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Miko Peled, whose father was an IDF general, tells Paul Jay that Bernie Sanders opened the door for mainstream politicians to criticize U.S. policy towards Israel

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PAUL JAY, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. The election is just a few days away and one of the issues that people are weighing as they consider who to vote for is of course US foreign policy and one of the issues that is at the heart of US foreign policy is the attitude of the United States towards Israel and the Israel Palestinian conflict. Now joining us to discuss US foreign policy in the coming elections in the studio is Miko Peled. He’s an Israeli-American activist and author. He’s the author of the book The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. Thanks for joining us. MIKO PELED: Thank you. Thanks for being here. JAY: So for those of you who don’t know Miko, Miko’s father was a very well-known general. He came from a very prominent Zionist family in Israel. After the Lebanese War and he was in special forces himself, he had enough of the Zionist occupation and turned his back on that politics and in fact became an activist in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and is now living in the United States. So, he’s got a perspective both from Israel and from in the US. So With the elections coming up let’s go back a little step. You were interviewed by Chris Hedges a little while again. And in it you said Bernie Sanders opened the door. What did you mean? PELED: Well Bernie Sanders did two things that I don’t think anybody anticipated a serious candidate would every do. He did not go to the APAC convention. He didn’t speak at the APAC convention here in the spring. And during his debate, a crucial debate with Hillary Clinton, he brought up Israeli brutality and its attacks on Gaza and the fact that over 10 thousand people were injured and thousands were killed and so forth. He did it on primetime when the whole world was watching and he had everything to lose and he did that anyway and I think that the way people are thinking about American politics, no politician can do either of things. Criticize Israel publicly and reject APAC, and still be considered a serious candidate. He did both and I think by doing that he opened the door to other politicians to say we can reject this Israel. We can criticize Israeli politics and the sky’s not going to fall and life will go on. JAY: Yea the sky did not fall and in fact he came pretty close for a candidacy that no one expected to go anywhere. Then he appoints Cornel West to the platform committee on his behalf. And Cornel makes the whole issue of saying there’s an occupation and trying to introduce strong very strong language into the platform which wasn’t accepted but Sanders had to know what Cornel was going to do. PELED: I’m sure he knew it. I’m sure this is how he sees things and I think the fact that a language wasn’t accepted as to be a warning sign to Americans as they go to the polls coming up soon. JAY: Again, a very big division in the democratic party on this issue that was a great number of delegates. I can’t remember the exact number, close to 2000 supporting Sanders and you would think supporting taking on the question of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. PELED: Yes I think Americans have this I don’t know if it’s a bind spot or just a very indoctrination that begins very early on in life about Israel. America just committed 38 billion dollars over the next decade that is going to go to Israel. And of course this is the first steps of many many billions of dollars that have already been given to Israel. Israel is a fully developed wealthy country. Wealthy state. Israel does not need foreign aid at all. It certainly doesn’t deserve foreign aid. There is a very serious problem which is the Palestinian issue for which Israel is responsible. So today when we look at the candidates and try to validate how they view this issue and what they’re going to do about this, from what I’m seeing, there’s really only one candidate who is serious about ending foreign aid to Israel, supporting the call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions against the state of Israel for what Israeli policy is doing towards the Palestinians and that of course is Jill Stein. So, I think Americans need ot wake up because by not standing up clearly and opposing this aid package, by not standing up clearly and opposing American support for Israel, they are in fact complicit with Israeli crimes because so much of our tax dollars, so much is our tax dollars. So, unless we oppose it then we are complicit in some very very serious crimes that Israel is committing and has been committing for almost 7 decades against the Palestinian people. JAY: Some people who argue for the swing state strategy in voting. Meaning you vote for Jill Stein or one of the other alternative parties outside of the swing states. But in the swing states, that Trump and I have to say Pence because as I keep saying on the Real News, I think we’re going to be looking more at president Pence if by any chance Trump does win. In a sense of a Cheney-Bush kind of relationship. But some people are arguing that there’s a kind of traditional alliance between Netanyahu and Likud and the republican party and the far right of the republican party which Pence and Trump is not that far off but