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The Youtube video of Miko Peled's book launch talk in Seattle last year has now had over 200,000 hits. So what's all the fuss about?
Peled is no ordinary critic of current Israeli policies. He is a member of one of Israel's elite Zionist families. His father was a famous general in the 1967 war and his grandfather was one of the signatories of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. Peled now lives in San Diego, California, but he is a frequent visitor to Israel and the West Bank.
His book, The General's Son, has a very simple message: there should be equality between Israeli Jews and Palestinians and they should live together as citizens in one state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, an area two-thirds the size of Vancouver Island. There should be no privilege for Jews, or a separation between Jews and Palestinians in this new state.
Miko Peled did not always have this view.
After 1967, his father Matti, the General, began questioning Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and was eventually elected to the Israeli parliament as a member of the Progressive List for Peace. Even though he agreed with his father that the occupation was wrong, Miko Peled felt that, as a committed Zionist, he should enlist in the army. So in 1980 he joined the elite Red Beret unit. He was discharged from Israeli military service in December 1983.
He then left to see the world, ending up in San Diego, where he opened a karate studio far away from Israel politics.
This all changed in the fall of 1997 when his niece Smadar was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber. Peled went back to Israel and listened as his sister Nurit, Smadar's mother, blamed the death of both her daughter and the Palestinian suicide bomber who had killed her on the brutal Israeli occupation. Her argument reached him.
When he went back to San Diego, he joined a Jewish/Palestinian discussion group. Suspicious at first, he eventually made close friendships with Palestinians and helped create a Rotary Club charity to send wheelchairs to Israel and Palestine. It was here that he learned what his grandfather's and his father's military project, in addition to his own service as a Red Beret, looked like from the receiving end. Gradually he began to understand the myths that justified the oppression of Palestinians in Israel/Palestine and the privileges accorded to Israeli Jews.
Miko Peled's journey has led him to become an activist both in the Occupied Palestinian territories, where he has built relations with the non-violent Palestinian resistance movement and in the U.S., where he is a popular speaker.
Recently he told demonstrators who were protesting an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fund raising event in Los Angeles that "he had been a member of the IDF and was of the view that the IDF was one of the best trained, best financed terror organizations in the world."
Needless to say this is not a view held by many people in the Israeli elite. It is a courageous view based on his personal experience and his relations with Palestinian friends.
Miko Peled will be speaking at the Vancouver Public Library in, the Alice McKay Room, on February 7, at 7:00pm. The talk is organized by Canada Palestine Support Network (Canpalnet) and Independent Jewish Voices and is supported by the Vancouver and District Labour Council, the United Church of Canada (Vancouver-Burrard Presbytery) and Adalah (The Canadian Arab Justice Committee). rabble.ca is a media sponsor of the event. Peled will also be speaking in Victoria on Feb. 8 at UVIC, David Strong Building, Room C103, organized by CJMPE.
Paul Tetrault is a member of Canpalnet.