by Yousef Aljamal
Istanbul, May 29– Israeli-American author and activist Miko Peled recently gave a seminar titled “Deal of the Century and the Fate of Jerusalem,” at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs at Istanbul Zaim University. Despite it being Ramadan, the seminar was attended by a number of academics and dozens of students.
Dr. Sami Al-Arian, the Director of the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) introduced Peled by noting that, driven by a family tragedy, he had written a book called The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine– since his father had been a general in the Israeli army. More recently, Al-Arian said, Peled had published a new book called Injustice: The Story of the Holy Land Five.
As Peled started his talk, he noted that, “When we deal with Palestine, there is always some attacks that just happened, maybe it is in Gaza or Jerusalem, so we wonder what is the most burning issue right now… “
But he was quick to settle on the importance of the issue of Jerusalem. “I was born and raised in Jerusalem and it seems to me that if the state of Israel continues moving in Jerusalem with the same speed, we will find ourselves talking about a new Jerusalem.”
He also noted that as long ago as 1900 CE, some rabbis from all around the world published a book in which they warned that Zionism would bring violence in Palestine and ruin the relationship between Muslims and Jews.
“At the end of 1947, Jerusalem was not intended, under the UN’s Partition Resolution, to be part of any state,” he said. “Israel ignored that and throughout 1948 as it conquered Palestine, it undertook a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing. The campaign of ethnic cleansing in West Jerusalem was 100% successful! I grew up there and didn’t even know that there used to be Palestinians there. But today, despite many Israelis there living in beautiful, much-prized ‘Arab homes’, no one asks about the Palestinians who used to be there.”
He said that there is a continuing campaign of Israelizing Jerusalem by pushing more and more Palestinians out of the city and creating settlements for Israeli Jews only.
He explained the Israeli version of ‘mixed’ schools, recalling that, “When I was in the fifth grade, we heard about something called integration: they brought the kids of Arab Jews to mix with us, European Jews, in Jerusalem.”
“That was the level of racism. Imagine suggesting bringing Palestinian kids to mix with Israeli kids!”
He spoke of the situation of Jerusalem today and how young, radicalized Israeli settlers dominate the scene: “You have these groups of young Israeli Zionists– the Zionist establishment used to say they didn’t represent us– taking over Palestinian houses, massacring Palestinians. But after 1967, we had more religious and radical Zionist settlers, and the state felt it had to provide them with services and to send military to protect them since they are in the middle of ‘angry Arabs’.”
Radical Israeli settlers are growing in numbers, he recalled. “Thirty years ago, only dozens of settlers would enter Al-Haram Al-Sharif but last year 30,000 Israeli settlers entered Al-Haram Al-Sharif, and they were not there as tourists. They want to destroy the Dome of the Rock and build the Jewish Temple. I met a distant cousin of mine who is a religious Jew who told me about their plans to educate kids about how they’re going to rebuild the Temple. It is very troubling to hear this. And they grow in number every day, and the army and police are behind them.”
He told the audience about an Israeli TV documentary he had recently seen, about these fanatical settlers. “Some of them are not religious: there is a mixture of nationalism and religion. They have been working with an architect to build a structure of the Temple. What is disturbing about this is that many of them live in strategic areas in the Old City.”
He then spoke of the dangers of the “deal of the century” that the Trump administration has promised to unveil, noting that it will fail. “The deal of century legitimizes what has been done to the Palestinians over the years. This is an alarming sign because it also gives Israel a green light to do more in the future. It is a violation of UN resolutions, and it approves crimes that have been committed against Palestinians. If we don’t stand up and speak up against what is happening, we will lose Jerusalem.
“Part of the ‘deal’ is to stop giving UNRWA money so they can say there are no refugees. Jerusalem was taken away already by the Trump administration. The third major issue is borders and they are going to declare sovereignty over Judea and Samaria without the Palestinian population.”
Peled stressed the importance of meaningful and serious solidarity with the Palestinian people, but added: “The reality in Palestine is so severe that plain solidarity is not enough. Palestinians have provided us with a gift which is BDS. It is a gift to rest of the people of the world! It tells us this is what you need to do: boycott is easy, and legitimate. The state of Israel is in panic and if they could take the letters ‘BDS’ out of the alphabet they would.”
“I think all these bills against BDS actually work in our favor,” he said. “But in the case of Germany, the campaign against BDS is beyond belief. It such a hypocritical move! The anti-BDS legislators there should be ashamed for comparing the Palestinian call for freedom to what the Germans did to Jews. What they should do is compare Gaza with the concentration camps the Nazis made for Jews in Europe.”
He concluded, “There is a reality on the ground that is one of Apartheid that should always be linked with the name of Israel. Israeli Jews are like the ‘Whites’ of South Africa. Palestine from the river to the sea should be free, no checkpoints. And if we dream about it, if we envision it, it will happen.”
The Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at Zaim University has been active in promoting discussions about the situation in Palestine by hosting conferences and seminars that enrich the ongoing debate by bringing in different speakers to address various Palestine-related topics. This latest seminar with Miko Peled was much appreciated by all the attendees.