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Jeff Halper to Pete Seeger: Ditch the JNF and honor the boycott

By Jeff Halper | Mondoweiss | September 8, 2010

Dear Pete,

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

Jeff Halper is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).

September 9, 2010 - Posted by | Environmentalism, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism

2 Comments »

  1. Dear Friends,

    My name is David Weisberg, and I serve as Executive Director of Friends of the Arava Institute (www.friendsofarava.org), the sole lead organization responsible for putting together “With Earth and Each Other: A Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East” (www.withearthandeachother.org).

    Jeff Halper of ICAHD and I have never met before, and, as two people whom I believe share a dream for a Middle East where Muslims, Jews, and Christians share a life instilled with equal rights, opportunities, and resources, and a common destiny, I am sorry that our first introduction is under these circumstances.

    As I got ready to begin the Rosh Hashanah holiday and my many Muslim friends are celebrating Eid al Fitr, I stumbled upon Jeff’s letter, published on multiple websites, urging Pete Seeger to withdraw his participation and support from “With Earth and Each Other: A Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East.”

    While I have great respect for all those working to create a better future for all the people of the Middle East, I was dismayed in reading the letter, and it left me wishing that Jeff had made the effort to contact me first to discuss he concerns about the rally and provide me an opportunity to respond. If he had done so, he might have learned that a number of the assertions made in his letter are simply not factually correct and that he may have completely misunderstood the purpose and message of the event, which is not, in fact, to support or endorse Israel or any other government, but instead to celebrate the many efforts in trans-boundary cooperation occurring on the micro-level, like the important work of the Arava Institute, that are making a practical difference in bettering the quality of life for Palestinians, Israelis, Jordanians, and others. He also might have learned that Pete Seeger’s participation in “With Earth and Each Other” does not, in fact, involve him performing anywhere in the Middle East.

    If Jeff had contacted me, I might also have had an opportunity to put him in touch with one of the chairs of “With Earth and Each Other,” Mohammed Atwa, a Muslim Palestinian from Gaza. Perhaps Mohammed could have explained to you why he finds their endorsement of the virtual rally by the Jewish National Fund and the exposure of their constituents to our strong and positive message about coexistence and equality to be an important step in the right direction. (I should note that, contrary to what Jeff asserted in his letter, the JNF is no more a “lead partner” in the rally than the thirty other organizations that have signed on as partnering organizations.)

    It is often hard to read tone on the internet, and, in this season of great introspection, I want to assure you that my intent isn’t to chide or condescend, but instead to reach out with the hope that Jeff and I can begin an open-minded conversation about the important event that Friends of the Arava Institute is creating, and, perhaps even more importantly, the vital work that both of our organizations are doing to create a better future for the Middle East. While our organizations approaches may be different, I think we may end up discovering that we’re very much on the same team.

    I invite anyone reading this that has questions about “With Earth and Each Other” or Friends of the Arava Institute to contact me at david@weaeo.org. And I hope all of you will consider joining us for this amazing event on November 14.

    Thank you.

    With Great Respect,

    David Weisberg, Executive Director
    Friends of the Arava Institute
    david@weaeo.org
    (717) 503-9207

    Comment by David Weisberg | September 9, 2010 | Reply

    • David,

      Does it not trouble you that JNF is a partner in this event?

      How could anyone possibly excuse such a thing?

      Comment by aletho | September 9, 2010 | Reply


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