Shimon Peres: Zionist Hawk
ISRAEL and the West mourned the death of Shimon Peres on October 27 painting him as a visionary statesman who had vainly fought for a two state solution to resolve the impasse between Israel and the Arab world. President Barack Obama accompanied by the former president, Bill Clinton, were among the prominent foreign personalities present at the funeral of the former Israeli president. It was the largest attended State funeral in Israel after that of his fellow Nobel laureate, Yizthak Rabin in 1995. More than 70 countries were represented at the funeral. President Obama described Peres “as the essence of Israel itself” and went on to rank Peres “with the other leaders I have had the honor to meet like Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth”. The Palestine Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, was also present at the funeral of the Israeli leader. No other Arab country sent a ruler or head of State.
Peres who died at the age of 93 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role in negotiating the Oslo Peace accords between the State of Israel and Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). The agreement was signed with much fanfare in 1993 by the Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat. The accord, riddled with loopholes to benefit Israel, had envisioned an independent State of Palestine comprising of the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as the capital. Rabin and Peres had prevailed on the Palestinian leadership to postpone the prospects of full statehood for five years and confine themselves to limited statehood. Since then, the prospects for Palestine statehood have all but vanished with the Jewish State aggrandising most of the arable land and water resources on the West Bank.
According to many Israeli and Palestinian historians and scholars, the Oslo accords fitted perfectly into Peres' stratagem of ghettoising Palestinians while establishing Israeli industrial zones close by to exploit the cheap Palestinian work force. He had no real sympathy for the oppressed and colonised Palestinians despite trying to cultivate a dovish image in his later years. He refused to acknowledge that the Palestinians were being victimised by the Israeli occupation. “They are self victimising, they victimise themselves. They are victims of their own mistakes unnecessarily”, he told the late David Frost in a television interview in 2012. The Oslo Peace accord has anyway become irrelevant for many years given Israel's recalcitrance. In the United Nations last year, President Abbas had threatened to not comply with the PA's obligations under the Oslo agreements pointing out that the Israelis have been constantly reneging on their part of the bargain.
Peres was an early supporter of the large scale illegal Jewish settlement on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It was during his term as defense minister in the early seventies that the first Jewish settlements in the West Bank started. A statement issued by the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea and Samaria, the Zionist codeword for Israel beyond its legal boundaries, remembered “the great contribution Shimon Peres made to establish Israel's security infrastructure from its first days, and his substantial contribution to Jewish settlements in Samaria”. As defense minister, Peres's slogan was “settlements everywhere” and calling them “the roots and eyes of Israel”. For Peres, the first priority till the end was to ensure that Israel remains a Jewish state.
Peres was also among the last surviving leaders who founded the Jewish State in 1949. The State of Israel was founded using terrorist means, including mass murder and ethnic cleansing. Peres as a young man was a member of the terrorist group Haganah that was responsible for large scale ethnic cleansing of many Palestinian villages in the late 1940's. This period has gone down in collective Palestinian memory as the “Naqba” (catastrophe). It was on the land forcibly vacated by Palestinians that modern day Israel exists.
Peres was among those Israelis who claimed that before the State of Israel came into being “there was nothing here” in Palestine. In his seven decades in politics, Peres held the post of prime minister twice and served in seven different cabinets. His early rise to prominence was due to his proximity with the first prime minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion. Till the early 1970's, Israel's Labour Party had monopolised power and Peres, a Labor Party member always had a prime departmental or ministerial portfolio to handle. Peres remained a member of parliament for 48 years. At one time or the other, he was either the defense, foreign or finance minister of his country.
Peres played a key role in making Israel a de facto nuclear power with the tacit connivance of the key western powers, especially France and Britain. Between 1953 to 1965, Peres first served as director general of Israel's defense industry and later on as deputy minister of defense. Today, Israel has a potent nuclear arsenal which is outside the supervision of the NPT. Peres was the man responsible for ordering the Israeli secret service to kidnap Mordechai Vanunu, the whistle blower who exposed Israel's nuclear secrets. Israel's status as a nuclear power allows it to impudently flex its military muscles in the region.
Peres, according to apartheid era documents, had even offered to sell nuclear weapons to South Africa in 1975. South Africa under apartheid rule and Israel were close political and military allies. He was viewed as a “hawk” in Labor Party circles and played an important role in persuading the United Kingdom and France in waging war against Egypt after the nationalisation of the Suez Canal in 1956. An article appearing in a prominent Egyptian website described Peres as “the engineer of genocide against Arabs” from 1956 onwards.
After Peres briefly became prime minister following the tragic assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a crazed Zionist protesting against the Oslo peace accord, he tried to burnish his credentials as a military hawk by going to war against Lebanon. It was under his watch that the first Qaana massacre in 1996 happened. More than 100 Lebanese, more than half of them children, taking refuge in a UN bunker, were killed in an Israeli attack. Peres had code named Israel's invasion of Lebanon “Operation Grapes of Wrath”.
In the elections that followed, Peres lost to another rising hawk, Benjamin Netanyahu of the right wing Likud Party. He had earlier lost to Likud's Menachem Begin in 1977, going down in history as the first Labour leader to lead his party to an electoral defeat. In all, Peres lost five times in twenty years in his bid to become prime minister. Rabin had described Peres “an inveterate schemer” in his memoirs. It was Peres' decision to challenge Rabin in 1977 that led to a split in the Labour Party and opened the door for the right wing Likud Party and arch Zionists like Benjamin Netanyahu into the corridors of power.
DEFENDER OF GROSS
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
Peres, after formally leaving the Labour Party in 2005, joined the Kadima Party started by Ariel Sharon. Sharon had himself defected from the Likud Party. Peres served as foreign minister under Sharon, the butcher of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila. Sharon had crushed the “second Intifada” (uprising) of the Palestinians with a heavy hand during his term as prime minister and had also completed the building of the infamous separation wall that laid the foundation of an apartheid State in Israel. Peres was elected to the ceremonial post of president in 2007 with the support of the right wing parties. While in office, he was a staunch defender of the gross human rights violations by the Israeli armed forces in the wars in Lebanon and Gaza.
The Arab street and the Palestinians in particular were angry with the decision of President Abbas to attend the funeral of the late Israeli leader. There was considerable criticism for the words of praise President Abbas had for Peres and for the fact that the funeral was conducted at the resting place of Theodore Herzl, the architect of the Zionist model. In a letter of condolence to the Peres family, Abbas described the late leader as “a partner in forging the peace of the brave”. Many in the Fatah faction of the PLO to which Abbas belongs also did not take kindly to the visuals of the PA president shaking hands with Netanyahu when the two met at the funeral ceremony. A Palestinian security officer was arrested for saying that Abbas had “made a mistake” by attending the funeral.
In an official statement, the Hamas party which administers the Gaza Strip and had won the popular vote in the general elections, said that Abbas's condolence message “was an insult to the blood of the martyrs and the suffering of the Palestinian people”. A leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), said that Peres was the “number one propagator of the illusion of compromise which he packaged and sold to us” which has resulted in “the blood of martyrs, settlement activity and land appropriation” by Israel. Peres was a vocal supporter of the inhuman blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The prominent Israeli writer Gideon Levy in an article in the newspaper Haaretz, observed the hypocrisy surrounding the worldwide adulation for the late Israeli leader. “One cannot crown him a wondrous figure, as the whole world is doing now, without also describing his country. If Peres was a hero of peace, then the State of Israel is a peace seeking country. Is anybody buying that? One cannot call it an occupier, a dis-possessor, a pariah while calling Peres a giant of peace”, wrote Levy.