After Lawmakers Snub Shimon Peres' Funeral, Israeli Arab Mayors Attend His Shiva

Mayor of Sakhnin says decision to visit mourning family is not move in opposition to Arab MKs who refused to attend Peres' funeral.

Mayor of Sakhnin, Mazen Ganaim.
Nir Keidar

Some 20 Israeli Arab politicians visited the family of the late Shimon Peres as they sat shiva on Sunday at the Peres Center for Peace.

Shiva (Hebrew for "seven") is a weeklong mourning period practiced by Jews across the world. Even though Israel's elder statesman passed away on Wednesday and was buried Friday, Sunday was the last day of his shiva, as the holiday of Rosh Hashana overturns mourning rites.

Their visit came amid anger that Israeli Arab lawmakers did not attend the former Israeli president's funeral, even though Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did.

Mayor of Sakhnin and Director of the National Committee of Arab Mayors, Mazen Ganaim, said that the decision to attend the shiva had not been agreed upon in the committee, but was formed instead by the personal initiative of some of the mayors "without answering to anyone."

"We don't intend to go against Arab members of Knesset and the Joint List and we respect them and they can explain their stance pretty well," said Ganaim regarding the purposeful absence of Arab MKs from Peres' funeral on Friday in Jerusalem.

"There's no need to stick criticism for [the actions of a few] civilians or a few mayors on everyone," said Ganaim and continued, saying that those quoted in the media criticizing joint list politicians for their choice, were not voicing the opinion of the Committee of mayors.

On Thursday, Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh announced that he did not intend to attend Peres' funeral. According to Odeh, "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."

Odeh added that “To Peres’ credit, 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.”