Israeli peace activist and writer. His father was an Israeli general, military governor of the Gaza Strip, and a member of Parliament. Miko Peled is the author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine.
co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of the new book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine.
The threat of an Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip comes amidst heavy unrest in the West Bank and in Arab towns inside Israel following the killings of a Palestinian teenager and three teenage Israelis. The Israeli teens were abducted while hitchhiking near the West Bank settlement where they lived. Their bodies were found last week, after more than two weeks of Israeli raids throughout the West Bank that saw more than 200 Palestinians arrested and more than a dozen killed. In an apparent act of revenge right after the Israeli teens’ bodies were found, a Palestinian teenager named Mohammed Abu Khdeir was abducted near his home in East Jerusalem. His dead body was found shortly after, showing signs he was burned live. On Monday, Israel said it had arrested six suspects and that three have already confessed. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli leaders have condemned the killing, Khdeir’s death followed calls for vengeance from Israeli political leaders as well as in marches and on social media. We are joined by two guests: Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of the new book, "The Battle for Justice in Palestine," and Miko Peled, a peace activist and author of "The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine." The book’s title refers to a unique family history: Miko’s father, "Matti" Peled, served as a general in the 1967 war and later became a peace activist, calling for Israel to withdraw from the territory he helped to capture.
AMY GOODMAN: Miko Peled is our guest, coming up. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. He’s an Israeli peace activist and writer. His father was an Israeli general. He’s the author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. His father was an Israeli general who ultimately became a peace activist, saying that Israel should give back the territories that he helped to capture in 1967. I’m Amy Goodman, with Aaron Maté. Miko is with us in Jerusalem.
Can you talk about the Israeli soldiers that are amassing along the Israeli border—the Gaza border?
MIKO PELED: Yeah, hi. You know, I have to say, hearing Mohammed Omer and his description from Gaza—you know, he’s only about 45 minutes away from me. I’m sitting here in Jerusalem in an air-conditioned room, plenty of light, plenty of water, no shortages of any kind. And this horrendous, horrendous reality that he’s describing, that is about to become worse as the result of an impending Israeli ground invasion, is a direct result of the criminal siege that Israel has been imposing on Gaza for years now, putting 1.6 million people in a cruel and inexcusable—under a cruel and inexcusable siege.
But I think it’s important to take a look at this in a larger context. I think one of the problems is people look at all these—at the current state of affairs as though it’s isolated. Israel has been bombing and killing people in Gaza since it created the Gaza Strip in the early 1950s. On a regular base, Israel goes in and kills civilians in Gaza. This has been going on for six decades. Of course, it’s getting worse. The technology is getting better. And the casualty count is getting worse. But this is part of a larger issue, a larger problem. And the problem is that people equate the Palestinian response to Israeli violence and to Israeli aggression as terrorism, instead of realizing that this is an act of resistance. The Palestinians have been the subject of oppression and violence by Israel from the very beginning that the state of Israel was established. This is why we have a Gaza Strip. This is why we have hundreds of thousands of refugees in the Gaza Strip and other places. These people were forced out of their home as a result of an act of terrorism, which created the state of Israel in 1948. These people have been resisting, and they’ve been resisting in other places, mostly by nonviolent means. Of course, the more violent, the more the armed struggle gets a lot more media, but mostly by nonviolent means. They have been part of a brutal oppression for six decades.
And what we see today is, of course, the result of one straw that literally broke the camel’s back, and we see uprising in places that we haven’t seen before, like, you know, inside Palestinian communities inside Israel. These are Israeli citizens. And Israel planning to go in and kill more Palestinians, knowing full well they’re going to be burning more Palestinian children, just like the one who was burned by these four or five individuals who were not soldiers, but Israeli military has been doing this for decades. This is nothing new. And I think it’s important to take a look at this not as an isolated issue, not as an isolated incident, but as part of a larger issue that has to be resolved, has to be resolved so that Israelis and Palestinians can move forward finally.
AARON MATÉ: Miko Peled, you were arrested recently at a protest in the West Bank, protesting the occupation. You’re one of a group of Israelis who regularly takes part in these kind of solidarity actions. Has the brutal killing of Mohammed Khdeir done anything to raise discussion about the settlements, about the fact that this occupation is continuing and Palestinians are subjected to these types of—this type of brutality every day?
MIKO PELED: I think it only has done so in that the foreign press is suddenly interested again. But in terms of the discussion on the Palestinian side, this is nothing new. This particular brutal case of murder is really nothing new. I mean, Israel—what do you think happens when Israel drops tons of bombs from the air on Gaza? Children get burned.
