Shukri Abu Baker, on The General’s Son.

shukri

About a year ago I was invited to speak in Texas by a local branch of Students for Justice in Palestine. After my lecture I had the opportunity to speak to some of the student activists and it so happened that several of them were the daughters of the HLF 5. Five men who were accused and convicted with providing material aid to Hamas.  In a previous article I talk at length about the case

https://mikopeled.com/2012/12/23/israels-invasion-of-us-justice-by-miko-peled/

and I will continue to bring accounts from three of the men, with whom I have been in touch for almost a year. Shukri was the first one which whom I was able to communicate, first by email and then by phone.

Shukri had received my book and read it, and then he sent me the following email with his thoughts about The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. Mind you, this was written by a Palestinian serving a 65 year sentence for a crime which most people who are familiar with the case, including myself are convinced he did not commit. He (and the other four) is in prison based on testimony given by two anonymous Israeli Intelligence officers.  Had he not been a Muslim and a Palestinian, and therefor a victim of  Israeli persecution, it is very likely that he would not have been in prison. Yet, here he is reading and commenting on a book written by an Israeli, son of an Israeli general.

Here is Shukri Abu Baker’s review of my book:

Miko,

I have finished the book and I’m really impressed. Congratulations, Miko. Your work is a must read for everyone that wants to learn how to explore the truth and become an active agent of change. I have learned so much in the way of human potential and historical facts.

I have just finished e-mailing my daughter who asked me about the book and I strongly recommended that she reads it. She herself has been trying to write her own memoir because she has got such an inspiring story to tell. We’ll talk more about her later on, perhaps during your visit, Insha’Allah. You said you have not read Dr. Victor Frankl book. I think you should.  What struck me is the resemblance between your ethical stance and his. You mentioned in your book how appalled you were to see the soldiers trample though the cultivated lands of a Palestinian village.  Dr. Frankl mentions in his book a very similar incidence. A group of freshly freed prisoners had just charged out of the concentration camp and swarmed through the cultivated lands of a village destroying the crops. When he vehemently objected to this behavior they argued that what they’ve done was hardly a fair revenge for what has been done to them. In his book the Dr. expressed concern about the consequences of victim mentality that has the tendency to turn the oppressed into an oppressor. He warned about immorality that comes with vengeance, especially when victims believe that they are entitled to. For a minute I thought he was addressing the Israeli occupation. Your book brought people closer together. As you were taking the readers from one spot to another, from one adventure to another, I was wishing I were there with you. Unfortunately most of your activities, especially the charitable ones were taking place at a time I was in trial or in prison.

You have accurately pictured the Palestinians in the most realistic terms. Not Angels without sins and not heroes without fears. I wish you were able to get to Gaza. Perhaps in the near future because without Gaza your trekking in the troubled life of the Palestinians will be incomplete. Gaza is a perpetual crime against humanity.  A non-stop grinding of innocent souls. A torment that enlivens nothing but the prospect of death among, as you said, the most literate and industrious people in the region. I loved the fact that you put so much soul in charitable work and that puts the two of us in the same territory.  You had been briefly punished by your countrymen for your acts of charity and I have received a sentence tantamount to life simply because I refused to punish children for the alleged crimes of their parents and refused to assassinate hope in the hearts of young Palestinians. All that they had, outside what occupation had to offer them, was hope for a better life, a normal life, a life your son Eitan and my daughter Nisa want to lead.

Yet it has become punishable by law to inspire the underprivileged to dare to dream of a bigger and a better world beyond the suffocation sphere of occupation.

I breathed easier when I learned about your wheelchair operation because one of the last project we, at the HLF, had completed just before we were shut down for good was a similar project in the West Bank and Gaza. As I recall they were over 1,200 wheelchairs all together. We had also supplied local hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza with 10 modern ambulances in coordination with Dr. Salim Zanoun, the health minister of the PNA at the time.

Thank you for bringing comfort to the hearts of Palestinian and Israeli children and thank you for offering hope that, otherwise, was meant to be buried along with the 13 years old Smadar and the 10 years old Abir. In some spots, your stories made my eyes brim, others gave me the chills and others made me laugh.  But I’m very happy and honored to have come to know you and what you have to offer to humanity.

Great job, Miko. Ahlan wa sahlan to my heart, habibi.

Your Falastini sudique,

Shukri

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Nabi Saleh, Summer 2012. By Miko Peled

Israeli soldiers, good only for fighting unarmed civilians, can’t handle a serious fighting force.

This past summer I drove once again from Jerusalem to Nabi Saleh, a small village in the West Bank known for its ongoing resistance to Israel, and this time I noted the landmarks along the way: Ofer military Prison, built like a fortress, grey and menacing where countless Palestinian political prisoners are held because of their resistance to Israel, often without trial. Modi’in Elit, an Israeli city built for orthodox Jews only, many of them new immigrants, on lands that belong to the neighboring village of Bil’in. A sign along the way reads: “By Order of the Military Commander, Israelis and Israeli Vehicles are Prohibited from Entering the Palestinian Villages Along This Road.”

