Opinion

Don’t Preach to Us About Peres

The Arab public is sick of finding itself caught in the middle, under attack, when its leadership marches headlong, with great enthusiasm, into the heart of the conflict.

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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The flag-draped coffin of former President Shimon Peres is carried by an honor guard at the start of his funeral ceremony.
The flag-draped coffin of former President Shimon Peres is carried by an honor guard at the start of his funeral ceremony. Credit: Baz Ratner, Reuters
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

The Haaretz editorial on the decision of Joint List Knesset members to absent themselves from the funeral of Shimon Peres was correct concerning the repression of the Palestinian narrative by Israel. But the obvious question is why is it necessary to use a funeral boycott as the way to publicly raise this narrative.

Have all the forms of struggle been exhausted and does nothing remain except for the “rebellion,” as the boycott was called in the editorial. Does “revolt” require the denial of the wonderful Arab culture of reconciliation?

The Arabs say that at the time of death you mention the virtues of the deceased, and in addition, people reconcile either at a time of joy or a time of mourning.

It is important to remember that the Arab citizens of Israel knew how to act at every junction: After Operation Grapes of Wrath in 1996, in which the massacre in the Lebanese village of Kafr Kana took place, Shimon Peres, the person who started the operation, received some 95 percent of Arab votes in the election. In that case, what will they say now: Yesterday we voted for him, and today we are boycotting his funeral? And what will the leaders of the Arab community, who not only did not boycott him but were happy to meet with Peres, say: Yesterday we met with him, and today we are boycotting his funeral?

This is logic filled with holes. In reality, things usually happen in the reverse order: People boycott a person while he is alive, but at the moment of truth they join in the family or neighboring people’s grief. If not for the sake of the deceased, then for the sake of his family.

But that is not the entire story. The new trend is that any criticism coming from the Jewish side, and also from the left, about actions taken by the Arab leadership is considered “patronizing.”

I would like to say right now that there is no Jewish figure that can look down upon me. Only when you are small (not physically, of course) can you be looked down upon. And the Arabs have a backbone. What is bad about a Jew, whether from the left or from the right, criticizing the behavior of the Joint List? Is an Arab not allowed to criticize the Jewish parties? On the contrary, we will examine the criticism on its merits, and if it is constructive, it should be welcomed.

For example, if Roni Daniel said on Channel 2: “You missed out on a great opportunity to be ‘mensches,’” I would not be insulted. And it is worth quoting Shimon Peres himself here, who said: “Back when I was young I decided that I would decide who insults me.” Excuse me Roni Daniel, I am not insulted by you. Your words are so low, and I look down on them from above.

For now the right has harvested the fruits of the “revolt,” and is building itself up on the separation of the two peoples. When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the Holocaust as only “the most horrible crime against humanity in modern history,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came out in an unprecedented attack against him. Really, is that what the Israeli right is missing, for Arabs and Jews to stand together, even if for only one short moment, alongside one another.

Among the considerations an Arab leader in Israel must take into account before deciding on a position, is the important question of whether it contributes to bringing the two peoples closer together and strengthening the status of Arabs as influential citizens. This is the test of leadership.

For now, it is worth starting again from the beginning: The Joint List, from the day it was founded, has adopted a strange methodology; someone comes out with an impassioned stance, scrapes together a few “likes,” and this position is quickly adopted by them all. Not because they agree, but mostly for fear of Facebook. This is how the refusal to sign the excess votes agreement with Meretz was born, and this is how the boycott of Shimon Peres’ funeral crystallized. The Arab public is sick of finding itself caught in the middle, under attack, when its leadership marches headlong, with great enthusiasm, into the heart of the conflict.

Someone has noted on Facebook how Arab leaders here take pride in Nelson Mandela’s path. Yet when push comes to shove they are frightened by the shadows of a status post.

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