The issue of the settlement is also one of these absurd issues that people talk about, knowing full well there can be no change. Israel will never stop building cities and towns wherever it likes, everywhere in the Middle—everywhere in what Israel considers the land of Israel. And so, this whole debate of settlements and no settlements, again, has to be taken in a larger issue. Israel has been building settlements on occupied Palestinian land since 1948, since the state of Israel was established. You know, the entire country is occupied Palestine. And it’s time to wake up and talk about it like this. This whole debate about the occupied Palestinian territories being only part of the country and the settlement problem being only part of the country is absurd. Palestinian towns within Israel, Palestinian towns where Palestinians who are Israeli citizens reside, have settlements all around them, and all of these settlements are not considered settlements because they’re within what is considered proper Israel, but these are all built on Palestinian land. And Palestinian towns within Israel are shrinking and getting smaller, their resources are declining, and their landmass is disappearing. So we have a larger issue here.
And, you know, I protest, others protest. Of course, Bil’in, where I was arrested last time—quite brutally, I have to say—is, has become the Mecca of the nonviolent resistance, and people from all over the world come and visit there. Yet the Israeli army shows up. They shoot amounts of tear gas that are obscene. They shoot shot grenades at point blank, pointing them at people. And then, of course, I stood there, and I was talking, or at least trying to talk, to one of the commanders, and at one point he got angry, pushed me around and then proceeded to detain me and arrest me. But, you know, my story is nothing. I get to go home at the end of the day. We have thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, the vast majority of whom have never been charged with acts of violence, which of course represents the Palestinian resistance. And these are the people that we have to be talking about. These are the people who have to be released.
The siege on Gaza has to be lifted. If Israel doesn’t like the Qassam rockets coming out of Gaza, Israel knows what to do, because this is a response to the Israeli occupation. This is the response to the Israeli brutal oppression of Palestinians for almost seven decades. So, again, it’s important to put this in perspective and not to treat this like it’s an isolated issue. And again, Mohammed Omer is 45 minutes away from me, and he has no access to clean drinking water. Families don’t know what to do once the bombs start falling. They have no shelters. They can’t escape. Israel has locked them in this massive prison. And I don’t know what kind of expectation there is that the Palestinians would just sit there in Gaza and not respond, and not respond with any kind of violence. You know, being as ineffective as these Qassam rockets are, at least they’re some expression of anger and some desire to be noticed.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined in Los Angeles by Ali Abunimah, the co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, author of the new book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine. Ali, can you talk about the situation at this point—the soldiers amassed along the border of Gaza right now, the bombing that’s going on of Gaza, Israel setting up this operation—they call it Protective Edge, saying that they are responding to rocket fire coming from Gaza?
ALI ABUNIMAH: Good morning, Amy. I’m very happy to hear the context and analysis of both Mohammed Omer and Miko because this has been totally missing from the mainstream media in this country and even, sadly, from progressive media for so long. But I think it’s so important to respond to this Israeli claim, which we heard in the news at the beginning of the show from the Israeli spokesperson, Peter Lerner, that Israel is just responding. And this talking point is repeated ad nauseam by Israel and its apologists in the media. I mean, just look at the numbers from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on protection of civilians. The reason this is happening now, in addition to everything we heard, is that the number of Palestinians killed by Israel since the start of this year is about triple the number in the same period as 2013. And it’s grim to talk about human beings in terms of statistics, but just up to the end of June—so, not even including the horrifying slaughter that we just heard about from Mohammed and that has occurred in the past few days—until the end of June, Israel had killed 31 Palestinians since the beginning of the year. That compares with 11 in the same period last year, so three times as many Palestinians killed, 1,463 injured. Why do we never hear that? We only hear about the rockets coming, which Miko talked about.
And this is happening, Amy, at a time when there is unprecedented—and I would even say genocidal—incitement against Palestinians. For example, the statement from the up-and-coming political star in Israel, Ayelet Shaked of the Jewish Home party, which is in Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, who actually issued a call for genocide of the Palestinian people on June 30th. She declared that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy. And she justifies their destruction, including, quote, "its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure." And she said that Israel would be justified to slaughter Palestinian mothers because they give birth to little snakes. I wish I could say that that was an extreme or outlying expression of opinion in Israel, but she got something like 5,000 likes for that statement on Facebook. And we’re hearing this kind of incitement from Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, from every—virtually every Cabinet minister, and of course the chief inciter, Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now pretending to be against violence, pretending to console the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the latest lynching victim of Israel and its occupation.
AARON MATÉ: Well, Ali, I wanted to get your response to Netanyahu. Speaking over the weekend, he vowed to punish those responsible for Mohammed Abu Khdeir’s death.
PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I know that in our society, the society of Israel, there is no place for such murderers. And that’s the difference between us and our neighbors. They consider murderers to be heroes. They name public squares after them. We don’t. We condemn them, and we put them on trial, and we’ll put them in prison.
AARON MATÉ: That’s Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing to punish the killers of Mohammed Khdeir, but in doing so, also drawing, Ali, some sort of moral high ground. Your response?