I ignored the warning sign and continued along “this road” which winds through the hills of the central West Bank and I could see terraces covered with olive trees and grape vines. I noted also, that although many of the Palestinian towns and villages along this road are known the world over as centers for non-violent resistance to Israel, and although Israelis are prohibited from entering them, they remain unmarked. Only the Israeli settlements are clearly marked. I note the contrast between the heavily stone-built Israeli settlements and the natural landscape, and it seems as though the settlers are on a mission to rape the country and leave it scarred.

Earlier that week I called Bassem Tamimi and asked if I could come to Nabi Saleh on Thursday and stay there till after the weekly protest on Friday.
“You want to spend the night in Nabi Saleh and return home Friday after the protest?”
“Yes”
“Ahlan wa sahlan, you are welcome.”

It was late in the afternoon on Thursday, when I reached the village and the heat was unbearable. The thermometer in my mother’s little white Suzuki showed 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit). We sat in the living room, Bassem’s kids were playing around in another part of the house and from time to time the youngest, Salaam, would come in to complain about his older brother.

There are about 500 people in Nabi Saleh and I asked Bassem if he knows when people came to live in this beautiful corner of the West Bank. He smiled and told me the following story: The village elders were sitting in the square by the mosque one day when someone walked by and asked one of them how long he had been living there. “I don’t know” he replied, “but I do remember sitting right here one hot afternoon, when all of a sudden Adam showed up looking for Eve.”

I reminded Bassem of the day I visited him about a year and a half earlier. It was my first visit to the village and I wasn’t sure if he would remember. He had spent 13 of the last 18 months locked up in Ofer prison. But as we spoke I could see that it was coming back to him.
“Yes, it was a very violent day. I remember exactly, and I remember you came with Ali Abu Awad from Beit Ummar.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Ali disagrees with the stone throwing” Bassem added.
“Yes, he does.”
Ali is a Palestinian friend of mine, well known and admired among activists; He is a veteran peace activist himself from the town of Beit Ummar near Hebron.
“My father was Matti Peled, I said, “Do you know who he was.”
“Matti Peled,” his face lit up. “Yes, of course.”

Bassem told me that in the aftermath of the second intifada a few veteran Palestinians with a history of resistance got together to offer people a different way of resistance. “The Al Aqsa intifada did not give an answer to the occupation and we needed a different way to resist. The non-violent resistance was what we chose.” “But” he continued, “we don’t all agree on the issue of the rocks.” “The rock is a symbol of the Palestinian struggle.” Bassem said to me. “I don’t think we can tell our youth they have to accept the army presence and the violence that army inflicts on them and sit and do nothing. Throwing rocks at the army is not violence.” Other Palestinians disagree.

We talked about the protests and the struggle against Israel for many hours. “The Israelis that join us here at the weekly protest,” he said “I don’t see them as outsiders or as just expressing solidarity. I see them as partners.” We agreed that in the end the best solution, is a single democracy where we can live together in peace.

Since the non-violent protests began a couple of years ago, the village gets regular late night raids and young boys and men are arrested, beaten and tortured regularly. Much of this is recorded and made available on youtube by Tamimi Press and others. But Bassem told me that resistance and the IDF brutality are not new to Nabi Saleh. “The resistance in the village began before the first intifada.”

Bassem also told me that in 1993, as the Oslo accords were being signed in Washington, DC and many of us naively believed Israel intended to make peace, he was arrested and tortured. “They shook me so hard that I was in a coma for several days. When I awoke I was paralyzed, I didn’t know if I would ever get out of bed. Once I was released I found out that my only sister was killed by Israelis.”

In the evening, we sat outside and I had dinner with Bassem and his family. Later on people came for coffee and fruit and stayed to talk until late into the night. One serious problem the people of Nabi Saleh have to face daily is the ongoing violence from the settlers who live in the settlement Halamish. It was built on Nabi Saleh land and its residents are hardcore, fanatical, religious Israelis and they are particularly violent. The night before I arrived they burned a row of olive trees just below the village.

I was awakened the next morning to the sounds of shots being fired. I got dressed quickly and stepped out. Bassem and his wife and a few neighbors were already outside. In the distance we saw a cloud of tear gas and heard the shouting of soldiers and saw young Palestinians running on the hills. “That’s another thing that is different in Nabi Saleh” Bassem explained. “The resistance is not limited to certain days or times, our youth engage the army regularly.” It was only 6:30 am and the heat was already oppressive. “There is no wind to blow away the tear gas.” Bassem said sounding worried, “if it stays like this, it will make things very difficult during the protest.”

