Peres to speak out on racism in Knesset speech

President will address incitement by fundamentalist rabbis and the persecution of human rights organizations.

President Shimon Peres podium 311 (photo credit: Replay Productions)
President Shimon Peres podium 311
(photo credit: Replay Productions)
Racism, intolerance for the opinions of others, lack of solidarity and incitement are some of the maladies within different sectors of the nation that trouble President Shimon Peres.
The president declined to comment on Monday on the split of the Labor Party that he was once led.
However, Beit Hanassi spokeswoman Ayelet Frish told The Jerusalem Post that next Monday, Peres will deliver a fiery address to the Knesset in which he will raise many of the issues that have caused him shame and anger in recent weeks.
Peres has already given expression to the shame he felt as a Jew over the letter signed by a number of rabbis endorsing the edict of Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu not to rent or sell property to non-Jews.
Peres was outraged that Eliahu could so disregard the biblical injunction to “rejoice with the stranger in thy midst.”
He is also unhappy that rabbis are interfering in political and diplomatic issues, as for instance the Rabbinical Congress for Peace that in large advertisements has publicly petitioned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to refrain from any further withdrawal from territory.
The petition signed by around 250 out of the 350 prominent rabbis who protested recent statements by Netanyahu in which he said that he was prepared to make additional diplomatic and territorial concessions so that the Palestinians would return to the negotiating table. It included the name of Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who died on 1994. Notably missing from the signatories were Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger and Shas spiritual mentor and former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Peres is upset at the extent of corruption among public figures.
And in many of the speeches that he has given over the past year or two, Peres has spoken of the right to be different.
These and other issues of concern will take up much of the president’s address, yet at the same time he will not overlook the amazing spirit of volunteerism among nearly all sectors of the population that he has found in his travels throughout the country.
Last week, when he was still minister for welfare and social services, Isaac Herzog urged Peres to lead a strenuous campaign against racism, incitement by fundamentalist rabbis and the persecution of human rights organizations.
The speech that Peres will deliver on Monday will in part be in response to Herzog’s urging.
Meanwhile, Beit Hanassi has released a statement in which the president calls on the Knesset to desist from establishing a parliamentary committee to investigate the foreign funding of left-wing NGOs.
In a democracy there has to be a clear division of roles between the different authorities, Peres said. In this context he quoted his mentor, prime minister David Ben- Gurion, who said that politicians should not be judges and judges should not be politicians.
In the president’s opinion, “The investigation of organizations and foundations, whether from the Left or the Right, must be left to law enforcement authorities, who possess the expertise, the objectivity and the appropriate investigative tools.”
Peres is convinced that the establishment of a parliamentary committee to investigate funding would bring unnecessary harm to Israel’s democracy.