[WSF-Discuss] The New 'Wars Against People': Israel and Global Pacification

peter waterman peterwaterman1936 at gmail.com
Tue Apr 12 00:28:26 CDT 2016

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*Other News - Reading Jeff Halper’s ‘War Against the People: Israel, the
Palestinians and Global Pacification’*



*english at other-news.info <english at other-news.info> *

1:19 AM (6 hours ago)

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*Reading Jeff Halper’s ‘War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians
and Global Pacification’*

*By Richard Falk*

April 9, 2016

*[Prefatory Note: The review below was published in the current issue of
Journal of the Society for Contemporary Thought and Islamicate World. I am
posting it here because I believe that Jeff Halper’s book deserves the
widest possible reading. It explains clearly and convincingly one of the
deepest and least understood roots of Israel’s diplomatic support
throughout the world, which is its role as a niche arms supplier and
influential tactical specialist in waging wars against peoples who dare
offer resistance to state power as variously deployed against them. The
Israeli experience in exerting oppressive control of the Palestinian people
provides the foundation of Israel’s international credibility and
perceptions of effectiveness in disseminating for economic and political
profit its hardware and software associated with managing and suppressing
the resistance of popular movements fighting for their rights. The Israel
stress on pacification rather than victory exposes the true nature of what
Halper identifies so vividly and comprehensively as the distinctive
character of waging ‘war against the people.’ ]*

Jeff Halper, *War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global
Pacification*, Pluto Press, 2015, 296 pp., $25.00 US (pbk), ISBN

Jeff Halper is an unusual hybrid presence on both the scholarly and
political scene. He describes himself as an “activist-scholar” (6), which
adopts a controversial self-identification. The conventional stance erects
a high wall between scholarship and activism. To his credit and for our
benefit, Halper excels almost equally in both roles. He is one of the most
lucid speakers on the lecture circuit combining clarity with wisdom and a
rich fund of information and firsthand experience, and his work as a writer
is influential and widely known. His activist credentials have been built
up over many years, especially in his work as co-founder and leader of the
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, which has bravely confronted
Israeli demolition crews and IDF soldiers, helped Palestinians on multiple
occasions to rebuild their destroyed homes, thereby responding humanely to
one of Israel’s cruelest occupation practices, an instance of unlawful
collective punishment. Halper has estimated that less than 2% of
demolitions can lay claim to a credible security justification (the
respected Israeli human rights NGO, B’Tselem, estimates 1.3% of demolitions
are justified by security, while the rest are punitive or 621 of 47,000
since 1967). As an author his main prior book makes an unsurprisingly
strong pitch for activism as the most reliable foundation for analysis and
prescription. His important and incisive title gave the theme away—*An
Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel*.1 This
earlier book remains valuable as testimony by a progressive Zionist in
Israel that with good faith Jews and Palestinians might yet learn to live
together, including finding a formula for sharing the land.

Halper’s own life experience makes this blend of scholarship and activism
particularly compelling. He is an American born Jew who grew up in the
Midwest and studied anthropology in Wisconsin, taught at a Quaker
university for several years, and then moved to Israel where he married an
Israeli and has three grown children. What particularly sets Halper apart
from most other principled Jews in the ranks of critics of Israel is the
striking combination of the radicalism of his opposition to the policies
and practices of the Israeli state together with his evident commitment to
remain in Israel no matter how far right the governing process drifts. Most
other prominent Jewish critics of Israel have remained outside the country
throughout their life (e.g. Noam Chomsky) or were born in Israel and then
chose to become expatriate critical voices (e.g. Daniel Levy, Ilan Pappé,
Gilad Azmun). There are a few internationally prominent Israeli journalists
and cultural figures who have sustained sharply critical commentary (e.g.
Gideon Levy, Amira Hass) and kept their Israeli residence despite
harassment and threats.

