Miko Peled (born 1961 in Jerusalem) is an Israeli self-described peace activist, author, and karate instructor. He has written one book, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, and he has travelled extensively, giving talks about his experiences to audiences across the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia.
Born and raised in Jerusalem in 1961, Peled grew up in a prominent Zionist family; his grandfather, Avraham Katsnelson, signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence. His father, Mattityahu Peled, fought in the 1948 war and served as a general in the war of 1967; later, after the Israeli cabinet ignored his investigation of a 1967 alleged Israeli war crime, he became a peace activist and leading proponent of an Israeli dialogue with the PLO. He condemned the Israeli military for seizing the West Bank, Gaza, Sinai and the Golan Heights, calling the war a "cynical campaign of territorial expansion". He was marginalized and shunned for his activism and call for a two-state solution. Palestinian activist Susan Abdulhawa has described Peled's father, who died in 1995, as “a man that many of us Palestinians could not figure out whether to love or hate” and whom “many notable Palestinians” nicknamed “Abu Salam” (Father of Peace).
Miko Peled followed his father’s footsteps at first, joining Israel’s Special Forces after high school and earning the red beret, but he soon grew to regret his decision. He surrendered his status as soon as he earned it, becoming a medic, and finally, disgusted by the 1982 Lebanon invasion, he buried his service pin in the dirt. He then distanced himself from activism until 1997, becoming a sixth-degree black belt in karate and moving first to Japan, then to San Diego, California, USA. For a time he was involved in activism. One evening in 1983, however, he skipped a Peace Now demonstration in Jerusalem to attend karate class, and on that evening a grenade attack by a right-wing extremist killed one of the demonstrators. “Peled took this as a sign,” according to one interview, and consequently “followed the path of karate – a practice of non-violence...that teaches one to 'overcome insurmountable obstacles.'” This path “that took him to Japan and eventually to San Diego, where he settled with his wife and family” and worked as a karate instructor. He is a sixth-degree black belt.
In 1997, Peled’s 13-year-old niece Smadar was killed in a suicide attack in Jerusalem. At her funeral, according to an article summarizing Peled's book, Ehud Barak, who had just been elected to lead the opposition, explained that “in order to win votes he must disguise his real intentions as a 'peacemaker.” In reply, Peled said, “Why not tell the truth ... That this and similar tragedies are taking place because we are occupying another nation and that in order to save lives the right thing to do is to end the occupation and negotiate a just peace with our Palestinian partners?”
The murder of Smadar, and his sister Nurit’s insistence that it was caused by the occupation, “jolted him back into Middle Eastern reality,” an interviewer has written. “The activist side of me that I’d been suppressing,” Peled has said, “suddenly burst out. It became stronger than anything.” He joined a Palestinian/Jewish-American dialogue group in San Diego, where he “found that the Jewish Americans he met – with their 'New York humor and deli food' – were more foreign than the hummus, tabouleh and warm hospitality offered by his new Palestinian friends. He was shocked by random anti-Arab venom spewed casually by Jewish Americans he met who assumed he shared their views, in an atmosphere of growing Islamophobia.” He also befriended Nader Elbanna, “a Palestinian from Nazareth who accompanied him on a dual lecture series at rotary clubs.” Thus began a process whereby, in the words of Abdulhawa, Peled “dismantled a lifetime of racist assumptions and replaced them with something more human and tender.”
Returning to activism, Peled decided that the two-state solution his father had promoted would no longer suffice, and began to support for the creation of a single democratic state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians. He claims that Israel is an apartheid state that must go, and that a single-state solution is closer than many people think because of the changing mindsets of many Israelis, American Jews, and Holocaust survivors. The Israeli government, he has written, is “a radical Zionist regime,” and Israel is a country where “half of the population lives in what it thinks is a Western democracy while keeping the other half imprisoned by a ruthless defense apparatus that is becoming more violent by the day.”
Peled has traveled in Palestine, teaching karate to children in refugee camps and engaging in nonviolent activism. He has also lectured in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK.. He writes a blog in which he calls for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the removal of Israel’s separation wall, and the institution of equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians. “As an Israeli that was raised on the Zionist ideal of a Jewish state,” he has written on his blog by way of introduction, “I know how hard it is for many Jews and Palestinians to let go of the dream of having a state that is exclusively 'our own.' The articles, the stories and the pictures in this blog are meant to make a single point: For the good of both nations, the Separation Wall must come down, the Israeli control over the lives of Palestinians must be defied so that a secular democracy where all Israelis and Palestinian live as equals be established in our shared homeland.”
Peled's blog quotes a friend of his who recounts how he “had to face his fears” before fully embracing his vision of a single-state solution. “Driving alone to the Palestinian towns in the Galilee or the West Bank in a car with license plates that identified him as Israeli, Miko imagined a terrorist lurking behind every curve of the winding road following the rolling hills. Heading towards the village of Bil’in for the first time, he silently questioned if he was crazy to trust 'these people'? Peled was afraid but kept on driving until he found the village and was greeted by friends.”
