Asian Conversations - an online magazine to explore Asia's future

Passing of Peres - war and peace

4 OCTOBER APRIL, 2016: The passing of Shimon Peres, a two-time former Israeli prime minister, on 28 September, 2016, brought the world together for a brief instant, and demonstrated once again how perspectives of war and peace can be so diametrically different.

Lauded in the West as a peacenik and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 (an honour he shared with Israel's Yitzhak Rabin and PLO's Yasser Arafat), he was seen by Middle East Arabs as a hard-fisted state actor who did not really put his shoulder behind the peace efforts.

Writes Hanan Ashrawi in The New York Times, "Under Mr. Peres’s tenure as foreign minister, defense minister and prime minister during the early days of the Oslo process in the 1990s, Israel continued to create facts on the ground that undermined the creation of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state alongside Israel, which Palestinians believed was the aim of the peace process." He concludes, "Mr. Peres’s failure to translate lofty ideals into action continues to haunt that elusive quest in Palestine and Israel."

Al Jazeera had more barbs. Wrote Arab analyst Sharif Nashashibi, "That even Israel's few friends in the region have kept a low profile over his death may well indicate their awareness of the extent of domestic and regional anger over Israeli policies in general, and those of Peres in particular." Attending the Peres funeral, Palestinian MAhmoud Abbas attracted the ire of his compatriots and neighbours. "Yet while people throughout the Middle East have been reminding the world of the suffering Peres inflicted on the Palestinians, their own President Mahmoud Abbas attended his funeral and paid tribute to an architect of their oppression," wrote Nashashibi.

India's respected Economic Times gushed over Shimon Peres's pro-India tilt. "He often described Gandhi as a 'prophet' and Nehru a 'king' and said that 'India was fortunate to be blessed with two great and unforgettable leaders.' "

The Guardian, quoted US President Barack Obama at the funeral: "[Peres] never saw his dream of peace fulfilled … And yet he did not stop dreaming, and he did not stop working. Even in the face of terrorist attacks, repeated disappointments at the negotiating table, he insisted that Palestinians must be seen as equal in dignity to Jews and therefore equal in self-determination."

Most Arab leaders boycotted the funeral - attended by over 80 world leaders and dignitaries - and a large headline in Al-Ahram, Egypt's leading newspaper, said simply, and starkly, "Peres, the engineer of the Qana massacre, dies." Pakistan's Dawn newspaper rounded things up by concluding, "In every role he undertook — from forging Israel’s defence strategy in the 1950s to running his eponymous peace foundation — Peres was known for his energy and enthusiasm, even recording jokey YouTube videos into his 90s." – Asian Conversations