Truthdig Radio airs every Wednesday at 2 p.m. in Los Angeles on 90.7 KPFK. If you can’t listen live, starting on Wednesday nights look for the podcast and transcript of each week’s show right here on Truthdig.
This week on Truthdig Radio in collaboration with KPFK: Kids have a right to mock their teachers; Apple may be launching a preemptive strike against free speech; and the general’s son, Miko Peled, says Israelis and Palestinians must accept a one-state solution. Also, Tim DeChristopher, the hero who didn’t stand a chance.
1:00 - Tim DeChristopher
13:01 - Joan Bertin on kids and free speech.
21:59 - Tim Karr on Apple and free speech.
30:40 - Miko Peled, “The General’s Son.”
Click to listen to the show, or continue reading the full transcript below.
Peter Scheer: This is Truthdig Radio, your weekly serving of tasty brain food from Truthdig.com and KPFK. I’m Truthdig managing editor Peter Scheer. On the show this week, we hear why kids have a right to mock their teachers, and how Apple may be launching a preemptive strike against free speech. Later we’ll speak to the general’s son, Miko Peled, who explains why Israelis and Palestinians must accept a one-state solution in exchange for peace. But first: Tim DeChristopher, the hero who didn’t stand a chance.
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Peter Scheer: In 2008 the Bureau of Land Management under the Bush administration put public land up for auction to the oil and gas industry. Activist Tim DeChristopher went to that auction knowing only that he had to do something. He bid on and won a dozen of the leases, and for that act of civil disobedience he was convicted and now faces up to 10 years in prison. He joins us now from Salt Lake City. Tim, what exactly did you do, and why is that criminal?
Tim DeChristopher: Well, I went to the auction in December of 2008 and was asked if I wanted to be a bidder, and so I signed up there and then, once I got inside, proceeded to start outbidding the oil companies. And then, once I was asked why I was there and what I was doing, I made it very clear that I was there as an act of civil disobedience to try to stand in the way of this unjust auction. And it took the government awhile to figure out exactly how that was a crime. It took them three and a half months to indict me on any charges. And one of the charges was violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act, which no one had actually been prosecuted for before. So there was a little bit of a question throughout the trial of what that law really said; there was a difference in what was in the indictment and what was in the actual law. And that was really what the trial was about: whether or not what I did was in fact a crime. And we were certainly severely restricted during the trial about what we could say and what information we could share with the jury.
Peter Scheer: That’s right. It says in this—you were interviewed by Chris Hedges for Truthdig—and it says in that column that you were not allowed to tell the jury that the auction was eventually ruled illegal, or that you managed to raise money to pay for one of the leases.
Narda Zacchino: Also, Tim, you were not allowed to—the judge limited the discussion of federal energy policies and climate change. And the issue of your intent was sort of critical to the case, and if you weren’t allowed to discuss all that—I mean, you know, it would have been hard—the outcome was sort of preordained, yes?
Tim DeChristopher: Yeah. And that’s something that is a growing trend in our legal justice system. That juries are given a very restricted role to play in our modern system, which is vastly different than the way our legal system originally functioned and was designed to function by our founding fathers, who called juries “the conscience of the community.” Now, juries are regularly told that they’re not allowed to use their conscience, as was the case in my trial.
Narda Zacchino: One of the things that some people think … you can’t connect the dots on, is that the Obama—this was done by the Bush administration just before he left office. So it was sort of seen as a gift to his friends in the oil and gas industry. And you, of course, did disrupt that in a civil disobedient way. And the Obama administration, when it came into office, then did invalidate some of the leases, and yet it was the Obama Justice Department that prosecuted you. So that sort of is a disconnect for a lot of people. Did they ever explain that, or were you surprised when they finally brought charges?
Tim DeChristopher: Not particularly. Once they did rule that the auction was illegal to begin with, I thought there was a chance they might not bring charges, but I still saw that the Obama administration is still beholden to the same corporate interests that the Bush administration was. You know, the way that I found out that I was going to get indicted was the day before it happened, one of my attorneys got a call from an Associated Press reporter, who said I just want to let you know that tomorrow Tim is going to get indicted, and this is what the charges are going to be. And he’d gotten that information two weeks earlier from an oil lobbyist. So the same corporations that were running the show with the Bush industry are still calling the shots at every level of our government today. So it’s not really surprising that the Obama administration has been taking this course of action.
Peter Scheer: Can I just ask you—you seem remarkably calm and collected. I mean, I read your interview with Chris, and I just—my blood boiled. And you’re facing real jail time. How are you dealing with this?
Tim DeChristopher: Well, I mean, I certainly have been scared for my future and angry about the direction of our country for a long time. And I think a lot of—I’m actually much calmer today than I was before any of this happened. And I think part of that emotion I was feeling before was really frustration with my actions not lining up with my sentiment. Knowing that my future was critically threatened because of the climate crisis, and knowing that our government was acting in a fundamentally unjust way, and yet going along with that, still participating in that society and not doing everything that I could to resist. That was frustration, and that was a lot of internal turmoil that was coming from that. And once I threw myself into the most serious resistance that I could heft, it’s been a lot easier to stay calm in the face of that. I mean, I’m certainly scared about going to prison, but I think it’s less scary than staying on the path that we’re on now.
