Leading Israeli Arab Politician Says He Won’t Attend Shimon Peres' Funeral

Joint List MK Ayman Odeh cites differences between how Shimon Peres has been eulogized and the way the Arab public remembers him.

Joint List party leader MK Ayman Odeh at the 2015 Israel Conference on Peace.
Joint List party leader MK Ayman Odeh at the 2015 Israel Conference on Peace. David Bachar

Despite Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas voicing his intent to attend the funeral of former President Shimon Peres, MK Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint Arab List, announced on Thursday that he would not be present at the event.

“The memory of Peres among the Arab public is different than the narrative discussed in the past few days, and I understand that complex messages such as these are hard to hear the moment after a person dies,” said Odeh.

“To Peres’ credit," he added, "he pursued peace while building a partnership with members of the Arab public, and the evidence is that 90 percent of the Arab public voted for him in the 1996 elections.” Still, said Odeh, “there is strong opposition in Arab society to the architect of the occupation who introduced nukes to the Middle East, and I regret that as president he elected to support Netanyahu and his policies.”

Odeh’s announcement drew condemnations from politicians. “The decision of the Arab parties not to respect the moments of bidding farewell to Shimon Peres, one of the leaders of the peace camp and pioneers of the peace process, makes one wonder who exactly they represent, because it certainly does not reflect the feeling of respect and admiration among large sections of the Arab population in Israel toward Peres and his work,” said MK Erel Margalit (Zionist Union). He added, “Few are the people who dedicated themselves politically and publicly, like Peres, to the peace process and establishing a Palestinian state. The decision of the Arab parties is tantamount to sticking a finger in the eyes of the Israeli public in general and the peace camp in particular.”

MK Shuli Moallem Refaeli, the Habayit Hayehudi faction chairperson, said, “It is easier for Ayman Odeh to prove he is a distinguished Arab leader when he is trampling on Israel, its symbols and its leaders. It is much simpler to dance on Peres’ body and to make headlines in the Arab press than to work hard in the Knesset to improve the lives of the Israeli Arabs who voted for him.”