The Matrix of Professor Jeff Halper
ICAHD's langue de bois
Guilt is Innocence; Innocence is Guilt
The totalitarian movements of the Twentieth Century, both Nazi and Communist, created specialized political jargons of a particularly pernicious kind. It was a langue de bois, a language of wood, designed to hide and deceive. A glaring example was the Communist phrase "peoples democratic republics" to represent their absolute dictatorships. Words and phrases were used to hide an ugly reality to make it appear as its very opposite.
(European writers, particularly French and Polish, have analyzed the langue de bois in detail. Much of this work is accessible through a Google search, but it appears to be completely in French. In the English-speaking world it was George Orwell who pioneered, though he did not use the term langue de bois.)
And now, who would have thought it, some Jewish enemies of Israel, in the very country of Israel, have revived the practice of langue de bois: the "Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions," its very name deceitful.
ICAHD is run by an American-born anti-Israel agitator. It concerns itself only incidentally with house demolition, its primary concern being the demolition of Israel. The group has already been well described in reports by a number of Jewish defense organizations, most notably
NGO Monitor and
Discover The Networks
These reports are highly critical of ICAHD, but I found that the most (unwittingly) damaging materials are found on its own verbose and voluminous web site.
Studying these materials and greatly profiting from them, I found it nevertheless necessary to add some observations of my own on ICAHD's peculiar linguistic usage, its langue de bois.
The very first word in ICAHD's name is misleading. Its own materials make it very clear that the group is organized to influence the non-Israeli world of public relations. It conducts tours and briefings for the international press, and it organizes illegal construction projects by recruiting young "internationals" (see below) from abroad. It works with other anti-Israel activists world-wide. As the NGO Monitor (see above) has pointed out, it is financed from abroad. Halper refuses to serve in the Israeli armed forces, and his web site incites others to similarly refuse their military obligation.
ICAHD sells itself as working for peace. But its program endorses the maximum demands of the most uncompromising among the Arabs.
Halper wants Israeli Jews to live in an Arab-dominated "bi-national" entity. The best that can be said of this suggestion is that it is mindless. Which Arab-dominated society does he have in mind as a model ? Lebanon ? Iraq ?
Halper characterizes any Arab leader who would sign a peace accord based on the Camp David understandings as a "quisling" (The Key to Peace: Dismantling the Matrix of Control). [I have more to say about his use of "quisling" below.] Halper has acknowledged that there is no segment of Israeli society that would accept the program that he touts. So it must be clear to any reader of his pronouncements that he is calling for armed struggle, for a perpetual war against Israel, as are the Islamicists whose views he supports. As did Orwell's Ministry of Peace, Halper proclaims that War is Peace.
MATRIX OF CONTROL
"Matrix of Control" encapsulates Halper's philosophy. The phrase occurs over and over in ICAHD's materials, usually capitalized. As we shall see, it is a philosophy that calls upon the Palestinians to reject all the peace proposals that have been on the table during the last twenty years.
But why "Matrix" ? It is a nebulous word, and dictionary definitions ("something within or from which something else originates, develops, or takes form," etc.) give no clue. It is only the propagandistic context of the phrase in Halper's writings that signal its aggressive intent.
I have relied on his article "The Key to Peace: Dismantling the Matrix of Control" (undated, currently on ICAHD's site) to reconstruct the following as his thesis:
Everything Israel says and does fits into a dark conspiracy ("Matrix") to oppress, dispossess, kill, maim, and permanently injure the whole of the Palestinian population. All Israeli governments and parties partake of this grand plot. The only way to peace is to "dismantle" this "Matrix," in effect to dismantle the Jewish state, and to replace it with a majority-Arab "bi-national" entity.
The technical term for this faulty reasoning is reification: you take an abstraction, in this case a theory in Halper's mind, and it becomes a thing, a reality.
The people who speak of "intelligent design" have a similar approach: they see phenomena here and there, they connect them in their own minds, and they then detect a "design" on the part of a designer. They do not admit any phenomena that do not fit their "design" -- no cancer, no war, no catastrophe, no injustice. As some critics of this point of view have pointed out, no engineer would have actually designed a "creation" with so many flagrant flaws.
The elements that make up Halper's "Matrix" indeed include more than a few disturbing disadvantages and disabilities for the Palestinian people. Most Israelis would want to alleviate and eliminate them. But just as the "intelligent design" of the theologians refuses to admit anything that does not fit, Halper refuses to admit as positive to Palestinians any factors whatever -- he sees no peaceful intentions within the Israeli population, and he regards any concessions on the part of Israel as sham. Nor does he sees any responsibility for the sorry state of Palestinian society anywhere outside of Israeli action -- not in the Palestinian elite, not in Arab governments, not in Arab society.
When Halper sees malicious intention in all Israeli policy, no matter how pragmatic, no matter how ad hoc, the technical term for this projection of evil intent is paranoia.
Finally, Halper's "Matrix" of evil is entirely static. It is the work of all Israeli governments and parties, once and for all, and there are no dynamic forces that could alter this Matrix short of its "dismantlement."
