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In his presentation at this weekend’s conference, Miko Peled, the Israeli-born anti-Zionist and advocate of equal rights and decolonization in a single state, made the observation that every cause of social justice in history that has been worth fighting for was divisive in its time. The Civil Rights struggle in the United States was one such cause, but even more divisive than that, Peled reminded us, was slavery. So divisive, it led to Civil War in which hundreds of thousands died.
–Ali Abunimah, referring to Miko’s speech at the Sabeel Conference held in Albuquerque, New Mexico September 28-29 in his Electronic Intifada article “‘Seeking Balance’: How Albuquerque Cathedral that slammed its doors to Sabeel helps Israeli oppression.” The original host of the event, an Episcopal church, disinvited Sabeel after pressure from American Jewish organizations.
Miko has just finished three fabulous events in northern California over the past week, including a lecture September 18 at the Resource Center for Nonviolence in Santa Cruz hosted by the Palestine-Israel Action Committee, a book signing in Berkeley on September 19 organized by The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), and a reading September 20 at Time Tested Books in Sacramento. The General’s Son sold out at all of these events, which is perhaps not surprising to those who have had the opportunity to read the book or to hear Miko speak before. His insightful remarks were recognized with a standing ovation at the MECA event. Helena Cobban, CEO of the publisher Just World Books was pleased to be able to attend that evening’s festivities and to introduce Miko to the full house audience of 100-120 people. Alice Walker, renowned author and writer of the foreword to Miko’s memoir was also present and is featured in the photograph to the left. You can buy the book online at Just World Books’ webstore.
Miko Peled, along with Souhail Toubia, spoke about his book The General’s Son, as part of the Hawks and Doves benefit for the Levantine Cultural Center, September 8, 2012, at the Women’s Club of Laguna Beach, CA. For those who couldn’t be there in person, the organizers have generously filmed and posted videos of the entire event, including the question-and-answer session. Take a moment to listen to his important story here:
by Miko Peled (Cross-posted from his site)
September 4, 1997 was the day my niece Smadar was killed. For my family and I it will forever be a sad day, a day that brings bad tidings. It was September 4 when that phone call came from my mother telling me that there was an explosion in Jerusalem, even as I was watching the horror live on CNN. Those words: “there was an explosion and we can’t find Smadari” will forever ring in my ears. Hours later it was confirmed and I was on my way to Jerusalem, for the funeral.
No one warned me that I would see those words in the morning paper in Jerusalem as I arrived from the airport: “The granddaughter of peace activist, ret. General Matti Peled…” It was still dawn. I still don’t know what to say on this day or what to think as September 4 approaches. That day I would cry in my sisters arms like a baby, and would feel that way over and over again, each year, even now, all these years later.
As we drove away from the grave site, Elton John’s new version of “Candle in the Wind” was playing on the radio and Nurit, my sister would never forgive herself for leaving her baby girl alone buried in the dirt. Then, for seven days and six nights, the house where I was born, and where Smadar lived ,would see so many faces. That the door of the Jerusalem apartment through which Generals and diplomats once entered and on which now a sticker reads FREE PALESTINE, was open for people who sought to find light at the end of their darkened lives.
At the time Smadari was killed Bibi Netanyahu was Prime Minister. He was asked to stay away, and spare himself the indignity of facing our family. Today Bibi is once again Prime Minister. Among those who did come to pay respects at the time was Ehud Barak. The General, decorated soldier and now Israel’s “defense” minister – personally responsible for the death of thousands of innocent Israelis and Palestinians. At the time he was the head of the Labor party and people had hope he would be different. Today Barak is an all powerful “Defense” minister standing at the head of Israel’s unstoppable war machine – placing the full weight of the mammoth he leads so that death maintains its dominion.
Each year I try and each year I fail to somehow face this terrible day. And each year September 4 just brings more sadness. It brings more sadness because of a girl that was killed, and because so many thousands have died since from the same preventable cause – Israeli terrorism.
This terrorism is part of the discourse among Israelis and Israeli supporters; It faces you at Ben Gurion airport where Palestinians humiliated each and every day; You meet Israeli terrorism at the weekly peace marches in the West Bank, where participants are shot and arrested, and it thrives in Israeli jails where hundreds of thousands of palestinians have been tortured for decades; Israeli terrorism is unstoppable in Gaza where millions are locked up in an open air concentration camp, and where Israeli pilots drop bombs on civilians and then congratulate themselves on a job well done. And now Israeli terrorism has even reached as far as Persia, with Israeli threats to bomb Iran and terrorize its 75 million people.
If we want little girls to stop dying in this place, its time to stop Israeli terrorism. Meanwhile, September 4 will remain a day when my sweet, 13 year old niece Smadar died.
We recently received this very moving review of The General’s Son from Yousef M. Al-Jamal, a writer and social activist from Gaza who works with Gaza City’s Center for Political and Development Studies:
This wonderful book tells the story of transformation of two men, a father and a son, from being Zionists to becoming pro-Palestinian by choice. This book is unique for the author belongs to an elite family in what is now Israel. His grandfather signed Israel’s declaration of independence. His uncle by marriage was Israel’s third president back in 1963. His father was one of the generals of 1967 Six Day War. He himself served in the special forces of the IDF (which we call the IOF). He lost his niece in the conflict, yet he chose peace. He and his dad saw peace the only way to get out of this bottleneck of conflict.
Peled’s burden is the burden of his history, and the tragedy of our own. The sorrow I feel for the death of Smadar (the author’s niece) is indescribable. I know what loss is for I am the brother of Zaynab and Omar. Omar was an 18-year old Hamas fighter who was killed by Israeli snipers who invaded the refugee camp that is our home, in 2007. Zaiynab was a newly-married 26-year old who passed away because of the siege.
The author’s strength and readiness to change is a source of inspiration. I decided to read his book to know how an Israeli general’s son thinks. As soon as I learned that he was the uncle of Smadar, I decided to read the book till the end. I was thirsty to learn more about the conflict by reading a different view. Nothing will be greater than reading the account of a general’s son and a victim’s uncle– who also holds the sixth-level black belt in Karate.
The Peleds did what others could not do. I was upstairs when I finished the last page in his book. I looked to the east; the Israel/Palestine borders stands carelessly. I remembered it all. The 13 years of ban on family visits between Gaza and the West Bank. The border is just three miles away from our house in Al-Nuseirat refugee camp. I am half-Gazan, half West Banker. My mother made it to the West Bank last April after 13 years of trying. I am still unable to make this dream true. I felt proud of Miko Peled as he moved from one Palestinian village to another to protest injustice, but at the same time, I felt helpless as a Palestinian who for 13 years continuously can’t visit his family living just a few miles away.
This world has suffered too much because of Zionists. Palestine is proud of people like you, Miko. We should keep fighting for equal rights. No more racism or apartheid. This world is ours.
After a busy summer with his family and friends in Israel and Palestine, Miko Peled is back in California and is continuing to promote the message of The General’s Son. This September you will find Miko at a number of events across the state, and towards the end of the month he will begin his tour of the Pacific Northwest! Below are a few of the places you can see him and learn more about his work for peace. Be sure to check this blog frequently as we will be adding more events and more details to the calendar on the right.
- September 8– 6-pm, Miko will dialogue with Saree Makdisi at the forum: “Hawks & Doves in the Garden of Peace”, in Laguna Beach, CA
- September 18, Miko will be in Santa Cruz, CA for an evening event, hosted by the Palestine-Israel Action Committee (details t.b.d.)
- September 20–7pm, Miko will be reading and signing his book at Time Tested Books in Sacramento, CA
- October 4–Miko will visit the University of Washington, hosted by the Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER)
Miko has recently been featured in a number of media outlets. Murray Polner of the History News Network reviewed The General’s Son favorably, writing that “Miko Peled’s idealistic and passionate memoir reflects in part those Jews everywhere who have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the harsh Israeli occupation and continuing colonization of the West Bank….” Additionally, Miko was interviewed by Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark about his book on the New York City radio program “Beyond the Pale” that focuses on Jewish politics and culture. As mentioned above, Miko spent several weeks in Israel and Palestine where he participated in a number of large demonstrations in Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Bil’in. You can read some about his experience in Bil’in on the Just World Books newsfeed. Stay tuned for more on Miko’s whereabouts in the fall.