SYDNEY (JTA) — The leader of the Australian Greens party was slammed by fellow lawmakers and a Jewish group for attacking the late Shimon Peres in a speech in the Senate.
Speaking on Oct. 13, two weeks after the former Israeli president died at 93, Sen. Richard Di Natale sought to counter depictions of Peres as a statesman and a peacemaker.
“It is important to put on the record that Shimon Peres has been described as an architect of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, which to this day remains outside the scrutiny of the International Atomic Energy Agency; that he was the father of the settler movement, which involves the confiscation of large swaths of Palestinian land; and that in 1996 he oversaw Operation Grapes of Wrath, which involved the death of 154 civilians in Lebanon and involved the shelling of a United Nations compound, which killed 106 sheltering civilians,” Di Natale said. “While he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, members of that committee have expressed regret that the prize could not be recalled on the basis of the actions that followed.”
The left-wing lawmaker was referring to reports in 2002 that after Israel launched a massive anti-terror operation in the West Bank while Peres was serving as foreign minister, individual members of the Norwegian prize committee said they regretted giving Peres the honor for having helped broker the Israeli-Palestinian accords.
Parliament member Michael Danby of the Labor Party blasted the remarks the following day, saying that Di Natale, “to his shame, denigrated” Peres” and “again showed his total insensitivity and his hatred of a Jewish state.”
He added: “It was unprecedented for the head of a political party to attack the recently deceased head of state who was known for values of peace and reconciliation with which the fake Green party ostensibly identifies.”
Danby also defended Peres’ role in Israel’s acquisition of nuclear technology, calling it a “fail-safe” following the near extermination of European Jewry during the Holocaust.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry issued a statement calling Peres “a world-renowned statesman, as was attested to by the eloquent eulogies at his funeral by most of the world’s leading political figures, including Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.”
“Unlike Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who said Peres’s death is ‘a heavy loss for all humanity and for peace in the region,’ Senator di Natale could find not a single positive thing to say on Peres’s passing,” the statement said. “The Senator’s graceless criticisms of Shimon Peres shortly after his passing reflect poorly on himself and the Australian Greens, and suggest that their leader is a political captive of the extremists in his party.”