‘Personal Journeys: The Global Impact of Israel’s Dissenting Voices’

Notes taken by Susan Walpole – Facilitate Global Fundraising Dinner, London, 10 April 2013

These notes are of two brief talks by Miko Peled and Ilan Pappe, followed by a Question and Answer (Q & A) session. Views expressed are those of the speakers. Any transcription errors or oversights are my own.

The evening was organised Facilitate Global (FG) a small London based not for profit  NGO promoting human rights, peace-building and international humanitarian law which is not affiliated to any political party.  FG’s CEO and Founder, Soraya Boyd greeted everyone with a warm welcome and introduced us to FG stating that whilst not beholden to any funders (as this affords FG a freedom to work in a simple, effective but holistic way) FG was open to all conscionable people.  She went on to say that “FG holds that the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be at the very core of all fields of human endeavour so as to inform, govern, emphasise, promote and protect the primacy of human dignity and the Right to Life in the most intrinsic sense. It must therefore be seen to be fully evidenced in political, legal, economic, social and cultural terms.”

Soraya explained that “FG is run entirely by a team of dedicated individuals of volunteers, each with a specific field of expertise, experience, knowledge and skill. Our wealth lies in our collective experience and expertise, the one resource that enables each FG team member to learn from one another, a supportive and fertile corpus of knowledge to dip in and out of combining legal, political, humanitarian, economic and cultural perspectives.  Our strength lies in our determination, commitment, dedication to peace, justice and freedom, for we, at FG, are in this for the long haul”.  Soraya spoke on behalf of other FG team members who could not be present due to being located overseas,  conveyed their apologies and sincere appreciation for the support of all attending this evening event, introduced and thanked Dr Faysal Mikdadi (Head of Education, FG) sharing this journey.

Soraya talked about transformation and went on to explain that she too had had a very personal transformation in her life and said that “it can come in many forms and at any point,  that whatever one’s circumstance of birth, the bi-product of adulthood, the path one treads, the question remains: can we change ourselves?  Can we become better human beings?  Honourable enough to recognise our mutual duty of care, compassionate enough to extend the milk of human kindness,  courageous enough to recognise that injustice is injustice no matter how it is packaged and sold to us,  aware enough to recognise the breath and life that course through each and every one of us, mature enough to recognise our shared humanity, responsible enough to recognise the need to change ourselves to see the change so advocated by Gandhi and many others before and after so that we can hope to see the change we want in the world, enabling us all to lead simple, responsible and dignified lives”.

Soraya talked about the theme for the evening’s event: “ ‘Personal Journeys: the global impact of Israel’s dissenting voices’ which Professor Ilan Pappe and Miko Peled would respectively elaborate on by shedding light on “their very own and very personal transformational journeys from nascent ideological conditioning to an all- embracing humanism; reflecting on the impact that challenging dominant ideologies can have politically, socially and personally.”

Before Miko Peled and Professor Ilan Pappe spoke, Soraya first gave us some words from Martin Luther King Jr. which have had and continue to have a profound impact on her to further reflect upon, that:

“As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery.”

“Every man [woman] must decide whether he [she] will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

And then from Albert Einstein:

“Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.”

 

MIKO PELED:

First to speak to us about his personal journey to transformation was Miko Peled.

Miko is a member of a very prominent Zionist family. His grandfather was one of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence which founded the state of Israel in 1948. His father rose to be a General in the IDF helping to capture the West Bank in 1967.

Miko spoke eloquently of the absurdity of the mainstream discourse in which Zionism relates the Jewish people to the ancient Hebrews and thus gives them the right to return to ‘their’ land. He stated that the Jews cannot trace their roots in this way and that their claim to the land being 3000 years old is ridiculous particularly as they tell Palestinians that barely 65 years of claiming the land is absurd and that they should forget it.

He also spoke about the way that criticising Israel and rejecting Zionism have been identified as anti-Semitism. He wondered what supporting Israel and Zionism in killing, ethnically cleansing and imprisoning Palestinians was called!

Miko felt that personal transformation comes with maturity and political awareness.

Growing up Miko explained that the myth of ‘David and Goliath’ as an analogy of Israel-Palestine was powerful in forming the national psyche in Israel. His mother, however, had planted a seed of discontent with her stories of Jews in 1948 taking ownership of Palestinian homes almost before their owners had even arrived in refugee camps. She had refused a house on the basis that she could not take another mother’s home. She had also told Miko stories of the looting she had witnessed.

These stories were problematic for Miko as they contradicted the national story in which Jews were encouraged to believe that the Palestinians had left despite being asked to stay. A moral dilemma ensued for him as he eventually realised that the atrocities committed in various villages and towns had no justification. The national narrative said that the massacres were terrible but they were justified to ensure that there would be a Jewish majority.

