Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas joined dozens of dignitaries from around the world in Jerusalem on September 30 to attend the funeral of Israeli statesman Shimon Peres. He returned to a backlash at home over his decision to participate in the state ceremony.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, Peres has been criticised in Arabic postings on social media. Abbas’ main political rival, the Hamas Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, condemned his participation as having betrayed Palestinian principles.
In the Arab world and social media, much mention was made of the 1996 Israeli shelling, when Peres was prime minister, of a UN compound in the village of Qana in south Lebanon.
More than 100 civilians sheltering there were killed during an Israeli offensive against Hezbollah guerrillas. Israel said its forces had been aiming at militants firing rockets nearby.
In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, a senior Palestinian security officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Osama Mansour, was arrested on October 1 after he criticised Abbas on Facebook.
“If that was your decision to take part in the funeral of the killer of our children, you were wrong. And if you made the decision on the recommendation [of your advisers], you were misled,” Mansour wrote.
At the funeral, Abbas took a front-row seat (Palestinian officials said Peres’ family invited him) and shook hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to Reuters, it was the president’s first visit to Jerusalem since 2010. But with peace talks with Israel frozen since 2014, there was no indication anything would come of the handshake and the few pleasantries Abbas and Netanyahu exchanged in the cemetery.
“Stay there, don’t come back,” Palestinian blogger Ali Qaraqea told Abbas in a Facebook video that had 345,000 views and 3,800 shares by October 3.
In a separate report, Breitbart Jerusalem noted that several Fatah factions joined the chorus of critics condemning Abbas.
The Storm Forces, a militant sub-faction of Fatah’s military wing, published a pamphlet addressing the “members of the brave Palestinian people and our great movement, Fatah, the bearer of the revolution.” They accused Abbas of “diverging from national unity and the morality of the Palestinian Revolution”.
“We, the Storm Forces of Fatah, the movement of liberation and resistance, declare that we have no connection to Abbas and his entourage, we disavow him as the leader of the movement founded by martyrs like the great leader Yasser Arafat and the martyrs Abu Jihad and Abu Iyad, a movement whose martyrs led the way to others by sacrificing themselves. It is unacceptable that it is led by someone who believes in collusion. Normalization continues to humiliate our brave people on a daily basis.”
Following the announcement, Fatah stated it suspended the members behind the Abbas criticism.
On social media, among the posts that went viral was a video of an 80-year-old Palestinian woman who insulted Abbas during an interview with her grandson. A cartoon showing Abbas as a kippa-clad Jewish soldier weeping at Peres’ grave also went viral.