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Book Review: The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine

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Written by Morgan Duchesney   
Thursday, 18 April 2013 21:56

The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine by Miko Peled

Reviewed by Morgan Duchesney

At a time when Canada's Middle East policy is exclusively focused on Israeli security; a fresh voice of balance and reason is especially welcome. Israeli peace activist Miko Peled recently spoke at St. Paul University to promote his book, The General’s Son and encourage cooperation and peaceful co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis. During his February 26 talk, which was sponsored by National Council on Canada-Arab Relations; Mr. Peled stated what is increasingly obvious to anyone who cares to see: "Israel never had any intention to allow a Palestinian state. The West Bank is completely part of the State of Israel." 

Miko Peled is an Israeli peace activist, writer and Karate instructor living in Coronado, California. He was largely indifferent to the politics of his homeland until the death of his beloved niece Smadar during a 1997 Palestinian suicide bombing in Jerusalem.  As the author writes, “This wrenching tragedy is the starting point of my personal journey, a journey that transformed my heart and ushered me into a life of activism, and some say risk.”

The book chronicles the roots of the Peled family, and then delves into Miko Peled’s youth, military service and his passion for martial arts. It then provides a biography of Miko’s father; legendary Israeli general, academic and peace activist Matti Peled. General Peled’s military career was defined by cool rationalism and a refined talent for leadership and organization. The general’s transformation from committed Zionist to revolutionary peace activist occurred after his investigation of a brutal 1967 Israeli war crime was ignored by the Israeli cabinet.

This tough-minded soldier later engaged in a futile attempt to convince his government to help the Palestinians establish an independent West Bank state right after the 1967 war. Gen. Peled, a highly-decorated combat veteran of the 1948 war; commanded great respect in Israel and his conversion to peace caused shock waves throughout Israel’s political and military elite. Had Gen. Peled not spoken out he was certainly destined for high political office or a top corporate post.

Mr. Peled writes that his father infuriated Israeli militarists by publicly stating that the 1967 war was a cynical campaign of territorial expansion rather than an “existential” war and he accurately predicated all the ugliness that has since come to pass. As well, he condemned the military for exceeding their authority in illegally seizing the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and the Golan Heights. They had no cabinet orders to do so and conquering these populated areas was a poorly-considered act that created serious problems for all concerned.

Of course, the general was ignored and marginalized by both religious and secular Zionist extremists; most of which had never served in the Israeli army. Mr. Peled's reasoned Zionism included recognition of Palestinian rights as key to Israeli security. His cool and rational conduct has been written out of popular history because it undermines much of the public narrative on Israel. After retiring, Mr. Peled senior proceeded to learn Arabic while earning a PhD in Arab literature and teaching it at the U of Tel Aviv. When these accomplishments caused him further alienation, he dryly declared that his new solitude afforded him more time to work.

Mr. Peled chronicles the price of him and his father’s defiance against the conventions of Israeli society. Both men were shunned for associating directly with Palestinians but they shared the belief believed peace could only be achieved by developing personal relationships of mutual respect and trust. As well, they realized that Palestinians and Israelis were culturally identical at the personal level. The book details their respective efforts to cooperate with like-minded Arabs in both the Middle East and the West.

Mr. Peled declares that the Israeli state’s sole interest in the so-called peace process is its diversionary value to conceal their ultimate goal of annexing every inch of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and re-taking Gaza. While their ancestors used direct terror to evict the Palestinians in 1947; today’s Zionist extremists are more subtle, preferring a stealthy incremental approach to annexing all valuable Palestinian territory; especially water-rich land.

The book concludes with a revealing account of Miko Peled’s meeting with Palestinian leader Abu Ali Shalin. This venerated resistance fighter and political philosopher details the organizational practices of Palestinian militants and describes the sub-culture of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons where education and spiritual discipline are secretly-cultivated and maintained. 

During his St. Paul presentation, Mr. Peled remarked, “It [Israel] is a democracy for the Jews.  Palestinian Israeli citizens have some rights, but 30 laws discriminate against them.”  Their facilities and villages are in appalling shape. While Israel gives Jews preferential treatment; there is nothing Jewish about Israel.”The author supports the notion of a bi-national state where Palestinians and Israelis live together as equals under the same laws. This is true because Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have mainly destroyed any realistic chance of a separate Palestinian state.

Mr. Peled constantly emphasizes the necessity that peace activists on both sides dare to meet and cooperate with their so-called enemies in an effort to end the long trauma of Palestine and commence the healing process. This book is especially valuable since the work of peace groups in Israel and Palestine are rarely chronicled in the corporate media. The General’s Son is must read for those seeking an articulate voice of courage and hope for a just coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis.