“The General’s Son,” Miko Peled, is touring Canada in early October, and we are fortunate to be hosting him here in Edmonton at the University of Alberta. Indeed, the highlight of my summer reading was Miko’s recent book, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine in which he chronicles his arduous journey from staunch Zionist to human rights peace activist. The distance is short. Perhaps as short as the distance between one’s head and one’s heart. But it is a long journey. And Miko’s story is a powerful one of transformation. The tragedy which struck his family on September 4, 1997, when his 13 year old niece, Smadar, was killed by a suicide bomber, was the catalyst that propelled him on a journey of discovery and transformation. In the midst of her deep pain, Smadar’s mother, Nurit, had the insight and the courage to place “blame” for this tragedy on Israel’s brutal occupation of the Palestinian territories, saying that it had driven the young suicide bombers to despair. Thus an unthinkable loss that could have turned the family into bitter, hateful opponents of all things Palestinian, instead opened their hearts to those they had viewed as “other.” Miko now believes that “for the good of both nations, the Separation Wall must come down, the Israeli control over the lives of Palestinians must be defied so that a secular democracy where all Israelis and Palestinians live as equals can be established in our shared homeland.” (Both this and the following quote are from Miko’s Blog)
We hear a lot about “the two-state solution” to the Israel-Palestine “problem” these days ~ especially in light of the “negotiations” that are currently taking place between the two sides. But I wonder if we are even asking the right questions ~ In my experience, the “facts on the ground” belie this possibility. How can one create a viable Palestinian state out of the “swiss cheese” that is left after Israel has confiscated the 60% of the West Bank deemed Area C ~ built illegal settlements deep within the West Bank in contravention of International Law ~ constructed a separation wall to the tune of $1.6-2.5 million USD per mile which is built on Palestinian land, restricting Palestinian movement, separating families from each other and villages from their land and livelihood ~ created an extensive system of humiliating checkpoints, permit systems, and “Jewish only apartheid roads” ~ taken control of water and other resources? And what about Gaza? Gaza ~ that unimaginable open-air prison from which Israel claims it has “withdrawn” but strangely still controls its borders, airspace, sea access, imports, and exports, and can enter at will or rain a barrage of bombs on innocent civilians? ~ What is painfully clear is that the status quo of military occupation is not sustainable! It will only lead to more violence, needless bloodshed, broken bodies and broken hearts. So what about the one-state solution? ~ Perhaps Peled deserves a hearing ~ Perhaps his “radical” ideas are not so radical after all ~ Perhaps we need to consider a move from mine and theirs to ours.
Peled’s views are not popular with many. But his story and his logic are compelling. He insists that “Israel/Palestine is one state. 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 destroyed the possibility of a contiguous, viable Palestinian state. The question for Israelis, worldwide Jewry and the international community is: What kind of a state do we really want to see? An apartheid state with half the population confined to intolerable bantustans, without access to proper nutrition, medical care or clean water, condemned to humiliating long lines at checkpoints? Or, will Israel/Palestine transform itself into a secular democracy for the five and a half million Israelis and almost five million Palestinians who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. To become such a sanctuary, Israel must give up the idea of Jewish dominion over all the land and resources.”
Before Miko came to hold such a vision, he talks about having had to face his fears ~ fears that the narrative he thought to be true may in fact be a lie, fears of “the other,” fears of the unknown. And so must we be willing to confront our fears in order to take that long journey the very short distance from our heads to our hearts ~ Perhaps it begins with a change in focus from “just us” to “Justice”! ~ Perhaps we must risk opening our hearts and embracing the humanity of those we have demonized, those we have seen as less than human, those on the other side of whatever wall we have constructed ~ In so doing we may be transformed. In so doing, we may transform the world ~ May we find within ourselves the courage to make this journey ~ Indeed, our very lives may depend on it.
Note: Miko Peled’s Canadian tour is hosted by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. For a lecture schedule and to obtain tickets, please click here.