Narda Zacchino: I was going to ask you about the issue of jury nullification, because, and I wondered if that was grounds for an appeal, because when—just as the trial was starting, your supporters passed out a pamphlet which basically told the jurors that they could go with their conscience. And the judge then called them each into his chambers and told them that they couldn’t do that. And jury nullification, of course, is a practice that some juries employ, which allows them to vote for their conscience and not do what the judge wants them to do. And have your lawyers said anything about that being a grounds for appeal, or do you have any grounds for appeal?
Tim DeChristopher: We do think we have grounds for appeal. The restrictions on juries is something that there’s a growing amount of precedent for; it’s the common trend in our legal system, that even though juries clearly, absolutely, unquestionably have the right to nullify a prosecution and to acquit for whatever reason they want, the precedent that’s been established in our legal system is that the court can do everything in their power to prevent and discourage that from happening with the jury—including lying to a jury about what their rights really are. And that’s a precedent that has unfortunately been reinforced by the Supreme Court. And our courts have been moving more and more in the direction of restricting the rights of juries and concentrating power into the hands of judges, and our Supreme Court today is really no exception to that. I think constitutionally there’s certainly grounds for appeal on that. But in terms of appealing to our current Supreme Court, they’re functioning today as a means of reinforcing our current power structure.
Peter Scheer: There’s this terrible theme throughout your story in this, which is people denying their conscience for rules, arbitrary rules which seem to really just benefit, as you say, corporations. And here you had the Bush administration essentially transferring public land to oil and gas companies. You acted on your conscience, but most people don’t, even if they find it horrifying. And then the jury doesn’t. And, you know, what is the future of America going to be like if people just compartmentalize their outrage and do the wrong thing? I mean, it’s horrifying.
Tim DeChristopher: Well, I mean, it’s certainly a scary thing to consider, especially as a climate activist who’s been paying attention to where we’ve been going in terms of the climate crisis, and seeing that over the last few years we’ve passed up a lot of our best opportunities to turn things around. And that at this point, it looks like it’s probably too late for any amount of emissions reductions to prevent some sort of collapse. Which means that we are headed towards a period of really intense change, a period of desperation in which those in power are probably going to do increasingly desperate things to hold onto that power in the name of maintaining order and security. The defining question there is how are we going to respond to that? I think those means of control have been getting more offensive in recent years; those attacks on rights have been getting more offensive. And there are more and more people that are starting to rebel against that. But I think it is going to be one of the defining questions of this century, of whether or not we’re going to be obedient and do what we’re told, even when we think it’s morally unjust, or whether we’re going to stand up against that kind of power and really steer society in the direction that we want it to go.
Narda Zacchino: I’d like to ask a personal question. You were an undergrad in economics in 2008, when this occurred, at the University of Utah; is that correct?
Tim DeChristopher: Yes.
Narda Zacchino: Were you an environmental activist before you, when you went to school there, or did you just fall in love with the beautiful surroundings, or how did your activism develop?
Tim DeChristopher: It’s—the environmental ethic is something that was a part of my upbringing. My parents were environmentalists when I was growing up in West Virginia; my mom was fighting the coal industry in the early days of mountaintop removal. So it’s certainly something that I grew up with, and that I’d been paying attention to for a while. And then it was while I was at the University of Utah studying the current situation, and also studying social movement history, when I started to see that just playing by the rules that are given to us by those in power, and that’s when I started taking it to a higher level, I think.
Peter Scheer: Well, thank you so much for making the time to speak with us.
Tim DeChristopher: Sure.
Peter Scheer: If you are as outraged as we are by the treatment of Tim DeChristopher, you can take part in a national day of solidarity across the country tomorrow, June 23—Thursday, June 23. Find out more at Bidder70.org.
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Peter Scheer: This is Truthdig Radio. I’m Peter Scheer, and I’m joined by Kasia Anderson and Joan Bertin, who is the executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. And the reason that we’d like to talk to you, Joan—first of all, welcome to the show.
Joan Bertin: Well, thank you. I’m glad to be here.
Peter Scheer: The reason we’d like to talk to you is because of the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which recently ruled that two students who’d created fake MySpace pages parodying their principals had been unfairly disciplined, and we’d like to use that as an opportunity to talk about student free speech in general. So, first of all, what was this court case and what are the particulars?
Joan Bertin: Well, there were two cases that were in Pennsylvania and therefore within the jurisdiction of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals. And they both went to the Appellate Court, and I think it was on the same day, two different panels of the 3rd Circuit reached opposite conclusions about how to analyze these cases. You’re right in your characterization; these were student-created MySpace or Facebook pages about principals; not flattering, shall we say. And so what the Court of Appeals did was decide to re-hear both of these cases before a full panel of the 3rd Circuit. And so they heard those cases re-argued together, and they recently issued two separate decisions, but this time decisions that are consistent with one another, and the decisions were issued on June 13.