Miko also had seeds of doubt about the national narrative from his father, Matti, who had pushed strongly for the 1967 war but who, once the objective of neutralising Egypt was achieved felt that the Palestinian problem had to be resolved or there would be years of Occupation which would bring resistance. Two states were essential if Israel was to avoid a long war of resistance.

Miko’s defining moment in his personal journey was the shock of losing his niece in a suicide attack in Jerusalem in 1997. Once the problem of Palestinian resistance became personal to him as an individual he was able to see that something different had to be done if there were ever to be peace.

Miko told us that he was living in the US at the time and he made a conscious effort to discover Jewish-Palestinian discussion groups. It was the first time he had ever met with Palestinians in a country where they were equal in the eyes of the law. It was this meeting with the ‘other’ and getting to know them as equals and getting to know their culture that led him to the realisation that there was another story which was the opposite of his own narrative.

1948 was a source of pride to Miko and his family as Israel was established and now he was coming to understand that the story he had grown up on was a lie.

He started to travel through the West Bank and in 2005 he began to join the weekly peaceful demonstrations against the Wall in Bil’in and began to spend time in Palestinian communities. There were several years of painful journeying through the daily lives of ordinary Palestinians with all the obstructions and humiliations they suffered at the hands of the IDF.

Miko argued that in doing his national service in the IDF he was the terrorist and Jamal, a Palestinian activist he had met who had been imprisoned for the murder of an Israeli soldier and who had been released in a prisoner swap was a freedom fighter. Miko told us that the sole objective of the IDF is terrorism.

Miko summarised his talk by offering these thoughts and a possible solution:

*Israel is pretending to be a Jewish state when some 50% of its inhabitants are not Jews

*There is pretence that this is OK

*The issue is to do with values

*There must be respect for human rights, civil rights and democracy

*There must be a real democracy which includes everyone

*Israel must stop being an undemocratic apartheid state

Miko thinks a one-state solution is now the only viable solution.

 

PROFESSOR ILAN PAPPE

Ilan is an Israeli historian who had a transformational journey rooted in academic study.

Ilan told us that the transformation of Israeli Jews is important through their individual stories. The conditions for changing the reality on the ground are not there yet. He suggested that the following reasons were part of the issue:

*Western public opinion has been staunchly on Israel’s side for more than 30 years but there is a tipping point against them now.

*Lack of successful advocacy of issues to do with representation on the Palestinian side.

*The idea of changing the Israeli mind would be the final stage in the transformation on the ground.

There is a paradigm:

How can Jews fundamentally change the idea of the Past, Present and Future? The infrastructure of the education system in Israel needs to be changed to allow perception to change. Moral issues, values and facts all need the psychological reality of change.

Ilan also said that when groups of Jews meet to discuss the situation members are often unwilling to think ‘out of the box’ and to speak accordingly. However, if someone starts to speak then others follow and should be able to change.

More Jews have these stories of personal transformation. (Ilan mentioned a book of such Jews’ personal transformation by Avigail Abarbanel ‘Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists’)

Ilan still feels that there is an intransigence and racism towards Palestinians which is entrenched and is difficult to change.

He commented on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and support for the Palestinian’s struggle and said that it was growing.

Ilan believed that a small group could change and it was these Jews who could bring more change.

Ilan then went on to outline his own transformational journey. 1982 was very important to ordinary Zionist families. The trauma of 1982 lay in the fact that it was touted as a ‘war of no choice’ with Lebanon and that the media had lied about it. The fact was that it was an occupation of Lebanon by Israel and the media had played a key role in misleading Israelis over the ensuing abuses of Human Rights.

Ilan also felt that the ‘Truth’ of 1948 must be told but that it was even more important to expose the lie and fabrication of the regime since 1948. He believed that he had been cheated by the government and wanted to protest the lie of Occupation. Basically there was a loss of faith in the political elite.

Ilan said that it was necessary to be ‘personally’ offended to open up to change and that education needed to be personally emotive.

In 1982 he was in the UK and gave a series of talks hosted by the Labour Friends of Israel. The Israeli Ambassador suffered an attempted assassination and Ilan was contacted by the Second in Command at the Israeli Embassy to go to Liverpool and give a talk. He was told that he had been selected to go as it was ‘too dangerous’ for the Second to go.

Ilan returned to Israel in 1984 and felt that he had returned to a lunatic asylum. His views had changed whilst abroad and this was the start of his own transformation. He realised that when you are in Israel, bizarre things look normal. When he returned these same bizarre things were in fact bizarre.

He joined the Israeli Communist Party to be separate from conventional wisdom and focused on the historical study of 1948. The communists were mainly Palestinian and through study and contact with them he was able to ‘cross the Rubicon’. This crossing gave him peace as an Israeli Jew but the price of leaving the ‘tribe’ was treason. Ilan told us that he and Miko were now considered traitors in Israel.

He also stated:

*In the age of the internet and social media the West is more likely to hear about what is going on in Israel and the changes in attitude are necessary in order to change the reality.

