Jeff Halper’s open letter to Pete Seeger.
All the best from your friends in Israel/Palestine. In that spirit, I was surprised to hear of your planned participation in With Earth and Each Other: A Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East. While at first blush it might seem to have something in common with the work of ICAHD and other Israeli and Palestinian peace groups — attempting to build bridges between peoples — it is actually something quite different.
One of the lead partners in the effort is the Jewish National Fund, which is responsible for the allocation of land in Israel. As such, it is a mainstay of the ever-increasing apartheid system there. Among their most recent activities has been the planting of a forest to cover a Bedouin village in the Negev from which the residents have been forcibly removed. They are in fact engaged in various tree-planting exercises that brand them as an environmental organization, when in fact their purpose is to secure the land of Israel, if not all of Palestine, for Jews only. That is their historical role, and so it remains. Efforts to paint Israel as environmentally concerned are mere greenwashing. Israel has repeatedly torn down Palestinian neighborhoods by declaring them green zones.
As you know, Israel has doggedly pursued a policy of settlement expansion, home demolition, and gradual ethnic cleansing of Palestinians throughout Israel proper and its occupied territories. Millions of Palestinians languish in internal and external refugee camps. In the wake of brutal assaults on Gaza and aid flotillas, the world is increasingly outraged.
A broad array of Palestinian civil society groups called in 2005 for a program of boycotts, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to conform to international law and stop blocking justice for Palestinians. This call has received widespread support. But the boycott includes a cultural and academic boycott as well. The purpose of this effort is to deny Israel the ability to brand itself as a normal nation while flouting the law and suppressing an occupied people. Brand Israel is their strategy; ours is to insist on no business as usual with the regime, as was done successfully in the struggle against apartheid South Africa.
In recent months, increasing numbers of artists have decided to forego performing in Israel. Gil Scott-Heron and Elvis Costello have explicitly stated that they will not participate in the whitewashing, greenwashing, or any washing of this rogue regime. Many others have quietly scuttled their planned tours.
I hope that you will decide to join these artists of conscience and once again make a bold stand for justice. The movement is gathering strength, the violators of civilized norms are fearful, and change is in the air.
Thanks for giving me a hearing,
Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).