Miko Peled talking:
– Special forces women, they always have like models. Women that look like models in special forces gear.
Not in those days. Thats a new phenomenon, this kind of semi porn. But just an example, when I grew up, Netanyahu and his brother were in the military and they were good friends. I would see Bibi come home with his uniform and he was an officer in one of these special forces units and so on, that image was so powerful. So a lot of us young guys, that was our model, thats what we wanted to be like. We didnt know about the politics.
The way its portrayed is this liberal brand of Zionism says this is our land, this is our right, we must have a strong military to protect it. We may have to make sure that we dont do things that are immoral. We have to maintain a moral army. We do maintain a moral army from time to time. There might be accidents or things that are wrong but basically we maintain the moral high ground. As a good soldier thats what you do. You go in, you do your best and of course you make sure from the inside that you do the right thing when its up to you.
But there was absolutely no discuss on whether or not I should sever at any point at any time. This was obviously a given. In fact, we look forward to it. Me and my friends we look forward to that moment, you come home in uniform and you carry that semi-automatic. Israeli soldiers take their weapon home. Theres a prestige that comes with this. Like I said, much of it is vanity. Not all of it is patriotism. Although its painted with patriotism.
So anyway, so thats what I do. I volunteer, I go through basic training, I do all this stuff. Im in this particular unit for a whole year. And as Im being trained, I go through several experiences which I just dont understand. I talk about this in the book. The chapter in the book its called the Red Beret. I remember, we used to march at night. Marches were always at night. Very long marches. Night long marches. And we were walking through fields with crops and were trampling these crops.
Now were in the West Bank. So, these are Palestinian fields. Many of the big Israeli army bases were in the West Bank at the time. And I run up to the sergeant and I say, look this must be some mistake here because were trampling somebodys crops. You know of course its shut up and keep marching, you dont talk to your Sergeant when youre in training. So off we go. Thats what we do.
Another experience later, were patrolling cities in the West Bank. Were taken by bus to the outskirts of I believe it was Ramallah and we have our officer, our Lieutenant gives us some orders. Were given batons and these plastic handcuffs. And Im looking, Im going were not cops. Why are we being given batons and handcuffs? Were infantry soldiers. Were commandos. One of the things our lieutenant says is, you are walking up and down, youre marching up the streets. Anybody so much as looks at you, you break every bone in their body.
Now were fully armed top to bottom unit of infantry soldiers. Were going to be marching up and down a city. Everyones going to be looking at us. Hows anyone not going to be looking at us? Its such a weird thing right. What are they supposed to beat everybody up and break their bones? I mean how does this all really make sense. I mean theres no time to think because youre given the order and then off you go. Youre on the bus then off you go. Youre given orders and you march up and down. You know what I mean? Everything is very fast.
Theres no room for discussion or thinking. When youre a soldier your lieutenant is like god. But little by little I was seeing these things.
The way Israel does it is much more subtle. So we grew up, my generation particularly on the myth of the heroism of 1948. And the morality of our guys. At the same time, we learned stories about massacres and terrible things that had happened. The message is given in a much more subtle and roundabout ways.
For example, there was a story of 35 soldiers who went, a unit that went on its way to some battle and on their way they saw a woman and a child. They didnt harm them. Even though they were Arabs. Later on it turned out that that woman ran and warned people in the village that they were coming and they were all killed.
Now you conclude what you conclude, you understand what you understand from this. See nothing has to be told. You dont have to be told that you shouldve shot them. The story is evident and these 35 are considered great heroes. Everybody talks about them. You know theres a kibbutz actually named after them. So, those are the kinds of stories that you learn growing up so you dont need to be told the rest of it.
We marched up and down. Nothing was going on. This was the late 1980s. everything was quite peaceful really on the face of it. At least on the surface, everything was quite peaceful. So, there was no reason to do anything and we never did anything. But then a year into it I had knee surgery and that was when I was sent to become a medic, fully intending to return to my unit, to my team as a medic. But the medic course was about 3 and a half months long and while I was going through that course I had time to reflect on all the things that Id experienced and this whole image of the fighter, of the warrior, the red beret that I had already had and what it meant and where it was going. Putting things in context of the occupation in 1967 and it was clear to me that Im not going back there. Theres no way that I can do this. The moral high ground that I thought we maintained was a bluff.
it was just a gradual process that I realized. You know the medical corps is slightly more liberal and people who are more liberal anyway who thought the way I used to think before I as in the military. It was kind of a coming home moment in a way. Saying this is not who I am, this is not what I believe in. There were incursions already into Lebanon where Israeli commandos would go in and kill them and civilians were killed. So, there was already a sense that something is not right.
– full-scale Lebanon invasion
what happened was I remained on that base as an instructor. I never went back to the unit. My unit of course had gone to Lebanon like all combat units did. Im in this base as an instructor and really the only thing that was different for us is that we taught shorter courses and much faster because the army needed more medics. Then there was a sense of real betrayal because there was a moment that it was clear that the government was saying were only going in for a 40 kilometer incursion while the troops were already in Beirut.
