Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

The General's Son: A Journey of an Israeli in Palestine

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

The General's Son: A Journey of an Israeli in Palestine

Article excerpt

Miko Peled. The General's Son: A Journey of an Israeli in Palestine Charlottesville, VA: Just World Books, 2012. 223 pages. Paperback $20.00 Reviewed by Ghada Hashem Talhami

Israelis were always eager to record their early experiences in Palestine (Tome Segev's 1949: The First Israelis; Geulah Cohen's Story of a Warrior; Golda Meir's My Father 's House), but none rivals Miko Peled's account of his family's and his own journey to peace activism for poignancy and honesty. The historical memory of most Israelis is usually clouded by the fog of self-proclaimed acts of heroism and sacrifice. What is usually stressed by most is the experience of a pioneering generation which conquered a savage land, wresting it from British suzerainty and Palestinian neglect. To justify colonizing a country inhabited by another people, Israelis usually describe Palestine as a territory lacking the benefits of Western civilization, the rule of law, or any semblance of openness to other cultures. Thus, most of these early biographical accounts rarely rose above imbecille caricatures, portraying Palestine in the colors of Hollywood's old west. As in these celluloid productions, the antagonists were painted in black or white, never granting the native a serious hearing. It was not too long after Hollywood's perfection of its brand of the savage races that images of young Israelis taming the Palestinian wilderness appeared on the pages of Life magazine and the movie Exodus appeared to the distinct satisfaction of representatives of American popular culture.

This is where this book departs from the familiar genre, for the author has a story with a strong moral lesson to tell. The result is a narrative that is a short biography of his father, former IDF general and peace activist Mattityahu Peled, as well as an account of Miko's own courageous migration from the status of a Zionist youth to a committed anti-Zionist peace advocate. The memoir is not only that of his family, but, as the reader soon realizes, that of the Israeli elite as it struggles to harmonize its vaunted democratic ideals with the abysmal realities of the post- 1 967 occupation of Palestinian lands.

The author devotes the first three chapters to a description of the Peled family's European background and their transformation into privileged and confident sabras. This, of course, is the elder Peled's life story as he begins to shed several layers of his former Zionist and militarist identity. The rest of the book, twelve chapters in all, tells Miko's own story as he struggles to understand his father's political choices and the tragic existence of the Palestinians on the other side of the Green Line. The story of Matti Peled, the father, reveals his inner struggles as a highly decorated general who proves incapable of quieting his Zionist conscience and averting his gaze away from the humiliation and suffering of the occupied Palestinian population. In time, he is relegated to the fringes of the Israeli military hierarchy as a result of his vocal denunciation of Zionist militarism and his efforts to link up with prominent PLO figures who shared his views on the urgency of reaching a peaceful resolution of this conflict. To appreciate the sacrifice of Matti Peled, it should be remembered that his family enjoyed strong ties to the upper strata of Israeli society, counting a former president, namely Zalman Shazar, as a relative on the side of Matti 's wife, and being at one time solid members of the Israeli civilian-military and interlocking elite.

Matti Peled, it turns out, was an early and close associate of Yitzhak Rabin until their relationship cooled off following Peled's open criticism of the latter due to his disregard for major aspects of the Oslo Accords. Peled knew Rabin when both were members of the Palmach, the strike force of the Haganah. Peled was also among those who instigated the "generals' coup" in 1967, pushing the reluctant administration of Levi Eshkol to mount a pre-emptive attack against Arab military bases in nearby countries. …

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