On AIPAC and Other Bullies By Miko Peled

It is typical for America to suddenly wake up to an issue that has been around for, well, forever. Today it is bullying. But there can be little surprise that America has a bully problem. American policies around the world have been marked and characterized by bullying, as one would expect from an empire, even an empire that likes to see itself as spreading freedom and democracy. Bullying in America is hailed and glamorized as heroism so really, what kid wouldn’t want to be a bully?

One bully that has gotten America by the, well, where it hurts is AIPAC. Everywhere you go you hear people complaining that nothing can be done to curb Israeli violence and brutality because this fierce all powerful lobby called AIPAC. Nowhere is this heard more than our nation’s capital Washington DC.

In AIPAC’s website they make the following claim: “From a small pro-Israel public affairs boutique in the 1950s, AIPAC has grown into a 100,000-member national grassroots movement described by The New York Times as “the most important organization affecting America’s relationship with Israel.” Wow!

I recently spent a weekend in DC and I heard two stories that exemplify the odd relationship between the world’s only superpower and this omnipotent organization, and that this has been going on for close to forty years. The first story takes place during the Carter administration when an attempt to put together a meeting between President Carter and one of the worlds leading Jewish leaders, Dr. Nahum Goldman was unsuccessful. When a mutual friend of Carter and Dr. Goldman, who told me this story, inquired with the President about this the President replied that a meeting with Dr. Goldman is not possible because Dr. Goldman really gets American Jews agitated.

Dr. Nahum Goldman was one of, if not the most important Jewish Zionist leader in America. He was a staunch Zionist his whole life and was the Co founder of the World Jewish Congress, which he led for several decades. But Goldman’s brand of Zionism was not palatable for Israeli leaders such as David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir and well, the rest of Israeli politicians because Goldman tried to negotiate between Israel and the neighboring Arab states. He committed the crime of being critical of Israel for what he saw as an over-reliance on military might and for not making concessions after the 1967 Six-Day War. He further brought upon him the wrath of Jewish zealots by advocating a position that the only chance of long-term survival for Israel was to accept the rights of the Palestinians as a people. So how can the President meet with such a man?

Fast forward to today’s Washington DC. A young non-Jewish Ivy League graduate member of a DC think tank proposes to present a paper on the Palestinian perspective. She lived and reported from Palestine, she has first hand knowledge and a deeper understanding of the situation than most experts. After a long wait the paper is shelved fearing it will bring about too much debate and that it is one sided. Well, by presenting the perspective of a particular side of the conflict the paper was by definition one sided and as for creating debate, isn’t that what a think tank is supposed to do?

I have learned that on a local level agents of this ridiculous bully follow me and my activism quite closely. Self proclaimed keepers of the most zealous and uncompromising brand of Jewish nationalism have taken it upon themselves to attend, record, film and conduct classes on the things that I say about the heinous crimes and viscous attacks committed by Israel against the Palestinian people which it rules. I am not sure if I should be flattered or afraid. I mean, after all will they report me to the authorities? Will they deny me entry to Israel or the US? But of course I then recall that other than being a self-proclaimed policing force that refuses to see the ridicule and the tragedy in its positions and its actions these little bullies are really nothing.

Local elected officials are offered great trips to Israel, free of course. Happily the ones I know stood up to this bully and the favors it offers and refused the gift on grounds that it is wrong for an elected official to receive such expensive gifts. Besides, no gift of this kind is free. It comes with the expectation of future support for Israel’s draconian policies regarding the Palestinians.

It is said that AIPAC itself has the power to dethrone powerful people. That it is a king maker as well as a killer of political careers, even well established careers. But I have yet to hear an explanation as to why. Why is it that this organization and its self-righteous agents yield so much power of extortion over the world greatest power? What secrets do they posses that can yield such powers of extortion? While in DC I had the pleasure of meeting one man who is rather close to the President himself. He works with the President on issues other than the Mideast but when we met the Mideast we talked mostly about the Middle East. “Perhaps you over estimate the power of the President” is what this man said to me.

