Jeff Halper

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Jeff Halper
Jeff Halper color.jpg
Born 1946
Residence Israel
Nationality United States/Israel (dual nationality)
Education Macalester College (BA); University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (Ph.D) in Anthropology
Occupation Anthropologist, Director of Israeli NGO
Known for Co-founder and Director of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Spouse(s) Shoshana Halper
Children Efrat, Yishai, Yair
Website ICAHD website

Jeff Halper (Hebrew: ג'ף הלפר‎; born 1946[1]) is an American-born anthropologist,[2] author, lecturer, and political activist who has lived in Israel since 1973. He is co-founder and Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).

Halper has written several books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is a frequent writer and speaker about Israeli politics, focusing mainly on nonviolent strategies to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is a supporter of the BDS movement and the academic boycott of Israel, and considers Israel to be guilty of “apartheid” and of a deliberate campaign of “Judaization” of the Palestinian territories.

In 1997, Halper co-founded ICAHD to challenge and resist the Israeli policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories and to organize Israelis, Palestinians and international volunteers to jointly rebuild demolished Palestinian homes—although ICAHD considers its resistance to house demolitions as a vehicle for exposing how the Israeli Occupation works and ultimately to end it. He has created a new mode of Israeli peace activity based on nonviolent direct action, civil disobedience in the Occupied Territories and international advocacy.[1] Halper was nominated, together with the Palestinian intellectual/activist Ghassan Andoni, for the Nobel Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee for his 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".

Early career[edit]

Halper was born in Minnesota in 1946.[3] He grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota,[4] attended rabbinical school,.[5] and received a Ph.D. in Cultural and Applied Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.[6] He became involved in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s and resisting military service in the war.[5]

Halper emigrated to Israel in 1973[3] because of his opposition to the war.[7] He served as an adjunct lecturer in anthropology at the University of Haifa and at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba. Most of his academic career, however, has been spent at Friends World College (FWC). He was director of FWC's Middle East Center in Jerusalem, and when FWC merged with Long Island University in 1991, he became its Director of its International Academic Operations, and was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor.

His academic research focuses on the history of modern Jerusalem, contemporary Israeli culture, and the Middle East conflict. In addition to teaching and research, Halper is involved in issues of social justice activism in Israel. He spent ten years as a community volunteer in Jerusalem’s inner city neighborhoods, and was a founder of Ohel - a social protest movement of working-class Mizrahi Jews. He served as the Chairman of the Israeli Association for Ethiopian Jews, having been active in the 1960s in championing the rights of Ethiopian Jews and in researching the history of the Jewish community in Ethiopia.

Founding of ICAHD[edit]

Halper co-founded the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) in 1997 to resist the Israeli government's policy of demolishing Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories. According to ICAHD, since 1967 more than 18,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories have been destroyed by the Israeli military or civil authorities.[8] According to Halper, 5% of home demolitions are motivated by security concerns. Some of the demolished homes are on Palestinian private property. Halper says Israel employs various means, including land expropriation, discriminatory planning and zoning policies, restrictive granting of building permits, and the demolition of Palestinian homes, to deny the Palestinians normal living conditions. The objective for this, according to Halper, is not to ensure security for Israeli citizens but simply to confine more than three million residents in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza to small, impoverished, and disconnected enclaves.[9]

As ICAHD's Coordinating Director, Halper has organized and led direct action in opposition to Israeli policies. He has faced bulldozers in front of Palestinian homes.[1] He organizes Palestinians, and internationals to help rebuild demolished Palestinian homes.[10] On April 3, 2008, Halper was arrested for the eighth time while protesting the bulldozing of a home in a Palestinian neighborhood.

