Miko Peled, the son of an Israeli general, spoke at Berkeley Community College yesterday evening, and I listened. Peled, born and raised in Jerusalem, a European Jew from a long line of Zionist militarists, dissents strongly from the official line about Israel. In a 45-minute presentation, he punctured the myth of the Israeli state as a “victim” and argued that Israel has been an aggressor bent not only on capturing and holding territory in violation of international law, but above all in de-Arabizing the area — removing all footholds and traces of the Arab population and culture. He particularly deplored Israel’s recent war on Gaza, which began with carpet-bombing a defenseless civilian population. The Israeli army, he said, is the world’s strongest, best-equipped terrorist organization.
The story is a long one, and Peled tells it at length in his recent book, The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, with a foreword by Alice Walker. What particularly struck me in his talk was an anecdote about his mother. In 1948, the Zionist army drove hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and into exile. It bulldozed whole villages and neighborhoods, but in the towns, if the Palestinians happened to have a nice house, they looted its possessions and then “gave” the house to members of the Israeli elite. Peled’s mother was offered one of these houses, but turned it down, unable to sleep with the thought of living in a home whose rightful occupants were then cowering in a refugee camp. This story gave me a flashback to stories I heard from my mother, and read in history books, about what the Nazis did in Germany. They drove Jews out of their homes, looted the possessions, and turned the properties over to their followers. A number of prominent Nazi officials lived it up in villas stolen from Jews who were driven abroad or sent to concentration camps.
They say that children who suffer violent abuse are at risk of turning into violent abusers themselves when grown up. Zionism appears to be a case in point.
I just don’t get the accusation that people who oppose Israeli occupation of Palestine and its apartheid policies are “anti-Semites.” I’m not anti-Semite, I’m anti-Nazi, and that’s why the actions of the Israeli state turn my stomach.
Miko Peled is a brave man. He follows in the footsteps of his father, who started as an aggressive and celebrated Israeli general, but was revolted by Israeli policies toward the Arab populations and became an outspoken critic. It is a great sign of hope that at least some members of the Israeli elite are fed up with the official line and are standing up and speaking out.