In the book under review Halper broadens his own distinctive identity while
enlarging the apertures of perception by which he views the Israeli state.
He focuses attention on the Israeli arms industry, security doctrines, and
policies, and examines Israel’s acquisition of formidable diplomatic
influence grossly disproportionate to its size and capabilities. It is this
gap between Israel’s significant impact on current world history and the
modest scale of its territorial reality and its outsider status in most
global settings that is the core mystery being explicated by Halper. He
starts the book with some provocative questions that put the underlying
puzzle before us in vivid language: “How does Israel get away with it? In a
decidedly post-colonial age, how is Israel able to sustain a half-century
occupation over the Palestinians, a people violently displaced in 1948, in
the face of almost unanimous international opposition” (1)? He indicates
that this phenomenon cannot be adequately “explained by normal
international relations” nor by the strength of the Israel lobby in the
United States nor by strong Israeli pushback to discredit critics by
invoking the Holocaust as an indefinite source of impunity (3). What the
book demonstrates very persuasively is that Israeli influence is a result
of its extraordinary, partially hidden and understated role as arms
supplier to more than 130 countries and as an increasingly significant
mentor of national police forces and counter-terrorist operations and
practices in many countries, including the United States.
*Israel as Arms Merchant and Pacification Ideologue *

Without exaggeration, *War Against the People*, is really three books in
one. It is first of all a comprehensive and detailed look at the elaborate
Israeli arms industry, including the extensive network of private companies
engaged in arms production. Halper explores how Israel managed to become
such a valued producer of sophisticated weaponry that so many governments
have come to depend upon. Part of Israel’s success in the highly
competitive international arms market is to identify and develop niches for
itself in the wider global arms market that allows it to compete
successfully for market share with companies backed by several of the
world’s largest states by supplying specific kinds of weaponry that
outperform the alternatives available for purchase. By so serving as an
arms merchant to no less than 130 countries gives Israel a powerful
unacknowledged source of leverage throughout the entire world. An aspect of
Israel’s success is to be apolitical in its operations as an arms supplier,
provided only that the foreign government poses no security threat to

Secondly, the book is a detailed examination of the specific ways that
Israel has adapted its security doctrine and practice to the varieties of
Palestinian resistance over the decades. The Israeli approach rests on
adopting a goal toward internal security that seeks to achieve a tolerable
level of “pacification” of the Palestinian population. As such it does not
seek to “defeat” the Palestinians, including even Hamas, and is content
with keeping violent resistance contained so that Israelis can go about
their lives with reasonable security and the economy can prosper. At the
same time, the threat of violent resistance never entirely disappears or is
absent from the political consciousness and experience of Israeli society,
and the fear factor keeps Israelis supportive of oppressive internal
policies. Pacification in the face of a potentially very hostile minority
Palestinian presence in pre-1967 Israel has presupposed a fusing of
Israel’s military, paramilitary, police, and intelligence capabilities, but
also a less understood Israeli politics of restraint. The capabilities to
sustain pacifications must be continuously updated and adapted to evolving
circumstances, including shifts in Palestinian tactics of resistance.

This mental shift from “victory” over the natives to their relentless
“pacification” to some extent reflects the ethical orientation of a
post-colonial world. In many respects Israel represents a species of
settler colonialism, but it takes the form of seeking some kind of imposed
accommodation with the native population rather than their extinction or
spatial marginalization. Actually, as Israeli politics have moved further
and further to the right, the tactics of pacification have become more
coercive and brutal, and do seem to push the original dispossession of the
*nakba *toward some kind of “final solution” by way of settlement expansion
as likely supplemented at some point by population transfer and by periodic
massive military operations of the sort that have occurred in Gaza in
2008-2009, 2012, and 2014. In other words, pacification as conceived in the
1950s has become quite something more ominous for the Palestinians in the
twenty-first century as “Palestine” shrinks in size and diminishes in
threat while Israel’s territorial ambitions continue to expand and seem to
be within reach.

The Israel/Palestine encounter is certainly unique in several of its
aspects, yet it bears sufficient similarity to a range of threats facing
many governments in the world to allow the Israeli government to serve as
an exemplary practitioner of counterinsurgency war/politics. It is
precisely the generality of contemporary security challenges situated
within society that makes the Israeli experience seem so valuable to
others, especially when reinforced by the widespread impression that
Israel’s security policies have succeeded in the face of difficult
challenges over an extended period. This combination of considerations
gives Israel’s weapons, training programs, and security doctrines their
global resonance. Especially in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the
long-term character of the Israeli experience became a strong credential on
the arms market and among strategy-minded think tanks. Israel’s perceived
counterinsurgency record has even led other governments to mute or even
abandon their criticisms of the manner in which Israel suppresses
Palestinians and flaunts international law. In this way, the Israeli
network of arms sales arrangements has not only functioned as direct
sources of influence and economic benefit to Israel, but also contributed a
political payoff by weakening motivations at the UN and elsewhere in the
world to exert meaningful pressure on Israel to modify its policies and
uphold its obligations under international law. What Halper helps us to
understand is this rarely discussed relationship between the arms trade and
what might be called an international diplomacy of pacification. In effect,
Israel has quietly bought off most of its potentially most dangerous
governmental adversaries by making itself an invaluable collaborator in the
security domain, which is given priority by every government when it comes
to shaping its foreign policy. The reach of this weapons diplomacy is
further extended due to Israel’s willingness to do arms deals discreetly
with the most repressive of regimes around the world even while at the same
time it takes great pains to substantiate the claim that Israel remains the
only democracy in the Middle East.

