Peled is the son of an Israeli general and a grandson of one of the signers of Israel’s declaration of independence. He has renounced Zionism and lives in San Diego, which allows him, he says, to meet with Palestinians on a basis of equality that would be difficult in Israel. He was in Seattle in the last few days of September in a national tour to talk up the idea of one state and promote his book, “The General’s Son."
The area of Palestine includes about 6.5 million Israeli Jews and 5.5 million Palestinians. Of the Palestinians, 1.5 million are Israeli citizens who, he says, “can vote but have no influence” and are subject to less favorable laws and practices. The remaining Palestinians live in Israeli-occupied West Bank, which is under military rule, and in Gaza, which is isolated by Israeli blockade.
The argument to justify the Israeli occupation and blockade is that the Palestinians hate Israel and want to destroy it, and that have organizations that shoot rockets at Israeli kibbutzim and send suicide bombers to blow up Israeli buses. In 1997 Peled lost a niece to a suicide bomber. It was a shock, but after more than a decade he sounds almost forgiving about it.
“When you oppress people, this is what happens,” he says.
He visited an Israeli kibbutz on the border of Gaza and was shown a crater where one of the Palestinian rockets had hit, right near a kindergarten. There was a hole in the concrete “the size of a big soccer ball,” and lots of broken glass. No one had been killed, but they could have been.
Compare that, he says, with the damage done in the Israeli army’s invasions of Gaza: whole city blocks blown up by bombs, and hundreds of dead Palestinians, including children. “It’s not only disproportionate, it’s complete madness,” he says. “There is no army on the other side.”
That is what this struggle has been like for decades, he says. It is why there is one state in Palestine—the Israeli state. “It is one state already,” he says.
The goal of the U.S. government is two states, one Israeli and one Palestinian. Peled is convinced that this is never what the leaders of his country wanted, that they have undermined the possibility of it by funding Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, and that it is really too late now to disentangle the two sides. To Peled, the answer is one state that treats everyone equally and favors no particular religion.
But wouldn’t that mean the end of Israel as a Jewish homeland? Officially yes, he says. Jews could still make a home there. Socially and politically they would be a very big part of the place, but it would no longer be a Jewish state. It would be an ordinary state south of Lebanon and west of Jordan.
But are the people of Israel ready for that? No, he says, shaking his head sadly. But he argues that change may come whether they are ready or not, because in a few years Palestinians’ birthrate will make them a majority in historic Palestine.
Peled had an interesting thing to say about the role of Israel in U.S. politics. In America, he said, “if you want a political career” you have to state your support of Israel. “I don’t think they [American politicians] much care about Israel. It’s the price of doing business, so they do it.” In the embedded video here, from a Q-and-A session after a presentation about his book, Peled notes that Israel was mentioned by Obama at the Democratic convention:
“The president gives an acceptance speech and he talks about all these big issues and he says, ‘And we support Israel.’ Who cares if you support Israel? Why do you have to mention this?”