Shimon Peres, one of the founders of Israel, has passed away. Many international dignitaries attended his funeral, although many Arab leaders from countries that officially signed peace treaties with Israel were absent. Furthermore, those who attended the funeral, such as Palestinian President Abbas and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, were mocked relentlessly on social media. This sad encounter epitomizes the overall state of affairs in the Middle East, where shallow populism prevails over grace and maturity.
Arab Knesset member Ayman Odeh summed up the feelings of many Arabs inside and outside of Israel, “Tomorrow we commemorate the events of October 2000.” He was referring to the deadly clashes between Arab protesters and the police in northern Israel. He said, “One of the victims was my wife’s younger brother. Will any of the cabinet ministers put flowers on the victims’ graves? Can anyone feel our pain, or doesn’t anyone care?”
Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera TV published a report on the role of Shimon Peres in many atrocities against Arabs, including the Qana massacre. It is understandable for Arabs to feel anguish and resentment; after all, the wounds from the ongoing 100 year-old -Arab-Israeli conflict are still fresh and painful. Indeed, victims continue to struggle and feel ignored.
What is not understandable, however, is that their hatred is directed at the man who tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to make peace with the Palestinians, while the record from Arab countries with the Palestinians is no less dark and ruthless.
Readers do not need to be reminded of older events. Let us just look at Syria and Assad forces that have ruthlessly bombed Palestinian camps, trapping thousands of children and starving others while claiming to be representing the “resistance camp” against Israel. Even Assad’s opponents did not stage a single protest in an Arab capital against his atrocities against his own people and against Palestinians living in Syria.
Off course, endless excuses and perspectives have been offered to justify disgraceful Arab mistreatment of the Palestinians. There is, however, one fact that cannot be denied: Peres fought his enemies and faithfully served his country, and never turned against his own people. Meanwhile, many Arab politicians have turned against their own Palestinian “brothers,” and shedding crocodile tears on Palestine.
For decades, Palestine has been the opium of the Arab world, used and abused to justify oppression, injustice, gambling, and failure. Ironically, those who actually tried to solve the Palestinian question were considered traitors, while those who did nothing but abuse the conflict for their own agenda have been systematically praised as faithful heroes.
It is easy to hate in my part of the world, but it is not so easy to fight for peace. Hatred is by far more popular and more rewarding, both politically and socially. Even at a personal level, the easiest way to gain respect is through hatred, while an open desire for peace and a firm belief in a two-state solution leads to aversion and accusations. What use is it to condemn the crimes of non-Arabs, but turn a blind–eye on the crimes of fellow Arabs? No one is without sin in the Middle East.
Many questions burst into my mind as I followed with dismay the endless mocking on social media.The tirades against Palestinian President Abbas and the Egyptian Foreign minister for attending Peres’s funeral were bewildering. Would both Abbas and Shoukry be blamed for attending the funeral of another Arab dictator? Let’s say for the example that Omar Bashir of Sudan passed away (although I do not wish death on anyone)? Would those who are nostalgic for Saddam Hussein, apologizing for Assad, and mute on the killing of civilians in Yemen have the courage to acknowledge their hypocrisy while ranting at Peres? Do Egyptians acknowledge that there is a price for peace?
I neither expect Arabs to love Peres (he was certainly no angel), nor would I want to force the two-state solution on them, but I would rather treat my enemies gracefully, rather than indulge in hatred while my leaders have their own hands full of the blood of their own people.