Miko Peled: “There’s certainly nothing Jewish about dropping tons and tons of bombs on a civilian population.”
  • Miko Peled: “There’s certainly nothing Jewish about dropping tons and tons of bombs on a civilian population.”
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What does Miko Peled think of what’s been happening in Gaza?

“There’s only one way to describe what’s happening now. It’s a massacre. There is no way to justify it, to excuse it, to paint it in different colors. It is unjustifiable, inexcusable and unforgivable.”

You might expect this analysis from a Palestinian spokesman. But Miko Peled is Israeli. Deeply Israeli. His grandfather was one of the original Zionists. His father was a national hero who fought for the establishment of Israel in 1948 and as a general in the Israeli army in 1967. Miko Peled himself was one of the famed Red Berets of the Israeli army. He has recently returned to San Diego from one of his frequent visits to Gaza.

“This is not the Israel my parents fought for,” he says.

Now he is fighting for what he calls “Jewish values.” His aim: an Israel that embraces Palestinians as full, equal political partners. Nothing less than a Republic of Palestine-Israel. It is ambitious. Some would say quixotic.

And for that, you might blame, or credit, San Diego.

“My journey into Palestine began in San Diego in 2000,” he writes in his recent book, The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine.

Miko Peled lives in San Diego but grew up in Jerusalem. He was educated in Israel, Japan, and the United States. He served in the Israeli Defense Forces and then became a martial-arts professional. He holds a sixth-degree black belt in karate and until recently ran his dojo in Coronado.

We meet not far from it, at the Café Madrid.

Growing up in Jerusalem, Peled was already used to controversy, thanks largely to his famous father, Matti Peled.

“My father was very clear. While still in uniform after helping bring about the victory of the 1967 war, he said, ‘It’s time to make peace, particularly with the Palestinians.’ He dedicated the second half of his life to recognizing the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.”

Were the general’s ideas popular?

“Everybody in Israel thought my father had lost his mind. He started talking about the need to speak to the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization]. People called him a traitor and all kinds of terrible things. People who hadn’t served a day in uniform called him a traitor. So, swimming against the tide was something I always did, because of my father’s views.”

But it was two events that really made Miko question the direction his country was going in.

The first happened on September 4, 1997, in Jerusalem.

“It was the beginning of September. My niece, Smadar Elhanan, went out to buy schoolbooks, she and some friends. Suicide bombers blew her up. Killed her. She was 13. I was here, already feeling that I had to do something [about the Palestinian situation], but now I absolutely had to get involved,” says Peled.

His first instinct was to talk to “the other side.”

“I placed ads in the San Diego Reader’s classified section, asking about dialogue groups, but got no reply. I searched the internet and finally I came across the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and they referred me to George Majeed Khoury, a Palestinian American from Jerusalem who lived in San Diego, and he told me about the San Diego Jewish-Palestinian Dialogue group.”

Just the idea of meeting with this group frightened Peled’s wife Gila. “‘You don’t know these people,’ she said to me. ‘What if this is a trap?’ Because the amazing fact is, even though I was born and raised in Jerusalem, which is supposedly a mixed city, I never met with Palestinians. Jerusalem is completely segregated. Israelis never meet Palestinians. I had to come here [to San Diego] to do that.

“I remember driving up to [Khoury’s home] in Rancho Bernardo that night for the first meeting. And I was very excited, I was nervous, I was hopeful, and also feeling a sense of dread. Because this was the first time I had met Palestinians in a normal setting, naturally, without external tensions, checkpoints, curfews, permits to worry about.

“So I went to that meeting, and I loved it immediately. We talked and talked. I felt a very strong connection to the Palestinians, more so than to the Jewish Americans there.”

His book explains best how this was so. “The things that characterize American Jewish culture — New York Jewish humor, Jewish delicatessen food — were completely alien to me. On the other hand, traditional Palestinian warmth and hospitality, Arabic food, and photos of our shared homeland put me completely at ease. Perhaps the fact that we — the Palestinians and I, the lone Israeli — had actually lived in the Middle East and had memories of the same land created an almost instant bond.

“I came out realizing two things: first of all, that we had an astonishing amount in common. And the second thing was that there was something terribly wrong here, and I needed to put my finger on it. Hearing Palestinians talk about their narrative, especially when you don’t see them as ‘the other’ anymore, changes everything. Even though they are telling you a story that’s diametrically opposed to what you ‘know’ to be true. That’s a very powerful thing. It’s a very powerful moment [that] pushed me to investigate more, to read more.”

