I am sitting on my front patio in the early eve of a beautiful sunny day. The birds are chirping and the newly planted shrubs, iris and flowery ground cover is growing. All is peaceful. Echoes of Palestine still fresh in my memory.
I have just finished a book, The General’s Son, by Miko Peled. Miko is the son of a very famous general of Israel. Matti Peled was a devoted Zionist who joined the Palmach militia at age 16. He distinguished himself during the war of independence in 1947-8 and the 1967 6 Day War that extended the boundaries of Israel to include the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai peninsula and the Golan Heights. He was administrator of the Gaza refugee camp in the 1950’s which inspired him to go back to school to study Arabic and Arabic Literature. After leaving the military, Gen Peled became a professor of Arabic literature at Tel Aviv University and a bitter critic of the Israeli occupation of land which should be a Palestinian state.
Miko recounts a stand taken by his mother after the 1947-8 Nokba expulsions of 450 Palestinian villages by the Israeli militias. Being the wife of a war hero, she was offered to move into a house left by a fleeing Palestinian family. She knew this family and refused stating to her son: “How would this family feel having their house stolen?” At the time they were living with the in laws and could have taken advantage to increase their economic status like many were doing. They refused.
Gen. Peled vehemently opposed the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza after the Six Day War. Miko recounts his father’s views: ” He later also claimed with certainty that holding onto the West Bank and the people who lived in it was contrary to Israel’s long-term strategy of building a secure Jewish democracy with a stable Jewish majority. If we kept these lands, popular resistance to the occupation was sure to arise, and Israel’s army would be used to quell that resistance, with disastrous and demoralizing results. He concluded that this would turn the Jewish state into an increasingly brutal occupying power and eventually into a bi-national state. My father said all this as the gun barrels were still smoking and before Israel began its settlement project in the West Bank and Gaza.” His father is later ostracized by the Israeli government as a kind of traitor though many of them attend his funeral years later.
Miko writes about his own journey as the son of Matti Peled. After his conflicted military service which pulls him between his Zionism and defense of the rights of Palestinian people for their land, Miko travels to England and Japan to study Karate under a famous master. He then begins to teach this discipline to Israeli and Palestinian children. He marries, has children and moves to California. He still returns to Palestine and has been involved in nonviolent protests and resistance of the occupation as a fierce critic of the Netanyahu govt.
I suggest also watching the documentary, Five Broken Cameras, on Netflix. It records a five year span of nonviolent resistance by the people of Bil’In of the encroaching Israeli settlements destroying their village economy and spiritual relationship with the olive trees that has provided sustenance and purpose for generations. The repressive tactics of the military is appalling. You can see the growth of this settlement as it illegally violates the land and people of the village. It is all recorded by this amateur Palestinian villager. A must see to feel the intensity of this injustice.
What can you do? First, read and get informed. Second, reflect and pray. Third, write and visit your political representatives. Why is the U.S. giving $3 billion to Israel to repress the rights of the Palestinian people by this internationally illegal occupation? Fourth, support Palestinian rights and humanitarian aid organizations in your area.
Lastly, consider joining the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. Like the South African anti-apartheid campaign, this movement seeks to place economic pressure on Israel to end the illegal occupation and settlements in order to seriously explore a just solution to this humanitarian disaster-whether a two state or one bi-national state. A good start is to boycott Sabra and Tribal Hummus and to write a letter to these companies to inform them. Below is one of many sites advocating this campaign. Many of you may also recall the successful boycott of Gallo wine during the farm workers campaigns by Caesar Chavez. Peace.