If President Obama said one sentence that truly relates to the horrors of Israeli policies, if he made one comment to criticize Israeli human rights violations or the treatment of Palestinian minors in Israeli prisons, if he publicly said what he surely knows, that Israeli insistence on building settlements for Jews only on land that belongs to Palestinians is wrong or even, God forbid that he should say that the situation in Gaza is unacceptable (not unsustainable as he said in the past). If the President says just one of theses things it would get the ball rolling sparking a serious debate and it will embolden others to ask these questions and make demands of Israel.

Far from me to suggest that politicians align themselves with what is right and what is just. However, those politicians who do care need to know the following: there are ways to stop bullies but succumbing to them and appeasing them are not included. To stop bullies one needs to stand up to the bullies and to make it clear that we will not take their BS!

THE ANSWERS HAVE CHANGED by Miko Peled

It is said of Albert Einstein that he gave a particular exam to a class that had already been given that exam.  Alarmed at what he saw and thinking it to be the result of the professor’s absent-mindedness, an assistant warned Einstein of what he was about to do.  The Professor just smiled and said: It’s alright the answers have changed. The same thing goes for the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the questions remain the same but now sixty years after the establishment of the Jewish State, the answers have changed.

Until about ten years ago the answer to the question of how to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East was clear: Allowing the Palestinians to establish a free, independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, alongside Israel. But this answer known as the “Two State Solution” belongs to a reality that no longer exists. Today, after 40 years of occupation the West Bank is riddled with settlements and highways designated for Jews only; Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza are imprisoned within a wall, impoverished and starved and there is no political will within Israel to partition the land of Israel and allow Palestinian independence – all of which indicate that clearly the answers have changed.

So what is the answer to this very difficult question? Ten million people reside between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.  Approximately 5.5 million Jewish Israelis and 4.5 million Palestinians, all ruled by the state of Israel, the Jewish State.  The conditions under which Palestinians live range between being third class citizens within Israel, and living under a military occupation with no representation, no human rights and no civil rights.  Clearly this cannot go on forever and at some point Israel will be forced to grant the Palestinians equal rights. What remains to be seen is whether this will come as a result of intense violence and bloodshed or a negotiated agreement.

Two books that have come out in recent months are relevant to this conflict and both of them demonstrate that there is a tremendous amount of change in the air. The first book that has received a great deal of attention is “Palestine, Peace Not Apartheid” by former US President and staunch Israel supporter, Jimmy Carter.  This book has opened the door for the first time for a serious debate in the US regarding the Palestinian tragedy. In a development that is almost unparalleled, a former US President characterizes Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza as apartheid. Since the book came out the debate has indeed been intense and there are no signs that this will change any time soon.

The second book is “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” by Israeli historian Illan Pappe. Categorizing the destruction of Palestine in the years 1947-1949 as ethnic cleansing is not new perhaps but it is worthy of mention because it is becoming more widely accepted. Pappe’s book, difficult though it is due to its detailed accounts, provides an opportunity for an in-depth study of the destruction of the Palestinian people and their homeland at the hands of the Jewish forces during the Israeli War of Independence.  What might come as news to many Jewish people around the world and to many non Jewish Israel supporters is that it was in the aftermath of this campaign of ethnic cleansing that the State of Israel was established upon the ruins of Palestine.

What becomes apparent from reading the two books is that what Carter describes is congruent with what is described in Pappe’s book. In other words, current Israeli policy towards the Palestinians is an extension of the ethnic cleansing policies of the early years of the conflict.

One may argue over details in both Carter’s book and Pappe’s book, but one cannot argue with the facts that the books describe:  Between the end of 1947 and the beginning of 1949, a time that Israel calls the War of Independence, close to 800,000 Palestinians were forced into exile and Palestinian identity in Palestine was almost entirely wiped out.  Today, Israel continues to deny Palestinian identity, not to mention Palestinian independence both within the boundaries of the State of Israel and within the occupied territories.