Kasia Anderson: So, what were those decisions, and what kind of larger ramifications do you see them having in cases like this, for students and, I guess, it’s a form of online identity parody, or…?
Joan Bertin: Well, the whole question about how much schools could regulate what students do off-campus has become an increasingly important one. We know that there’s certain authority that’s granted to school officials when students are in school, and they’re in a relatively regulated environment and they can be told that they have to study a particular subject at a particular time, and that they don’t have a right under the First Amendment to say in their math class that they want to talk about the election. So free speech applies in a very particular way within the school environment. And that whole line is starting to get blurred as an awful lot of student speech takes place not in the school environment, but online and with students’ use of their own private computers or public computers, say, at the library. And courts have really been struggling with how far school officials are allowed to go in penalizing students for speech that occurs in this off-campus setting.
And there have been a number of cases in different courts of appeals, and they’re not entirely consistent, shall we say. But they do reflect an ongoing series of questions and concerns about the extent of school authority over the speech of young people who happen to be, also, students in their schools. What the 3rd Circuit decided was that if the speech did not pose a threat of a substantial disruption in the school, then there’s no justification for the school authorities to regulate it or to penalize students for that speech. They specifically noticed that because some speech that takes place off-campus involves sort of lewd or what you might call inappropriate language, that does not give the school grounds to discipline. Even though the school could discipline students for using that language in school, they can’t sort of have their long arm reach into somebody’s—as one of these cases involved, somebody’s grandmother’s computer, and tell the kid what he or she could say. And in both of these cases, the court held that there was really no evidence of substantial disruption or material interference—which is a kind of term of art—from the speech in question. And in one of the cases, the issue is whether or not school officials are correct in claiming that they feared a substantial disruption, and …
Peter Scheer: Well, they used—sorry to interrupt, but I just want to interject that school officials use all sorts of excuses to abuse the rights of children, and—[Laughs] not to be too extreme on the subject—but, you know, we …
Kasia Anderson: Is this touching a nerve for you, Peter?
Peter Scheer: Well, I’ll tell you, when I was in high school I helped start a children’s rights organization. And the United States is one of two countries—the United States and Somalia—that has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which protects free speech. And you see this again and again with student newspapers, with dress codes, with this sort of issue, free expression in children is not protected as if they’re some, you know, deviant form of human being that isn’t yet mature enough to be able to be critical or think critically or express their views on the kind of education they’re getting. And it’s frankly absurd, if you ask me.
Joan Bertin: Well, you know, it’s a difficult question because you can’t apply the same rule to kids who are 6 and kids who are 16. And there’s an expectation that there will be a continuum, in that as the child gets older and more mature, their rights will expand. But that is sort of a common-sense assumption that has not actually been reflected in the law, in my opinion.
Peter Scheer: Right. And that’s the similar reasoning to keep women from voting, and people of color from voting, and other people throughout American history. That they’re not critical enough in their thinking, they’re not logical enough, they’re not capable of making the correct decisions, right? Poor people, as well.
Joan Bertin: It’s not just schools that are restricting the rights, the speech rights of young people. It is parents, claiming total authority …
Peter Scheer: Absolutely.
Joan Bertin: … over what their children can see and do and read, who are an enormous source of censorship incidents that we deal with. Book censorship, book challenges in schools. There’s a case out in California where you are right now, or from California, having to do with the state’s attempt to regulate minors’ ability to purchase what are called violent video games. And again, these are being argued as if young people are, for lack of a better term, second-class citizens for purposes of the First Amendment. And frankly, that is pretty much where we’re coming from. And so the 3rd Circuit decision is a little bit of a refreshing change of pace, in that it acknowledges that young people really do have expressive rights, and that there’s a limit to how much the state can interfere with those rights.
Kasia Anderson: Well, that’s a good note to end on. I think that’s all we have time for, but thanks to Joan Bertin who is, once again, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship. And I’m Kasia Anderson, and I’m with Peter Scheer, and thank you for your time.
Joan Bertin: You’re very welcome. I enjoyed it.
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Peter Scheer: This is Truthdig Radio. Peter Scheer and Kasia Anderson speaking to Timothy Karr, the campaign director for Free Press and SaveTheInternet.com. He recently wrote a piece in The Huffington Post called “Is Apple Launching a Preemptive Strike Against Free Speech?” And I guess, Tim, the way to begin is to ask you: Are they?