And Peled wanted to see more of that “other side.” He traveled, spent a lot of time on risky trips to the Palestinian territories, making contact with peace activists, joining protests, getting arrested, entering tunnels where goods are smuggled in from Egypt, teaching kids karate, and increasingly understanding the Palestinians’ plight.

But that has consequences. Now, like his father, he, too, is being labeled “traitor” online and losing his old friends in Jerusalem.

How far have his views changed? He used to believe in the “two-state solution.” Now he believes that the land of Israel should become one shared country, a “Republic of Palestine-Israel,” a country no longer defined by religion but by the equal democratic rights of all its citizens, where Palestinians have equal rights and equal votes as full citizens of a shared, secular state.

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Comments

Fulano de Tal Oct. 13, 2014 @ 2:07 p.m.

This article has so many factual errors, it should be labeled science fiction. In 1993, Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed the Oslo Accords. In it, the PLO recognized Israel as a sovereign nation with a right to exist. In return, Israel recognized the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people and created the Palestinian Authority and granted it self-governance over the West Bank and Gaza. The two parties were to negotiate permanent borders, negotiate the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Israel was to withdraw from Gaza. Instead of honoring the Oslo Accords, Yassar Arafat went back and started the Infitada. He never changed the Charter of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which to this very day still says that Israel has no right to exist, as does Hamas. The PLO and Hamas have now joined together politically. Israel withdrew entirely from Gaza, and the Palestinians immediately started lobbing rockets into civilian targets in Israel, all the while claiming Israel has no right to exist.

The article says Israeli's and Palestinians do not mix, yet fails to mention that 20% of the population of Israel are Palestinian Arabs. No credible source could overlook such a fact, unless the goal was to purposely deceive the reader. Miko Peled is a putz.

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jjs110 Oct. 20, 2014 @ 1:21 a.m.

As usual, Miko Peled tells only half the story, like his Palestinian friends, omitting key facts that would otherwise inevitably change the conclusions any fair-minded reader would reach. A "massacre"? Here we have the typical pattern, worn out but still very effective, of Palestinians attacking Israel (in this case thousands of rockets fired indiscriminately at Israel), to which of course Israel eventually responds to protect its citizens, and it becomes a "massacre", for the only reason that Hamas, the eternal aggressor, has the detestable and despicable habit of firing from civilian residences, hiding behind its own civilians, fully aware that return Israeli fire will cause casualties among them. It's called the "Hamas dead baby strategy". How odd that Peled, who seems intelligent enough at first glance and therefore capable of understanding what is really going on, would sort of miss that. 
Next, he insists the one-state solution is the only workable one today since, obviously, the two-state solution is dead. But he doesn't explain what caused its death. That would be embarrassing to him because he would have to admit that the Palestinians are the main culprits, having violated every term of the Oslo Accords and the Roadmap, both agreements which started by stating that the Palestinians must first and foremost abandon terrorism. Well, they haven't. Not one minute. They want their cake and eat it, too, and refuse to make any concessions (not that it would make any difference since they've never honored their promises and signatures). So instead of facing the sad reality that his Palestinian friends have proven completely unreliable as potential peace partners for Israel, Peled is now on a crusade for an even more unrealistic solution. A one-state solution could work if the partners involved played by the same rules. But unfortunately, on that score, the picture is abysmal. For one thing, the Palestinians have also proven incapable to govern themselves in a democratic way. Hamas, duly elected in 2006, lost its legitimacy when it staged a violent coup d'état in 2007 during which it killed 350 Fatah members in Gaza and evicted the rest (who ran to the Israeli security fence begging to be let in to save their lives). Oh, and since then there have been no elections, of course. That was 7 years ago. As for Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas is merrily going on its ninth year of a four-year presidential mandate... Now, if you look at the neighbors, where war, death and destruction are the norm today, why on earth would a delusional dreamer like Peled think that the Palestinians would behave any better than said neighbors? They have no idea of how a true democracy like Israel operates, and they would be incapable of working within the constraints demanded by a parliamentary democracy. They have a lot of growing up to do. Peled is not doing them any favor by nurturing the illusion that they can get away with the hard work of becoming responsible adults.
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PeacefulHeart Nov. 1, 2014 @ 9:54 a.m.

For Miko Peled to win adulation without even providing evidence for his claims is a sad commentary on this conflict. Might as well just say Zionists have horns. This video not only exposes Peled's distortions, but shows, from the comments, how many of his followers are nothing but Jew-haters, immune to facts. And Peled is apparently happy to have them on board. Draw your own conclusions. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrC4lH...

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