Shimon Peres

Zionist hawk

Print edition : October 28, 2016

Shimon Peres in 2014, when he was the President of Israel. Photo: Tsafrir Abayov/AP

Shimon Peres (standing) with Yasser Arafat, Bill Clinton and Yitzhak Rabin (extreme left) during the signing of the Oslo II Accord in the White House in Washington, D.C., in September 1995. Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Arafat, Peres and Rabin with the Nobel Peace Prize and citation in 1994. Photo: SA'AR YA'ACOV

World leaders attend the funeral of Shimon Peres at the Mount Herzl Cemetery in Jerusalem on September 30. Photo: Kobi Gideon/Israel Government Press Office/Getty

It is ironical that Shimon Peres (1923-2016), one of the founding fathers of Israel who pursued various aggressive policies during his seven decades in politics, including the colonisation of the West Bank, is eulogised as a “giant of peace”.

ISRAEL and the West mourned the death of Shimon Peres on September 27, painting him as a visionary statesman who had fought in vain for a two-state solution to resolve the impasse between Israel and the Arab world. United States President Barack Obama and former U.S. President Bill Clinton were among the prominent personalities present at the funeral of the former Israeli President. Obama described Peres “as the essence of Israel itself” and ranked him “with the other leaders I have had the honour to meet like Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth”. It was the largest attended state funeral in Israel after that of his fellow Nobel laureate, Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995, with more than 70 countries being represented. The Palestine Authority (P.A.) President, Mahmoud Abbas, was also present. 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 the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). The agreement was signed with much fanfare in 1993 by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The accord, riddled with loopholes to benefit Israel, envisioned an independent state of Palestine comprising the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as the capital. Rabin and Peres prevailed on the Palestinian leadership to postpone the prospects of full statehood for five years and to confine itself to limited statehood. Since then the prospects of a Palestine statehood have all but vanished with the Jewish state aggrandising most of the arable land and water resources on the West Bank.

Israeli strategem

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 workforce. 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 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 Accords have been irrelevant for many years now given Israel’s recalcitrance. In the United Nations last year, President Abbas had threatened to not comply with the P.A.’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 settlements on the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It was during his term as Defence Minister in the early 1970s 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 words 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 Defence Minister, Peres’ slogan was “Settlements everywhere”, calling them “the roots and eyes of Israel”. For Peres, the first priority until the end was to ensure that Israel remained a Jewish state.

Founding the Jewish state

Peres was one of 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 1940s. This period has gone down in collective Palestinian memory as the “Naqba” (catastrophe). It is 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, he was a Member of Parliament for 48 years, holding the post of Prime Minister twice and serving in seven different Cabinets. He owed his early rise to prominence to his proximity to the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion. Until the early 1970s, Israel’s Labour Party had monopolised power, and Peres, a Labour Party member, always had a prime departmental or ministerial portfolio, such as Defence, Foreign Affairs or Finance, to handle.

Peres played a key role in making Israel a de facto nuclear power with the tacit connivance of key Western powers, especially France and Britain. Between 1953 and 1965, Peres first served as director general of Israel’s defence industry and later on as Deputy Minister of Defence. Today, Israel has a potent nuclear arsenal, which is outside the supervision of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (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 flex its military muscles in the region.

Peres, according to apartheid-era documents, 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 Labour Party circles and played an important role in persuading the United Kingdom and France to wage the war against Egypt after the nationalisation of the Suez Canal in 1956. An article 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 Rabin by a crazed Zionist protesting against the Oslo Accords, 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 happened in 1996. About 100 Lebanese, more than half of them children, who had taken refuge in a U.N. bunker, were killed in an Israeli attack. Peres had codenamed 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 20 years in his bid to become Prime Minister.

In his memoirs, Rabin described Peres as “an inveterate schemer”. It was Peres’ decision to challenge Rabin in 1977 that led to a split in the Labour Party and opened the door for the Likud Party and arch Zionists like Begin and Netanyahu into the corridors of power. Peres, after formally leaving the Labour Party in 2005, joined the Kadima Party, started by Ariel Sharon. Sharon himself had resigned from the Likud Party.

Peres served as Foreign Minister under Sharon, the butcher of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila. Sharon crushed the “second Intifada” (uprising) of Palestinians with a heavy hand during his term as Prime Minister and 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 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. Arabs, Palestinians in particular, were angry with the decision of President Abbas to attend Peres’ funeral. There was considerable criticism for the words of praise that Abbas had for Peres. That the funeral was conducted at the resting place of Theodore Herzl, the architect of the Zionist state, also came in for criticism. 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 did not take kindly to visuals of the P.A. 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.

Anger in Palestine

In an official statement, the Hamas Party, which administers the Gaza Strip and had won the popular vote in the general election, said that Abbas’ 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 said that Peres was the “number one propagator of the illusion of compromise which he packaged and sold to us” which 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 Haretz, noted 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… while calling Peres a giant of peace.”

A letter from the Editor


Dear reader,

The COVID-19-induced lockdown and the absolute necessity for human beings to maintain a physical distance from one another in order to contain the pandemic has changed our lives in unimaginable ways. The print medium all over the world is no exception.

As the distribution of printed copies is unlikely to resume any time soon, Frontline will come to you only through the digital platform until the return of normality. The resources needed to keep up the good work that Frontline has been doing for the past 35 years and more are immense. It is a long journey indeed. Readers who have been part of this journey are our source of strength.

Subscribing to the online edition, I am confident, will make it mutually beneficial.

Sincerely,

R. Vijaya Sankar

Editor, Frontline

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
×