Thanks to reader Ira Glunts, who informs me that Jeff Halper, the only Israeli who joined the Free Gaza Movement voyage, which successfully broke the Israeli blockade of Gaza, has been arrested. Halper is the founder of the International Committee Against Home Demolitions and a lecturer in anthropology at Ben Gurion University. Israeli police took him into custody at the Erez crossing on his return. He has been charged with entering Gaza in violation of an IDF order prohibiting Israelis from entering the enclave:
Police on Tuesday detained an Israeli activist who had sailed to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip to challenge Israel’s blockade of the coastal region. They accused Jeff Halper, who also holds United States citizenship, of violating a ban on Israelis entering Gaza.
Halper was among 44 “Free Gaza” activists from 17 nations who sailed in two boats from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip on Saturday in defiance of the blockade. He spent three days in the Gaza Strip before entering Israel through the Erez border crossing, where police detained him.
According to Halper, Israeli forces at the crossing initially told him that if he came with the boat he should return the same way. However, he said, they allowed him to cross into Israel shortly afterward.
“He is being questioned at the police station in Sderot for entering the Gaza Strip in defiance of a military decree banning Israeli citizens from doing so,” Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
You see, if he was an IDF soldier he could enter and depart at will as long as he was “defending” the Occupation.
I expected that Israel would “take it out” on someone involved with the trip either by detaining the international activists in Gaza or hassling the boat once it set sail for its return journey. Israeli authorities make it a point for those who resist them to “pay” for the few victories they earn against the Occupation. But I didn’t think of the jeopardy which Halper faced as an Israeli citizen.
It should be pointed out that numerous Israelis have violated similar embargoes against visiting Lebanon and Syria. One wonders why visiting Gaza is viewed with so much more alarm. In fact, one of them is Lisa Goldman, a freelance journalist who devised a journalistic stunt of surreptitiously visiting Lebanon. She was not prosecuted. Unfortunately, I doubt she’ll be writing in defense of Halper. No doubt Israel will attempt to “teach him a lesson” and make an example of Halper to deter any other similarly adventuresome Israelis should they contemplate such troublesomeness in the future.
Halpter’s situation is further complicated by the fact that he is a U.S. AND Israeli citizen. Do you think our State Department will express an iota of concern for Halper’s welfare? We’re always terribly concerned by hostile governments which impede our own citizens’ ability to exercise their right to travel. What about this case?
The expanded Hebrew language version of the Haaretz report also notes that Halper declined to meet with Ismail Haniyeh, as most of the other FGM voyagers did on their arrival in Gaza. This likely would have opened him to further potential criminal charges.
The article further reveals that senior civilian-political elements in the government imposed their decision to allow the ships to reach Gaza and were opposed by the military, which preferred to prevent them from docking. Only now, after threatening explicitly to use force against the FGM does the defense establishment swear it never intended to use “hostile action” to subdue the boats.
We should monitor this situation closely and be prepared to make a hue and cry if he is not released shortly and to ensure he does not face further charges for his brave actions.
South Africa redux.
I remember how this story ended – the vengful blacks massacred the boers right?
Jeff Halper is the only Israeli Jew in the group. Huwaida Arraf is also an Israeli citizen.
Richard Silverstein says
@fiddler: Thanks for the correction.
Frank Mugford says
Good luck Jeff and well done, I trust you will be released soon. The facade is starting to crack and I hope very soon the World at large will see what repressive regimes most, if not all, Israeli governments have been.
I suggest it is time to start reworking economic sanctions, to persuade people not to purchase anything with an Israeli connection.
[ed., comment deleted per comment rules. A word of warning: anyone commenting in this site and calling for the death of another will be reported to the police if I can determine where you live. Don’t toy with me. I don’t take such threats lightly.]
Okay, I apologize for claiming that some Israeli leaders are guilty of treason, maybe that was a little extreme. But-
Can you please explain, if Israel is “occupying Palestinian land”, why Jordan and Egypt controlled the West Bank and Gaza before Israel for 20 years? How about explaining how the surrounding Arab countries would have annexed the State of Israel if they destroyed it in 48, 67, or 73? How do you reconcile these facts with the claim of “occupation”, or that the Arabs are mad because of Israel’s “occupation”? Can’t you see that the whole idea of an “occupation” and the “peace process” is a myth made up by the racist Arabs to destroy Israel, as Arab leaders including Arafat himself have admitted (in Arabic)? The entire conflict is based on the inability of the Arabs and Muslims to tolerate a non-Arab and/or non-Muslim political entity in the Middle East. What is someone said that America is “white land”? Wouldn’t that be considered white supremacism? How is that different from the claim that “Palestine” is Arab land? The Arabs are in the Middle East and North Africa for the same reasons that whites are in the Americas, by the way. They conquered those regions.