Timothy Karr: Well, it would seem that they, maybe unintentionally, are doing that. They have applied for a patent for a device that, when pointed at cellphone cameras, in particular the iPhone, disables the video capture, disables the photo capture—basically disables the camera on your cellphone. And their original intention with this was to work with the entertainment industry, which is very concerned about people who go to live concerts and hold up their cellphone cameras to videotape a live performance, and then they put it out on YouTube. And so Apple thought, gee, wouldn’t it be great if you could put these devices up on the stage so that when people point their video cameras at the live rock concert, it turns off their camera. It beams an infrared beam that beams into your camera and has, encoded in that language, it actually shuts down your cellphone camera. And so that original intention, to work with the entertainment industry to try to control piracy, actually has more insidious applications should this technology fall into the hands of governments. I mean, look at the video that came out of the Middle East and North Africa over the last six months, where people on the streets are documenting abuses by security forces. And these videos have gone worldwide and really act as a check against further abuses by some of these governments. If these governments had the same device, they could simply mount them around public squares or even on the top of police vans and shut off video cameras when they move in to clear squares and to abuse protesters. So Apple needs to think of broader ramifications of this technology should they develop it and make it available around the world.
Kasia Anderson: Do you know, Tim, what this device is going to look like? Can we educate ourselves ahead of time and try to get one up on Apple, while we’re at it?
Timothy Karr: We don’t, because all that exists right now that we know of is the patent application. And in that application, they actually do have a diagram [Laughs], kind of a silly diagram that shows—it shows an iPhone being pointed at a stage, and atop the stage above the performers are these two square objects that are supposed to be the infrared emitters that will shut down your cellphone. So this is kind of like, you know, this is a—I call this a preemptive strike against free speech because what it really would do is it preempts people’s ability to actually document things on the street and share them with the world by simply shutting off their phones. And so if you thought you actually owned your smartphone, or you controlled your smartphone, think again: there’s technology out there that can actually take control of that device—or at least control of an aspect of that device, its camera function—and take it away from you.
Peter Scheer: You write in your article: “The First Amendment and Article 19 of the U.N.‘s Declaration on Human Rights don’t really apply to the corporations that build these cellphones and run these social networks. Free speech rules don’t apply to Silicon Valley.” That’s a scary thought.
Kasia Anderson: Tim, don’t you see this as potentially a little bit ironic, given Apple’s famous 1984-themed commercial? [Laughs]
Timothy Karr: Yeah, no, I think—well, this is … there’s been an interesting evolution of Apple from a company that people thought was sort of the rebel, that was the outsider, that was really standing up for users, to a company that is siding increasingly with the entertainment industry and sort of large-media industry to try to protect big business and protect against the kind of innovations that are coming from the open source movement and elsewhere. Ever since they introduced, really, the iPod and iTunes they have begun to be very protective of copyright, and increasingly now through the iPhone they’re protective of what many call a “closed media model,” a gatekeeper model of the Internet—where instead of really surfing the Web, you have to use apps that they approve in order to have an Internet experience. And that’s a closed model, as opposed to the open model that has fueled the public Internet for the last 15 years.
Peter Scheer: We’re speaking with Timothy Karr, campaign director of Free Press and SaveTheInternet.com. And picking up on that point about the app store, which is very closed off, and they’re now applying that also to the regular, to OS-10 on the laptop, or on the PC side—Apple, Steve Jobs, according to a Gizmodo blogger, said that a part of Apple’s goal with the iPhone, with all their rules and restrictions, is to keep people safe from viruses; keep people safe from porn, in fact. Apple’s been playing sort of fast and loose with these things for a while, haven’t they?
Timothy Karr: Well, they have. And I think they may say that those are their intentions for blocking certain apps against others, but they do have a record of actually blocking apps that are competitive with some of their services, or competitive with the services of some of their allies. And it’s one of the reasons that when Google created an app market they claimed that the Android market, which is the operating platform for Google, phones that cooperate with Google, is an open marketplace. But even there, we’re finding that Google is now partnering with some of the device manufacturers and some of the networks, like Verizon, in blocking people’s access to applications there. But this evolution from sort of an open Web-surfing experience that people have become familiar with over the last 15 years to something that’s more of a closed network, that is guided by the use of apps, is problematic. And I think people need to understand that in adopting the app model and using handheld devices, that they are potentially sacrificing a lot of the freedoms that they were used to in using the Internet.
Kasia Anderson: Well, in the meantime, let’s all just enjoy the use of our, control of our smartphones while it lasts. And thank you, Timothy Karr, once again, author of the article on Huffington Post, “Is Apple Launching a Preemptive Strike Against Free Speech?” And we hope that you stay on this case for all of our good.
Timothy Karr: I will.
Peter Scheer: Agreed. Thanks for joining us.
Timothy Karr: Thank you.
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Peter Scheer: This is Truthdig Radio, and we are joined by Miko Peled. He is an Israeli peace activist and author of the book “The General’s Son.” He comes from a long line of Zionists; his father was a general in the War of ’67 and an officer in ’48. And we encountered him recently in a video by AlterNet focused … welcome, first of all.
Miko Peled: Thank you. Nice to be with you guys.
Peter Scheer: So we put up an item based on your video about the three myths. But before we get to the three myths, I just want to ask you—you know, this issue…a lot of this doesn’t come as a revelation to people who have been close to this issue or studying it. But it remains controversial, in this country especially. And I wonder—you know, you mention in that video, which people should definitely go check out, that Israelis and Americans are not in full possession of the truth, in part because the Zionist education system in Israel teaches that Palestinian life is worthless, you say. But I wonder if you can just talk on that briefly.