Thirdly, this long experience of coping with Palestinian resistance has
given Israel continuing field experience with tactics and weapons useful to
subdue a non-state adversary, including convincing demonstrations of what
works and what doesn’t. In fundamental respects the work of pacification is
never finished, and so Israel continuously modifies its weapons mix to take
account of battlefield lessons and technological innovations, and this is
of great value to governments that were seeking to choose among several
alternatives to meet the requirements of their particular security
challenges. Israel can claim both the reliability of its weaponry through
their field testing in response to varying conditions and success in
adapting to ever changing tactics of Palestinian resistance. No other
country has achieved this mastery over the hardware and software of a
pacification approach to internal security.

Halper also makes us aware that pacification is what also best explains the
hegemonic ambitions of America’s securitizing approach to world order. What
Israel has achieved on a small scale, the United States is managing on a
large scale. In other words the several hundred American foreign military
bases together with navies patrolling all of the world’s oceans, further
reinforced by satellite militarization of space for purposes of
intelligence and possible attack are the coercive infrastructure of both
neoliberal globalization and American global leadership. The objective is
to keep those dissatisfied with this established order under sufficient
control so that trade, investment, and basic security relations are not
deeply disturbed. Part of Halper’s argument is that Israel understands the
dynamics of an effective regime of global pacification better than any
other country, and has done its best to be useful to the United States and
Europe by providing niche support in terms of weaponry (say for border
barriers, surveillance, and control) and doctrine (say targeted
assassinations by drone strikes and collective blockades).
*Matrix of Control *

Halper relies upon an illuminating style of conceptualization to develop
his basic analysis. For instance, one of his important contributions is to
specify global pacification by reference to a “Matrix of Control.” The
basic argument of the book is that the most defining “wars” of our times
involve using state violence against a mobilized population that mounts
threats against the established economic and political order. The matrix of
control is the complex interaction of weapons, policies, practices, and
ideas that make this project a reality. The paradigmatic case is the
Israeli pacification of the Palestinians, which is less than their defeat
or annihilation, but something other than sustained warfare; it is doing
enough by way of forcible action to punish, terrorize, and suppress without
clearly crossing the line drawn by legal prohibitions on mass atrocity and
genocide. It is damping down the fires of Palestinian resistance into a
smoldering mass of tensions and resentments that every so often bursts into
flames, offering pretexts for launching a new campaign of devastation. The
pattern of periodic onslaughts against Gaza since 2008 is indicative of the
broader policies, with three massive attacks every 2-3 years, what Israeli
officials are comfortable describing as “mowing the lawn” (146), which
incidentally stimulates a new round of arms sales.
The Israeli matrix of control (143-190) is specified by reference to its
various main components, forming an integrated and distinctive form of what
Halper describes as “urban warfare” resting on the premise of “domestic
securitization,” that is, conceiving of the enemy as mainly operating
within the boundaries of the state, ultimately to be contained rather than
defeated. Such an integrated approach relies on walls to keep the unwanted
from entering, surveillance, fragmenting the population to be controlled,
periodic and punitive violent suppression designed to prevent, preempt, and
demoralize, and proactive intelligence that seeks to gain access to the
inner circles of militant opposition forces. Such a matrix of control both
deploys a mixture of traditional counterterrorist measures and the latest
innovations in sophisticated technology, including armed robotics, drones,
and a variety of overlapping surveillance techniques. The approach relies
on a vertical layering of security measures that rests on redundancy to
ensure effective control. What is original about this approach is its
conscious realization that “victory” over hostile subjugated forces is not
an acceptable or realizable policy option, and what works best is a system
of permanent control sustained by a mix of coercive and psychological
*Pacifying Palestinians and Pacifying the World *