One possible answer to the difficult question of the Israeli Palestinian conflict could be drawn from the fact that Israel, by ruling over two nations is already a bi-national state.  The solution could be to replace the current system whereby only Israeli Jews enjoy the freedoms and rights of full citizenry, with one that will allow Palestinians to enjoy those rights as well.  This will create a fully democratic state in which both Israelis and Palestinians live as equals, protected by a constitution that allows both people to express their national, religious and cultural identities.

This option of a constitutional democracy that includes both Israeli Jews and Palestinians under one state is without a doubt one of the more difficult answers. After 2000 years in exile and having survived the Nazi holocaust, the Jewish people rose from the ashes like the phoenix to create a state they can call their own. Now it seems that securing the future of the people of Israel in the land of Israel will require not only vision but also genuine political compromise.

Bringing an end to the Israeli Palestinian conflict demands a serious look into the events that took place between the years 1947 and 2007:  The State of Israel was created at the expense of another nation.  The choice today is to fight until the last drop of blood has been shed, or to recognize the need to establish a political framework that will allow both people to live together in peace.

Miko Peled is an Israeli living in San Diego. He is the son of Israeli General Matityahu Peled.

A Shared State in a Shared Homeland By Miko Peled


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently argued, “What is required is creative, novel thinking in order to resolve these complex [peacemaking] issues.” Netanyahu has never been so right.

The current Mideast peace talks will fail, as befell predecessors, because they are based on a flawed premise blocking the conflict’s resolution. The proposed solution is based on an uneven partition of the land.  Israeli Jews, who make up roughly 50 percent of the population, would receive at least 78 percent of the land – and probably more – while the Palestinians who comprise the other half of the population would receive what remains.

Over the last 100 years countless attempts have been made to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict via partition.  All have failed.  Today, with Israelis living comfortably in all parts of the country, including major parts of the West Bank, there is no reason to expect the current attempt will fare any better.  On the contrary, one can count on further attempts at partition to fail.

This solution, a two-state outcome wrongly regarded as the only game in town, is based on the Zionist narrative claiming that Jewish Israelis have a greater right to the land than do the Palestinians. The current state of affairs in Israel/Palestine is that 10 million people are ruled by the State of Israel but live under different laws.  Israeli Jews enjoy a free democratic society, Palestinians who are Israeli citizens make do with limited rights within Israel, Palestinians within the West Bank suffer from a dual system of law, while those in Gaza are confined to an open-air prison over which Israel maintains ultimate control.

Israeli forces may detain or kill Palestinians at will and without due process.  Furthermore, Israel can easily confiscate land and other property from Palestinians.  Recourse by Palestinians stripped of property or fundamental rights is confined to a kangaroo court that largely rubber stamps military and government actions.  International law is toothless.

Israel has made its stance on the main issues of the conflict abundantly clear: no, no, no, and no. Israel will never stop building settlements, Israel will never share Jerusalem, Israel will never allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, and Israel will never return to the pre-1967 borders.  In other words, Israel rejects Palestinian requirements – and the obligations of international law — needed to establish a free and independent state.

The Arab leaders who support the current talks and traveled to Washington last week are all recipients of billions of dollars in U.S. foreign aid.  They certainly cannot afford to say no to the President of the United States.  Likewise, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who saw first hand how his predecessor was vilified and then placed under siege while Israeli tanks took over the Palestinian government headquarters in Ramallah, cannot say no to ham-fisted demands by Israel and the U.S.

The Palestinian Authority is often likened to a government – it has a Prime Minister, a parliament, and a President – but in reality its authority merely rivals that of a city council.  The Palestinian Authority has very little control and is permitted to do very little governing. Israel essentially exercises veto control.

Netanyahu was right to propose it is time for “creative, novel thinking,” but his caveats on a Palestinian state doom it from the start.  It is time to discard the two-state premise.

Since both people share the land they call home, their futures are tied together.  They must chart their future together as equals.  As Israelis and Palestinians are already largely governed by one government and one state, it is time that they have an equal voice in that government and an equal voice in determining their shared future.  A shared state providing equal rights and protection under the law to all those who live in this shared homeland is the only way for the two peoples to enjoy peace and prosperity.