Miko Peled: When I express my views about the rights of Palestinians and so forth, and about the ethnic cleansing that Israel has been conducting in Palestine over the last six decades, people call me an extremist and they say that my views are a minority, and so on and so forth. And the point that I make is, you’re only considered an extremist and a minority when you’re looking at, when you’re considering Israel and the U.S. But if you look at Europe, and even more so if you look at Africa and Asia and the Arab world, these things are common knowledge; like you said, people know that this is what’s going on, that this is a reality. They don’t always necessarily admit it, but everybody else knows, and everybody else talks about it. And so this is an important thing for people to consider: the fact that here in America people think that these views are extreme or don’t really represent anybody but a small minority is not really relevant, because the rest of the world does know that this is how things are over there.
Peter Scheer: Yeah, and it does seem to be that people don’t really know what happened in Gaza—the attack on Gaza, the attack on Lebanon, the treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. It seems it really is a question of ignorance, and how can people be so ignorant?
Miko Peled: Well, it’s not all ignorance. In Israel it’s not ignorance; in Israel they justify it. I mean, this stuff is in the news, it’s in the newspapers, so people are quite well informed. Plus, in Israel everybody’s got either a friend or relative who’s either a reservist or is in active duty in the military, so people know very well what’s going on; it’s just that they don’t care. They don’t think it’s part of their life; they don’t think they need to worry about it, and they justify it. Here in the U.S. people justify it too, but it’s more like you say—it’s more they justify it because they really don’t have full possession of the truth and they don’t really have full possession of the facts.
Peter Scheer: Right.
Miko Peled: So they can’t really make an informed … they can’t really form an informed opinion about this, because they don’t have possession of the facts.
Peter Scheer: So, you lost your niece to a Palestinian terrorist attack. And what is it you say to people when they accuse you of being sympathetic or soft on terror?
Miko Peled: Well, I just tell them what my sister said, you know, my niece’s mother, my sister Marit. When she finally came out of her room after this horrible tragedy, after the funeral—and of course this was big news in Israel, because she was the granddaughter of a famous man, of a general, and also of a man who represented, almost more than anybody in Israel, an effort to reconcile with the Palestinians. So this was big news, and her apartment was full of reporters and people. And she came out, and the first words out of her mouth were, “No real mother would want the same thing to happen to another mother.” So anybody who is talking about retaliation or revenge, I mean, what can you say? A mother just came out of her room having buried her 13-year-old daughter, and this is what she says. She doesn’t want revenge, she wants reconciliation. She doesn’t want any other mother to suffer the same fate. That’s it, I think: Case closed.
Peter Scheer: So, let’s get into the three myths that you outline. I’ll just run through them really quickly: a country without a people, the existential threat, and Israeli democracy. So, let’s start with a country without a people.
Miko Peled: Yes. Well, what a lot of people learn both in Israel and the U.S. is that somehow when Jews returned, or when Jews started immigrating back to Palestine, they came into a country that was barren, a country that was mostly desert and inhabited by nomads and by transient populations. And that when the Jews came they started building, and they developed an industry, and they developed commerce, and they developed education, and they developed health care, and so on and so forth. The truth is that the Palestinians were on the verge of becoming a state. So they had hospitals, and they had an education system, and they had a judicial system, and they had a very vibrant middle class, and they had cities with commerce. And they had all these things.
What the Jewish people did when they emigrated is they developed a parallel system. They developed a system, an education system, a health care system, a government system, and so on, that was separate and completely segregated from what the Palestinians had. And it was based on a principle that was coined by David Ben-Gurion—who was like the Israeli George Washington, I suppose—and he called in hafrada, which hafrada in Hebrew means segregation, or separation, or apartheid if you will. And that we were always going to be separate and segregated from them, from the Arabs. And so this is a myth—I mean, there were over a million and a half or so Palestinian Arabs living in Palestine at the time. And again, the place was alive—it wasn’t dead, it wasn’t that they didn’t have all these things; these things existed. The Jewish people came and tried to develop and tried to build and establish a Jewish state, which may not be justifiable, but they wanted the Jewish state in a country that has a population that is not Jewish.
Peter Scheer: Right.
Miko Peled: And so they had to develop this myth; I mean, they had to justify it somehow. And you talk to people even today, and they say, “But you know, of course, they brought this and they brought that, and they helped the Arabs develop this and they helped the Arabs develop that,” and as all colonial powers claim, that they brought all these good things to the local natives.
Peter Scheer: We’re speaking with Miko Peled. He’s the author of the book “The General’s Son.” And I just want to pick up on that; that’s of course essential to today and these peace negotiations, the right of return for these Palestinians. And … the myth that they were never there—that of course influences whether or not they should have the right to return, right?
