Friday, September 30, 2016

30-Sep-16: As Peres is remembered, some keep looking backwards as others face the future

The scene outside Israel's parliament, the Knesset, yesterday as Israelis
lined up to pay their last respects [Image Source]
It's a gorgeous Friday morning here in Jerusalem. The air is still, the sun is bright, the cloudless sky is a luminescent blue.

But residents of the city, like us, know to expect chaos and it's already noticeable how light the road traffic is in our part of town. Many of the capital's major thoroughfares are already closed by the police and others, including the main highway from Tel Aviv, will be shut down for long intervals during the day.

Foreign delegations from dozens of countries are either already here or making their way to the national cemetery on Mount Herzl at this hour for this morning's state funeral of Shimon Peres, former president, major figure on the Israeli stage for the entire seven decades of Israel's renewed existence, and global statesman.

How are our neighbours dealing with this?

Sadly, in ways that remind thoughtful observers of how tightly they continue to hold to backward-facing conceptions even as booming, sparkling Israel along with most of the world is busy trying to build a better future and resolve a generations-long conflict.

Start with Israeli Arab political figures: they, at least the higher profile among them, seem likely to avoid taking part altogether ["Arabs boycott funeral of Shimon Peres", New York Post, September 29, 2016], though we won't know till we know.

As for the Arabic media, the one part we regularly follow - the English-language version of Ma'an News Agency - has devoted a total of two stories to Peres this week. One reports his death and asserts without embarrassment that Peres
ordered and oversaw the Qanaa massacre in Lebanon, in which the Israeli military killed and injured hundreds of civilians and UN peacekeepers. ["Former Israeli President Shimon Peres dead at 93", Ma'an, September 28, 2016]
There's another yesterday about the funeral which makes no mention about the huge foreign presence and global outpourings of respect and appreciation for what the work of Peres stands for, but focuses intensely on how
Israeli authorities have canceled this week’s visit of Gazan worshipers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem... ["Israel cancels Gaza worshipers' Friday visit to Al-Aqsa for Peres funeral", Ma'an, September 29, 2016]
The savages of the Hamas regime have vociferously called from Gaza for what they term a(nother) “Day of Rage” to mark, as Times of Israel describes it, both
the one-year anniversary of the beginning of a wave of terror attacks, including stabbings and car-rammings throughout the West Bank and in Jerusalem, that launched in September 2015 [Times of Israel]
and what its spokesperson Sami Abu-Zuhri says is how
"the Palestinian people are very happy at the passing of this criminal who caused their blood to shed... his death is the end of a phase in the history of this occupation and the beginning of a new phase of weakness." [Times of Israel]
No one can predict quite the form that this orchestrated, regime-dictated is going to take. But we can assume they won't confine themselves to banging the walls of their apartments and raising their voices at people. Israel's security forces are on high alert with massive deployment of personnel throughout the country, and particularly here in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the so-called moderate head of the Palestinian Authority and of Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, ["10-Mar-15: The not-so-moderate Palestinian Authority and the terrorism it enables"] is widely reported to be on his way to Jerusalem today after having
sent a condolence letter to Peres’s family expressing “sorrow and sympathy.” He called Peres a partner in reaching a “peace of the brave” with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. [Times of Israel, September 30, 2016]
The PA faction which Abbas heads, Fatah, put out its own statement in which it called Peres
"the spiritual father of all the wars against Arab states" [Source: PMW]
That hostile message was, naturally, published in Arabic only, intended for consumption by Fatah's rank-and-file constituency as well as, presumably, its rivals in Hamas.

Equally naturally, Fatah put out an entirely different and contradictory message in the English language yesterday, intended for unsuspecting non-Arabic-speakers oblivious to the torrent of hatred and bigotry pumped out daily by the Fatah propaganda machine. In English, their message is that:
Abbas wanted to “send a strong message to Israeli society that the Palestinians are for peace, and appreciate the efforts of peaceful men like Shimon Peres”... Abbas will be joined by a delegation comprising senior negotiator Saeb Erekat, Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, security chief Majid Faraj and Muhammad Al-Madani, who heads up relations with Israelis. Former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei may also attend... [Abbas also] sent a condolence letter to Peres’s family [in which he] expressed his “sadness and sorrow,” and wrote that “Peres was a partner in making the brave peace with the martyr Yasser Arafat and prime minister (Yitzhak) Rabin.” [Times of Israel, yesterday]
It won't be news to people who keep track of these things that there's plenty of Palestinian Arab double-speak on display here. It's a sadly familiar part of the landscape. And note the loathsome use of the word "martyr" in reference to Arafat. (It doesn't appear, for some odd reason, in today's Times of Israel re-statement of that Abbas statement here.)

The PA's clear and explicit position, contrary to all the available evidence and several lengthy third-party investigations, is that the Israelis martyred Arafat by murdering him. A PA civil servant was even arrested last year and charged with denying the "truth" of Arafat's alleged martyrdom - or as Times of Israel ["PA employee arrested for claiming Arafat was ‘not a martyr’", April 28, 2015] quoted them in its report at the time -  for “attacking and harming the martyr, eternal leader and symbol of the Palestinian people Abu Ammar”, Arafat's nom de guerre.

Arafat's alleged victimhood is evidently too precious an asset to be surrendered for something as ephemeral as baby-steps toward peace. It continues to play a central and highly influential role in the moulding of Palestinian Arab opinion and its obsessive grip on extreme violence [see "15-Jun-16: What do the Palestinian Arabs think?"]

Worth remembering that funerals continue to play their traditional role in their culture as well. For a reminder of how that works, see "5-May-14: The making of a martyr: it takes more than a village".

Let's hope this glorious Jerusalem day runs its course peacefully  and in the spirit of forward-lookingness.

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