The two-state solution is finished, done in by decades of settlement activity entrenching unmovable colonies.  A pluralistic, secular democracy in all of Israel/Palestine, with no partition and no segregation, will be a powerhouse of creativity and cooperation and will enable Israelis and Palestinians to move ahead towards a bright future. What worked in South Africa and a de-segregated American South can work in Israel/Palestine as well.

62 Years of Shame

By Miko Peled
I will never forget celebrating Independence Day in Israel as a child. Yom Ha’atzmaut as we call it in Hebrew was a big day. The main event was the military parade in the streets of Jerusalem and as I recall, it began in the main stadium of Hebrew University. We would sit among dignitaries because my father, the late General Matti Peled, was a member of the Israeli army’s top brass. Such excitement can hardly be described in words. Patton and Centurion tanks drove by, army units would display their colors and, of course, the Israeli air force would put on an aerial show displaying the F-4 “Phantom” fighter jets acquired from the US.
As the most recent Independence Day came and went, I felt dismay. On the one hand, Israel is home to a nation that for centuries was despised, oppressed and nearly exterminated and like the phoenix rose from the ashes. The Hebrew language and culture were revived and a sense of belonging and dignity were restored to many Jews. On the other hand, the price paid by Palestinians was enormous; cities and villages razed, political and social structures destroyed, people removed from their homes, lands confiscated, thousands imprisoned and killed for resisting an ongoing campaign that can only be described as ethnic cleansing.
This is the reality in Israel/Palestine and it matters to the US because America has aligned itself with Israel and generally signed off on its actions. Sadly, instead of initiating progress, every new administration falls into the same pattern: pointlessly trying to resolve the issues of settlements and security and resuscitating the lifeless notion of the Two State Solution.
The US has always held the position that the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are an obstacle to peace but that never stopped Israel from building Settlements. This is true regardless of which party was in power in either country and it is an argument that no American president has been able to win. Israel can’t stop building settlements any more than it can stop calling itself Israel because settlements are what made Israel a reality.
Grabbing and settling the land one dunam at a time is a fundamental philosophy that dates back to the earliest days of Jewish immigration to what was then called Palestine. Building settlements, colonizing, is at the heart of Zionist ideology. The settlements are built for Jews only on land from which Palestinians were evicted. We should note that not one city, village or any other form of settlement has been built for Palestinians since the State of Israel was established in 1948 even though population growth has certainly warranted such development.
As for security, the argument that a nuclear power with a massive military such as Israel could be threatened by the Palestinians, who have never had as much as a simple armored brigade, is not a serious one. Israeli security maintains databases with information about most, if not all, Palestinians. Israel controls every aspect of the life of Palestinians from childhood to old age: travel, employment, school and political life are all monitored by Israel. Even the Palestinian Authority cannot act on many matters without approval from Israel.
When President Obama is ready to take on the Israeli Palestinian conflict he will need to apply a systemic approach which will require head on collision with Israel and with AIPAC. There are several important issues he can raise and providing he has the determination to stand up to Israel and its lobby in the US he will have a positive impact. One issue is the condition of thousands of Palestinian prisoners, imprisoned in Israeli jails and Israeli compliance, or lack thereof, with international law regarding imprisoning foreign nationals. Another issue could be the use of live ammunition and intimidation by the Israeli army to disperse non-violent protests. Alternatively, the administration could take up the issue of Israelis’ disregard of the killing of innocent men, women and children in Gaza.
Since Israel’s establishment, it is estimated that 500 Palestinian towns and villages were leveled and close to one million Palestinians dislocated to make room to settle Jewish immigrants. An estimated 2,000 mosques and countless churches, schools and hospitals were destroyed and in their place were built towns, malls, homes and parks for Jews. After 1967, when for the first time in over 2000 years Jews were in control of all of historic Israel/Palestine, settlement activity spread into the West Bank.
This year, people of conscience might want to take stock of what the last 62 years have yielded. No longer being a child I find it hard to get excited on Yom Ha’atzmaut. Rather, as I see the pain in the eyes of my Palestinian friends and their aging parents I am reminded of the pain in the eyes of voiceless Jewish refugees who wandering in Europe, were victims of a world that didn’t care.

