Powerful, intimate memoir from Israeli peace activist Miko Peled

The countdown clock is now ticking fast, toward the publication of Miko Peled’s amazing and powerful memoir, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. The book traces Miko’s journey from being born, in 1961, into a family that was at the core of the Jewish-Israeli elite to, now, being a visionary and gutsy activist in the cause of equal rights for all in Israel/Palestine, and a rights-based solution to the deadly conflict between the two peoples.
I am so happy that my company, Just World Books, has been able to work with Miko to make this long-planned book a reality. Our editors have been doing a fabulous job, and we should have the first copies in hand in the early days of March. And did I mention that Alice Walker has contributed a wonderful Foreword to it?
As we’ve all been working on the book, I’ve increasingly been reminded of an earlier book that some 20 years ago captured my attention both by the quality of its writing and by the morally gripping content of the tale it told. That was My Traitor’s Heart, by the South African writer Rian Malan. You see Malan, too, like Miko Peled, had grown up in the bosom of the tightknit elite that ruled his country… And in both cases, that government, feeling itself embattled, was committing major rights abuses against large, disenfranchised swathes of the population under its control… And Malan, too, like Miko Peled, spent some time outside the oppressive hothouse/coccoon of the land of his birth and came to the realization that the only future for his country and the national group of which his family was a part was for the ciuntry’s ruling group to learn to share power and to start to deal with all the people whose lives they had been controlling on a basis of equality and mutual respect, rather than continuing an oppressive and increasingly morally deadening reliance on mechanisms of force and control…
If you haven’t read Malan’s amazing book, I urge you to do so. But the tale he tells is now a part of history. The tale that Miko Peled tells, by contrast, has a burning urgency to it! In Israel/Palestine, the oppression continues, on a daily basis; and the unresolved conflict between the two peoples continues to blight the lives of both of them (though very asymmetrically so.)
There are several books out now in the west, in which Jewish citizens of western countries wrestle publicly with some of the anguish they feel over the fact that the Zionist project in which an earlier generation of western Jews invested so many of their– often politically liberal– hopes and dreams has now spawned a government and system that has turned increasingly to the right, and has aligned itself increasingly with the most rightwing and oppressive forces in western society.
There are also a number of works of great scholarship by Jewish-Israeli historians and geographers in which they document the past practices of the Zionist leaders and planners in an unflinching and unvarnished way, laying bare for all to see the ethnic cleansings and other, often still continuing, acts of administrative violence that lie at the heart of all the ‘success’ the Zionist project has claimed until today.
But Miko Peled’s book is the first book I know of that combines the features of being a reflective and very intimate memoir, by an Israeli, of what it felt like for him to grow up in the bosom of the Jewish-Israeli elite in Jerusalem– one grandfather was a signer of Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948; his father was a revered general during the 1967 war; his older sister used when young to frolic at the local poo alongside Benjamin Netanyahu and other children of the world Zionist elite– with having acquired enough perspective from his time outside his country to be able to see its conflicts and dysfunctionalities with new eyes.
Hence, the comparison I make with Rian Malan. Malan’s family, too, had been part of the innermost core of the elite that ruled his country. He had a great-uncle who was the prime minister who wrote the country’s infamous apartheid laws. He had an uncle who was defense minister in the 1980s. And yet, he rebelled… In his case, it was his involvement in the country’s anti-conscription campaign that led him into pro-democratic and pro-rights engagement.
Miko Peled’s story is a not entirely the same, of course. In his case, it was the killing of his beloved niece Smadar, at the hands of a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in 1997 that first propelled his activism. (His activism was nurtured by way of the Bereaved Families Forum, and involvement in a local Israeli-Palestinian dialogue group in Southern California.) Miko came to his activism when he was already significantly more mature than Malan– and therefore, perhaps, the commitment that his activism has required has necessarily had to be deeper. And Miko Peled has been able to draw on considerably more support, in his quest for justice and meaning, from members of his family than, as I recall, Rian Malan was ever able to find…
Miko’s dad, I should add, was indeed a much-decorated in the Israeli military; and in the run-up to the 1967 war he part of a hawkish claque of generals that urged– some say, virtually forced– the country’s civilian government to launch a “pre-emptive” war. But Miko’s dad, Matti Peled, was also, from almost the very moment that that war ended, also himself a peace activist. Indeed, from then until his death in 1995, Matti Peled ran many very real risks for peace, being one of the Jewish-Israeli pioneers of the campaign to open up negotiations with the PLO…
Well obviously, I urge you all to buy Miko’s book— and to tell all your friends about it! You can place your orders here. I honestly think that this book, even more than Rian Malan’s, will be one that can transform the political calculus, and therefore the world.

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