Israel’s former president Shimon Peres warned Saturday night that “dark, extremist forces” are threatening to destroy the state of Israel, and called on all Israelis to confront and rebuff them.
Peres delivered an anguished address to thousands at a Tel Aviv anti-violence demonstration which was held after suspected Jewish terrorists firebombed a Palestinian home Friday and killed an 18-month-old baby, and after an ultra-Orthodox Jew stabbed six participants in Jerusalem’s Gay Pride Parade Thursday, critically injuring one of them.
“I’m ashamed. I can’t believe that we’ve reached such dark depths,” the former president said, warning against people who are “trying to destroy Israel from within.”
Peres, who is also a former prime minister and Nobel Peace laureate, said Israel now has to fight “a war of liberation — to liberate the state of Israel from madness and madmen.”
‘Those who incite against Israel’s Arab citizens shouldn’t be surprised when ultimately a baby is burned to death in his sleep’
The country was not engaged in “a dispute between right and left,” he said, but rather “a confrontation between those with a conscience and those without a conscience.”
Referring to the Thursday stabbing attack at the Pride Parade, an annual event bitterly criticized in some ultra-Orthodox circles, Peres said, “Those who call the pride parade a march of animals shouldn’t be surprised when a knife is plunged into a 17-year-old girl.”
Turning to Friday’s murderous arson attack in the Palestinian village of Duma, that killed Ali Dawabsha and left his parents and brother fighting for their lives, the former president said, “Those who incite against Israel’s Arab citizens shouldn’t be surprised when churches and mosques are set on fire, and ultimately when a baby is burned to death in the middle of the night.”
Friday’s killing culminated years of hate crimes against Muslim, Christian and Jewish targets carried out by self-styled “Price Tag” assailants, in response to alleged pro-Palestinian or anti-settlement actions. Peres’s successor as president, Reuven Rivlin, said after Friday’s killing that Israel had been “lax in confronting Jewish terrorism.”
“There can be political compromises in a democratic state,” Peres told the crowd, “but not moral compromises. Morality cannot be compromised.”
Anchoring his criticism with a reference to Jewish principles, Peres said that “the Torah that was given to us on Mount Sinai is first and foremost a code of values. A Jew is no longer a Jew if he breaks the commandment, ‘Thou shall not murder’ and replaces it with incitement to murder,” he said. “A Jew is no longer a Jew if he ignores the call to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ — even if the neighbor loves in a different way.”
He said Israel was facing a “battle for our survival” in which “those who are prepared to burn babies in the middle of the night and plunge knives into the hearts of our daughters are the enemies of the people. They are a danger to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, as a democratic state. All Israel’s citizens,” he said, must join the struggle and ensure a “decisive victory.”
“Don’t underestimate the danger,” he warned, asserting that “the survival of a Jewish, democratic Israel” is at stake.”There is no room in Israel for dark, extremist forces. They have to be defeated immediately.”
Almost 20 years ago, on November 4, 1995, Peres, 91, attended a major pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv, at the end of which an assassin, Jewish extremist Yigal Amir, killed then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.