Typically, ICAHD will get a call from a Palestinian family informing it that bulldozers have arrived. ICAHD thereupon sends out an action alert, in response to which activists from different groups turn out and engage in civil disobedience by standing up to the bulldozers. ICAHD also raises funds to rebuild these homes in their original locations.[4] In addition, under Halper's leadership, ICAHD encourages dialogue between groups in an effort to open communication, foster reconciliation and challenge stereotypes. ICAHD works in coalition with a wide range of left-wing Israeli organizations including: Bat Shalom, Rabbis for Human Rights, Gush Shalom and the Alternative Information Center, as well as Palestinian groups such as the Land Defense Committee, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC) and Rapprochement.[10]

“The Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including occupied and illegally annexed East Jerusalem,” according to the ICAHD, “continues to endure violence, displacement, dispossession and deprivation as a result of prolonged Israeli occupation, in most cases in violation of their rights under international law. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, demolitions are a major cause of the destruction of property, including residential and livelihood-related structures, and displacement.”[11]

The organization describes Israel’s demolition campaign as breaking into three stages. Stage 1, “Inside Israel” (1948-1960s), involved the destruction of Palestinian villages and urban neighborhoods “ so that the refugees could not return and their lands could be turned over to the Jewish population.” Stage 2, “In the Occupied Territories” (since 1967), removed homes in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. And Stage 3, “Back Inside Israel” (1990s-present), involves demolition “at an ever accelerating rate.”[12]

Halper has been arrested “about eight times” by Israeli authorities for protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes. “As Israelis, we are privileged,” he said after one arrest. “They (police) are not going to shoot us if we resist the demolition, but if a Palestinian had done it, they would have certainly shot him.”[13]

“ICAHD staff and activists,” explains the organization's website, “embark on extensive speaking tours abroad at the invitation of our international partners, participate in international conferences and gatherings, and appear frequently in the international media. Besides our work with our international partners, we meet with government officials and diplomats, both in Israel/Palestine and in their capitals, in an effort to affect their governments’ policies.” ICAHD says that the “overall objective” of its “intergovernmental organization work is to ensure that the protection and promotion of Palestinian rights and a just peace become an essential component of international relations in a consistent, principled and effective way.” This work involves interaction with the UN Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts, Working Groups, and Special Representatives of the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.[14][15]

ICAHD offers a variety of “alternative” tours of Israel and Palestine, during which visitors can “meet Palestinian families suffering under Israeli policies of separation and home demolitions” as well as see “how Israel’s settlement project has created irreversible ‘facts on the ground.’” The tours are provided in seven different languages: English, Arabic, Hebrew, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and French.

ICAHD has branches in the United Kingdom (2004), Finland (2009), Norway (2007), the U.S. (2004), and Germany (2013).[16] In addition to Halper, ICAHD lists two other staff members on its website: Hibat Mahroum and Salim Shawamreh.[3]

The donors to ICAHR include Trocaire, NGO Development Center, United Nations Development Programme, World Vision, Mennonite Central Committee, the European Union, and the government of Spain.[17]

ICAHD was awarded UN Economic and Social Council Special Consultative Status in 2010.[18]

“Matrix of Control”[edit]

Halper coined the term “Matrix of Control,” which is frequently used in ICAHD materials. This matrix, according to Halper, consists of “a maze of laws, military orders, planning procedures, limitations on movement, Kafkaesque bureaucracy, settlements and infrastructure – augmented by prolonged and ceaseless low-intensity warfare – that serves to perpetuate the Occupation, to administer it with a minimum of military presence and, ultimately, to conceal it behind massive Israeli ‘facts on the ground’ and a bland façade of ‘proper administration.’” Embedded in the Matrix, according to Halper, are Israel’s three policies of fragmentation, displacement, and appropriation.[19]

By “fragmentation,” Halper means the carving up of the Occupied Territories into “more than 70 enclaves,” with the West Bank “divided into 64 islands,” and Gaza “severed into four areas.”[20]

By “displacement,” he refers in part to the expropriation of West Bank land “for settlements, highways, 'by-pass roads,' military installations, nature reserves and infrastructure.” According to Halper, this activity, “coupled with severely restrictive policies of zoning, has removed 89% of Arab East Jerusalem from residential or commercial use by its Palestinian residents.” Displacement also involves house demolitions. “Palestinian homes,” Halper writes, “are demolished for various and sundry reasons: the land they own has been declared by Israel 'agricultural land' or 'open green space'; they have no building permit (which the Israeli authorities refuse to grant Palestinians); the slope of their land is adjudged as 'too steep'; their houses are too near settlements or Israeli-only highways (although the houses were there first); out of collective punishment for some action the people being punished had nothing to do with; the 'clearing' of vast tracts of land for military/security purposes; destruction for the sake of expanding roads, settlements and the 'Separation Barrier'; houses 'cleared' to make passage safe for settlers or for other security purposes; homes representing 'collateral damage' in military incursions; and more.”[21]