Halper shows how this matrix of control, which developed to enable Israeli
settler society to achieve a tolerable level of security with respect to
the indigenous Palestinian population, seeks to fulfill an elusive
requirement. It maintains security without resorting to genocide or to the
kind of destructive forms of mass slaughter that characterized earlier
experiences of settler colonialism where the land occupied was cleared of
natives. At the same time, it pacifies in a post-colonial era where the
power of the colonial master has been effectively challenged throughout the
world. It is no longer possible to beat the native population into a
condition of passive resignation as had been the case so often during the
heyday of the extensive European colonial empires. These two considerations
suggest a policy puzzle for the pacifier who must avoid extreme violence
and yet depends on a sufficient degree of violence to intimidate a restive
population that believes resistance is justified and currently accords with
the flow of history.
The Israeli answer in a variety of acknowledged and disguised forms is best
understood by reference to the Dahiya Doctrine, which incorporates a logic
of disproportionate retaliation (174-176). In effect, for every Israeli
killed or home damaged or destroyed, a far greater number of Palestinians
will be killed and entire residential neighborhoods destroyed. The Dahiya
Docrtine was proclaimed originally to justify the destruction of the Dahiya
neighborhood in south Beirut during the Lebanon War of 2006. The people
living in densely populated Dahiya were viewed by Israel as supportive of
Hezbollah, but it is descriptive of Israeli behavior generally with respect
to Palestinian acts of resistance, particularly with respect to Gaza since
falling under Hamas’s control. The supposedly centrist Tzipi Livni, the
Israeli political leader who served as Foreign Minister during the massive
attack on Gaza at the end of 2008, expressed this Israeli way of dealing
with Palestinian resistance in Gaza in the following chilling words: “Hamas
now understands that when you fire on its [Israel’s] citizens it responds
by going wild—and this is a good thing” (quoted in Halper, 175). I would
add that “going wild” is a euphemism for rejecting the efforts of
international humanitarian law and the just war tradition to constrain the
intensity of violence and suffering by insisting on *proportional *responses.
In effect, to reject so overtly this admittedly vague effort of
international law to impose limits on the conduct of warfare, Israel is
incorporating into the core of its security approach a repudiation of the
humanizing ambition of international law, and implicitly claiming the right
on its own to use force as it wishes. This is a step back from the
extensive attempt during the prior century to put the genie of war, if not
back in its bottle, at least to gesture toward that end. With Israel’s
concept of securitization, also descriptive of the approach taken by the
United States, as well as such other countries as Russia, France, and
China, it is arguable that international society has turned the normative
clock back to a nihilistic zero.

There is another crucial feature of the matrix of control that is of wider
relevance than Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians that Halper
associates with “Framing: A Tendentious Definition of ‘Terrorism’”
(149-151). This framing idea is to make it appear that “the terrorists” are
always those resisting control by the established political order, and
never those that are exercising authority however oppressively. As Halper
points out, the IDF may kill over 2,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of whom
are civilians, in the course of an armed confrontation in Gaza, as opposed
to Hamas killing five Israeli civilians, but Hamas will still be depicted
as the practitioner of terror and Israel’s violence will be put forward as
defensive measures that are reasonable and necessary for the protection of
the civilian population of Israel. The Israeli government will describe
Palestinian civilian deaths as regrettable collateral damage, while
attributing Hamas’s comparatively trivial lethality to a deliberate
intention to kill Israeli civilians. The final step in the ideologizing
process is to make this construction of the respective intentions of the
two sides hinge on the question of deliberate intention, and since Hamas’s
rockets are fired in the general direction of civilian populations the
intention is declared to be deliberate, while Israel is seeking to destroy
militarily relevant personnel and weaponry. This kind of manipulative
framing by Israel has been borrowed by the United States and other
governments to lend moral authority to the form of disproportionate
violence that has characterized counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and
Afghanistan in the post-9/11 era as well as lesser military operations
around the world in the course of “the war on terror.”