When ICAHD speaks of "internationals," it does this with the implicit claim that there is a group of people, neither Israeli nor Palestinian, who, because of their independence and good will, have a privileged position to determine the rights and the wrongs of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In practice, of course, these "internationals" who work with ICAHD have accepted the ICAHD position -- i.e. the most uncompromising of possible Arab points of view.
For anyone to mediate a conflict, he must be genuinely neutral and be well disposed to both sides. The followers of Halper are not well disposed toward "Zionist" Israelis. They ceaselessly denounce the evils of "occupation," the "Matrix of Control." Nor are they well-disposed toward moderate Arabs, whom they denounce the "quislings."
Now with regard to Halper's use of this term, "quisling," I must really say that it is evidence that he has completely taken leave of his senses. To those of us who lived in the Nazi era, Halper's words here can only be totally preposterous. He is telling us that Israel is equivalent to the Nazi government and that making peace with it is the equivalent of partaking in Nazi-like evil. I have tried, but I really cannot see how any decent person can have dealings with a man like Halper.
Finally, concerning these "internationals" who work with Halper, just who has appointed them to be the judges of Jews and Arabs ? These people parachute into Israel, they help Halper incite Palestinian Arabs against Israel, and then, the summer over, they return to their comfortable lives back home. They do not have to live with the consequences of the mischief that they have wreaked.
INTERNATIONAL CIVIL SOCIETY
It seems that to Halper, "international civil society" is the final arbiter of right and wrong. He has been nominated by the American Friends Service Committee for the Nobel Peace Prize. This, to Halper, proves that International Civil Society is on his side. He does not seem to have noticed that the AFSC, in its current incarnation, has become an extremist small sect, given to agitate against Israel and other perceived evils. This was not always so. The AFSC was established as an international relief organization by the Religious Society of Friends. But some time during the latter half of the 20th century it was taken over by its paid professional staff and turned itself into an ultra-left advocacy group. It is no longer supported by many of its Quaker founders.
"International civil society," in Halper's usage, does not at all mean what it purports to mean, viz. the expression of peace-loving humanity. It means those people from around the world who cheer Halper when he organizes the war against his own people.
ICAHD materials invariably refer to Halper as "professor," or, as in the Matrix article I cited, as an "anthropologist." But as far as I can tell, Halper has been neither "professor" nor "anthropologist" for at least a decade.
It is true that there are many academics who are also political advocates. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with that. But it is generally understood that there is a line between scholarship and advocacy. There are actually very few academics that I have encountered who represent themselves as academic experts while engaged in political activity. Chomsky, for example, has often disclaimed scholarly expertise for his politics.
There are of course cases that fall into a gray area. Scholarship may in some sense be advocacy, and advocacy may have scholarly elements. As it happens, Halper's articles can by no possible stretch be called either anthropology or any other kind of scholarship. A great many of Halper's articles are available on the Web. They show evidence of great energy and industry, in the field of political advocacy. Whatever academic work he may have done, for the last decade, has not shown up in my searches.
In brief, Halper is using academic credentials, illegitimately, in an effort to provide a cloak of objectivity for his extremist politics.
We speak sometimes of good intentions and bad intentions, and we tend to give credit to people whom we perceive as well intentioned even when we disagree with them. There is enough in Halper's rhetoric to have the appeal of worthy sentiment -- peace, help to the downtrodden, and so forth -- to some of his followers. But they should realize that we cannot judge a person's heart. We can judge the clarity, or lack thereof, of his preachings. And when a man speaks with a forked tongue we should beware of associating with him if for no other reason than that.
Supplement, February 2007
Guilt is Innocence; Innocence is Guilt
A Canadian group that is connected to ICAHD, viz. the Jews for a Just Peace of Vancouver, Canada, has published a remarkable Open Letter to Jews in Palestine by the Arab journalist Khalid Amayreh. Mr. Amayreh finds that no matter how innocent Israeli victims of (random) Arab terror may appear, they are in fact guilty, " first and foremost, for electing a war criminal to be your Prime Minister, whose hands are drenched in the blood of the innocent. Could it be that you elected him on that account?" For these Jews for a Just Peace, any random bystander to an Arab terror attack, of any age or nationality, is deemed to have been an Israeli voter and therefore deserving death. In short, in the langue de bois of this movement, the Arab terrorist is innocent, the Jewish (or, indeed, non-Jewish) victim is guilty. Guilt is Innocence, Innocence is Guilt. Could Orwell have invented anything more Orwellian ?
Supplement, June 2007
Professor Halper, star of the boycott-Israel movement
It appears that Professor Halper has become the "star" of the movement to boycott Israeli academics. In the meanwhile, of course, he claims that he himself is an Israeli academic. Does he want us to boycott him as well ? Neither logic nor good sense seem to be among Prof. H's strong points.
For further reading:
Noam Chomsky's "Documentary" Basis for Anti-Zionism
Chomsky's Links to the neo-Nazis: Some documents
Chomsky Update: 2001
Israel Shahak's writings on the Jews
What Edward Said Knows
Click here to go to home page of Werner Cohn
Have you heard about my Early Companions ?
Send an e-mail to Werner Cohn This e-mail link may not work for you if you use a web-based e-mail service. If so, please use my direct e-mail address as follows: firstname.lastname@example.org