To Shimon Peres, The Peacemaker

Source: The Daily Telegraph

Source: The Daily Telegraph

As a young man, my mind was captivated by the image of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, along with Shimon Peres, and Yasser Arafat shaking hands in the White House lawn in 1993, overseen by President Bill Clinton. Sadly, the Oslo Peace Accords, for which all the three gentlemen won the Nobel Peace Prize, failed to bring lasting peace to the Middle East but laid the foundation of the Palestinian Authority.

Sadly, the Oslo Peace Accords, for which all the three gentlemen won the Nobel Peace Prize, failed to bring lasting peace to the Middle East but laid the foundation of the Palestinian Authority. It angered many Israelis and failed to satisfy many Palestinians, but sadly the fundamentalists always fail to follow the sacrifices and efforts put in to get even remotely close to such an agreement. Many believed that the peace deal led to Rabin’s assassination.

However, it inspired the entire world with the hope that a conflict as impossible as Israel and Palestine could possibly see an opening for peace, which could put millions out of suffering and misery in the region. One of the central figures behind the peace initiative was Shimon Peres, the foreign minister at the time.

Probably nothing inspired me more to value world peace than this single photograph. I thought that if a peace prize meant anything, it had to be all about the meaning of this picture. Just looking at it offers you a glimpse of hope that peace is possible in one of the harshest political conflicts in the world.

Source: Haaretz

Source: Haaretz

His death brings that sinking feeling in my heart, with a regret that I would never be able to meet Shimon Peres in person, perhaps in a diplomatic position. Just like the feeling I had after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, a regret that I would always live with. Another regret is that the Pakistan state establishment could not find a reason to establish diplomatic relations with Israel during his lifetime.

While his role as a statesman and diplomat for peace remains to hold universal appeal, he was one of and headed Israeli naval services after independence. A Polish Jewish immigrant, he was a part of the Haganah that later transformed into the IDF and was instrumental as one of the founders of the state. He saw the state grow to become a formidable outpost of democracy in a region crippled by autocracy and perpetual conflict.

Since he has been involved in the affairs of the state almost all his adult life throughout Israel’s history, his personality cannot possibly be removed from the controversy due to Israel’s brutal defense and retaliation tactics. However, as a statesman, and later as the President of Israel, Peres continued to reach out to the world and build a friendly image of Israel in a world that finds it hard to shrug off its antisemitic tendencies.

Probably the greatest reason to mourn the death of Shimon Peres, even though his role was mostly of a formal powerless figurehead of late, was that Israel has probably lost one of the last figures who could engage sensibly with the other side. His death leaves the current Israeli leadership in the hands of some of the most hardline right-wing government that Israel has ever had in its history. The worrying part is that the fundamentalism in the nationalism is only expected to grow, which hardly leaves you with an optimistic view of the situation.

There is easily more to celebrate about Shimon Peres than there is to mourn.

People like Shimon Peres matter because they are optimistic enough to believe in peace in a world of cynics, who believe in humanity when it is much easier to hate.

Let’s hope his passing serves as a reminder of how valuable peacemakers are.

Rest in peace, indeed.

Remembering Yitzhak Rabin: A Peacemaker Shot Down

November 4, 1995.

Tel Aviv, Israel. A peace rally was held in the Kings of Israel Square of the Israeli city to support the recent Oslo accords with the Palestinian leadership. Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel at the time and the central figure in making peace with the Palestinians was the most important figure attending the rally. While the participants of the rally, along with Rabin, Foreign Minister and party rival Shimon Peres and singer Miri Aloni were singing the “Song for Peace“, some people present at the rally had completely different plans.

Shalom, Salaam, Peace

The Oslo Peace Accord was led by Yitzhak Rabin and the PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat had successfully agreed on a “Land for Peace” deal during the Oslo Accords in 1993, which involved Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank territory. The world witnessed the amazing sight of Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands with Yasser Arafat at the White House on September 13, 1993, with President Bill Clinton standing along side the two leaders.

The Israeli right wing was furious, as is the norm for the right wing anywhere, over the Oslo Accords, maintaining their point that Rabin’s steps has taken Israel away from the Jewish values. He was criticized by Likud opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu for taking the peace steps. Netanyahu is currently the Prime Minister of Israel on the date of publishing of this post.

While Rabin was returning from the rally, a right wing extremist Yigal Amir was waiting for Rabin, who amazingly managed to by-pass the security for the rally and reportedly shot Rabin three times. Rabin was  rushed to the Ichilov Hospital of Tel Aviv and lost his life during the operation, while Amir was arrested a bit too late by Rabin’s bodyguard. Amir is serving life imprisonment for his crime while the world lost a very good opportunity towards a peaceful solution to Middle East peace process, despite assurances from Shimon Peres, who shortly became Prime Minister after this tragic event, which has been the center of many conspiracy theories.

The importance of this peace deal can be realized even more today, seventeen years from the Oslo accord, when peace appears bleaker than ever between the two nations as Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank. While Israelis are not comfortable about the security of their country, the Palestinian people are struggling even to make a decent living. The truth is that everyone knows that they have to depend on the State of Israel for their lives and that they are a people without a country.

This post is not to illustrate that Rabin’s murder has led to the failure of the Middle East peace process, nor that Rabin had a completely uncontroversial record as a peacemaker, but that this is the way the world treats the peacemakers. It also illustrate how dangerous and damaging right wing extremism can be. He was not the first man in history who talked about peace and was shot dead. There are many examples, like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon. Rabin and his administration were the peacemakers of their time and I salute Rabin for his courage and initiative towards peace.

Military cemeteries in every corner of the world are silent testimony to the failure of national leaders to sanctify human life.

– Yitzhak Rabin

What started as the Oslo Peace Accord was a hope for a Two-State Solution for Israel and Palestine. Both the people deserve peace and to live their lives in harmony and prosperity, but it is not possible without the creation of a Palestinian State. Muslim countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan should step up to recognize the right of the Israelis to live as free people and Israel, the United States and the EU should step up to recognize that Palestinian people have an equal right to live in freedom and peace, and that Israel should not be permitted to do whatever they like to them, like the manslaughter in Gaza in the late 2007 and 2008.

It is up to the current Israeli leadership to realize the importance of making peace in the Middle East, if not for themselves, for their children.

It is a choice between peace and harmony and bloodbath and manslaughter. Those responsible should think about it.

On Rabin’s funeral, President Bill Clinton concluded his eulogy with two words in Hebrew in his honor. But it was as if he was talking to peace in the Middle East.

 

Shalom, Haver.

Goodbye, Friend.