Jeff Halper ’68

2003 Distinguished Citizen Award

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For Jeff Halper, a native Minnesotan and Israeli citizen, the fight for peace and justice in his adopted country is at once political and personal. Halper is the coordinator of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions (ICAHD), a coalition of human rights groups whose aim is to fight what he says is the Israeli government’s policy of destroying the houses of Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "Sitting under a bulldozer with a Palestinian is a bonding experience," he says. "It creates very close ties."

Halper made that statement three years ago and he says it is even more true today after more than two years of violent conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. He is working internationally to bring pressure to bear to force a peaceful solution that will recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinians and the Israelis and end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

"This work is really important and we’re at a historical juncture," he says. "I feel I’m in a position where my voice is being heard. We are saying to the Palestinians that we acknowledge your existence as a people and your right to be in this country. We want to share this country with you, based on the rights of both our peoples. We seek a common future based on a just peace. We refuse to be enemies."

And while a sense of pessimism and bitterness seems to have taken hold in both societies, Halper remains confident that the situation can be changed. "I’ve always believed that if we act, we can influence things. I really believe in an international civil society."