So, it clearly was not a 40 kilometer incursion. Then theres Sabra and Shatila massacres. My entire belief system.
These are two Palestinian refugee camps, Sabra and Shatila, in southern part of Beirut that Israel didnt actually go in and do the killing but they closed off the they sealed the camps and they gave support to the Phalangist Christians who were actually committing the massacres. And Israel was supporting these killers.
there was an inquiry and it was clear that Israel had I mean Israel was occupying Lebanon. So it was obvious Israel had something to do with it and the stories start coming out very, very quickly and then there was an inquiry and Ariel Sharon who was Defense Minister was found responsible and so on. But it was very clear from the very beginning that this was something Israel was behind. Even though they didnt do the actual killing. The Israeli military was behind it.
At the very first anti-war protest he spoke. He said, this is the first time in the history of the state of Israel that there is a anti-war protest while the war is going on. And he became a strong supporter of the soldiers who refused to go into Lebanon. And supporter refuser movement and so on.
Of course, he was unique in that. Very few people supported that. Certainly not former generals. There was a huge break of trust and faith in the system and the military. You know and it was clear that this was the true face of the state of Israel in many, many ways although hundreds of thousands came out to protest against Sharon and against the massacres. B
But it was very, very clear that this was, things that Id been taught, the things that I believed in were lies. You know. It wasnt just me. It was a whole generation of us that kind of went through that process.
I already had my red beret and I gave it up. When I went back after my. When I came at the end of my course to become medic, and I remained in that base, first thing I did was get rid of. Because the symbols that you earn are yours. You can wear the red beret even if you dont go back and serve as one. But I said I dont the symbols. I dont want anyone to know. I have nothing to do with all of this. This has nothing to do with me, this is not who I am. I dont care for these symbols. Its all vanity. And it is all vanity. So somebody else can have it.
Then I wasnt involved in anything. I went overseas. I studied. I started a martial arts career. I did you know, my was kind of
I didnt get to the US until several years later, intending to stay for a year or two. Then eventually I opened a business up in our karate school and just started a life here.
Completely disengaged from Israel, from Palestine, from the whole thing. And I talk about it in the book too, the moment where I decided which way my life was going to go and I decided this was going to be my path and that was it. Then, much later on in 1997, suddenly Im brought back into this. Violently brought back into this.
It was the mid 1990s. It was a lot of suicide bombing. A lot of violence going on and my father had already passed away. He passed away immediately after Oslo. The Oslo agreement was signed. And I go back to Jerusalem for the funeral and its a kind of horrifying experience thats really hard to describe in words.
When you see this little coffin of a child go into the ground and you see the people you love, your family just completely broken you know. Theres no way to describe it. Its horrifying.
She was in street with friends and they were killed.
She was 13.
And this was the second or third in a series of very violent suicide attacks. So anyways that was the reality. Thats something that happened and then when I describe this in the book when I arrived at my sisters apartment, this was 2 days later because I had to fly. It was packed with people who came to mourn, including Palestinians because Palestinians who knew my father. They came to express their heartfelt sorrow and regret that this has taken place.
And by the way when I meet Palestinians everywhere, everyday, Palestinians come up to me and express their sorrow at this. Then I felt that something was wrong and something I had to discover. I had to understand something here. Then when I came back to the United States, I was looking for ways to get engaged. To talk to people, to find Palestinians, Israelis, anybody. Eventually I came across something that was taking place at the time, which were Jewish-Palestinian dialogue groups. This was in San Diego. There were several of them around the country and there was some news about them. They were called living room dialogue groups where Israelis that were Jews and Palestinians would meet and talk and I became engaged.
I started participating in one of these groups and that was the first time I ever met Palestinians.
The first thing my sister said when she was asked about retaliation and revenge and whos responsible was first of all, dont talk to me about retaliation, dont talk to me about killing more people. She said no real mother would want this to happen to any other mother. It was grief. In terms of whos responsible she said, well who is it thats maintaining this brutal oppression and occupation of other people? Denying them water and food and travel and shooting their children in the schools as theyre in their schoolyards and so on? You know, we are maintaining this and the Israeli government is responsible for all of these deaths including my nieces death. Thats what my sister said.
So, that was the approach immediately that she took and that her husband took and kind of that was the approach that was taken you know, individually and collectively. I think it has to do with the fact that we had already been exposed to the fact that it was an injustice. We knew what was happening. Our father had already, wed been indoctrinated by him as to the reality of the Palistinians. Although everything was within the West Bank and Gaza. Nothing was ever talked beyond that paradigm. You know, the state of Israel is fine. Theres a problem in the West Bank and Gaza.