Miko Peled: True. True, and of course, the fact remains that the refugees who live outside of Palestine today are descendants of the 800,000 or so that were forcibly exiled out of their homes and out of their land, and they lived in the 500 or so towns and villages and cities that Israel destroyed. And so that is one issue that has to be resolved in any context of a resolution. And again, I don’t think, I can’t imagine, I can’t foresee any Israeli government that will ever allow these people to return, under any conditions, under any circumstances. And so that’s something I think people need to consider when they talk about having these peace negotiations, because I think it’s going to lead to nothing; it’s going to end up nowhere. And then the existential threat—again, after Israel conquered the West Bank and the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, in a matter of days with very little resistance, they had to somehow justify this. And the justification was that there was an existential threat, that the Israeli Army had to act and take over all these lands and destroy the Arab armies because there was an existential threat. And as I—anybody can go in and look at the Israel Army archives, and I have done that, and I quote them in my book. When you look at the discussions that the top brass, the top generals in the Israeli army were holding in the days leading up to the war, there was no talk of an existential threat …
Peter Scheer: We should just say the War of ’67.
Miko Peled: The War of 1967.
Peter Scheer: Right.
Miko Peled: The discussion was, this is an opportunity to destroy, they were talking about the Egyptian army mostly, because it was weak and unprepared.
Peter Scheer: And your father was there.
Miko Peled: And my father was there. And my father was there, and he was one of the strongest … one of the generals who pushed for the war. And he was quite a hawk at that time. He said that the Egyptian army, it will take them years before they’re ready for war; let’s destroy them right now, because we have an opportunity.
Peter Scheer: And then after—after the Israelis were successful, he took a more nuanced position, I guess?
Miko Peled: Well, after it was successful, his point was, this is an opportunity to make peace with the Palestinians. Because he said, now the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are not occupied by any other country, so we can negotiate directly with them; we can resolve the Palestinian problem based on the notion of partitioning the land into two states. It was a much more favorable position to Israel at that point than it was in 1947 when the United Nations decided to partition the land that Israel got left. And the Palestinian population, he said, were prepared and ready to negotiate, and we can resolve this once and for all. And he said this is in the best interest of Israel; if we don’t do this now—and again, I talk about this in the book and in the video interview—if we don’t do this now, then we’re going to end up having a resistance, and the Israeli army is going to have to fight the resistance, and we’re going to become an army of occupation. And eventually, we’re going to become a binational state and not a Jewish democracy.
Peter Scheer: Right. And that’s what happened.
Miko Peled: And that’s exactly what happened.
Josh Scheer: We’re speaking with Miko Peled, who wrote the book “The General’s Son.” Again, we talked about the ignorance before of Americans with the media and everything else. Whenever you see on the news, like, rocket attacks, suicide bombings, it seems like it’s a daily occurrence. But then you see 20 people killed or five people killed, and then the Israelis launch a counterattack that kills a hundred, 200, 300 … no, Peter?
Peter Scheer: No, I’m just—I’m thinking that you, in the video I was watching, you had an incredible statement about experiencing the rocket attacks and how horrible they were, but then also thinking about the one-ton bombs being dropped on Palestinians and civilian populations.
Miko Peled: Yeah, there are two things that people don’t realize. The Palestinian rocket attacks are always in response to Israeli attacks, No. 1. No. 2—and again, this is something my father said decades ago—when a small nation is being occupied by a larger power, terrorism is the only means at their disposal. So to expect … that the Palestinians who live in Gaza, for example, who live under such horrific conditions, and not resort to some sort of violence, is foolish. I mean, it’s foolish. Not to mention the fact that according to international law, they’re allowed to resist with arms. But the point is, to expect that they won’t resist with some sort of violence is foolish. Now, if you take the violent resistance and you compare it to the nonviolent resistance, it disappears; but in comparison, it’s irrelevant in comparison. The Palestinians, the majority, the biggest thrust of the Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation is nonviolent resistance, except that’s never reported. So they have marches every single week, every single Friday, every single Saturday; they’ve had them for years, in a whole host of locations all over the West Bank and Gaza, but of course—and they’re met with horrific, horrific violence by the Israeli Army. But none of this is ever reported, so people don’t know that it exists. When the Qassam rockets are fired, this is news right away, and they see the ambulances and so on and so forth. And then when the Israelis attack with a force that is so unbelievable, then again, that’s justified. And people say well, if people were attacking us, we’d do the same thing—which I don’t think is true, and even if it was true, doesn’t justify it.
Josh Scheer: Well, that’s also, I mean—could it also be, again, the Palestinians don’t have the arms. I mean, the Israelis—they’re always going to be perceived as the bully, right? Because they just, they have this very powerful army. And they’re attacking people…
Miko Peled: Well, they are the bully.
Josh Scheer: Yeah. No, no, I mean they are the bully, but they’re attacking a less sophisticated force in terms of weaponry and things like that…
Miko Peled: Of course. Of course.
Josh Scheer: So just, it’s always going to look bad.
Peter Scheer: Let’s talk about the settlements. This is obviously a big sticking point in the news a lot in the last couple of years here, but what is—what is your prediction for what happens with the settlements?