*Despite BDS none of Palestine is free.

*Civil disobedience etc. must add something new to the situation.

*Settler generations are still colonialist.

He concluded by saying that either there would be mutual destruction or one democratic state where all are equal would emerge. “Equality must be formed”.

 

There followed a Q&A session in which both Miko and Ilan responded to issues raised by the audience:

If a Left Wing government were in, would it discuss peace?

*1967 is a continuation of 1948.

*It is a fallacy that a Left wing Liberal government would be willing to discuss peace. There are 3 things on which they will not shift: negotiations re the Jordan Valley, expansion in Jerusalem and no leeway on the West Bank.

*They are not willing to make peace and it is important to recognise that peace with Palestinians is not possible because Israel is for Jews only and the Zionist paradigm is no compromise on anything.

Opinions on Right of Return for Palestinians?

*Miko said there had to be hope that a democratic state would happen and that if we wanted change we had to engage in the struggle.

*Israel is the obstacle to peace.

*He thinks that there will be a return.

Palestinians have not played the media game correctly particularly in America. How can the core message of Palestinians be got across?

*Ilan responded to this by telling us that as early as 1911 Palestinian newspapers were not taking the Zionist threat seriously. Discussion of the threat was on pages 3 and 4. By 1912 however, there was a complete supplement about Zionism which made it clear that they knew Zionism would be there death knell.

*Why was nothing done? Clannish politics, Holocaust and British Politics.

*Because Zionism was not opposed at the beginning, it gained immunity and it became more difficult to oppose.

*Historically there are positive developments: Israel is losing the moral high ground and its military underpinning by the USA is being challenged.

*Israel is holding emergency meetings regarding legitimisation; Israeli Ambassadors in the West are facing delegitimisation and are eager to get back to Israel for a sense of normalcy.

*Palestinians in the 1950s and 1960s focused on National Rights. Now they are focusing on Human and Civil Rights. Ilan thinks this is definitely the way forward. People cannot argue against Human rights. You start the process in the West and then go to the rest of the world.

*Zionism is colonialism. Ilan recommended a book ‘Settler Colonialism’ written in Australia and said it was well worth reading as it made clear the concepts behind settlements.

*Change comes through penetrating Academia, the Media and Politics and in understanding that it is the USA where this must be done.

Religion is too important in the conflict. Zionism has been inextricably linked to Judaism. How can it be changed?

*Zionism is a secular movement which uses a belief in God’s Promise to underpin and justify Israel.

*Israel is secular and it is a common misapprehension that it is a religious state.

*Orthodox Jews are anti-Zionist.

*Settler colonialism creates a new state and carries out genocide of the local population.

*Israel’s motive is not religion, it is nationalist. Israel has created its own religion.

*Ideology is as powerful as religion. American Jews like Zionism as a secular religion.

*The Bible is described within Israel as a history book and is taught as such.

The Holocaust was terrible, but why are the Jewish people who suffered it now inflicting the same kind of action on Palestinians?

*Zionism and Judaism are two separate entities.

*Those who suffered in the Holocaust are not the same people perpetrating crimes against Palestinians now. These people are Zionists not Jews.

*Zionism and Zionists do not represent Judaism or Jews.

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Some feedback

‘I am grateful for inviting me to last evening’s gathering. It was informative,inspiring and enjoyable. Many thanks for proving this opportunity. I look forward to similar gathering in the future. (Ghayas)’

Thank you. It is for us all to thank you rather than you thanking us. I felt that yesterday’s event was a hugely successful one because of all the work that you put into it. The evening went so well and both Ilan and Miko were inspirational when they spoke to us. Thank you for making such a wonderful evening possible. (Faysal)’

‘We had a wonderful time. 3 very special people and of course your organization make it possible … The great thing about the evening is meeting you, above all things your honesty and integrity and passion shown through. (Rita)’

‘Thank you! We had a wonderful evening and it did in fact inspire us to remain engaged and do what we can.. Both Miko and Illan were terrific and were a good compliment to one another. It was nice to be in a room of liken minded people instead of in front of a computer screen. (Mary Ellen and Anwar)’

‘a great evening with the chance to meet dedicated people trying to bring justice for Palestinians. (Tony)’

‘Thank you for the most wonderful inspiring evening congratulations. (Jose)’

‘Successful evening on all counts :) (Sophia)’

‘Many thanks …. Miko’s  talk was the most succinct and bets ordered I have heard. (David)’

‘Thank you so much for such an excellent evening It was indeed inspiring, uplifting and I felt saddened for those people longing to return home. (Tina)’

‘I enjoyed it and it was nice meeting you. The speakers were excellent and the food was delicious (Joseph)’

‘Such an interesting night (Ellie)’

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Thanks for links to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmnDlIoLkPQ:  youtubed by aliencoconut, filmed by Antoine Raffoul and edited by Ryan Say

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fq-8QQPddI8: filmed and youtubed by aliencoconut

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