When I was a journalist in the Mid-East (1969-71) and toured Israel/Palestine in ’69, Miko Peled was the 8-yr-old son of Matti Peled, an Israeli general who had recently triumphed in the June ’67 war. They come from a family of Zionist leaders who fought for and helped create the state of Israel.
Nevertheless, General Peled came to support the call for a federated Palestine in partnership with Israel. His son Miko is today a major witness for that same policy. His story can be found in his book, The General’s Son.
Uri Avnery, whom I attempted (and failed) to interview (as a journalist-guest of the Jewish Agency, my time and travels were “managed”), is considerably older and far more experienced. He too makes much the same call.
Uri Avnery was born Helmut Ostermann in Beckum, Germany in 1923. At 10-yrs-old, as Hitler was assuming power, his family moved to Palestine. At 14 he joined Menachem Begin’s Irgun, which had a prior history of being a pro-fascist, Revisionist Zionist movement in Italy.
The Irgun led the famed massacres of 91 British officers and others at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1946, and the murders of 130 old men, women and children at the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin in 1948. Nor were they above attacking and beating Jewish men and women who befriended or shopped in Palestinian markets.
These were terrorist massacres to drive out the British and to stampede the Palestinians into fleeing. Largely, it worked. To his credit, Uri left the Irgun in 1942 in opposition to these terrorist activities.
Another terrorist group at the time was the Stern Gang headed up by Yitzhak Shamir (who died today), who later took his turn as a Prime Minister of Israel. Most notably, when the UN mediator Count Bernadotte proposed a division of Israel/Palestine that included the Palestinians that had fled their homes, Shamir’s Stern gang murdered him.
During the Israeli war of “independence” in 1948, Uri was a squad commander of a commando unit in the regular army, the Haganah. Wounded twice, he survived the war. He went on to become elected to Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, on different occasions.
He never became Prime Minister, that office being reserved only to ultra-rightwing Zionists.
Supporting a federated, secular state of Israel/Palestine, Uri became the grandfather of the Israeli peace movement. He also saw that the tenets of right-Zionism were a central problem and authored Israel without Zionists: A Plea for Peace in the Middle East (1968).
Today he has his own group and website at Gush Shalom. He is a widely celebrated author and speaker.
Unfortunately, his former terrorist comrades, long having been elected into power in Israel, are following their colonial-settler plans for Eretz Yisrael…an ever expanding program of an apartheid Jewish state that considers Palestinians as usurpers of the land.
In a recent article, “The War of Lies,” Avnery speaks to the issue of Israel’s Lebanon War, which commenced some 30 yrs ago with an occupation that lasted for 22 yrs. He cites the fact that the war was one of “deceit and deception, falsehoods, and fabrications.”
“The simple fact is that for 11 months before the war, not a single shot was fired across the Israeli-Lebanese border. A ceasefire was in force, and the Palestinians on the other side of the border kept it scrupulously.”
As a pretext, after the Israeli ambassador in London was wounded by a Palestinian from a group not even in the PLO, Israel bombed Beirut in order to drive out the Palestinians and collectively punish the Lebanese for their support. As anticipated, the Palestinians fired back.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin, taking his turn at the helm of the apartheid state, turned loose Ariel Sharon, his defense minister, to invade Lebanon.
Avnery wrote a bio-article of Sharon nine months prior to the Lebanon war as a man with “a dangerous mental mixture: a primitive mind unsullied by any knowledge of (non-Jewish) history, and a fatal craving for ‘grand designs.’”
This included attacking Lebanon in order to install a Christian dictator who would serve Israel, and driving the Syrians and Palestinians out. This led to the occupation of Lebanon for 22 years, and the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.
The defining war of my generation was Vietnam. More than 58,000 US military were killed, along with an estimated three million Vietnamese.
These wars of attrition, which Israel follows to this day in Gaza and elsewhere, like Vietnam, is a racist conflict that uses the excuse of collectively punishing the general population in a failed attempt to force them to oppose any resistance or support to the Palestinians.
In any event, the tactic always ends up creating more resistance. One might well wonder if, in fact, it isn’t a deliberate tactic…after all, wars are good for business. And in the case of all right-wing movements, peace is their greatest enemy.
The Palestinians agreed to leave Lebanon when the Israelis agreed to cease bombardment of Beirut. Ronald Reagan then provided “appropriate guarantees of safety of law-abiding Palestinian non-combatants left in Beirut, including families of those who have departed.
“The U.S. will provide its guarantee on the basis of assurances received from the Government of Israel and the leaders of certain Lebanese groups with which it has been in contact.”
Instead, as soon as the Palestinian resistance left Lebanon so did the US. Israel immediately occupied Beirut, surrounded the refugee camps on the “suspicion” that some fighters remained, and gave active support to allow the Christian Phalangists to murder the inhabitants.
“For a day and half the Phalangists knifed, hacked and shot to death women, children and old men. Israeli soldiers shot illuminating flares above the camp at nighttime to help the Phalangists with their “battle”. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it counted 2,750 dead.”
When the Nazis used the same tactic it was condemned at Nuremberg as a war crime. I submit that it still is and that those who employ such tactics are war criminals. That should include all who profit from these wars.
Two of the by-products of the Lebanese and Gaza conflicts, along with the chain of colonial settlements of Jerusalem and the West Bank, have been the creation of the Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Palestine.
For propaganda purposes, they best suit the right-Zionist myth for why Israel persists in its apartheid policies of colonial-settlerism.
Uri Avnery can have the last word:
“Any fool can start a war; only a very wise person can prevent one.”