Miko Peled gives controversial lecture at University

Jess Kaplan, Print Managing Co-Editor

Israeli author and Palestinian rights activist Miko Peled spoke to the University on Feb. 7 at the invitation of Professor of English Michael Drexler. The lecture was supported by the University Lectureship Committee and co-sponsored by six academic departments: Africana Studies, Arabic Studies, English, Geography, History, and International Relations. The lecture did not have full and unanimous community support, however, as several groups, including Hillel and the Muslim Students Association, declined to co-sponsor his talk.


Peled’s arrival sparked controversy among the student body. Peled is an outspoken critic of the Israeli government and has been accused of characterizing Israel through anti-Semitic tropes and rhetoric. Drexler, a member of the Jewish community himself, defended his invitation of Peled in a statement to The Bucknellian: “He is now among the most prominent advocates for a single democratic state as the just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His perspective is one that I share and that I thought deserved an audience here at Bucknell.”


Drexler introduced Peled’s lecture by sharing a story of his own confrontation with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on a Birthright trip to Israel. Drexler described that while the trip visited holy Jewish sites and many tourist attractions, it fully neglected to address Israel’s control of the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinians. Drexler said he was disturbed by this oversight and took it upon himself to further investigate the animosity.


Peled opened his lecture by warning the audience of the strong Palestinian bias of his presentation and the discomfort some may feel as a result. “This is not going to be a balanced presentation. If you are a supporter of Israel, brace yourself,” he said before beginning.


Peled recounted his transformation from an honored Israeli soldier and son of a prominent diplomat into a fierce critic of the Israeli government. “That journey can be difficult, not geographically but emotionally and politically,” Peled said.


Peled explained that the murder of his 13-year old niece by a suicide bomber prompted a reexamination of his opinion regarding the Israeli government and the mistreatment of Palestinians. Peled concluded from his journey that his privilege as a Jew often came at the expense of the Palestinians, which compares to inequality faced in the South African apartheid state. He quickly became a vocal advocate for the establishment of a single democratic state with equal rights for Israelis and Palestinians.


Peled’s lecture also focused on his 2017 book “Injustice: The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.” The book chronicles the defeat of the Holy Land Foundation Five, a United States charity that was deemed a terrorist organization in 2001 and was shuttered by federal agents, which resulted in the arrest of five officers.


Peled concluded his talk by urging students to participate in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, which promotes the use of non-violent protest to end the Israeli occupation. “Palestine is beyond the point of solidarity. We are morally bound to support Palestine,” Peled said.


Peled’s extreme bias made some members of the Jewish community feel uneasy and distressed. “I felt like he was saying that if you supported Israel you were inherently racist and automatically supported violence. As a Jew on campus, I felt very uncomfortable,” Daniela Marton ’21 said.


Huthaifa Aladwan ’20, who has seen the inequality firsthand while growing up in neighboring Jordan, also echoed Marton’s view. “The conflict is very complex and I think he oversimplified it a bit much,” Aladwan said. Nevertheless, Aladwan acknowledged the need for peace. “It is time to start building rather than destroying, making connections rather than breaking them or forcing them. A Palestinian and an Israeli should have the same rights and same laws. The segregation needs to stop so neighbors across the street can connect and live peacefully.”


Other students, like Jake Rothman ’22, however, found the lecture educational and Peled’s argument convincing.


“He delivered a compelling and emotionally resonant case for a long overdue state of equality between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It made me feel like a new world of tragedy had opened up to me; I’ve traveled to Israel before, and I knew nothing of their maltreatment of the Palestinians,” Rothman said. “I feel like I should have learned this years ago.”

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