A former Israeli general's son will speak Thursday (February 7) at the Vancouver Public Library central branch about his support for a one-state solution in the Middle East offering equal rights to Jews and Palestinians.
Miko Peled, author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, told the Straight by phone from his home in San Diego that he reached this conclusion after taking many trips to the West Bank and Gaza, and spending a great deal of time talking to Palestinians.
He emphasized the importance of Jews in Israel and abroad overcoming “a fear of venturing into areas that are populated by Palestinians”, including refugee camps, and replacing this apprehension with a greater sense of trust.
“I would say that is probably the most profound aspect of the journey,” Peled said.
His grandfather, Dr. Avraham Katsnelson, signed the Israeli Declaration of Independence. His father Matti was an Israeli general in the Six Day War of 1967, in which Israeli took control of Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula.
Peled's father later became a proponent of peace with the Palestinians.
Peled, who moved to the United States two decades ago, also revealed that Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, has heavily influenced his thinking about the origins of Israel.
"The Zionists proclaim themselves to be the leaders of the Jewish people," Peled said, "and went on with this very racist agenda of conquering a country—that was an Arab country—by brutal means, terrorizing an entire population throughout the entire 12 months of 1948, and then expelling almost a million people from their homes. This was the foundation of the state, so there's nothing wrong with opposing it. Quite the opposite."
When asked what he would say to anyone concerned about Islamist suicide bomers and the rise of Salafist extremists in Egypt, Peled replied: “I would tell them to get rid of all the prejudice that they’ve been fed all these years.…Instead of being influenced by bumper-sticker type of statements, go and see reality and talk to people.”
He said that there are two sets of laws for Israeli citizens—one for people like him, an Israeli Jew with an Israeli passport and Israeli identification, and another for Palestinians who are citizens of the country.
"I come, I go as I please," Peled stated. "I can say what I want. It's a complete democracy, really, for me."
However, he said there are about 30 Israeli laws that "specifically discriminate" against the approximately 1.5 million Palestinian citizens of Israel.
They can still vote, but he claimed that they live in "an environment of racism and inequality". And because they comprise 20 percent of the population, their votes never have any effect, he said.
"So you will have Palestinian communities within Israel that are completely neglected, while Israeli towns and Israeli communities for Israeli Jews only are built all around them, and they thrive," Peled commented. "That's the reality within the citizenship."
He said that approximately five million Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens live under military occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.
"These Palestinians have no rights at all," Peled insisted. "They are at the mercy of the Israeli military. There is no law that protects them. They have no rights. They have no self-determination. The Israeli army can shoot to kill, which they do very often. They destroy homes, they destroy entire cities and towns. They throw people in prison for indefinite periods of time. They incarcerate children without due process. I mean, they do whatever they want."
According to Peled, if the Palestinians under occupation are combined with the Palestinian citizens of Israel, their population is roughly the same as the number of Jews in Israel.
To achieve a lasting peace, he argues that the best approach would to combine them all in one country with legislated equality for everyone. It's the antithesis of the two-state solution promoted by Israeli, U.S., and Canadian government officials.
But he acknowledges that this one-state approach has virtually no support within Israel. And this is why he supports the boycott-divestment-sanctions campaign to force the Israeli government to change its policies.
"I think it's a major part in solving this problem and resolving this conflict," Peled said. "Jewish communities and non-Jewish communities still have a fear of talking about the possibility that there won't be a Jewish state. And that criticizing the Jewish state and criticizing the existence of a Jewish state somehow make them anti-Semitic. I think it's hugely important for people to realize, number one, that there's nothing Jewish about Zionism and there's nothing Jewish about the Jewish state. Most Jews have never recognized it and have never gone there, and never supported it."
Peled's statements stand in sharp contrast to public messages from the Centre for Israel & Jewish Affairs and B'nai Brith Canada, which routinely offer support for Israel and regularly condemn its enemies, notably Iran, which they view as a major threat to Israeli security.
He said that on his trips to Gaza and the West Bank, he's been welcomed like anyone else. On a recent visit to Gaza, he had to pass through a tunnel from Egypt because Israel has blocked him, as an Israeli, from crossing the border or entering Gaza by sea.
He revealed that it took less than five minutes to walk through the tunnel, which is overseen by the Palestinian authorities. He also required a permit in advance from the Palestinian side.
"Almost two million people rely on an estimated 1,500 tunnels—and these 1,500 tunnels exist across a very narrow border of less than 10 kilometers," he said. "This is the only form of life and travel and commerce that's available to the Palestinians."