Peled is a regular contributor to online publications like Electronic Intifada and the Palestine Chronicle. He has been interviewed and profiled on National Public Radio, Radio Pacifica, and on local television. He is quoted extensively in Palestine Inside Out, a book by UCLA professor Saree Makdisi, who quotes Peled’s articles quite extensively. He has given talks and participated in panels at the Joan Kroc Institute, San Diego State University, Southwestern College, Palomar College and at a number of synagogues, churches, and mosques.
“Israel has been on a mission to destroy the Palestinian people for over six decades,” Peled has said. “Why would anyone not give solidarity to the Palestinian people?” He has argued that Israel's actions in the 1967 war were not a response to a real threat but acts of bald aggression. And he has said that “every single Israeli city is a settlement” and that “expressing solidarity with Palestinians is the most important thing people can do.”
On his Twitter feed, Peled has written that “IDF lusts for blood,” has called the peace process “a process of apartheid & colonization,” and has accused Israeli officials of “ethnic cleansing.” In his blog posts, he repeatedly refers to the IDF as an “Israeli terrorist organization” that is part of a “well-oiled ethnic cleansing machine.” He has also written that Israel's educational system is designed to turned Israeli children into racists who view Palestinians “as culturally inferior, violent and bent on the annihilation of the Jews, and...void of a true national identity,” and “as a problem that must be solved and as a threat that must be eliminated.” He has decried “absurd comparisons like that of Yasser Arafat to Hitler, the Palestinians to Nazis, and the Palestinian resistance to Al Qaeda.”
Peled supports the movement for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Giving a talk in Queensland, Australia, he supported a BDS campaign against the Israeli-owned Max Brenner chain of chocolate shops, part of the Strauss group of companies, which, he said, “supports a terrorist organisation, the Golani Brigade.” BDS, he argued, was a “totally legitimate” means of “trying to stop this Israeli armed juggernaut.”
Peled wrote in a June 2012 op-ed for the Los Angeles Times that “Israel is faced with two options: Continue to exist as a Jewish state while controlling the Palestinians through military force and racist laws, or undertake a deep transformation into a real democracy where Israelis and Palestinians live as equals in a shared state, their shared homeland. For Israelis and Palestinians alike, the latter path promises a bright future.”
Peled has described his 2012 book, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, as an account of how he, “the son of an Israeli General and a staunch Zionist, came to realize that “the story upon which I was raised ... was a lie.” The book, he has said, is based largely on long conversations with his mother, on a thorough reading of “everything my dad had ever written,” and on material about his father's career in the Israeli army archives.
The book, which has been characterized as “part confessional, part cinematic epic and part emotional appeal for 'different answers' to the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum,” contains a foreword by Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple.
Peled is, with Nader Elbanna, co-founder of the Elbanna-Peled Foundation. Established in 2010 and based in Coronado, California, it describes itself as being “committed to peace, justice and equality by operating exclusively for charitable and educational purposes, including, but not limited to the following:
- Humanitarian aid to civilians who were injured as a result of Israeli Palestinian conflict.
- Support existing educational efforts that promote Israeli Palestinian reconciliation.
- Support local grassroots organizations that work together (Israelis and Palestinians) toward a non-violent resolution of the conflict.”
The foundation describes itself as working closely with Rotary International. According to its website, “Peled and Elbanna sent 1000 wheelchairs for Palestinians and Israeli children, and have been part of numerous project to help the people of their shared homeland.”
The foundation, however, was established under the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities (NTEE) categories “Foreign Affairs” and “National Security.”Its exempt status, moreover, was automatically revoked by the IRS because it failed to file a Form 990 (“Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax”) for three consecutive years.
Martial Arts America
For over twenty years, Peled, a sixth-degree black belt, owned, operated, and taught at Martial Arts America, a school in Coronado, California, which “is dedicated to teaching leadership skills-and non violent conflict resolution through martial arts.” He sold the business in order to focus on promoting his book.
- "About Miko". mikopeled.com.
- Abulhawa, Susan (Nov 29, 2012). "Miko Peled Sets the Record Straight on Palestines Dispossession". Electronic Intifada.
- Ditmars, Hidani (Apr 8, 2013). "Following in the footsteps of his father, a Zionist hero, toward a free and democratic Palestine". Haaretz.
- Mcllroy, Jim (Oct 7, 2011). "Generals son condemns Israeli oppression, supports BDS". Green Left.
- Silver, Charlotte (Oct 3, 2012). "Palestine freedom battle will be won: interview with author Miko Peled". Electronic Intifada.
- "Miko Peled". Twitter.
- Peled, Miko (Dec 20, 2011). "Ethnic Cleansing of Invented People". mikopeled.com.
- Peled, Miko (Jun 6, 2012). "Six Days in Israel, 45 Years Ago". Los Angeles Times.
- "About". Elbanna Peled Foundation.
- "ELBANNA-PELED FOUNDATION". Guidestar.
- "Welcome to our website". Coronado Karate.
- Miko Peled's blog
- The General's Son website
- Youtube film of Miko Peled's talk at Seattle, USA 9 October 2012
- Interview with Miko Peled by Alternate Focus
- Second interview with Miko Peled by Alternate Focus