Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper delivered a sobering message to about 275 people who crowded into the First Unitarian Congregation in Ottawa on February 28th. “The two state solution is dead”, he declared, “and Israel killed it.”
During three and half busy days in Ottawa, Jeff Halper had 10 different meetings with interested groups, ranging from a session with a group of students on Carleton Campus, to a group of concerned clergy and lay members of the United Church of Canada. He also had a cordial meeting with a number of NDP Members of Parliament, organized by MP Libby Davies. Halper is in Canada on a tour organized by IJV and UNJPPI. In all his meetings, his message was the same: “The two state solution is over. We need to start thinking about other approaches.”
As Halper describes it, on the ground today there is already only “one state” from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. That state is Israel. It has one currency (the shekel). One electrical grid. One army. One water company. One road network. One commercial airport. One external border. The total population of this state is about 12 million. About half of them, its Jewish citizens, have full rights. The other half, (the Palestinians) either have second class status (inside Israel) or live with no rights at all under military rule (in the territories Israel occupies.)
In Halper’s view, there might have been a possibility of a two-state solution many years ago, but today the integration of the West Bank into Israel is almost complete.
The Palestinians are being crowded into ever smaller areas. Israel is now destroying houses and forcing Palestinians out of what the Oslo Agreement defined as “Area C” (here shown in blue), leaving them with only the green areas.
Halper outlined how Israel uses zoning laws to force the Palestinians off their lands and “Judaise” the area. He cited the example of one Palestinian family refused a building permit by Israeli authorities because the land was zoned as “agricultural.” Only metres away, however, an “exemption” to that zoning rule had been granted for the building of new homes for Jews. When the Palestinians defied the law and built anyway, their house was demolished by the Israeli military. Not once but several times. Halper claims that since 1967, when Israel took control over Jerusalem, over 25,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished under various pretexts, while at the same time tens of thousands of new homes for Jews have been built in East Jerusalem.
After his presentation, there was a lively question and answer period. Many in the audience found the presentation depressing. This was especially true of those who still had hopes that one day a “Two State Solution” would bring a measure of peace to the area and justice to the Palestinians.
But Halper countered by saying that we have to be realistic and start thinking about alternatives. He clearly touched a nerve. Many of the audience made donations to support the work of his organization (The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions) and that of the National Education Committee on Israel/Palestine.
“In all the groups I spoke to,” said Halper at the end of his stay in Ottawa, “very few people pushed back. I think there is a growing understanding that the Two State solution is no longer an option, and people who are really interested in justice and security in the Middle East, have to start thinking about another approach.” Halper heads to Halifax on Saturday, followed by events in Western Canada. See his full schedule here.