As an impressive gathering of world leaders on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem paid their last respects to Shimon Peres, a man universally lauded as a peacemaker, Arabs near and far lined up to revile Israel’s elder statesman.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas sent his condolences to Peres’ family. In a statement to the press, he called Peres a partner in “A peace of the brave”, saying he “exerted persistent efforts to reach a just peace from the Oslo agreement until the final moments of his life.” After much deliberation, Abbas attended Peres’ funeral.
His statement seemed at odds with WAFA, the official PA news agency, which posted an article documenting Peres’ “aggression”. The article was removed shortly after being posted. Lest it be considered an anomaly, Palestinian Maan News Agency, wrote that “Peres will be remembered by many for his leading role in the oppression of Palestinians, from the creation of the state of Israel and beyond.”
Arabs inside the Israeli government were even more harsh in their comments on their yet-to-be-interred former president. All 13 Members of the Joint Arab list announced they would be boycotting the funeral. Considered extremely moderate, Ayman Odeh called Peres, “a man of security, occupation and settlement construction who introduced nuclear [facilities] to the Middle East and, unfortunately, was also a president who chose to support Netanyahu and his policies.”
Basel Ghattas, a Christian Arab MK originally from Nazareth, was even more harsh. After Peres suffered a stroke two weeks ago, Ghattas wrote on his Facebook page that Peres, a 93-year old lifetime politician, “was one of the pillars of the Zionist colonial project, and one of the most despicable, cruel, radical and long-lived [of its leadership]. He was the most damaging and calamitous for the Palestinian nation and other Arab peoples.”
“So let us at least remember his true essence in his death, as a tyrant directly responsible for crimes and war crimes directed against us,” added Ghattas. “our blood covers him from head to toe.”
Further afield, the Arab criticism of the architect of the Oslo Accords got even harsher. Al Jazeera, a Qatar based international news service, published three articles calling Israel’s most prominent statesman a “war criminal.” Marwan Bashira wrote, “Peres was probably one of the least consequential, least trusted and least popular leaders in the country’s history; not because of his peace-making wizardry, but rather because of his slimy tactics, changing colours and continuous failures.”
Hamas, the ruling organization in Gaza dedicated to the destruction of Israel and recently allied with the PA, celebrated Peres’ death. Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AP that “the Palestinian people are very happy at the passing of this criminal who caused their blood to shed.”
He added, “Shimon Peres was the last remaining Israeli official who founded the occupation, and his death is the end of a phase in the history of this occupation and the beginning of a new phase of weakness.”
Al-Manar, a Lebanese satellite television station affiliated with Hezbollah vilified Peres as a criminal, stating that he “will be forgotten since the world is better off without criminals.”