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Israeli Arab leader defends decision to boycott Peres funeral

Israeli Arab political leader Ayman Odeh heads the Joint List, which groups the main Arab parties in the Knesset
Ahmad Gharabli (AFP/File)
Joint List Chairman says he feels the loss on a personal level, but isn't part of the narrative

Arab Knesset Member Ayman Odeh, the chairman of the Joint List, on Friday defended his party's decision not to attend the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres which took place earlier in the day.

Citing a “complicated” history Odeh announced ahead of Peres' funeral the party had made a unanimous decision not take part in the ceremony. 

Speaking on Israeli Channel 2' Ulpan Shishi program hours after Peres was laid to rest on Mount Herlz in Jerusalem, Odeh said that the former president's funeral was part of a “national day of mourning in which I have no place; not in the narrative, not in the symbols that exclude me, not in the stories of Peres as a man who built up Israel’s defenses.”

"On the personal level, Peres has family and friends. I feel their loss, and that is the most profound and important thing," Odeh said.

"But on the political level, this is national mourning. I have no part in it. Not in the narrative, not in the symbols that exclude us…"

Odeh also stressed that Israeli leaders are disconnected from the "historical pain" of the country's Arabs.

Joint Arab List

"Tomorrow we commemorate the events of October 2000," he said, referring to deadly clashes between Arab protesters and the police in northern Israel in which 13 protesters were killed.

"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?"  

He said it was important to him to continue to build ties with the "sane figures" in Jewish Israeli society, and that he is aware that those figures were hurt by his decision to stay away from the funeral. But he asked that Arabs not be "demonized" for it.  

"I try to feel the historical pain of the Jewish people – the Holocaust, the pogroms," he said. "I'm asking Jews to feel my historical pain."

Peres served as Defence Minister from June 3, 1974 – June 20, 1977 and again from November 4, 1995 – June 18, 1996, following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Yizhak Rabin.

He was considered a hawk in his early years in politics, but later became the face of Israel’s peace movement, continuing the legacy of Rabin, who was instrumental in working out the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.

Abir Sultan (POOL/AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meanwhile, was harshly rebuked by Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas for attending Peres' funeral.

Hamas, which violently overthrew Abbas's Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip in 2007, deemed his presence at the ceremony at Mount Herzl cemetery in west Jerusalem "a betrayal of Palestinian blood."

The group had earlier derided Abbas for offering condolences to Peres's family, saying it "disregards the blood of the martyrs and the suffering of the Palestinian people."

Abbas had known Peres well and negotiated with him in the past. He was seated in the front row at Peres' funeral, reportedly at the request of Peres's family.

Abbas, who was a signatory of the Oslo accords for which Peres won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, called him a "brave" partner for peace.

Comments

(5)

When Arafat died Arab leaders were banned from the West Bank and Gaza, funeral was held in Cairo. Israeli leaders also did not attend.

Arafat was a terrorist to the last. He instigated the so-called 'first intifada'. The Israeli Arabs are better off than any of the other Arabs in the Middle East, including in the Palestinian Authority areas. The Israeli Arabs are member of the Israeli Parliament and as such should have shown respect for the man who tried to resolve the conflict. The Arabs do not even try to resolve the conflict, but try to change history, by suing the British Government for the Balfour Declaration and trying to go back to the terms of the 1947 U.N. resolution which the refused to accept. The Arabs continue to deny Israel's right to exist. This will not get them a state of their own, not that they really want a state, they want to destroy Israel, not build their own country. It is easier to blame everyone else and not take responsibility.

@Michael Farmer: No kidding!

Tobias - "The Arabs continue to deny Israel's right to exist. " Wrong. 'The Arabs'(PA/PLO) recognised Israel, and its right to exist, way back in'93. I suggest you seek education ... and a taste for the truth!

Premier Dick, Peres was born/spawned in Belarus! were was he buried .... Israel! Where was Arafat buried?

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