|The scene outside Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, yesterday as Israelis
lined up to pay their last respects [Image Source]
It’s a gorgeous Friday morning here in Jerusalem. The air is still but residents of the city, like us, know to expect chaos as foreign delegations from dozens of countries make their way to the national cemetery on Mount Herzl for today’s formal funeral of a former president and major figure on the Israeli stage for the entire seven decades of Israel’s renewed existence, Shimon Peres.
How are our neighbours dealing with this?
Simple answer: In ways that remind thoughtful observers of how they hold on tight to backward-facing conceptions while Israel and most of the world is busy trying to build the future and resolve the generations-long conflict.
Israeli Arab political figures seem likely to avoid taking part altogether [“Arabs boycott funeral of Shimon Peres“, New York Post, September 29, 2016], though we won’t know till we know.
But there’s less doubt about the savages of the Hamas organization/regime who have called for a “Day of Rage” to mark, as Times of Israel describes it, both
the one-year anniversary of the beginning of a wave of terror attacks, including stabbings and car-rammings throughout the West Bank and in Jerusalem, that launched in September 2015 [Times of Israel]
and what its spokesperson Sami Abu-Zuhri says is how
“the Palestinian people are very happy at the passing of this criminal who caused their blood to shed… his death is the end of a phase in the history of this occupation and the beginning of a new phase of weakness.” [Times of Israel]
No one can predict what form that orchestrated rage will take. But we can assume they won’t confine themselves to banging the walls of their apartments and raising their voices at people.
The “moderate” head of the Palestinian Authority and of Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, is widely reported to be on his way to Jerusalem today after having
sent a condolence letter to Peres’s family expressing “sorrow and sympathy.” He called Peres a partner in reaching a “peace of the brave” with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. [Times of Israel, September 30, 2016]
The PA faction which Abbas heads, Fatah, put out its own statement in which it called Peres
“the spiritual father of all the wars against Arab states” [Source: PMW]
That hostile message was, naturally, published in Arabic only, intended for consumption by Fatah’s rank-and-file constituency as well as, presumably, its rivals in Hamas.
Equally naturally, Fatah put out an entirely different and contradictory message in the English language yesterday, intended for unsuspecting non-Arabic-speakers oblivious to the torrent of hatred and bigotry pumped out daily by the Fatah propaganda machine. In English, their message is that:
Abbas wanted to “send a strong message to Israeli society that the Palestinians are for peace, and appreciate the efforts of peaceful men like Shimon Peres”… Abbas will be joined by a delegation comprising senior negotiator Saeb Erekat, Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, security chief Majid Faraj and Muhammad Al-Madani, who heads up relations with Israelis. Former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei may also attend… [Abbas also] sent a condolence letter to Peres’s family [in which he] expressed his “sadness and sorrow,” and wrote that “Peres was a partner in making the brave peace with the martyr Yasser Arafat and prime minister (Yitzhak) Rabin.” [Times of Israel, yesterday]
It won’t be news to people who keep track of these things that there’s plenty of Palestinian Arab double-speak on display here. It’s a sadly familiar part of the landscape. And note the loathsome use of the word “martyr” in reference to Arafat. (It doesn’t appear, for some odd reason, in today’s Times of Israel re-statement of that Abbas statement here.)
The PA’s clear and explicit position, contrary to all the available evidence and several lengthy third-party investigations, is that the Israelis martyred Arafat by murdering him. A PA civil servant was even arrested last year and charged with denying the “truth” of Arafat’s alleged martyrdom – or as Times of Israel [“PA employee arrested for claiming Arafat was ‘not a martyr’“, April 28, 2015] quoted them in its report at the time – for “attacking and harming the martyr, eternal leader and symbol of the Palestinian people Abu Ammar”, Arafat’s nom de guerre.
Arafat’s alleged victimhood is evidently too precious an asset to be surrendered for something as ephemeral as baby-steps toward peace. It continues to play a central and highly influential role in the moulding of Palestinian Arab opinion and its obsessive grip on extreme violence [see “15-Jun-16: What do the Palestinian Arabs think?“]
Worth remembering that funerals continue to play their traditional role in their culture as well. For a reminder of how that works, see “5-May-14: The making of a martyr: it takes more than a village“.
Let’s hope the day runs its course peacefully and a spirit of forward-lookingness.