After mid day prayers we set off on the march. I counted about 150 adults and thirty kids. Soldiers waited for us on the road just down from the village, but we walked in the other direction, up the hill, overlooking the main road and Halamish.

Within minutes countless soldiers in full combat gear began climbing the hill towards us. They were moving very slow and very steady. It had to be over 100 degrees by that time and the climb was steep. Having been an infantry soldier in the IDF myself, I knew that for the soldiers in their gear it had to be hell. How stupid can they be? Regardless of what nonsense they were being told, they were not saving the world from tyranny or terror, just chasing a few unarmed peace activists.

The soldiers were closing in on us so we moved back towards the village only to be met by Israeli border police, also armed to the teeth. One of them placed his hand on me and yelled out: “this one is detained.” So many soldiers, so much effort and all they had to show for at the end of the day was me and a few other Israeli activists, whom everyone knew would be released by the end of the day. One soldier, a woman with long brown hair, looked at me intensely, and through the plastic cover of her helmet she said: “you are Jewish, you should be a shamed to be here.” “Why?” I asked, “Jewish people should always fight injustice.”

As I and the others were all driven away by armored military vehicles I could see that the village was swarming with hundreds of soldiers running around, pretending to be in a combat zone. Luckily for them, there was no enemy, no army for them to fight. As Hezbollah proved in 2006 when they humiliated the Israeli army, Israeli soldiers are only good for fighting unarmed civilians, they can’t handle a serious fighting force.

As the army jeep with me in it drove away, I recalled that six months earlier 28-year-old Mustafa Tamimi was shot and killed on that very road. He died from his wounds on December 10, 2011, my fiftieth birthday. He was shot in the face with a tear gas canister during the Friday protest as countless people were watching. The jeep from which the shot was fired was easily identifiable, but it simply drove away. As I looked at the soldiers around me all I could think was: “which one of you murdered Mustafa Tamimi?”

September 4 Is a Sad Day.

September 4, 1997 was the day my niece Smadar was killed.  For my family and I it will forever be a sad day, a day that brings bad tidings. It was September 4 when that phone call came from my mother telling me that there was an explosion in Jerusalem, even as I was watching the horror live on CNN.  Those words: “there was an explosion and we can’t find Smadari” will forever ring in my ears.  Hours later it was confirmed and I was on my way to Jerusalem, for the funeral.

No one warned me that I would see those words in the morning paper in Jerusalem as I arrived from the airport: “The granddaughter of peace activist, ret. General Matti Peled…”  It was still dawn.  I still don’t know what to say on this day or what to think as September 4 approaches.  That day I would cry in my sisters arms like a baby, and would feel that way over and over again, each year, even now, all these years later.

As we drove away from the grave site, Elton John’s new version of “Candle in the Wind” was playing on the radio and Nurit, my sister would never forgive herself for leaving her baby girl alone buried in the dirt. Then, for seven days and six nights, the house where I was born, and where Smadar lived ,would see so many faces. That the door of the Jerusalem apartment through which Generals and diplomats once entered and on which now a sticker reads FREE PALESTINE, was open for people who sought to find light at the end of their darkened lives.

At the time Smadari was killed Bibi Netanyahu was Prime Minister. He was asked to stay away, and spare himself the indignity of facing our family. Today Bibi is once again Prime Minister. Among those who did come to pay respects at the time was Ehud Barak.  The General, decorated soldier and now Israel’s “defense” minister – personally responsible for the death of thousands of innocent Israelis and Palestinians. At the time he was the head of the Labor party and people had hope he would be different. Today Barak is an all powerful “Defense” minister standing at the head of Israel’s unstoppable war machine – placing the full weight of the mammoth he leads so that death maintains its dominion.

Each year I try and each year I fail to somehow face this terrible day. And each year September 4  just brings more sadness. It brings more sadness because of a girl that was killed, and because so many thousands have died since from the same preventable cause – Israeli terrorism.

This terrorism is part of the discourse among Israelis and Israeli supporters; It faces you at Ben Gurion airport where Palestinians humiliated each and every day; You meet Israeli terrorism at the weekly peace marches in the West Bank, where participants are shot and arrested, and it thrives in Israeli jails where hundreds of thousands of palestinians have been tortured for decades; Israeli terrorism is unstoppable in Gaza where millions are locked up in an open air concentration camp, and where Israeli pilots drop bombs on civilians and then congratulate themselves on a job well done. And now Israeli terrorism has even reached as far as Persia, with Israeli threats to bomb Iran and terrorize its 75 million people.

If we want little girls to stop dying in this place, its time to stop Israeli terrorism. Meanwhile, September 4 will remain a day when my sweet, 13 year old niece Smadar died.