ALI ABUNIMAH: Where does one begin with that? This is the leader of a government that has killed more than 1,400 Palestinian children, including this year seven, 1,400 just since 2000. And Israel sanctifies these murderers. It treats them as heroes. It incites them. Netanyahu is the chief inciter. And the notion that Israel brings them to justice is just absurd. There is no case, in practically in living memory, of an Israeli being brought to justice for the killing of any of these 1,400 children. On May 15th, two Palestinian children were shot dead by snipers, and it was caught on camera. Everyone saw it. They were hunted like animals. It’s almost two months later. Has anyone been arrested? Do we know the names of the killers? Well, I’ll tell you, Israel knows the names of the killers, but they’re not telling, because they’ve placed a gag order, a censorship order, on that case.
The only reason Netanyahu was forced to make that cynical statement is because of the media attention that the case of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was lynched to death, who was burned alive, got—and his cousin Tariq Abu Khdeir, a U.S. citizen, brutally tortured on television. I mean, a question for Netanyahu I wish somebody would ask—Tariq Abu Khdeir—and I understand we’re going to hear from his aunt in a minute—was tortured on camera. We saw it. He was tortured. He was fined and put under house arrest, the 15-year-old boy, never having been charged with anything and having been tortured. Have the torturers who beat him up been arrested? Has Israel even announced that they were suspended from their positions? Of course it hasn’t. Does Israel go and demolish the homes of Israeli soldiers or settlers who attack Palestinians? And the figures from the U.N., by the way, show that attacks by settlers on Palestinians and their properties have been going through the roof in recent years. And this is all unchecked violence.
Netanyahu incites. The incitement starts from the top. And it’s not just against Palestinians. It’s against Africans. It’s against what they call leftists, anyone who criticizes their government. The chant is—the chant in the streets of Israel, in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem, in other places, is "death to the Arabs, death to leftists." And the incitement comes from Netanyahu.
AMY GOODMAN: Ali Abunimah, we want to thank you very much for being with us. Miko Peled is still with us in Jerusalem, the Israeli peace activist and writer whose father, Matti Peled, was an Israeli general, military governor of the Gaza Strip and member of Parliament. Miko Peled is the author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. Before we go to Tariq Abu Khdeir’s aunt in Tampa, Florida—Tariq, by the way, grew up in Tampa, born in Baltimore, the young man who was beaten by Israeli soldiers in East Jerusalem—I wanted to ask you, Miko Peled, about your own family’s journey. Your father, a famous Israeli general and considered Israeli war hero, ended up saying that Israel should withdraw from the territories back to the 1967 line. Why the change?
MIKO PELED: I think the change came as a result—and again, I tried to record it in the book, in The General’s Son—as a result of, first, his experience as military governor in Gaza in the mid-1950s, when Israel occupied Gaza, and then when he saw that by occupying the entire country, and Israel is—it will, in fact, become a binational state and will have to enforce a brutal military force and a brutal military occupation upon the people, who are inevitable to—who will inevitably resist, because we are going to be a foreign occupation. So he felt that the right thing to do—and he said this immediately after the 1967 war was over, in the very first meeting of the Israeli high command—that we now have an opportunity to solve the Palestinian problem peacefully by negotiating with the Palestinians based on what we know today is called the two-state solution—a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital.
As he was saying these very words—this is the very last day, the very last moments of the 1967 Six Day War—the Israeli military was already forcing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of the West Bank, destroying cities and towns and villages in the West Bank, and building massively for Israeli Jews only in the West Bank, which is exactly what they did prior to 1967 in the rest of Palestine, which had become Israel. So, he retired from the military a year later, and he dedicated his life, or the remainder of his life, the second half of his life, I should say, to this idea of an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The problem was that nobody on the Israeli side was interested. In terms of Israeli thinking, in terms of the Zionist ideology, which is the foundation of the state of Israel, there cannot be any compromise on the land of Israel because it belongs to the Jewish people. You know, the law in Israel says that over 90 percent or 95 percent of the land in Israel is only—only Jews are permitted to purchase land on over 95 percent of the land here. So Palestinians, who are the indigenous people of the land here, are prohibited from buying, purchasing land here, if they like. So, this is a reality that he was trying to combat, but, of course, on the other side, there was nobody listening. In terms of Israeli thinking, Zionist thinking, the land is ours; the Palestinians are either going to have to live with Israeli domination, or they can leave.
And what, in essence, has happened is, Israel has given Palestinians two choices: either to completely surrender or to resist. And this has been going on for some almost seven decades. And now we see the results of that. But the things, the very things that he said in that very—on that very last day of the war in 1967, every single thing that he said actually came to be. Israel is a brutal occupying power. It is not a Jewish state. It is a binational state, because Israel governs the entire country, and there are two nations that live here, albeit in an apartheid regime where one nation has all the rights and the other nation is subservient and lives under a terrible, oppressive regime.
AMY GOODMAN: Miko—
MIKO PELED: And this is exactly what he was hoping to avoid.
AMY GOODMAN: Miko Peled is joining us from Jerusalem, again, an Israeli peace activist who was just arrested in the West Bank. His father, the famous Israeli war hero and general, Matti Peled, who ultimately called for the very land he had been responsible for capturing, among other Israeli military, saying that it should—Israel should withdraw.