The final component of Israel’s “Matrix of Control,” according to Halper, is Israel’s policy of “Appropriation,” or, in other words, Israel’s continuing to construct Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories.[22]

On a video on ICAHD's website, Halper leads a “Matrix of Control” tour of East and West Jerusalem during which he accuses Israel of being an “ethnocracy,” denies the legitimacy of the Jewish state, and accuses Israel of promoting anti-Arab and anti-Muslim propaganda. Halper declares that Israel has spread a myth throughout the western world that it is “a small, western democracy besieged by Arab Muslim terrorists,” when in fact, according to Halper, Israel is the morally reprehensible party.[23]

Other professional activities[edit]

Halper has frequently appeared alongside Rev. Naim Ateek, the head of Sabeel, a Palestinian Liberation Theology group based in Jerusalem. “As a Jew and an Israeli,” wrote Gerald M. Steinberg of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, “Halper’s appearances are seen as providing 'legitimacy' for Sabeel’s extremist agenda, in the form of a counter to allegations of anti-Semitic motivations.”[24]

Halper was a "member of the support committee" for the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.[25] He has taught at universities in Israel, the US, Latin America and Africa.[6]

Halper was arrested after sailing to Gaza in August 2008 with other peace activists from around the world.[26] He was the only Israeli on the ship.[27]

In March of 2010, Halper was a keynote speaker at Israel Apartheid Week in Glasgow. Halper’s lecture was entitled “Israeli Apartheid: The Case For BDS,” during which he described the way that Palestinians are ‘warehoused’ in Gaza.[28]


Halper supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, saying in a July 2013 article that BDS has “generated meaningful pressure on governments to justly resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”[29]

In the same article he set forth five criteria for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

  1. A just peace and the process leading up to it must conform to human rights, international law and UN resolutions.
  2. Regardless of whether there should or should not have been an Israel, two peoples now reside in Palestine-Israel and a just peace must be based on that bi-national reality.
  3. A just peace requires an acceptance of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.
  4. A just peace must be economically viable, with all the country’s inhabitants enjoying equal access to the country’s resources and economic institutions.
  5. A just peace must be regional in scope – by itself Israel-Palestine is too small a unit to address all the issues at stake in the conflict -- and it must address the security concerns of all in the region.[29]

Halper supports the academic boycott against Israel.[7]

Halper has often suggested that Israel is seeking to establish “facts on the ground,” as he routinely puts it, that would render territorial concessions in any peace agreement inconceivable.[30]

“The crime of apartheid,” the ICAHD has said, “should be understood to mean inhumane acts committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

“The demolition of Palestinian homes and other structures, forced or resulting displacement, and land expropriation are politically and ethnically motivated,” the ICAHD has declared. “The goal is to limit development and confine the four million Palestinian residents of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza to small enclaves, thus effectively foreclosing any viable, contiguous Palestinian state and ensuring Israeli control and the 'Judaization' of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.” The ICAHD explains that “Judaization refers to the view that Israel has actively sought to transform the physical and demographic landscape to correspond with a vision of a united and fundamentally Jewish land under Israeli sovereignty in historic Palestine.”[31]

Halper declared in April 2012 that “a two-state solution is no longer viable.” For one thing, “the facts on the ground – the settlements, the wall, the highways and the fragmentation of the territory – are all just so massive and so permanent and are constantly being expanded that there’s no more place for a coherent, functional, viable, sovereign Palestinian state.” For another, “there’s no political will in the international community to force Israel out of the Occupied Territories.” He outlines “two possible one-state solutions,” one of them being “a democratic state with one person, one vote,” the other being “a bi-national one-state.” He also proposes a further possibility: “the idea of a Middle Eastern Economic Confederation that looks something like the European Common Market of 30 years ago” and that would include “Israel/Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.”[32]

