Bahraini foreign minister’s surprising tribute to former Israeli president Shimon Peres who died Wednesday has triggered a wave of outcry in the region where he is known as a criminal.
“Rest in Peace President Shimon Peres, a Man of War and a Man of the still elusive Peace in the Middle East,” Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa posted on his Twitter account.
The tribute drew the ire of many online users as well as opposition figures, given that a large number of Arabs view Peres as the man responsible for the successive wars that have rocked the Middle East.
“The foreign minister is paying tribute and praying for the Zionist terrorist and the killer of children,” complained former opposition lawmaker Jalal Fairooz.
Another critic, Khalil Buhazaa, tweeted, “Diplomacy does not mean rudeness.”
Manama does not have diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv but some Arab states, chiefly Saudi Arabia, have recently moved to warm relations with the Israeli regime.
Bahrain is under the heavy influence of Saudi Arabia which is spearheading the push for rapprochement with Israel.
Among Arab leaders, only Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has offered condolences to Peres’s family, describing him as a partner in peace.
However, many across the world would remember Peres as a “war criminal” especially in light of the 1996 Qana massacre. In that Israeli attack on a southern Lebanese village, at least 106 people were killed. Peres was then prime minister.
Born in Poland in 1923, Peres emigrated to what was then British-mandated Palestine when he was 11. He joined the Zionist movement and met David Ben-Gurion, who would become his mentor and Israel’s first prime minister.
Peres became director general of the nascent ministry of military affairs at just 29. He was also seen as a driving force in the development of the Israel’s undeclared nuclear program.
Palestinians say Peres has their blood on his hands. Like other Zionist leaders, Peres also allowed Israeli settlement construction to take place in Palestinian land during his years in leadership positions.
The impoverished Gaza Strip witnessed two full-scale wars under Peres’s tenure as president, which claimed the lives of more than 3,700 Palestinians in total.
The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has called on Palestinians to hold a “Day of Rage” on Friday which will coincide with the funeral of Peres.
The call is meant to mark the one-year anniversary of the beginning of what is described as the third Intifada throughout the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem al-Quds.