The passing away of the last living founding fathers of the Jewish State of Israel, Shimon Peres, also known as an old boy of Israel’s first Prime Minster Ben-Gurion, has captured global media attention since he breathed his last on Tuesday after a brief illness. He was 93 and held all important posts in the political dispensation of Israel since the state came into existence in 1948. During his political carrier spanning over seven decades, Peres was part of twelve Israeli cabinets holding different portfolios ranging from defence to foreign to finance, in addition to being the prime minster twice. He finally retired from active politics when he left office as the country’s president in 2014.
A large number of Western and Israeli commentators are writing about his political legacy, eulogising his contribution to the creation of the Jewish State and his deep commitment to national security. He is being remembered as the architect of the Israeli nuclear programme ,which the government of Israel had hitherto refused to acknowledge. Tributes are pouring in for Peres for his role in the sealing off the much lauded Oslo accord on Palestinian autonomy in 1993 as foreign minister with then PLO leader Yasser Arafat and later in 1994. He, along with Arafat erstwhile prime minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin, was conferred Noble Peace Prize. Till he died, he was known in the global community both as the face of Israel and the peace maker.
Contrary to this, the Arab media, more particularly social media, has been portraying Peres in a different light. Most of Arab print and electronic media have portrayed him as someone who damaged the cause of the independent Palestinian state and the Arab commentators have held him culprit for the starvation of millions in the Gaza Strip.
Mahdi Abdul Hadi, a well-known Arab intellectual, expressing his sorrow on the departure of Peres, wrote that he was merely a pretender for peace and in reality he pursued a policy of war against the Palestinians. Today’s pathetic state of affairs in the Palestinian land may be significantly owed to the hawkish policy of Peres, who never hid his agenda of creating a nuclear Jewish state of Israel. He called Peres a ‘fox’ whose policies were a mixed bag of deception, lies, shrewdness and maneuvering. Another prominent Palestinian activist, Mustafa Barghauti, accused him of creating a nuclear Israel while a shop owner in Gaza tweeted calling Shimon a man of war and a thief of the Palestinian land.
Leading Arab daily, Al-Hayat, in its latest editorial reminds people of Peres’s role as a prime minster in the 1996 massacre of more than a hundred Shiites by Israeli armed forces at the UN camp in Qana in southern Lebanon. The newspaper further called him the pioneer of the Israeli illegal settlement programme in the occupied territories of Palestine. Peres was the first one to advocate the occupation of lands in the West Bank to settle the Israelis there.
Meanwhile, the death of Peres was not condoled by Palestinian government officials in a desired manner because of fear of backlash from people who view him as the biggest obstacle in the way of establishment of the state of Palestine.
Expressing his views on the death of Peres, the spokesperson of Hamas, Sami Abu Zahri said that he was the last founding father of Israel and his death brings to an end the dark phase of the historical narrative of Arab occupation. Fatin Farhat, an intellectual figure in the town of Ramallah, expressed grief on a Facebook post that Peres passed away without standing trail in the International Court of Justice for his war crimes. An Arab human right activist called him another Ariel Sharon, a hawkish leader of Israel, and a Zionist criminal who was the killer of innocent children.
Saleh An-Naimi in his column in Al Jazeera Arabic lamented the fact that western nations ignored the cruel policies pursued by the departed leader in his different capacities and damaged the cause of Palestine. The columnist also equated the policies of Peres with Sharon, who was equally responsible for the carnage in the land of Palestine.
The death of Peres has shown how the Arab and the Western media are divided in their narrative about his political achievements and how the same leader is being treated differently in the two warring quarters even after his death.