JERUSALEM (AFP) – An Arab Israeli lawmaker has caused an uproar after describing ailing Nobel peace laureate Shimon Peres as covered “head to toe” in Palestinian blood.
Former Israeli president and prime minister Peres, 93, remained in serious condition Thursday, according to his doctor, after suffering a major stroke two days earlier.
As messages of concern and wishes for his recovery flowed from public leaders at home and abroad, MP Basel Ghattas (pictured) posted on his Facebook a scathing attack on the veteran leader’s record in the conflict with the Palestinians.
Peres, he wrote in Arabic, was one of the “strongest pillars of the Zionist colonialist settlement project and one of the most despicable, cruel, radical and long-living.”
Arab Israelis — who represent about 17.5 percent of Israel’s population — are the descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948.
Although they are citizens of the Jewish state they largely identify as Palestinians.
Peres, who became director general of the nascent defence ministry at just 29 years old, once hawkishly rejected any compromise with hostile Arab states.
He said he became a dove after 1977, when Egyptian president Anwar Sadat made a historic visit to Jerusalem, leading to the first Arab-Israeli peace treaty.
“Our blood covers him from head to toe,” wrote Ghattas, a member of the Joint List Arab coalition.
“Let us… remember his real essence as a tyrant and a direct administrator of the crimes and war crimes carried out against our rights.”
Peres won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat for his role in negotiating the Oslo accords.
But he was also an early backer of Israeli settlement in the West Bank after its occupation in the 1967 Six Day War.
He was Israel’s foreign minister in 1996 when the Jewish state shelled a United Nations compound at Qana village, in Lebanon, killing 105 civilians in what a UN report ruled was a deliberate attack.
Another Arab MP, of the Arab-Jewish leftist Meretz party, took Ghattas to task for his comments.
“The majority of Arab society thinks otherwise,” Issawi Freij told the Ynet news site. “Ghattas won the support of a minority.”
“The things he said have no place in society and should be condemned,” Freij said.
“These things seriously hurt the Arab population of the country.”
Yariv Levin, of the governing right-wing Likud party and who serves as tourist minister, went further, calling Ghattas “a provocateur of the worst kind.”