Miko Peled: Well, I don’t think the settlements are going anywhere. I don’t think anybody who’s seen the settlements and has been to the settlements, or has traveled in the West Bank, could imagine them disappearing one day. We’re not talking about little villages or little outposts; we’re talking about massive infrastructures, we’re talking about big cities, we’re talking about schools, we’re talking about malls, we’re talking about highways. Billions and billions of dollars invested. And the problem is that these are, all of these are being built on Palestinian land, excluding the Palestinians from living there. So they’re building all these towns and cities and malls and highways on Palestinian land for Jews only. Now, this is not atypical; I mean, most of Israel is like that. Most of Israel is really settlements on Palestinian land. In the West Bank it’s more pronounced, because the people are still there; there was no big ethnic cleansing like there was in the rest of what is, today, Israel. So people say, well, maybe we’ll do some kind of a land exchange, so some of the settlements will stay. Problem with that is again, if you’ve seen it, you realize how absurd it is. If somebody had land in the West Bank and it was taken away—and we’re talking about beautiful, fertile land, with water and orchards and so on—and they’re going to be given some sand dunes in the south somewhere near Gaza, how is that going to work? I mean, who is going to agree to this? And I think all this is being said knowing full well that none of this is going to work and nobody is going to be taking it seriously. Because the main thrust is to complete the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, to make people leave, to make people suffer, to make people die, and to continue building a Jewish, a purely Jewish state on the ruins of Palestine.
Josh Scheer: So I just want to read—we’re talking with Miko Peled, author of “The General’s Son” … I want to ask you something—this is totally off-topic, and we’ll get back to topic right after this—but how do we get your book? Because I want to know, when is it going to come on Amazon, and to get it, like a mass release, and just to kind of promote your book a little?
Miko Peled: Sure, yeah. It’s not off-topic at all. [Laughter] The book is almost out; it should be out at the end of this year.
Josh Scheer: Oh, great, OK.
Peter Scheer: Oh, good.
Miko Peled: And once it is out, my blog—it’s going to be announced on my blog, and it’s going to be announced by Facebook, and everybody else.
Peter Scheer: How do people find your blog?
Miko Peled: It’s MikoPeled.wordpress.com. If you Google Miko Peled, my blog comes up right away.
Josh Scheer: Now, in this country, I know with the Jews that you meet and you talk … this issue is … what?
Peter Scheer: Josh and I both have a lot of friends who are Jews, American Jews, who …
Josh Scheer: And Israeli Jews.
Peter Scheer: … are unsympathetic, totally, to the Palestinians …
Josh Scheer: No no, but it’s not just that, though; it becomes unspeakable. Like, you can’t talk about this issue, because you have many friends who are on both sides, and then it becomes a big fight, and you don’t speak. And we wanted to ask about your experience; how has your reaction been from American Jews, and then from Israeli Jews as well? Have you experienced a negative reaction, a positive reaction, is there a sentiment that many people are kind of on your side?
Miko Peled: No, not a lot of people are on my side, by any means. [Laughter] This is very interesting, because when you speak particularly about American Jews—you know, American Jews are by and large a very liberal community, until you touch the topic of Israel. Then it’s like a curtain comes down, end of story. Then the bombings of civilians are justified, and the occupation is justified, and the Israeli army is a __ army, and you know, don’t confuse me with the facts; this is the way things are. And why it is like that is probably beyond the scope of this conversation, but I think it’s a big problem. And again, this is kind of the way it is. In Israel it’s even more pronounced; Israelis justify the occupation and justify the bombing all the time, but I mean, their kids are in the army or they’re in the reserves, and they’re the ones that are doing this. And they say well, my kid would never do something that was immoral.
I remember … trying to get into a Palestinian town…one of the small towns where they have protests every Friday, and they’re met with unbelievable violence. It’s a beautiful spot in the West Bank. And as we were approaching, myself and a Palestinian friend, the army roadblock was there and they wouldn’t let us in. So I engaged with the soldiers, and we were talking; and these were reservists, so they were a little bit older. And my Palestinian friend has an older brother who was shot point-blank in the head by an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint. And as the discussion went on and on and on, it got a little bit heated up, and my Palestinian friend said yes, but you guys killed my brother. And the soldiers came right back without even a second of thought, saying well, if we killed him it was justified; he deserved to die. That’s the end of the story. And I came back and said, you know what, one day you’re going to go down on your knees and you’re going to beg forgiveness from this guy. Because this guy is devoted to peace and he’s a peace activist, this particular friend of mine, as are many Palestinians. And the soldiers were kind of taken aback that I would say something like that.
But this is the knee-jerk reaction: If we killed somebody, it must have been justified. How you justify killing somebody just because you disagree with them or just because they have a different political point of view, is again, is something interesting to discuss. But this is how Israelis see it.
Josh Scheer: It goes back to your original point about Palestinians being thought of as worthless, right, if that’s being taught?
Miko Peled: Yes, Palestinian life is worthless.
Josh Scheer: And … I think it permeates even to American Jews as well.