What Israel has been doing within Palestinian territory it is seeking to
control, the United States does globally. The introduction of drone warfare
and special ops covert forces into dozens of countries throughout the world
is an extension of the matrix of control as perfected by Israel within its
limited field of operations. It also reformulates the parameters of
permissible violence without regard to the limitations of international
law, regarding any point of suspected adversaries throughout the planet as
subject to deadly attack, borrowing notions of targeted assassination from
the repertoire of Israeli practices. As with Israel, the operative goal of
the so-called long war is not victory in the World War II sense, but rather
the exercise of a sufficiency of control that is able to establish
tolerable levels of security for Western societies and transnational
economic activity. It is worth pointing out that as with Israel, the United
States is unwilling to pay the costs in reputation and resources that would
be required to achieve victory, although in the Iraq occupation as earlier
in Vietnam it did seek to do more than pacify but in the end found the
costs too high, and abandoned the undertaking.
Halper’s book gives essential insights to a key set of interrelated
concerns: the political benefits to Israel arising from its dual role as
quality arms supplier and counterinsurgency mentor; the degree to which
Israel’s success in managing a hostile Palestinian population as well as a
series of dangerous regional threats offers the United States a model for
global securitization with a primary objective of preempting threats to the
American homeland and safeguarding neoliberal global markets and trade
routes from hostile forces; as also noted, the Israeli domestic security
apparatus has been influential in the equipping and training of American
and other national police forces. Additionally, Isreali technologies and
knowhow have been relied upon to monitor borders and to erect barriers
against unwanted entry; the advantages of having a seemingly permanent
combat zone such as Gaza for field testing weapons and tactics increases
the attractiveness of Israel as supplier of choice. This kind of combat
zone is real world simulation that has many experimental advantages over
the sorts of war games that are used to assess the effectiveness of weapons
and tactics. Without incoming rockets from Gaza it would be impossible to
reliably test the effectiveness of a defensive system such as the Iron Dome.
*Concluding Comments *

In the end, Halper answers the question as to why Israel’s seeming
international unpopularity based of its long-term suppression of the
Palestinian people does not harm its image or status. Israel manages to get
away with its abusive human rights record while a more powerful and
populous country such as apartheid South Africa was sanctioned and censured
repeatedly. Of course, U.S. geopolitical muscle is part of the answer, but
what Halper adds to our understanding in an insightful and factually
supported manner is an appreciation of Israel’s extraordinary usefulness as
arms supplier and counterinsurgency guru. A further implication of Israeli
usefulness is a realization that governments give much more weight to
relationships that bolster their security capabilities than they do to
matters of international morality and law. Given these realities, it
remains clear that the Palestinian national movement will have to wage its
struggle on its own with principal support coming from civil society.
Israel, it must be acknowledged has substantially neutralized both the UN
and the foreign policy of most important countries, although public opinion
around the world is moving in directions that could exert mounting pressure
on Israel in the years to come.

As the title of Halper’s book suggests, what is transpiring worldwide, and
is epitomized by the Israeli response to Palestinian opposition, can be
best understood as part of a wider shift in the nature of global conflict
in the post-Cold War period. Instead of most attention being given by
security bureaucracies to rivalries and warfare among leading states, the
most salient, dangerous, and cruelest conflicts are between state and
society, or wars waged against people. There are no significant
international wars between two or more states taking place now, while at
least 30 internal wars are raging in different parts of the world. To be
sure there have been a series of military interventions as part of the
global pacification project under the direction of the United States and
proxy wars in the Middle East in which major states intervene on opposite
sides of a civil war. Yet whether we think of Syria as the paradigm of
twenty-first century warfare or the Israeli matrix of control, it is “the
people,” or a mobilized segment, that is being victimized. Halper’s book
does the best job so far of depicting this new cartography of warfare, and
deserves to be widely read and its main theses debated.

*Jeff Halper* (Hebrew <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_language>: ג'ף
הלפר‎; born 1946[1]
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Halper#cite_note-ICAHD-USA-1>) is an
American-born anthropologist <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropologist>,
[2] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Halper#cite_note-nct-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

Halper has written several books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boycott,_Divestment,_and_Sanctions> 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.

*Richard Falk* (born November 13, 1930)[1]
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_A._Falk#cite_note-1> is an American
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States> professor emeritus
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professor_emeritus> of international law
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_law> at Princeton University
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_A._Falk#cite_note-Griffiths_74-76-2> He
is the author or co-author of 20 books and the editor or co-editor of
another 20 volumes,[3]
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_A._Falk#cite_note-3> In 2008, the United
Nations Human Rights Council
appointed Falk to a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Special_Rapporteur> on "the
situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_territories> occupied since
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_A._Falk#cite_note-UN_Falkappointed-4> He
has been variously criticized by U.S. ambassador Susan Rice
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Rice> and Secretary-General of the
United Nations
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secretary-General_of_the_United_Nations> Ban
Ki-moon <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ban_Ki-moon> for his positions on
Israel and the September 11 attacks


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