In September 2012, ICAHD endorsed a bi-national, one-state solution, and in April 2013 Halper explained that a two-state solution was only possible if Israel accepted Palestinian sovereignty over the Occupied Territories, Palestinian UN membership, the Palestinian right to national self-determination within the 1967 lines, and the integration of settlements on Palestinian land. He declared that “[t]here is a remarkable, mirror-like correspondence between Hamas and the right-wing in Israel, the latter ranging from the Likud through the religious settler movement.”[33]

Honors and awards[edit]

Halper was nominated, together with the Palestinian intellectual/activist Ghassan Andoni, for the Nobel Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee for his 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.”[18]

In 2007, ICAHD received the Olive Branch Award from Jewish Voice for Peace.[18]

Published books[edit]

  • "War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinans and Global Pacification", Pluto Press, 2015, ISBN 978-0-7453-3430-1
  • "Obstacles to Peace: A Reframing of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict", ICAHD (Fourth Edition, 2009), ISBN 978-965-90626-1-4
  • An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel, Pluto Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7453-2226-1
  • Between Redemption and Revival: The Jewish Yishuv in Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century, Westview, 1991, ISBN 978-0-8133-7855-8
  • The Falashas: An Analysis of Their History, Religion and Transitional Society, University of Minnesota, 1966

Selected published articles[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Dr. Jeff Halper, Coordinator". Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  2. ^ "Dr. Jeff Halper, Coordinating Director, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions". ICAHD-USA. Retrieved 2010-02-28. 
  3. ^ a b c "Staff". ICAHD. 
  4. ^ a b "American Israeli Jeff Halper arrested for the 8th time in Jerusalem". Online Journal. 2008-04-08. Retrieved 2008-05-19. 
  5. ^ a b "Jeff Halper". ICAHD USA. 
  6. ^ a b "Jeff Halper Bio". LA Jews for Peace. 
  7. ^ a b "Israeli prof. joins 40 activists sailing to Gaza". Haaretz. 
  8. ^ "Jeff Halper". American Friends Service Committee. Archived from the original on 2008-05-13. Retrieved 2008-05-19. 
  9. ^ "A Conversation with Jeff Halper". Catholic New Times. 2005-11-20. Retrieved 2008-05-19. 
  10. ^ a b "AFSC's nomination for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize: Ghassan Andoni and Jeff Halper" (Press release). American Friends Service Committee. 2006-02-14. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  11. ^ "The Facts". ICAHD. 
  12. ^ "Israel's Policy od Demolishing Palestinian Homes Must End". ICAHD. 
  13. ^ "Israel: Activist arrested for blocking house demolition". adnkronos. 
  14. ^ "Effecting Change". ICAHD. 
  15. ^ "Tours". ICAHD. 
  16. ^ "Chapters". ICAHD. 
  17. ^ "Donors". ICAHD. 
  18. ^ a b c "Who We Are". ICAHD. 
  19. ^ "The Matrix of Control: an Introduction". ICAHD. 
  20. ^ "Fragmenting – Areas A, B and C". ICAHD. 
  21. ^ "Displacing - House Demolitions and Closure". ICAHD. 
  22. ^ "Annexation (de facto) - Israeli Settlements and Settlement Blocs". ICAHD. 
  23. ^ "Matrix of Control". ICAHD. 
  24. ^ "The Centrality of NGOs In Promoting Anti-Israel Boycotts And Sanctions". Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 
  25. ^ Members of the Support Committee, p. 13
  26. ^ "Israeli activist who sailed on protest boat to Gaza arrested". Haaretz. 
  27. ^ "We hit a nerve, says leader of Gaza sail". Ynet News. 
  28. ^ "IAW 2010 Glasgow". Israeli Apartheid Week. 
  29. ^ a b "Kerry’s ‘Pax Israeliana’ has failed. What next?". ICAHD. 
  31. ^ "International Laws and House Demolition". ICAHD. 
  32. ^ "Interview | Jeff Halper: “A two-state solution is no longer viable, we must stop talking about it”". Ceasefire Magazine. 
  33. ^ "Towards an end-game in Palestine - Israel - While imagining the future". ICAHD. 

External links[edit]