Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Halper’

Is a Two-State Solution Still Viable?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 17th September, 2008

Liberal International British Group (LIBG) maintained its tradition of stimulating lively political debate by holding a fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrats’ Bournemouth Conference last night on the question of whether a two-state solution in the Middle East is still viable. This is a taboo subject in some quarters — indeed, I am not aware that any other major British political party has dared address it — but given the fact that most peace plans see a two-state solution as essential, it’s a vital question to ask. Thanks to the continued growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the division of the Palestinian territories into Gaza and the West Bank under mutually hostile administrations, the notion of a coherent Palestinian state seems increasingly in doubt.

That was certainly the line taken by star speaker Jeff Halper, from the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, who is currently on bail for the ‘crime’ of going to Gaza as an Israeli citizen. Not surprisingly, Ghada Karmi, the distinguished Palestinian writer and academic also though things were heading towards a de facto one-state situation. Ran Gidor, from the Israeli Embassy, put up a spirited defence of Israeli determination to see a two-state solution work, while Willie Rennie, MP, who was recently on a parliamentary fact-finding mission to the region, highlighted some of the problems on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian divide. Lord (William) Wallace provided some wise and firm chairing in a session that understandably roused some passions among some of the attendees. There was no clear conclusion — it would have been surprising if there had been — but it was important that this ‘forbidden’ question be raised.

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Why Jeff Halper Makes Israel Nervous

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 29th August, 2008

 In a welcome softening of its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip’s waters, Israel earlier this week allowed through from Cyprus the two ships Free Gaza and Liberty, which were bringing in humanitarian relief to the stricken territory, as well as 44 peace activists from 17 countries (including Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, Lauren Booth). The plan is that the ships will also transport out of Gaza some of the Palestinian Fulbright scholars who were granted scholarships by the United States, but were then prevented by the Israelis from travelling overland out of the strip. However, the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni — who has high hopes of becoming Prime Minister following the expected departure of Ehud Olmert — told the conservative mass-circulation Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonot that this was a ‘one-off’ case and warned that other craft should not attempt to break the naval blockade.

Unfortunately, the good publicity Ms Livni could have expected from this move was undermined by the fact that the one Israeli Jew on board the two ships, the US-born professor of anthropology and key figure in the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, Jeff Halper, was later arrested when he attempted to cross the land border between Gaza and Israel. Under current Israeli law it is an offence for an Israeili citizen to be in Gaza (though as Jeff Halper is also a US citizen, that legal argument is a little nuanced). Anyway, he was arraigned to appear in court in Ashkelon yesterday. A cynic might observe that it is a pity it is not also an offence under Israeli law for Israeli citizens to be in the occupied West Bank, as about half a million of them have taken up residence in settlements there, in controvention of international law.

Assuming Jeff Halper — who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 — does not have to spend much time in custody, he will be coming to the United Kingdom next month, and he will be one of the keynote speakers at the Liberal International British Group’s fringe meeting on ‘Middle East: Is a Two-state Solution Still Viable?’ at the Liberal Democrats’ autumn conference in Bournemouth, on 16 September.

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Water on the Brain

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 16th July, 2008

Oil has dominated the geopolitical agenda for the past three decades, not least since George W Bush and Dick Cheney have been in charge in Washington. But water could be the new oil, according to Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesman and MP for Kingston and Surbiton. He was the keynote speaker at the annual general meeting of the Liberal International British Group (LIBG) at the House of Commons this evening, presided over by Malcolm Bruce MP (Chairman of the all-party Select Committee on International Development). Ed underlined how important the issue of water is in relation to peace and security, not only in the Middle East, but in so many regions of the world. The party president, Simon Hughes MP, also put in an appearance at the AGM and underlined his support for LIBG and its internationalist work. Amongst the distinguished gathering was Emil Kirjas, (Macedonian) Secretary General of Liberal International, and the Canadian Liberal MP, Marco Silva.

At the subsequent dinner, at the National Liberal Club, we were able to thank David Griffiths, who has for many years served as either Chairman or Secretary of the group, as well as the outgoing Treasurer Ahmad Mallick. There is likely to be a generational change within LIBG over the next year or so, which is essential for the smooth functioning of any healthy organisation. In the meantime, LIBG will be hosting what promises to be one of the liveliest fringe meetings at the Bournemouth LibDem autumn conference, on the theme ‘Middle East: Is a Two-State Solution Still Viable?’, with speakers including Ran Gidor (Counsellor at the Israeli Embassy), Jeff Halper (from the Israeli Committee against House Demolition), a Palestinian academic (to be confirmed) and Willie Rennie, MP, who was recently on a fact-finding mission to Israel/Palestine.


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