Listen hard to the voice of an Israeli who embraces true democracy

Earlier this week I met and spent time with the remarkable Miko Peled, an Israeli/American whose positions on the Middle East place him in that rare Jewish space; seeing Jews and Palestinians equally.

From yesterday‘s Canberra Times:

His father was an Israeli general in the 1967 war and his niece was killed by Palestinian suicide bombers in 1997, but Miko Peled – a peace activist in Australia for a national speaking tour – is fighting to end what he calls the apartheid state of Israel.

In Canberra last week, he said if Palestine succeeded at the United Nations at gaining statehood, the ability to negotiate with Israel and to have greater international support would be much greater.

”I argue for a secular democracy in Israel,” he said. Currently, different law applies to different people.

A secular democracy would give each person one vote so everyone could travel and work freely, he said.

His comments were slammed yesterday as appalling by a spokeswoman for the Israeli embassy in Canberra.

She said it was easy for Mr Peled, who lives in the US, to make such comments. He did not face missiles being shot from Gaza.

”This is our reality,” she said.

She said Israel was not an apartheid state and that 20per cent of its population were Arabs who had full rights. ”My neighbour is a Muslim.”

Mr Peled said the 5.5million Palestinians could not continue to be ignored by the 5.5million Israelis.

”I think it is inevitable that the transformation from an apartheid state to a democracy will come.” Within the next five to 10 years there would have to be a change.

The embassy’s spokeswoman said Israel’s official policy for peace was a two-state solution. ”We know we will have to give up land.”

It was possible up to 300,000 people would have to be moved from the West Bank, she said. But first, the Palestinians must have a sincere willingness to negotiate, she said. ”This is a huge thing. Most of the pain will come from our side.”

Mr Peled said Israel had almost 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners, most of whom had never thrown a rock or touched a gun.

He said a new generation of Palestinian leadership was committed to non-violent resistance. It was this – not the apartheid wall – that had brought most violence to an end.

But non-violent protests were met with brutal violence by Israel’s army, he said.

On the death of his sister’s daughter by suicide bombers, Mr Peled said, ”It was very clear the culprits were not the Palestinians.”

The two young men who had chosen to kill themselves had come from a place of despair in which they had been placed by Israel, he said.

When asked if she had wanted retaliation, his sister responded that no mother would want the same thing to happen to another mother.

Given his family’s background, why was he now supporting the Palestinians? ”Supporting the Palestinian cause is the right thing to do,” Mr Peled said.

The Palestinians had been the victims of ethnic cleansing and had been waiting for some kind of recognition for more than 60 years.

”I think for people of conscience and people who love peace, there is no question here that supporting the Palestinians is the right thing to do,” he said.

From being a very patriotic Zionist, he had learned through a very painful process of the Palestinian plight. That process had begun in the US when he participated in Jewish-Palestinian dialogue groups.

”I started hearing stories I could not believe. Stories of displacements, stories of massacres … [which] prompted me to make a choice.”