Israeli Arab Leader Who Shunned Peres Funeral: Jews Need to Feel Arabs' Pain, Too

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Ayman Odeh, leader of Joint List party gestures while speaking.
Ayman Odeh, leader of Joint List party.Credit: Bloomberg

Arab Knesset Member Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, said Friday that he didn't attend former President Shimon Peres' funeral because doesn't feel a part of the national mourning.

"On the personal level, Peres has family and friends. I feel their loss, and that is the most profound and important thing," Odeh said in an interview on Channel 2. "But on the political level, this is national mourning. I have no part in it. Not in the narrative, not in the symbols that exclude us"

Odeh made the remarks on Channel 2's Ulpan Shishi show hours after Peres was laid to rest on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. Representatives of 70 countries were in attendance. 

Odeh asserted that Israeli leaders are disconnected from the "historical pain" of the country's Arabs.

"Tomorrow we commemorate the events of October 2000," he said, referring to deadly clashes between Arab protesters and the police in northern Israel. "One of the victims was my wife's younger brother. Will any of the cabinet ministers put flowers on the victims' graves? Can anyone feel our pain, or doesn't anyone care?"  

He said it was important to him to build ties with "sane figures" in Jewish Israeli society, and that he knows those figures were hurt by his decision to shun the funeral. But he asked that Arabs not be "demonized" for it.  

"I try to feel the historical pain of the Jewish people – the Holocaust, the pogroms," he said. "I'm asking Jews to feel my historical pain."

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