How a Man of War Became a Man of Peace
Peres the “man of peace.” Peres the “beloved.” Peres the “optimistic.” How sad we ought to be that Israel’s last founding father is dead…right?
Wrong—well, sort of.
I am struggling to summon any sympathy. And that is not for a lack of effort. I don’t rejoice in these sorts of things—that would be eerie and morbid. Not my style. But, unlike others, I cannot find a sufficient reason to celebrate his life.
Many admire Peres for negotiating the 1993 Oslo Accords, an effort for which he received a Nobel Peace Prize the following year. But acclaim for the Accords is not only unwarranted—it’s morally offensive.
After Oslo, Israel permitted Yasser Arafat to head the newly-created Palestinian Authority in the Occupied Territories. In exchange, Israel had its security bolstered—that is to say, Arafat’s regime continued the murder, torture, and incarceration of thousands of Palestinians.
The occupation had still not relented. The only difference now was that the Palestinians were left doing the dirty work; the same work, I might add, for which the international community had been censuring Israel.
I do wonder: is this what Peres’s votaries mean by “peace”?
In spite of Arafat’s groveling and shameful propitiations, Israel’s policy in the West Bank persisted with even more vigor than before. B’tsellem, an Israeli NGO that monitors human rights violations in the OPT, reports that between 1993 and 2000, the population of the West Bank settlements, excluding Jerusalem, increased one hundred percent.
I repeat: one hundred percent. One, zero, zero. It doubled. For two of those years Peres was Prime Minister Rabin’s right-hand man, and for one of them he was the premier himself.
I once wrote a poem after reading George Orwell’s 1984. I’m glad I finally have a place to put it.
We call it war,
They call it peace.
They hoped for more,
We hoped it’d cease.
Peres’s reign of terror didn’t stop with the Palestinians. And yes: I do believe his reign was one of terror. For Peres’s many victims, this epithet is no hyperbole.
In April 1996, Peres authorized the shelling of a UN refugee camp in Qana, Lebanon, killing over one hundred civilians. Half of the victims were children. Their limbs lay scattered about. Their faces unrecognizable.
Alas! I now see—this must be what Peres’s votaries mean by “peace.”
He did apologize, though. We can give him that. He even confessed that it was a “bitter surprise” that civilians were at the wrong end of Israel’s “anti-personnel” weapons.
A UN investigation found, however, that it was “unlikely that the shelling…was the result of gross technical and/or procedural errors.” It also reported that there were two Israeli helicopters in close proximity to the attack. I imagine this made the “surprise” a whole lot less surprising.
But, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists, the international community is uniquely unfair to Israel—we therefore must take the UN’s word with caution. So why don’t we just keep pretending that Peres, in spite of all the evidence against him, didn’t intentionally murder over one hundred civilians?
I’m sure the attack had nothing to do with his bid for re-election, and I’m also sure it had nothing to do with showing voters that he wielded a “heavy hand.”
He wanted fame
He signed his name
Many were dead
With he to blame
He said sorry
For the gory
Now his mistake,
Lies don’t matter
They’re just chatter
The world goes on
Peres’s non-peaceful tendencies asserted themselves throughout his entire political career. He was, for example, one of the chief architects of Israel’s war of aggression against Egypt in 1956. Over a thousand civilians perished in the crossfire.
Within the same decade, Peres helped pave the road toward Israel’s nuclear program, a development that later triggered an arms race in the Middle East (for more on this, read Ze’ev Maoz’s Defending the Holy Land).
The worst of Peres’s ironies was that the Labour party, of which he was a high ranking member, was the first to permit the building of settlements back in the 1970s.
To put it all together: Peres is commended for trying to end the very occupation he helped entrench.
And although a man’s character can be improved with the aid of time, Peres’s wasn’t. He was, I dare say, an opportunist. According to Shlomo Ben Ami, Peres more than anyone else “vehemently opposed the idea [of a Palestinian state].” As late as 1997, he favoured a kind of Jordanian-Israeli-Palestinian condominium in the territories.
That’s far from independence.
This revelation may help explain why the settlements after Oslo had expanded rather than shrunk. It doesn’t explain, however, why so many insist that he was a “man of peace,” as our very own prime minister did earlier this week.
To conclude: Peres wanted peace. That much I won’t deny. But it was a peace that required more war, more death, and more destruction.
Below I put forth my new “three nos + one” policy toward Israel.
No recognition? No negotiations? No peace?
No thank you.