Former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, then foreign minister Shimon Peres and then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (from L to R) show their shared Nobel Peace Prize awards to the audience in Oslo in this December 10, 1994 file photo.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I was relieved to have been absent from Israel when Shimon Peres passed away, for I probably would have grown even more annoyed over the ongoing hype surrounding his manufactured legacy as a “man of peace.”
I was glad not to have been stuck in the traffic jams caused by the deluge of celebrities and statesmen coming to pay their respects and expand the shield of prestige around the icon, or, shall we say, “product” of peace. His celebrity, in part aggrandized by his own efforts as a president who spent state money to hobnob with the stars of pop culture, has served to subtly denigrate anyone who doesn’t fawn over him.
The disruption of Israeli lives for the sake of his brand of “peace” has been the engine running the latter part of Peres’s political life, when he concocted the Oslo Accords in secret and against Israeli law.
The Oslo Accords rescued arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat from near irrelevance and turned him into a “statesman.”
The White House lawn where the accords were signed thereafter became the altar of peace upon which thousands of Israeli and Palestinian lives were sacrificed.
I foresaw the uncritical media love-fest the minute his death was announced. I knew that, despite risking accusations of tactlessness – and worse, extremism – I must step in, immediately. As informal eulogies – equipped with show-off pictures of Peres and “everyday” people – surpassed Hillary-Donald polemics on Facebook, I attempted respectfully to smash the idol that Shimon Peres has become, writing: “Peres made contributions to Israel, but he also caused much harm by seeing forth the morally misguided Oslo Accords which armed and emboldened terrorists and their would-be terrorist state, setting the stage for worldwide appeasement of Islamic terror, and war.”
Some sympathizers were glad I gave them respite from the orgy of praise for Israel’s “last founding father.” As expected, some commenters questioned the timing (some nastily).
Some commenters stated that Oslo was a necessary process to convince the world that the Palestinians are not interested in peace and that Israel has no partner. Really? Firstly, the job of a democratic state is to protect its citizens from foreign attack, not to risk their slaughter for the sake of convincing the world of this or that. In fact, Peres even dubbed victims of the second intifada, i.e. the Oslo terror war, which claimed the lives of people I knew, in bars, buses and cafes, “korbanot hashalom,” “sacrifices for peace.”
Public servants are called such because they serve the people, not vice versa. If the trustworthiness of the PLO was questionable, why not use more profound tools to determine and broadcast that fact: evidence and reason? But evidence and reason were supplanted by an emotional, world-gripping hope that Arafat would reform his airplane-hijacking ways and suddenly respect Israel. He never stood a chance because, at that point, Israel lost respect for itself.
Today, Israel is no closer to peace. Palestinian stabbings and vehicular attacks occur almost weekly.
Most Arabs – the people Peres was said to have championed – despise him. The Gaza withdrawal, a culmination of Oslo’s land-for-peace premise, has led to three wars in Gaza. The PR machine around Peres and his legacy – reaching the flagpoles of the White House – only fortifies the hubris and irrationally necessary to prop up the illusion that Oslo and its creators are forever wise and righteous.
Yes, Shimon Peres was ultimately a man of peace – PR peace, not real peace. Peres’ embalmment as a warrior for peace now serves two main purposes: to stifle debate, such that anyone engaging in criticism of Peres is smeared as an warmonger (or worse, a fan of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir), and to act as a salve against world ire, such that whenever Israel engages in military action, people could always say, “but we had Shimon Peres.”
The idolization of Peres reflects a growing idolization of the State of Israel and its institutions, which makes an obsession with a two-state solution all the more understandable. If the existence of the state is more important than its ethical underpinnings, than a Palestinian terrorist state is a legitimate aspiration.
This idolization is not without good cause given the miracle and moral victory that Israel ultimately represents, but Israel’s prestige should not be built on the backs of the Jewish people who work so hard to live and thrive in the difficult country despite the deadly, obtuse, and at times oppressive policies of its “public servants.”
Peres is credited for being an eloquent spokesman on behalf of the state, for buttressing Israel’s defense as a nuclear power and helping to expand Jewish settlement (even beyond the Green Line). But now, the main virtue for which he is being mythologized the world over is championing a peace that doesn’t exist, and that he ultimately hindered. Peace can’t exist without honest, rigorous and, now, unpopular discussion about his achievements – and fatal mistakes.