certainly Pence and that whole gang are part of. That they had this friction between Obama and Netanyahu and that section of the democratic party. No question they fully support the Zionist state of Israel and a Jewish state and the militarization and use Israel as a military, some people have called Israel like an American land based aircraft carrier in the Middle East and so on. But there is a certain amount of friction with Netanyahu on the Iran agreement. Certainly Trump and Pence have said they will want to rip up the Iran agreement, that there is a difference within the overall unity these parties have on the support for a Zionist militarist Israel. But there is differences and some of these differences matter. What do you make of that? PELED: I think if we look historically, there is no difference on this issue and many other foreign policy issues on this actually between republicans democrats. The way I view it, if we’re talking about foreign policy, the support for Israel and the lack of recognition of the fact that there is a problem because of the Palestinian question, both sides have, there are no differences. I mean if we look at President Obama, I don’t think there’s been a more supportive president for Israel ever in terms of the amount of money and amounts of weapons that’s been given. The rhetoric may be a little bit different. JAY: Other than the Iran agreement there was a divergence on that. PELED: I think the Iran agreement was like, I think the whole Iran issue or the way Iran was raised by Netanyahu and raised by Israel was served two purposes. One was a smokescreen. In other wards, diver attention from Israeli crimes and other places. The second thing was to try to squeeze as much has possible from the Americans as much sympathy and as a much whatever it is Israel can get in terms of negotiating for this foreign aid package and using the Iran deal like saying well you know now you’ve got to compensate us even more. I don’t think any of it was real. I don’t think anybody had any real concerns about Israeli security because of an imminent Iranian threat and I don’t think there was any doubt that in the end there was going to be this agreement in terms of the way that Israelis are thinking. But this was an opportunity to get more to blackmail the American administration to squeeze more out of it in terms of what they were going to get when the negotiations for the – JAY: There’s an interesting WikiLeaks that somewhat supports what you’re saying. There’s a WikiLeaks which it doesn’t say who it’s from and who it’s to but people I’ve talked to should know, seem to think it looks like an internal State Department briefing. Then it says that to get Israel to kind of go along with the Iran agreement, we should help overthrow Assad. And tie this issue to overthrowing Assad to appeasing Israel. PELED: And there are other aspects of foreign policy too. There’s this idea that somehow supporting the coup leaders in Egypt means we stand with our Egyptian friends and destroying Syria means we are fighting for democracy in Syria. I mean there’s a double standard here. There’s a hypocrisy here that is staggering. I recall Israel used to have a list of Arab countries that used to be referred to as the refusal front. These were the bad Arabs. These were the Arabs that you couldn’t talk to that would neve make peace with us and so on and so forth. That list of countries was Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya. Now look at all these countries. On the other hand, we’ve got the moderate Arabs. The good Arabs so to speak. Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and the Gulf States and so forth which are very willing and very happy to do business with Israel. Look at what is happening in these countries and look at what is happening in these other countries. And there’s a claim that I’ve heard many times by democrats saying that we are never going to forsake our Egyptian friends and the Egyptian people and therefore there’s a foreign aid package that goes to Egypt. If they’re supporting the coup leaders as opposed to supporting a democratic elected president who’s sitting in prison with a death sentence hanging over his head. So there’s a hypocrisy there on both sides. In terms of foreign policy in particularly in the Middle East, I don’t think there’s any difference whatsoever on this issue. So once again this whole claim that somehow maybe one is better than the other, I just don’t see that. JAY: Okay. Thanks very much for joining us. PELED: Sure. JAY: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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Miko Peled is an Israeli-American activist and author of The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. Born in Jerusalem in 1961, Miko grew up in Motza Illit to a prominent Zionist family; his grandfather Avraham Katsnelson signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence. His father, Mattityahu Peled, fought in the 1948 war, and served as a general in the war of 1967. His father later became a peace activist and leading proponent of an Israeli dialogue with the PLO, as well as a two-state solution. Miko Peled followed his father’s footsteps at first, joining Israel’s Special Forces after high school and earning the red beret, but he soon grew to regret his decision. He surrendered his status as soon as he earned it, becoming a medic, and finally, disgusted by the 1982 Lebanon invasion, he buried his service pin in the dirt.