Palestinians took to social media this weekend, criticising Mahmoud Abbas’ attendance at the funeral of former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres.
Peres passed away on Wednesday, after having had a stroke earlier this month at the age of 93. While much of the international community has praised the Nobel Peace Prize winner in his death as a champion of peace, Palestinians have criticized Peres as the architect of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
On Wednesday the official Palestinian news agency Wafa announced that Abbas had sent a condolence letter to the family of Peres, expressing his sadness at the former leader’s passing and calling him a “brave partner of peace,” however Palestinians and analysts on social media expressed doubt that the Palestinian President would attend the late Israeli leader’s funeral.
On Friday, it was announced that Abbas had requested permission to enter Israel and attend the funeral, and that the permission had been granted, much to the surprise of the Palestinian population.
Before the trip was finalized, Osama Abu Arab, a well-known official at the Palestinian Authority’s military liaison office, publically criticized Abbas on Facebook pleading with the President to reverse his decision to attend the funeral.
On Saturday Abu Arab was arrested by PA forces.
The offending post was an open letter to the Palestinian president, which brought up events such as the Jenin refugee camp “massacre” in 2002, the Qana Massacre in 1996, and the alleged Israeli policy of breaking bones during the First Intifada — all which happened when Peres was in office as either Israeli President or Prime Minister.
Abu Arab then asked “who is he that you are going to partake in his funeral while the majority of the people you represent oppose him?”
He added that if Abbas had made the decision to attend the funeral on his own, he had made a “mistake,” and that if he had been advised to go, he had been “misled.”
The letter ended with a plea to Abbas to reconsider: “There should be no personal or friendly relations with the occupier, as long as they continue with their arrogant policies against our people,” he wrote. “Reconsider your decision, sir.”
Hours after Abu Arab’s arrest, an unnamed official with the Abbas administration said in an Israeli Radio interview that Abbas had “no regrets” in his decision to attend the funeral, and assured listeners that Abbas made the decision to attend without any outside influences.
In Beit Jibrin refugee camp, one young man, who asked to remain anonymous, told Mondoweiss that Abbas’ attendance at Peres funeral was just another indicator that the Palestinian President was “not on the side of the people.”
“Abbas attending the funeral would have been bad enough, it’s really bad enough, but then we see him shaking the hands of Netanyahu and other people at the top of the Zionist occupation and that’s just unbelievable, it really shows that he is friends with the Zionists, and that the opinions of the Zionists for him come before the opinions of the Palestinian people,” he said.
At the funeral, Abbas was seen shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, his wife, and other Israeli leaders.
The Abbas administration said in a statement that his attendance was necessary as a world leader, and that by attending the funeral, Abbas was sending a message of peace.
Mariam Barghouti, a well-known Palestinian activist, tweeted on Friday: “Abbas sits in Shimon Peres’ funeral as Netanyahu calls the man that helped dispossess Palestinians ‘a great man of the world.’”
Speaking to Mondoweiss, Barghouti said Abbas’ attendance was “shameful.”
“Abbas is collaborating with the colonial narrative of whitewashing Israeli crimes. In his endeavor to portray himself as a representative and a president, he decontextualizes the Palestinian milieu by illustrating it as a normal situation, that Palestine and Israel are merely neighboring states, not occupier and occupied.”
“[His] attendance at the funeral taints the Palestinian struggle and contributes to the normalization of the occupation,” Barghouti said.
She added that Abbas was sending a conflicting message to rest of the world.
“While he is trying to illustrate to the international community the readiness of the Palestinian people to seek a peaceful solution, Abbas is actually sending a false message that this is merely a feud, a conflict between two equal powers when it’s not,” she said. “It carries grave consequences to partake in the commemoration of a man who helped design your occupation, consequences that Palestinians will pay so Abbas can have his shining moment in front of international media as a president willing to seek a solution.”
Author and founder of the Electronic Intifada news website, Ali Abunimah, tweeted, “Mahmoud Abbas, alleged ‘president’ of his alleged ‘state,’ is the very epitome of the absence of dignity.”
Ma’an News agency reported on Saturday that the Fateh Youth Movement at Birzeit University, the youth movement for Abbas’ own party, called for his resignation on their official Facebook page.
“We condemn this humiliating participation, which is against the Palestinian people and consider it a form of betrayal,” the news agency quoted the youth movement as saying, adding that the movement said Abbas had violated Article 12 in the movement’s constitution, which states the aim of “completely freeing Palestine and ending the Zionist occupation economically, politically, militarily, and culturally,” by attending Peres’ funeral.
Barghouti, a former student at Birzeit University, said she thought that much the world was reflecting on Peres as a man of peace, to the dismay of the Palestinian population.
“Peres is a war criminal, his supposed endeavor in the peace process does not alleviate him from his crimes, whether in Lebanon during operation Grapes of Wrath or in Palestine,” Barghouti said. “It is a shame to know that if you live long enough for the world to forget your crimes, you will be honored as a hero as the victims whose pain you’re responsible for continue to suffer.”