We were delighted that Jeff Halper, Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions in Jerusalem, was able to pay two visits to England within four weeks and we are pleased to pass on news regarding some of the highlights from his trips.
Greenbelt Festival n August Bank Holiday Weekend, Cheltenham.
Jeffis participation in the arts festival, which attracts more than 20,000 people, was sponsored by the umbrella organisation, Rediscovering Palestine, of which ICAHD UK is a member. Jeffis seminar titles were eCan Obama Pull Off a Two-State Solution? And If He Canit?……,i and eCould the Road from Gaza, Nablus and Fallujah Lead to Your Door?i He also participated in a panel discussion entitled eHow will a peaceful and just co-existence become a reality? Jewish, Muslim and Christian voices from the Holy Land speak outi. Hundreds of people attended these sessions, many hearing Jeff for the first time. Recordings were made and can be ordered from www.greenbelt.org.uk
Several hundred people, including lots of young people, heard Jeff when he took part in a late night chat show with Andy Turner, who is moving into the role of chair of Greenbeltis board of trustees. More than 10,000 people heard Jeff when he participated in the Sunday morning service entitled, eTake an Olive Seed n songs, signs and stories from The Land Long Called Holyi. This was a ground-breaking initiative by Greenbelt as it launched a three-year campaign entitled, Just Peace, which seeks to raise awareness of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and provide actions that people can take to help bring about peace in the region.
As well as smaller meetings with a variety of NGOs, parliamentarians, researchers and people of influence, a public meeting was held at Amnesty International UK, hosted by Kristyan Benedict. The evening attracted 230 people, many hearing Jeff for the first time. Jonathan Hoffman, from the Zionist Federation in Britain and a member of the Jewish Board of Deputies, provided a counter voice. Attendees, especially those from the Jewish community who oppose Israeli government policy towards Palestinians, said that the evening provided a platform which brought out the brilliance of Jeffis analysis which seeks the end of the Occupation with a just and sustainable solution for both Israelis and Palestinians.
The invitation to visit Sheffield came from Musheir Al-Farra, chair of Sheffield PSC, as a result of Musheir and Jeff being on the same boat from Cyprus to Gaza in August 2008. This boat was one of those which took part in the Free Gaza Movement es campaign to break the siege of Gaza. A meeting for local activists preceded the public meeting in the evening.
The visit to Rochdale was the first that we have scheduled specifically to raise awareness of ICAHDis work amongst the Muslim Community and this came at the invitation of Councillor Ibrar Khan. While in Rochdale another meeting for activists was arranged by Paul Wimpeney, Annie OiGara and Linda Clair which attracted people from 15 different localities in the NW.
The communities of both Sheffield and Rochdale were generous in their financial support of ICAHD, enabling Jeff to return to Jerusalem with desperately needed funds to help continue their work on the ground. There were also several media opportunities for Jeff within local communities and for special interest organisations.
Labour Party Conference
Jeff was back in the UK for a few days at the end of September at the invitation of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME) in order to participate in a fringe meeting which it sponsored, along with PSC, during the party conference in Brighton. LFPME was launched earlier in the year and had a strong presence at the conference. Around 100 people attended the panel discussion. Speakers including Labour MPs Richard Burden, Jeremy Corbyn, Phyllis Starkey and Martin Linton, MEP Richard Howitt and Palestinian academic Karma Nabulsi. Jeff stressed that we must work hard in re-framing the conflict. Even the Goldstone Report fell into the discourse of ebothi sides. Israel is not the victim and must be held accountable for its violations of international law and universal human rights. Israel is not showing good faith and governments must get tough with Israel.
The panel was followed with a 90-minute in-depth briefing. This second session was chaired by Martin Linton MP and analysis was provided by Jeff and Rana Halaseh, representing the Palestine Authority. Discussion was lively especially following points made by Jeff for the PA to engage far more with Israeli peace activists and the internationals who are working very hard in their campaigns to support the Palestinian people.
From the UK, Jeff flew to the United States where he has participated in conferences and a number of speaking events during the month of October. He also had 17 meetings on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, with elected representatives of the House of Representatives, the Senate, the National Security Council and researchers.