GAZA IS STILL THE ISSUE

By Miko Peled

In the US the Palestinian national struggle is still being ignored and though it seemed the Obama administration might bring a new outlook that has not happened. Palestinian efforts to reign Israeli in through diplomacy get no attention and once again Palestinian are left with no options. As has been the case in the last 40 years, Palestinian attempts to settle the conflict through diplomacy are ignored and when violence erupts, Palestinians are labeled terrorists. The US likes to pretend that peace in Israel/Palestine is a priority and every new administration promises to bring the promised peace to the region only every to fall into the same patterns of inaction and excuses. It is as though Israel and the US are doing everything in their power to bring Palestinians, to a state of hopelessness so that violence will erupt and Israel can justify the violation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Gaza is under siege even though it has no army, air force or navy; no tanks, planes or helicopters. Gaza has no anti aircraft or anti tank missiles, no warning systems and no refuge in which its 1.4 million civilians (including 800,000 children) can hide when the attacks by Israel commence. People wonder why the Egyptians who are fellow Arabs act as willing enforces of a siege that was put in place by Israel and the US.

Egypt is soon to face a major regime change. President Hosni Mubarak is almost eighty-two years old, has no apparent successor and had been grooming his son Gamal to succeed him. The Egyptian people do not care to see a dynasty established in their country so Mubarak needs support from the US and from Israel to make this work. Keeping Gaza under lock and key is a small price to pay to ensure the safe passage of power from father to son.

Ever since President Jimmy Carter brokered the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt, Israel has had no military rival in the region. Its military advantage has allowed it to act with impunity and is the main reason that no significant political progress has been made with the Palestinians or the Syrians. For a peace agreement with either one of these Israel would have to return to pre 1967 borders, and as long as it maintains its military advantage it will not do so.

Just recently, over one thousand delegates from over 40 countries traversed thousands of miles to converge in Cairo and commemorate the first anniversary of Israel’s December 2009 assault on Gaza. Their intention was to travel to Egyptian city of Rafah and from there to enter Gaza and participate in a solidarity march with the people of Gaza. But the Egyptian authorities would not allow it and the majority of the delegates had to remain in Cairo. The Egyptians are adamant that no one enter Gaza.

This resulted in sit ins and hunger strikes and civil disobedience of the sort with which Egyptian are not accustomed and to which they would normally respond with unrestrained violence. So far the Egyptian authorities refrained from shooting presumably because non-Egyptians are carrying out the protests, but they did engage in beat and harass the protesters. In the realm of absolute dictatorships this is hardly surprising.

The fact that such a large and committed group of activists made the effort and put forth a considerable monetary and time commitments for the purpose of demonstrating solidarity with the Palestinians is remarkable and more of the same is likely to happen. Their willingness to confront the Egyptian authorities is noteworthy. Now one may expect that Israeli culpability will be placed front and center. We can assume that when challenged seriously Israel will treat protesters as harsh if not worse than the Egyptians. Two young Americans who confronted the Israeli military during non violent protests have already paid dearly: Rachel Corey was run over and killed by an Israeli army bulldozer in Gaza and Tristan Anderson was shot point blank in face with a tear gas canister by an Israeli soldier in the West Bank, and his fate is uncertain.

Unless the US and Israel begin to move in a direction of Palestinian independence, freedom and equal rights, one may expect more popular resistance. Since Egypt is only a servant in this issue, the protests are sure to engulf Israel and soon. Meanwhile popular sentiment for the Palestinians in general and for Gaza in particular is growing and the question remains, will the US lead or be lead.

September 4 Is a Sad Day.

September 4, 1997 was a sad day.  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.