The notorious Israeli war criminal Shimon Peres has died aged 93 after suffering a stroke.
Palestinians, Lebanese, Arabs and Muslims will remember him as the man responsible for the Qana massacre in Lebanon in 1996, as the chief architect of Israel’s clandestine nuclear programme, and for playing a key role in early days of illegal West Bank settlements.
Peres was born in modern-day Belarus in 1923 and his family moved to Palestine in the 1930s. As a young man, Peres joined the Haganah, the militia primarily responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages in 1947-49.
Over seven decades, Peres served as prime minister and president. He was a member of 12 cabinets and had stints as defence, foreign and finance minister.
As prime minister in 1996, Peres ordered and oversaw “Operation Grapes of Wrath” when Israeli armed forces killed some 154 civilians in Lebanon and injured another 351. The operation – widely believed to have been a pre-election show of strength – saw Lebanese civilians intentionally targeted.
According to the official Israeli Air Force website the operation involved “massive bombing of the Shia villages in South Lebanon in order to cause a flow of civilians north, toward Beirut, thus applying pressure on Syria and Lebanon to restrain Hezbollah.”
The campaign’s most notorious incident was the Qana massacre, when Israel shelled a United Nations compound and killed 106 sheltering civilians. A UN report stated that, contrary to Israeli denials, it was “unlikely” that the shelling “was the result of technical and/or procedural errors.”
During the last 10 years Peres has been one of Israel’s most important global ambassadors, as the Gaza Strip was subjected to a devastating blockade and three major offensives. Despite global outrage at such policies, Peres has consistently backed collective punishment and military brutality.
But for Israelis and their western allies it was a different story. For them he was the “man of peace” who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for his role negotiating the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians a year earlier.
US President Barack Obama called Peres his “dear friend” in a statement, and said: “He was guided by a vision of the human dignity and progress that he knew people of goodwill could advance together.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said he was a visionary and courageous statesman, who worked relentlessly for peace and never lost hope that this would one day be achievable..
And Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has been a lifelong friend of the Palestinians but has spoken little of Palestine since being elected leader last year, also praised Peres
Addressing Labour Friends of Israel, he hailed Peres as an “enormous giant of Israeli politics”, saying: “His Nobel peace prize with negotiations with remarkable, a huge achievement and should surely be the basis on which we try to bring a permanent, long-term peace two-state solution in the whole region and specifically between Israel and Palestine.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian resistance organisation Hamas expressed happiness at the death of Peres.
A spokesman for the group, Sami Abu Zuhri, told The Associated Press that “the Palestinian people are very happy at the passing of this criminal who caused their blood to shed.” He added, “Shimon Peres was the last remaining Israeli official who founded the occupation, and his death is the end of a phase in the history of this occupation and the beginning of a new phase of weakness.”
There was no immediate comment from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. However, he did eventually send his condolences to Peres’s family, describing him as a partner in peace, together with former PA President Yasser Arafat and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
He also noted the efforts Peres invested in forging a sustainable peace between Israel and the Palestinians since the signing of the Oslo Accords until the final moments of his life
Finally, Al-Manar, a Lebanese satellite television station affiliated with Hezbollah, vilified Peres as a criminal, stating that he “will be forgotten since the world is better off without criminals.”