and ISM. He also worked closely with former Palestinian Authority presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouti (cousin of Marwan Barghouti, who founded the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades); former Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney; Sami al-Hajj, an Al Jazeera reporter and a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay with ties to Osama bin Laden; International Solidarity Movement founder Huwaida Arraf; and British journalist/Muslim convert Yvonne Ridley.
Much of this profile is adapted, with permission, from Stand4Facts.org. Other parts are adapted, with permission, from NGO Monitor.