Miko Peled’s Beyond Zionism tour made a stop at the University of Calgary on Oct. 8, promoting a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As the son of an Israeli general, the Palestinian cause was not always his own. His book, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, outlines how injustices he witnessed while living in the region changed his perspective.
In the Gaza Strip, Palestinians live behind an Israeli separation wall that quarantines the population of 1.6 million. Palestinians have limited access to clean water and other resources. Violence is also common, as Gaza’s Islamist political powerhouse, Hamas, routinely exchanges missile strikes with Israel.
Peled has taken a grassroots approach in promoting the Palestinian cause by speaking at universities across North America. Peled discussed peaceful resolutions, channels for change and worldwide efforts to end the conflict.
The Gauntlet: Can you describe the one-state solution that you’ve been promoting on your tour?
Miko Peled: It’s a realization that there’s already one state established on all of Palestine. People think there’s an Israel and a Palestine and they are two countries at war. Palestine and Israel are two names for one country. Let’s establish that first.
Israel has established a single state over the entire country. Israel governs everyone. Now, they claim it’s a Jewish state, but it’s not really a Jewish state because almost half the population is Palestinian Arabs. Then [Israel] claims it’s a democracy when it’s not a democracy because the non-Jewish population has no or fewer rights than the Jews. So that’s where we are today.
We have an entire state with preferential treatment toward Jews that promotes discrimination toward Palestinians. [Palestinians], in the next five to ten years, will become the majority in terms of population.
The possibility of change, if we agree that it is wrong to treat people the way Israel treats the Palestinians, through oppression and so forth, is to look at other
G: What are some of these possibilities?
MP: Partitioning the country and building barriers isn’t possible because you don’t have a single region that is fully Palestinian or Israeli. The communities are segregated completely, but the population is mixed geographically.
We’re left with the possibility of leaving things the way they are or creating a transformation from the non-democratic, racist state — which is in many ways similar to the way South Africa was under apartheid — and creating a real democracy. So it’s not going to be a Jewish state necessarily. It’s going to be a state for all its people. That’s the proposition.
G: How is this preferential to a two-state solution?
MP: There is no possibility for a two-state solution since there’s no way to partition the land into two states. You don’t have a region where you can say ‘this is all Palestinian’ or ‘this is all Israeli.’ The only possibility that exists today, if you seek justice and world peace, would be to create a real democracy where Palestinians have a say.
[This involves] releasing political prisoners, allowing free and fair elections, giving everybody free and equal access to these elections and lifting the siege on Gaza.
G: Why do others promote a two instead of a one-state solution?
MP: The whole peace process will supposedly lead to a two-state solution. This is a complete fallacy. It only allows Israel to continue.
If things were static, you could say ‘well, maybe [a two state solution could work]’. But things are not static. To this, Israel has been building massive amounts of housing, towns, highways and shopping malls in the area that is supposedly a Palestinian state.
Palestinians have no access. Not to the roads, shopping malls, schools or housing. Nothing at all.
Obviously Israel is not very serious about this. They have no intention of allowing Palestinians to be independent. [They are only interested in] allowing them small pockets of control with limited autonomy.
G: What are the most effective channels for promoting Palestinian rights?
MP: I think the most effective channels right now are grassroots ones. There are a lot of grassroots organizations in Palestine set up by Palestinians. The elected officials don’t properly represent anyone because they haven’t been able to host elections. But you do have an ongoing popular resistance of Palestinians on the ground that considers every part of Palestine as their homeland.
There is a strong grassroots movement growing in the West. There are organizations like Students for Palestinian Human Rights or Students for Justice in Palestine.
Over the last five to six years, these organizations have changed the way people view the conflict. In the U.S. and Canada, these organizations are growing. They’re realizing that the right stance to take is the pro-Palestinian one. If this is a big part of Palestinian resistance, there’s going to start to be a lot of pressure from the outside. That’s how the apartheid regime fell in South Africa, from outside pressure.
G: Is there a call for Palestinian equality in Israel?
MP: There are Israelis who support the Palestinian cause and participate in projects with the Palestinians, but it’s very small. I think it’s understandable. No privileged group ever really wants to give up their privileges. If you think of the civil rights movement in the States, the whites didn’t give up their privileges willingly. Whites in South Africa didn’t welcome the end of apartheid. So you do have, and you always have had, groups within the privileged societies who call for change, but they’re always small.
G: If left unresolved, how will this conflict impact both Middle-Eastern and global politics?
MP: This conflict is moving towards a resolution one way or another because the situation is unsustainable.
I’ll give you an example. In the Gaza Strip today, you’ve got over 1.5 million people. There’s a lack of infrastructure, a lack of schools, [little] drinking water, a lack of access to basic food. People in Gaza have relied on tunnels in order to bring these things in from Egypt. The Egyptians just closed 1,000 tunnels. So that’s no longer a possibility. The UN came out with a report saying there will be 500,000 more people in Gaza in the next five to six years due to natural growth. Can you imagine 2.2 million people living in this area? It’s unsustainable.
Like I said earlier, there is going to be more Palestinians than Israelis. How long are they just going to sit there and live under this oppression? How long are they willing to see their children arrested and beaten? It’s not sustainable. In the next five to 10 years, there has to be change and there will be change. If that happens, as I would like to see it happen, I think it will have a very positive impact on the entire region.