It wasnt until I actually met Palestinians for the first time and ironically the first time I met Palestinians was not in Jerusalem where I was born and raised even though its a mixed city supposedly, its in San Diego, its here in the United States. Because Jerusalem is a very segregated city, its a very racist city. The entire countrys actually segregated. Thats when I am exposed for the first time to this other narrative about 1948. What made the group that I was in unique is that 1948 was discussed.
In many of the other groups the Jews and if there were any Israelis than the Israelis made it clear that 1948 is not something we talk.
– That calls into question the very nature of the existence of the state.
The very legitimacy, exactly. Thats the holy grail. Thats something that we hold above everything else. We can talk about everything past that. 1967 and so on. This particular group broke all the rules. It just so happened that I was in that group. Everybody told their stories and their stories came from 1948. The stories of their family, the stories of how they ended in Kuwait or how they ended up in a refugee camp and how they ended up in the United States and so on and so forth.
So Im sitting with these people who look nice, decent, you know friendly people. Educated and everything. For the first time. They happen to be Palestinians. I feel a really strong connection to them. Many of them are from Jerusalem like I was. Yet theyre telling me something that makes absolutely no sense. Because I come from a place that I know what happened in 1948 because my family experienced it and they wouldnt lie to me. The entire narrative that was taught to me, my family was a part of. So, what I know must be true.
But these people are saying something thats completely the opposite that absolutely makes no sense.
That was the first step. Meeting Palestinians was really the first introduction I had that there was another story. I didnt even know there existed another narrative, that there existed another story to 1948 because were never taught that. Then I start my own kind of investigation. Ilan Pappé and some of the other Israeli historians we began writing about this. Their books came out right around that time questioning the entire story of 1948.
This is like 2000, 2001. This stuff starts coming out and I actually called my brother. My older brother taught political science in Tel Aviv and I said to him, I was sitting with these Palestinians and they were telling me these stories and its not because theyre anti-Semitic or theyre extremists. This is not the issue. Then he said, well you should go check out Ilan Pappé and some of these other guys and what theyve been writing because that will give you a good idea about what these people are talking about. So that was kind of what I did.
Then when I would go back home I would venture into Palestinians towns and that was the first time I ever drove into a Palestinian town within what is considered Israel. In other words Nazareth and [inaud.] and all these towns that are predominately Palestinian-Arab. But theyre within the safe boundaries of the state of Israel. Theyre all Israeli citizens. So theyre kind of good Palestinians, safe Palestinians.
not even allowed to go to the West Bank.
Were not supposed to go but we go of course. And Im beginning to experience the vast difference between the sphere where I grew up which is clean and safe and Jewish and orderly and this chaos which is the Palestinian towns. You know of course at first you dont understand why is this such a difference? Theyre citizens, were citizens. We always thought that they live the same way that we did. You know from time to time we get a glimpse and wed wonder why is it so backward here you know? Of course, we thought something was wrong with them, which was really what the racist ideology teaches us. That the reason the people in the other is the way they are is because theres something wrong with them. Not because they were deprived of our privilege.
Then I start driving into the West Bank. Around 2005 I drove by myself for the first time to the village of Bilin in the West Bank. Somebody told me that they had started this new nonviolent popular resistance movement. Thats where they began these Friday marches. These Friday protests. So Id rented a car with Israeli license plates and I drove into the West Bank and the whole way, once I got into the West Bank, the roads with the potholes and its no more clean and its not this beautiful-y surface highways and these Arab villages everywhere and olive trees.
Of course all I saw was an Arab waiting around some corner wanting to kill me. And Im driving through, driving through, driving through until I get to Bilin and I thought that this was going to be my last day on earth, theres no way Im coming home. They can identify me. Im clearly an Israeli, Ive got Israeli license plates. Its a rented car. I mean you know, its everything I was always told you should never do, you know.
not only nothing happened, many good things happened as a result of it.
So many good things actually did happen as a result of that and I go back there all the time. Its not even a question. Although the checkpoints are much tighter now. Theyre not just kind of a bunch of soldiers and some locks. Its like big terminals and all that kind of stuff so the travel is more difficult. But the West Bank is very pores so its not a problem.
But that was when I began remember being in Bilin. Actually it was that visit to Bilin and were walking with some of the guys and seeing the settlement that was being built on their land. Thats when it dawned on me that settlement is really not the word. These are big cities. Billions of dollars are invested here. This isnt going away ever. Theres no way. This whole two state solution nonsense, and theyre talking about how this idea that maybe theyll be on day compensated, theyll be given some land somewhere else. You know trading land or all this nonsense.
I thought this is absurd. They built a huge city here. Many of them. These are not little farms or little villages. Were talking about massive, massive construction and massive investment. This isnt going anywhere. This whole two state solution is nonsense. That was when I had the moment of clarity. I said, this is nonsense. The only way forward is complete equal rights and one democratic state and its not a Jewish state. Its a state of all of its people and thats it. Thats the only way these guys are ever going to be compensate. Its the only way these guys are going to have any rights at all. And thats the end of it.
— source therealnews.com