Richard Silverstein says
You don’t get it. “A little extreme?” Calling for someone to be executed for treason is a little extreme??? We sure have a different sense of proportion & perspective on these things. And don’t ever write anything like that again on this blog.
As for debating the intricacies of Zionist history, I’m going to leave that to any readers who want to tackle the subject w. you. This sort of debate makes my eyes glaze over esp. when it’s presented as polemically as you present it.
I have very little to say to someone who has such hateful attitudes toward Arabs. And I’d say the same (& have) to any readers here who say hateful things about Israel.
There is no way to explain Arab hostility toward Israel other than racism. Even if you accept all the crimes Israel has been supposedly guilty of, it doesn’t approach the atrocities committed by the Arab and Muslim nations. Nearly half a million people have been murdered in Sudan in 5 years for example, and millions were killed in the Iran-Iraq War over 8 years. Syria’s Assad and Jordan’s Hussein have both killed tens of thousands of civilians in a single swoop. Hundreds of thousands have been killed in the Algerian civil war, a hundred thousand in the Lebanese civil war. The Lebanese army recently totally destroyed the camp of el-Bader because of a few hundred terrorists holed up inside it, making 30,000 Palestinians homeless in a matter of weeks. How many Palestinians have been killed by Israel since the Intifada started in 2000? What is it now, 4000 or so? So that’s 4000 Palestinians killed in 8 years, and 1500 Jews. Although all deaths are tragic, the fact is that that is quite a trivial amount considering the conditions in the surrounding countries. Palestinians even have a higher standard of living, even now, than much of the rest of the Middle East. The only factor that can explain Arab hostility to Israel is that it isn’t Arab and/or Muslim. In other words, if Israel was an Arab country and killed its own people, no one, even the Arabs, would care.
Another reason for this distortion of the middle east is the fact that the Arab nations don’t allow freedom of the press, while Israel has the highest density of journalists on the face of the planet. For example, when Lebanon was busy destroying Naher el-Bader, journalists were barred for miles around. But whenever Israel does anything, journalists swarm in by the bandwagon, whether in Israel itself or in Arab countries (such as in Lebanon in summer 2006). This journalistic imbalance, itself a creation of the superior values of the State of Israel, serves to artificially amplify Israeli actions one hundred fold in the world media and consciousness while simultaneously dampening Arab actions to the point of total obscurity.
Richard Silverstein says
You are wrong. The violence and death you describe isn’t solely attributable to religion, though religion may play a part. There is murderous hatred & genocide around the globe. It isn’t confined to one religious group. We human beings can be a brutal lot I’m afraid to say. Muslims have no monopoly on this.
Richard Silverstein says
@Yoni: Israel in no way has as free a press as the U.S. or other western democracies. There is a high level of military censorship imposed on Israeli journalists. And it is not always imposed for genuine national security reasons. Not to mention that the IDF prevents journalists from covering certain stories by refusing to allow them access to places like Gaza. Israel does not have SUPERIOR values. It might have if it honored the values it claims it believes. But it too often falls down on that score.
If I had a choice in terms of the value placed on democracy, I would prefer to live in Israel rather than Gaza. But if I had a similar choice I’d prefer to live in the U.S. rather than Israel.
I have a question for you regarding Gaza:
You probably believe that Israel blockades Gaza, and is refusing to provide necessary assistance and so forth. You claim that this is a result of Israel’s obligation as a foreign occupier. That is correct. But did you know, that as a foreign occupier, Israel is also obligated to be the gov’t of Gaza? In other words, according to the very same laws that obligate Israel to provide for Gaza, Israel is also obligated to invade Gaza and destroy Hamas!
On the other hand, if Israel shouldn’t destroy Hamas and impose an Israeli gov’t on the Strip, then Israel is treating Gaza as a foreign and hostile political entity with whom Israel is under no obligation to provide with anything! You can’t have it both ways. Israel can’t be forced to supply a Hamas-ruled Gaza! Your thoughts.
You also didn’t respond to my challenge concerning the Arab/Muslim obsession with Israel vis-a-vis the death and destruction plaguing their own countries on a massive scale. How do you reconcile the 400,000 people exterminated in Darfur since 2003, for example, with Muhammad al-Dura being a stamp in Tunisia?
Richard Silverstein says
@Yoni: This isn’t a debating society. I’m not here to act as a foil for whatever debating pts you want t make vis a vis Arabs & Muslims. There are lots of other places where you can debate on these issues to yr heart’s content.