Instead of condemning Arab MKs for boycotting Peres’ funeral, Zionist Left parties should ask themselves why Palestinian citizens don’t trust them.
Why are so many Jews in Israel disappointed and angered by the Joint List’s decision to not attend Shimon Peres’ funeral? What is the source of the endless bitterness and incitement on the Internet? How dare military correspondent Roni Daniel condescendingly reprimand Joint List head Ayman Odeh, accusing him of missing an opportunity “to be a human being,” as if he were God’s emissary on earth. After all if Odeh and the Joint List had attended the funeral, no one would have thought to ascribe even a modicum of respect, humanity, or leadership to their decision.
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I believe that all the criticism against Arab elected officials stems from the internal frustrations of Israel’s Jewish citizens. After all, they were the ones to bury Peres — along with his vision and hope to which he so stubbornly clung.
I want to remind the readers that Palestinians were not responsible for the murder of Peres’ partner, Yitzhak Rabin. I want to remind you that Israeli Jews stopped Peres from having any political influence in his party, the Knesset, the government, and among his people. Not the Palestinians.
Just before Yom Kippur, I invite Israel’s Jewish population to do some soul searching. Instead of crying over the “dove of peace” that passed away at the age of 93, the Jewish people must do some national self reflection and ask themselves how the current leadership came into power. Which sins did you commit that led to the most embarrassing, racist, violent government to take power, and all at your expense? How did you get rid of every single politician or public persona who spoke of a different future — those who talked about the ability to end the occupation, and maybe even achieve peace.
Scapegoating Arab MKs
As a Palestinian it is clear to me that Peres’ dream was meant for his people and the state he helped build on the ashes of my village and my history. The list of his crimes against the Palestinians is long, and believe me when I say that I understand your national pain, anger, and mourning — I even appreciate what Peres did for the Jews throughout his life, and especially what he tried to do during his last years. I hope that the Palestinian leader to come will care for his people like Peres did — I hope it is someone who will dream and fight tooth and nail for the Palestinian people. I hope he outshines Peres.
But first off let’s admit that you don’t really want Arab MKs as part of your national blue-and-white period of mourning, and that you weren’t really that offended when a couple of Arabs, whom the Knesset humiliates on a regular basis, did not attend the Zionist parade of respect, which accompanied the Israel’s president on his final journey.
All those who are taking their rage out on the Joint List are reaping what they sowed — and I am specifically referring to the center-Left Zionist camp. What did you do to make Ayman Odeh and the Joint List join your group hug just as Peres is about to pass away? Did you ever think to offer them any kind of cooperation that could bring about the end of the occupation? Did you ever think that it is your role to stop legislation that targets Arab members of Knesset?
Now, after we have witnessed the unbearable behavior by center-left Zionist parties vis-a-vis Israel’s Arab parliamentarians, the impossible burden of maintaining “coexistence” falls on the 13 MKs from the Joint List. How many more loyalty tests, condemnations, and funerals must Arab citizens go through until they are told that “maybe now you are legitimate enough for partnership.”
In my eyes, all those who are “disappointed” by the Joint List’s absence are taking out their anger over the fact that their power is now in the hands of the the national-religious and the Right, which defeated Peres’ political camp and left it impotent. I hope that most people do not actually believe Netanyahu, Liberman, Shaked, and Bennett’s mourning at the funeral. Believe me that the presence of a few Arabs in suits would not have consoled a country in grief.
Peres’ death may signal the end of an era, but only among the Jewish people living in Israel. The reality of Palestinian citizens hasn’t changed a bit. The harsh treatment, oppression, and racism toward Arab citizens only intensifies with every passing day. The settlement enterprise is a well-oiled machine, in Gaza millions of Palestinians are still under siege, and in the West Bank Palestinians live between checkpoints and fences. The architects of the occupation — those who buried the Oslo accords, the ones who incited before Rabin’s assassination, the ones who defeated Peres — all of them, without exception, were present at the funeral.
But we know that none of the journalists would dare talk about the “remarkable” group that inherited Peres’ mantle and is leading Israel and the Jewish people into the abyss. Who are you kidding? And who gets reprimanded? Who is the scapegoat? The Arab, of course. The Arab who is not a “human being,” and instead of attending the funeral went to Sakhnin to lay a wreath in honor of a teenager who was murdered in October 2000 at the hands of the same state led by Peres, may his memory be a blessing.
Happy New Year.
This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.