Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Program on Human Rights & Justice
292 Main Street
Professor Anat Biletzki has been teaching at the philosophy department in Tel Aviv University since 1979. She has traveled widely, as a visiting scholar and fellow at, among others, Cambridge University, Harvard University, Boston University, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the Wittgenstein Archives in Bergen, Norway. Her
publications include Paradoxes (1996), Talking Wolves: Thomas Hobbes on the Language of Politics and the Politics of Language (1997), What Is Logic? (2002), (Over)Interpreting Wittgenstein (2003), and articles on Ludwig Wittgenstein, Thomas Hobbes, analytic philosophy, political thought, digital culture, and human rights. She has served as chair of the Graduate School of Cultural Studies and of the Philosophy Department at Tel Aviv University and is a member of Israel's Ministry of Education committee for teaching philosophy in high-schools.
Outside academia Biletzki has been active in the peace movement and in several human rights projects in Israel for over 25 years. During the first intifada she was one of the founders of the peace movement "The Twenty-First Year" – a group devoted to promoting civil objection to the occupation. In those same years she also worked with the Beta Committee which attempted to coordinate rehabilitation efforts for the West Bank village, Beta. In 1997-1998 Biletzki helped establish the human rights movement "Open Doors" which worked on liberating Palestinian
administrative detainees in Israel – especially 11 detainees who had been incarcerated, without trial or due process, for over five years. Since 1996 Biletzki has been active as one of the leaders of Hacampus Lo Shotek – The Campus Is Not Silent – the most vociferous and influential campus group, made up of faculty and students at Tel Aviv University. She is on the board of FFIPP-Faculty for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, was chairperson of the board of B'Tselem - the Israeli Information center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories (2001-2006), and is often invited abroad for public lecturing, for seminars at human rights conferences, for
interviews, and for meetings with human rights counterparts. In 2005 she was chosen as one of "50 most influential women in Israel" by Globes, the Israeli business monthly, and was nominated among the "1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005." She has presented the issues of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with emphasis on the evils of occupation, all over the world (Boston, Princeton, Atlanta, London, Oslo, Bergen, Helsinki, Munich, Berlin, Istanbul); but it is in Israel – in the school system, in youth movements, and in public arenas – that she invests most of her efforts in public education for human rights and peace.
Chair, Philosophy Department, Tel Aviv University
Fellow, Program on Human Rights & Justice, MIT
Former Chairperson, B'Tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories)
Coordinating Director, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Anat Biletzki: Chair, Philosophy Department, Tel Aviv University
Fellow, Program on Human Rights & Justice, MIT
Biletzki's MIT website
Jeff Halper: Coordinating Director, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Israel Committee Againsat House Demolitions website
ABOUT THE LECTURE:
Human rights are central to the fraught politics between Israelis and Palestinians, these two panelists argue. Any conceivable solution to such an endless conflict must begin by acknowledging the current bleak
realities of Palestinian life under Israeli rule, they say.
Anat Biletzki and the group B'Tselem have conducted painstaking studies of how Israel’s longstanding agenda of allowing its civilians to settle on Palestinian occupied land constitutes an infringement of the Palestinians’ basic equality, property rights, freedom of movement, their very “right to self-determination.” The settlements were given a “cloak of legality,” sanctioned as they were by one Israeli government after another.
Geographically, the settlements break up what might have been a contiguous Palestinian state.
Biletzki ties the settlements together with other work by the Israelis conducted in the name of security to demonstrate the existence of a forbidding, two-tier society : a system of roads off limits to
Palestinians in the occupied territories, or permitted only via carefully guarded checkpoints; the wall (or separation barrier), which runs through Palestinian land; and the total control of Gaza, from the economy to communications, which increasingly makes it “a big prison.” This
barricading of Palestinians has become a “routine phenomenon” –and not worthy of the headlines, in the way bombs and torture are, says Biletzki. She insists that “our political conversation must become a human rights conversation,” and hopes that she can make an impact on American Jews and policy makers, who don’t believe in the possibility of making a deal with the Palestinians: “If we give them the land, they’ll throw us into the sea.”
Jeff Halper describes the current situation for Palestinians as apartheid, knowing full well the awful resonance of the term. He sees the system of settlements, roads and the wall as a deliberate land grab, “imprisoning tens of thousands of Palestinians within cities, towns and villages.” The word apartheid “cuts through -- immediately you get it.” This is important because the situation in Israel “is a global issue that affects everyone. It’s the epicenter of instability in the entire region…one of the reasons you can’t take toothpaste onto an airplane.”
Reframing the issue will bring the kind of negative attention that South Africa once drew, as well as international sanctions, and corporate divestment. While Halper believes Israel has essentially foreclosed a viable two-state solution, he still imagines that the U.S. might persuade Israel to pull out of the settlements, so Palestinians can move back in. “There would be dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv,” Halper predicts, because so many Israelis “want this albatross off their back.”
NOTES ON THE VIDEO (Time Index):
Video length is 2:28:28.
Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Ford International Associate Professor of Law and Development, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and Director of the Human Rights Program, MIT, introduces the session.
At 1:47, John Tirman, Executive Director and Principal Research Scientist at MIT's Center for International Studies, introduces the speakers.
At 6:00, Anat Biletzki begins.
At 40:55, Jeff Halper begins.
At 1:14:25, Rajagopal invites audience questions. These include:
Whether Israel is practicing discrimination or apartheid;
How refugees figure into the situation;
Whether the speakers’ organizations should improve their visual
If there is a way to achieve a one-state solution;
Whether the speakers are biased, because they don’t recognize Israel as a liberal democracy;
What the next step might be.