The history of the State of Israel will remember you, Shimon Peres, as a leader with a great deal to his credit – one of the major contributors to the building of the country in its first 70 years. Yet several debts are recorded next to your name on the fringes of that same history. While they may seem insignificant next to the enterprise of establishing the state, they are of utmost importance.
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In the early 1990s, you and the late Yitzhak Rabin stood at the head of the country’s leadership.
Those years were full of hope – hope that was cut off with Prime Minister Rabin’s assassination – and the government that you led was the most open in the country’s history.
Yet you and Rabin sinned in all your actions concerning the acts of genocide that were perpetrated in Rwanda and Serbia.
You approved the transfer of arms from the State of Israel – and not only through arms dealers – to Rwanda, and the Serbia of Slobodan Miloevic and the Serbian forces while the genocide was in progress.
The whole world knew about it in real time, and both of you also definitely knew.
Attorney Itai Mack and I have been working to uncover the facts about the arms deals that were carried out while the genocide was in progress, and when the United Nations had imposed an embargo on such sales.
It is clear that what the State of Israel did is nothing less than participation in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
A Rwandan survivor of the 1994 Genocide prays over the bones of genocide victims at a mass grave in Nyamata, Rwanda, April 6, 2004. (Credit: AP)
Rabin and you led this policy. In the early 1990s, you refused to condemn the crimes of Miloevic, who led the first genocide in Europe after the Holocaust. The government you led did not utter even the weakest of condemnations against the Serbs.
The massacre in the Sarajevo market in February 1994 – in which 69 people were killed and hundreds injured while they were waiting in line, taking advantage of the hours during which the curfew was lifted – shocked the world.
A group of Bosnian Muslims, refugees from Srebrenica, walk to be transported from the eastern Bosnian village of Potocari to Muslim-held Kladanj, July 13, 1995. (Credit: Reuters)
The Israeli government statement – for which the foreign minister is directly responsible – included a “theoretical” condemnation that did not differentiate between the crimes and their victims:
“Israel expects that the wave of violence which reached its peak in the Sarejevo market, will quickly reach an end. Israel expresses its sorrow over the deaths of innocent civilians, and expresses hope that the efforts made to resolve the conflict by peaceful means will soon bear fruit.”
You expressed sorrow over the events – as if these were not crimes but a natural disaster. There is almost no doubt that the shells that fell in the market were manufactured by Israel.
When Miloevic was tried for genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, you expressed neither regret nor apology. In so doing, you also transformed me – as a citizen of Israel – into an accomplice to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Attorney Mack and I demand that the documents be made public that prove these crimes (and we have solid proof).
But the justice system does everything to prevent this. In a hearing on the matter, the judge decided to accede to the Defense Ministry request not to release the documents that the Defense Ministry conceded it had found – for security reasons.
However, there are no security reasons to hide the crimes to which you were party – only moral reasons.
Thus, you add insult to injury. You defile the memory of the Holocaust and its victims, which no one – certainly not we – have the right to do.
On May 22, 1994, at the height of the genocide in Rwanda, in which the rate of killing was the fastest in history (about a million people in 100 days!), and after weapons shipments had already left Israel with your approval and that of Prime Minister Rabin, the government released a statement:
“The government of Israel is shocked at the genocide taking place in Rwanda, and the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. The Jewish people, who have experienced the bitterest of events, the Nazi Holocaust, and its country, the State of Israel, cannot remain indifferent to the horrors in Rwanda,” it read.
You are also directly responsible for that cynical and shameful statement. Perhaps you should have written: “The Jewish people, who have experienced the bitterest of events, the Nazi Holocaust, and its country, the State of Israel, cannot remain indifferent to the horrors in Rwanda, and so we are sending weapons to the murderers.”
U.S. President Bill Clinton, who did not try to stop the genocide in Rwanda – although he could have very easily prevented it – said at the 2013 event in honor of your 90th birthday, that he was to blame for what had happened in Rwanda 20 years earlier.
The arms we sent to the murderous government in Rwanda are responsible – along with the arms that arrived from other countries that breached the embargo – for the murder of many people.
Among the incontrovertible evidence of Israeli arms sales is the testimony of then-Environmental Protection Minister Yossi Sarid, who headed a delegation numbering more than 100 medical personnel, an act deserving the greatest admiration. Sarid saw Israeli weapons before and after use. There are photographs showing this.
Mr. Peres, it is still not too late to ask for forgiveness and admit the crimes committed also in the name of the citizens of Israel – that is, in my name. These crimes will be remembered forever.
The author is a genocide scholar, researching, among other subjects, the attitude of the State of Israel toward instances of genocides of other peoples.