Opinion

To All the Hypocrites Attacking Israeli Arab Politicians for Not Attending Peres' Funeral

As in years past, no Israeli official came to Saturday's memorial ceremony for the 12 Arab citizens killed by police in October 2000. Yet the Israeli establishment is outraged that Arab MKs stayed away from Shimon Peres' funeral the day before.

Jack Khoury
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Shimon Peres' funeral in Jerusalem on September 30, 2016.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Shimon Peres' funeral in Jerusalem on September 30, 2016.Credit: Emil Salman
Jack Khoury

On Saturday 12 Arab families from the Galilee and Wadi Ara went to cemeteries in their communities and laid wreaths on the graves of their sons. That has been their custom for the past 16 years, since the days that changed their lives in October 2000.

Twelve graves, in Sakhnin and Arabeh, Kafr Manda, Kafr Kana, Nazareth, Umm al-Fahm, Moawiya and Jatt, along with one grave in Dir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip. Twelve of the 13 dead were Israeli citizens. The state owes them and their families the answer to a question: Who were the police officers who shot them? A state commission of inquiry was empaneled, and investigated the events of October 2000, but no one was tried. The state did not take care of the dead and their families. Why? Because theyre Arab.

The dead were not politicians or prominent public figures. They were just young Arab citizens of this country. It was enough to look into the eyes of their mothers on Saturday, as they walked in the main procession held in Sakhnin to mark the 16th anniversary, with no official Israeli representative coming to give them answers or comfort them. No representative of a Zionist party found it proper to lay a wreath on the graves of their sons.

The few Jews taking part on the procession in memory of the dead of October 2000 are considered strange, on the margin of the margins. The Israeli mainstream was not there. Jews talk about coexistence and an egalitarian society, but the state is becoming more Jewish and more nationalistic.

Former President Shimon Peres died on the eve of the day marking the events of October 2000. A time of national mourning was declared for Peres, flags were lowered to half-mast. Everyone had to shed a tear, it was important that the pain be seen. And what a disaster. MKs from the Joint List did not attend Peres funeral. They are not human beings, they have no compassion, understanding or sympathy. Look at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, why could he come and they couldnt? Well get back at them, said a few Arab pols from the Zionist parties, self-designated spokesmen for the Arab community.

Abbas came to the international show, which is unlikely to have served him politically. Palestinian public opinion doesnt care much about him. In any case he has no elections on the horizon. In any case the Palestinian parties are attacking him from the left and the right.

The Joint List has an audience and voters. Contrary to the Arabists explanation, the tone is not set by the Balad faction, but by the younger generation, which expresses its anger and frustration and feels pushed into a corner. Hostility and racism are mounting before the eyes of that generation, the Palestinian dream of self-determination and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel is shattering right in front of it.

The Arab public did not view Peres as a grandfather or a father, but as a member of the establishment. This is the establishment that still looks at Arabs through a security prism and regard them as a problem that must be dealt with, a public whose room to act is circumscribed from the outset, and if it tries to break through, it will suffer.

Be human beings, our best commentators preached, as if in his lifetime Peres was criticized only by Arabs and not by his own people, who called him Oslo criminal and traitor. It was not the Arabs who invented an Arab mother for Peres; it was not an Arab who called him a tireless schemer.

You who preach have forgotten that the Arabs and their representatives did take part in the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin, army chief of staff of the Six-Day War, the man who urged soldiers to break arms and legs. They came to pay their last respects to the man who launched a move that bore great hope for reconciliation and peace, who was not afraid to rely on Arabs to attain a blocking majority in the Knesset and who led a domestic policy of closing Jewish-Arab gaps. They wept over the process that was cut off, not over Rabin the warrior.

In Arab society, even in the Joint List, some people criticized the boycott of Peres funeral. Thats healthy, proper and essential. Thats the way a pluralistic party is supposed to conduct itself – without accepting an Israeli dictate, especially one from lovers of false coexistence and a fawning media.