Peter Scheer: Well, it’s also—if I can just interject a theory—it’s also that certain groups like AIPAC, lobbyist groups, have made it such a nightmare to even raise the issue of Israel doing anything wrong. You get such a negative reaction that as journalists, you have a moment of hesitation at best, and at worst just a self-imposed censorship, to bring these facts to light.
Miko Peled: Yeah. You know, AIPAC is a big bully. I mean, it’s a small bully; as all bullies, they’re smaller and, I think, incompetent, but they’re scaring everybody. And the only way to stand up to a bully is to stand up to a bully, and just stand up to them and that’s it. And I think also the influence is, if it hasn’t started eroding, it will erode, because I think thanks to programs like yours and people like yourself and others that are a little bit more courageous, or actually a lot more courageous, people are beginning to realize that something is wrong. The word is out that there are human rights abuses, that there are political prisoners, that the Israeli … that this nonviolent movement is being met by violence. And I think the Arab Spring, the so-called Arab Spring, has brought that to light a little bit. The Palestinians have been engaging in what happened in the rest of the Arab countries for years. Except it’s not reported. So there’s a little bit more awareness, and I think as this awareness grows, then the power of AIPAC and other groups like AIPAC will have to erode.
Josh Scheer: It goes to, like, violence begets violence, and then you have people—it’s like they did this, we did this…and it kind of is a never-ending situation. And there’s been peace attempts—I mean, we can go through the years: 2007, 2003, 2002, onward and onward back all the way to ’48. So what do you think the ultimate solution is? What’s the road map to peace?
Peter Scheer: To borrow a phrase from George W. Bush.
Miko Peled: Yeah, well … [Laughs] I actually wouldn’t want to use it, because it takes people right back to George Bush. First of all, people have to realize what the reality is. There is no impasse in the peace process. There is an ongoing ethnic cleansing that’s been going on for over six decades, and it hasn’t stopped. Land grabs and forced exile of Palestinians. Israel started it when it was established; it never stopped. So it’s not like there’s an impasse and nothing is happening; there is something very, very clear happening, and it’s the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. It’s an ongoing process. … The Palestinians talk about the catastrophe, but it wasn’t just a one-time thing in 1948; it’s an ongoing thing. So that’s the first thing people have to realize.
The second thing people have to realize: No peaceful solution can ever emerge as long as there is this Zionist entity which is called, you know, the state of Israel as it is right now. Because what happens is—it’s already one state; people say one state, two states; Israel controls the land, Israel controls the people, Israel controls the movement of people, Israel controls the commerce, it controls the military, it controls everything. The problem is that they govern each population with different laws. The Palestinians are governed with one law if they’re in the West Bank, they’re governed under different laws if they’re citizens in Israel; and of course the Jewish Israelis are governed by a completely different set of laws.
And this is what has to change. What has to change is that there has to be a complete democracy where every single person has equal rights, and every single person has the right to vote, and take part in determining their future. The fact that the two people are going to be living there together is a given. The claim that somehow the land can be partitioned into two states is absurd. It may have been possible 40 years ago; that possibility is gone forever. There is no one place that you can cut out and say well, this will be Palestine, because the population, the demographics don’t allow for that, the Jewish settlements and so on and so forth don’t allow for that. But what you can do is you can have a democracy. You can have, or you can allow everybody to have equal rights; you can make sure that everybody’s human rights are protected by law. But to do that, you’re going to have to get rid of this Zionist entity as it exists today.
And whether it happens as a result of boycotting from the outside and pressure like in South Africa, or the protests, or a combination of all these different things, and the fact that people will become more and more aware that Israel is a monster, it’s not this wonderful democracy; I think it’s going to take some time, but I don’t think it’s something that is beyond the near future. So I don’t think this is something that’s going to happen in a hundred years; I think this is something that’s going to happen within a decade. I think that’s a very realistic goal, it’s a very realistic approach. Because when you have half the population are Palestinian Arab and half the population are Israeli Jews, almost, then you can’t have one half controlling the other half by force forever. It’s not going to work. Besides being immoral, illegal and horrific … it just can’t work. So in the long term, within the next 10 years or so, I’m very optimistic; I think the end result, the democracy that will emerge in the end is going to be a very good thing for everybody.
Peter Scheer: Thanks so much for joining us. We have to end it there, unfortunately. But for more, people should go and Google Miko Peled; it’s M-i-k-o P-e-l-e-d. He is an Israeli peace activist and author of the book “The General’s Son,” which will be coming by the end of this year. Thanks for being on our show.
Miko Peled: Sure. Appreciate it, thank you guys.
Josh Scheer: Have a great day.
Peter Scheer: Take care.
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Peter Scheer: That’s it for Truthdig Radio. Join us again next week at 2 on 90.7 KPFK or anytime online at Truthdig.com, where you can offer your feedback, praise and complaints, if need be. Thanks to our board-op Tameka, engineer Stan Misraje and Alan Minsky. Thanks also to our guests, Tim DeChristopher, Miko Peled, Tim Karr, and Joan Bertin. For Narda Zacchino, Kasia Anderson and the Scheer brothers, thanks for listening.