Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Brunswick, ME, United States

The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure. We must all do more to help stop this western corporate arrogance that puts the future generations lives in despair. @BruceKGagnon

Friday, November 24, 2023

A personal conversion: What is Israel?



Driven by a personal family tragedy to explore Palestine, its people and their narrative, Miko’s first book is about his life transformation, titled “The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine.” This autobiographical work taking the reader through the life of Peled’s family since his grandparents immigrated to Palestine in the early 20th century, describing their work and their life in detail. Peled’s maternal grandfather, Avraham Katznelson was a signer on the Israeli Declaration of Independence. His father, Matti Peled was a general in the Israeli army and pioneered an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue in the 1970’s which led him to meeting Yasser Arafat in an effort to convene him to recognize the State of Israel and adopt the Two State Solution. In 1997, Miko’s sister lost her daughter, Smadar, in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. This tragedy is what finally drove Miko to embark on his journey to discover Palestine.

Miko’s father, General Matti Peled was a respected general and hawk who clearly stated that contrary to Israeli claims, the 1967 war was one of choice, and not the result of an existential threat to the state of Israel. He then dedicated his life to promoting the Two State Solution, which he believed would allow Israel to maintain the fruits of the 1948 war and ethnic cleansing of Palestine – which meant control over the vast majority of the country, and allow the Palestinians to establish a small state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This is a solution which he believed would lead to an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

The political becomes personal with Miko’s stories. In 1948, his mother refused to accept an Arab home in West Jerusalem – a house that became available as the result of the ethic cleaning of Palestinians from West Jerusalem –  knowing that the family who lived there was now forced to become refugees. As the daughter of one of the signers of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, Miko’s mother could have used her position of entitlement to get a lovely home for herself and her family. But she said, “No. How can I take the home of another mother!”

Miko grew up in Jerusalem a multi-ethnic city yet racially divided, part of a system that keeps Palestinians and Israelis living in separate spheres. The Arabs of Israel, as the Palestinians are called by Israel – the laborers, janitors, cooks, etc. are indistinguishable from Arabs across the Middle East and as being referred to by that name creates the impression that they have no special connection to Jaffa, Lod, Ramle, Lydda, Haifa, Jerusalem or any other part of the “Land of Israel.”  Having lived in the sphere of the privileged occupier Miko, like other Israelis, he never met Palestinians. Chapter 7, the chapter where Miko describes the beginning of his journey, begins with the words, “My journey into Palestine began in San Diego in 2000. I was 39 years old.”

Peled insists that all of Israel/Palestine is one state with exclusive rights for Jewish people. It has been this way since 1967. Facts on the ground are undeniable and irreversible massive investment in infrastructure, cities, schools and malls for Jews only, Jewish-only highways bisect and connect ever expanding settlements on the West Bank, the separation wall and the checkpoints have purposely integrated what was the West Bank into the rest of Israel with Palestinians living in segregated, often completely closed off pockets.

The options for those who seek peace in Palestine are as follows:  An apartheid state with exclusive rights for Jewish people. A state with a brutal security apparatus where half the population are forced to live with little or no rights and in intolerable conditions.  A state where million live without access to proper nutrition, medical care or clean water, condemned to humiliating long lines at checkpoints, or a free, democratic Palestine with equal rights for all people who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Peaceful coexistence can be a reality in Palestine, but only once a real democracy is achieved and the rights of al Palestinians are respected – including the right of the refugees to return.

Before Miko came to hold such a vision, he had to face his fears. Driving alone into Palestinian towns in the Galilee or the West Bank in a car with license plates that identified him as Israeli, Miko imagined Arabs lurking behind every curve of the winding road following the rolling hills waiting to kill him. Heading towards the village of Bil’in for the first time, he silently questioned if he was crazy to trust “these people”? Peled was afraid but kept on driving until he found the village and was greeted by friends.

The solution might be obvious but the problem remains, how to change the existing paradigm– from fear and loathing to coexistence? At the heart of Peled’s solution lies the realization that Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace as equals. At the a gathering in Taos, New Mexico, an Israeli woman who heard Miko speak told Miko that his father was the hero of her childhood, and in fact, a photograph of the general hung in their home. “It is an honor to meet the son of Matti Peled,” she said, “I had given up hope for any kind of just solution and try to stay removed from events there but I see how much you care and meeting you gives me hope.”

Those who cling to fear, mistrust or greed are under the false assumption that Palestinians and Israelis have a choice other than to live as equals. But it’s inevitable – the wall will come down, and the two people will eventually live as equal citizens in a free democratic Palestine.

The story of the patriarch Abraham going to sacrifice his beloved son, to prove his faith is shared by both Jews and Muslims. At the moment of truth, when Abraham was about to kill his son an angel appeared telling Abraham not to harm the boy. This story exists in the Old Testament as well as in the Quran and the moral of the story is quite clear: Our shared God does not want us to sacrifice our children to war, in fact, whether we are believers or not we are all called by our God or our conscience to care for our children and protect them from the evil that is war.


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