The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine
By Miko Peled © 2012
Just World Books, www.justworldbooks.com, 2012,  223 pp.
By  Alice Walker © 2012

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There are few books on the Israeli/Palestine issue that seem as hopeful to me as this one. First of all, we find ourselves in the hands of a formerly Zionist Israeli who honors his people, loves his homeland, respects and cherishes his parents, other family members and friends, and is, to boot, the son of a famous general whose activities during Israel’s wars against the Palestinian people helped cause much of their dislocation and suffering.  Added to this, long after Miko Peled, the writer has left the Special Forces of the Israeli army and moved to Southern California to teach karate, a beloved niece, his sister’s daughter, Smadar, a young citizen of Jerusalem, is killed by Palestinians in a suicide bombing. Right away we think: Goodness. How is he ever going to get anywhere sane with this history?  He does.

Miko Peled’s father, General Matti Peled was a staunch Zionist and a general in the Israeli army, richly praised for his acumen and courage in battle, both in Israel’s “War of Independence” in 1947-1948 (the Palestinians’ “Catastrophe”) and in the 1967 war in which Israel preemptively attacked its neighbor, Egypt, and proceeded, illegally, to take huge parts of what was until then Palestine.

After many decades of service to his country, General Peled left the army to become a professor of Arabic Literature at Tel Aviv and Haifa Universities.  He learned Arabic and spoke it fluently. He became, as well, a peace activist. He worked with and made friends among Palestinian peace activists and leaders, as his son Miko would do decades later. One such friend was the controversial head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Yassar Arafat.

Miko Peled, at first terrified of reaching out to Palestinians because of the false reports he was, since childhood, given of them, realizes the insanity of remaining enemies of a people he has had no opportunity to truly know.  What he discovers energizes and encourages him. He begins to understand the danger inherent in living in ignorance of the so-called “other” and begins to realize he would be a far different, a far less open and loving person, had be not, despite his fears, freed himself in this way. His freedom to be at ease with the very people he was taught to hate is, of course, a bonus for his own children and for the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians.

The extreme volatility of the Middle East, with Israel’s lengthy list of human rights abuses and contempt for international opinion and law at the center of everybody’s fear, is a threat to us all.  It is senseless to believe anyone on the planet can afford to ignore or dismiss it.

A shared homeland, the dream of growing numbers of Israelis and Palestinians, in which each person feels free to be herself or himself, is, or might be, the prize of friendship.  In fact, it is only by choosing friendship over enmity that winning makes any sense in a world as on the brink as the one we are living in, where being enemies and attempting to disappear each other has played out, leaving destruction, ugliness, cynicism, and fear.  Not to mention a ruined planet, disease, and death.

I look to the examples of “enemies” becoming friends everywhere in this book to help us continue to carefully choose our way.

Alice Walker is an American  poet and author of the acclaimed novel “The Color Purple.”  The above is a shortened version of the Foreword that Ms. Walker contributed to Miko Peled’s book, “The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” under the title “The Sanity of Friendship.” It can only be published by Ms. Walker’s permission. More details about the book can be found at www.justworldbooks.com.

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