An Arab Israeli lawmaker drew swift and harsh condemnation Wednesday after suggesting former president Shimon Peres be remembered as a blood-covered tyrant and war criminal, breaking with others who have praised the Nobel Peace Prize winner in the wake of his massive stroke a day earlier.
Writing on his official Facebook page, MK Basel Ghattas (Joint List) said Peres “was one of the pillars of the Zionist colonial project, and one of the most despicable, cruel, radical and long-lived [of its leadership].”
As a result, Ghattas said, Peres “was the most damaging and calamitous for the Palestinian nation and other Arab peoples.”
Peres, 93, is considered the country’s leading elder statesman and his long career as a politician and as a booster of regional peace efforts have made him into a darling in Israel and abroad.
News that he suffered a stroke Tuesday led to a huge outpouring of support and wishes that he make a speedy recovery.
Doctors said Wednesday morning he appeared to have improved slightly but it was unclear what damage had been done.
Though he served as defense minister and was considered a hawk in his early years in politics, rejecting any compromise with hostile Arab states, he later became the face of the country’s peace movement, carrying on the legacy of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin who was his partner in working on the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.
Peres had said he was converted after 1977, when Egyptian president Anwar Sadat made a historic visit to Jerusalem, leading to the first Arab-Israeli peace treaty.
But according to Ghattas, Peres only managed to “portray himself as a dove” to the point that he won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Rabin and Yasser Arafat in 1994.
“So let us at least remember his true essence in his death, as a tyrant directly responsible for crimes and war crimes directed against us,” wrote Ghattas, adding “our blood covers him from head to toe.”
Ghattas’s comments were met with outrage by other Israeli politicians.
Zionist Union MK Itzik Shmuli called the Arab lawmaker “a petty and wretched man whose entire contribution to politics can be summed up in sowing hatred and animosity, support for terror and cheap self-promoting provocations. He is not fit to utter Peres’s name.”
Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) also accused Ghattas of being a provocateur rather than a seeker of solutions, and stated that “even given 300 years of life, Ghattas won’t accomplish one iota of what Peres has done for the Arab community.”
Deputy Knesset Speaker Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) said people like Ghattas should be “vomited out of our parliament” and called on Joint List party leader Ayman Odeh to denounce his words.
Another Peres detractor was senior Hamas official Salah Bardawil in Gaza, who took to Twitter on Tuesday night to denounce the veteran diplomat.
“Shimon Peres is leaving the world he corrupted with the blood of the children of Qana and Gaza,” Bardawil wrote, referring to the 1996 accidental shelling of the Lebanese village of Qana that killed 106 civilians during fighting against Hezbollah. Peres was prime minister at the time.
“In every place he wore the cloak of peace, and hid under it the dagger of treachery,” wrote Bardawil.
Bardawil concluded his tweet with: “Tomorrow he will meet Sharon,” referring to Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, who died in 2014.
Also on Twitter, the former Hamas health minister in Gaza heaped vituperation on Peres. “The architect of the criminal Oslo agreement Shimon Peres, killer of children in Qana, is dying…go to hell,” wrote Basem Naim on Wednesday morning.
Naim is now the head of Hamas’s International Relations Council in Gaza.
Peres, now retired, had a 55-year political career culminating in a term as Israel’s president from 2007 to 2014. He was a key figure in the Oslo peace process during the 1990s. He remains active in public life through his nongovernmental Peres Center for Peace, which promotes coexistence between Arabs and Jews.
Considered the last surviving member of Israel’s founding fathers, he served as prime minister twice — from 1984 to 1986 as part of a rotational government, and for a few months in 1995 and 1996 after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. He spent most of his career in the Labor Party.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.