To whitewash someone's record can prolong injustice. Being mindful that "God created Israel as His people amidst the nations, so that Israel might be the standard-bearer of human justice" (Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb), Jews must especially avoid such misrepresentations.
After the death of Shmon Peres, some members of the religious nationalist community made glowing statements about him. For example:
• “Shimon Peres z"l was many things, and with many roles over his long and illustrious career, but he was a president for the people; all the people.”
• “Without question we need to learn from a man who never stopped working for what he believed in & made everyone better with that dream.”
•“Throughout his life he had the welfare of the Jewish people, and when it came into existence, the Jewish state as his goals.”
These remarks bring to mind those who portray Israel before 1948 as a land of harmonious coexistence between Jews and Arabs. Both claims require ignoring obvious facts to maintain a false narrative, which can warp future opinion and therefore national policy.
In reality, Shimon Peres was a chronic force of division and rancor in Israeli society. A notorious example was after Labor lost the 1996 elections and Peres spoke with a journalist from Haaretz:
“What happened in these elections?”
“Who is 'we'?”
“'We' is the Israelis.”
“And who won?”
“Those who don't have an Israeli mentality. Call them the Jews.”
Peres lost his cool and shouted back: 'You don’t scare me. I’m not afraid of your fascism, your Khomeini-ism, or your Mizrahi social movements.'
“In the heated 1981 election campaign, Shimon Peres was heckled and shouted at during a campaign stop in Beit Shemesh. He lost his cool and shouted back: 'You don’t scare me. I’m not afraid of your fascism, your Khomeini-ism, or your Mizrahi social movements.' [A video of the incident can be seen here.]...
It was in the same election, perhaps the stormiest in the country’s history, that entertainer Dudu Topaz said at the big campaign rally in Malchei Yisrael [now Rabin] Square: 'The [Mizrahi] riffraff are in Metzudat Ze’ev [Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv]. They are barely good enough to serve as guards on a base, if they even enlist,' and in so doing drove the final nail in the Labor Alignment’s coffin.”
During his time as prime minister, Peres also obstructed efforts to heal national traumas. As Professor Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber notes in her study of the Yemenite Babies Affair:
"In 1985, the Knesset's interior committee was prompted to consider the Yemenite Babies Affair due to further pressure from the Yemenite community. Several meetings were held in which incriminating testimony from Knesset members, Rabbi Porush and Avigdor Pe'er, was presented...In the face of evidence from government officials, the interior committee recommended the establishment of a public investigative commission. With no explanation, Shimon Peres (prime minister at the time) refused to oblige. No further progress was made for three years."
In this regard, the person Peres made ambassador to Russia in 1994 said after her appointment, "We were in danger of becoming Levantine and this [Russian] immigration saved us."
Peres caused regional bitterness along with ethnic alienation. “This hysteria over the Qassams must end,” he said during the terrible volume of rocket attacks against Sderot in 2006. Mayor Eli Moyal responded, “Sderot is boiling up over what Shimon Peres said. There's more than a chance that we will declare him persona non grata in this city.”
How could Peres still speak so brazenly after Oslo? Not only did the “accords” result in domestic carnage, Israel suffered lesser-known scourges like becoming a global hub of car theft. (Manhigut Yehudit explains in a 2014 analysis of Oslo: "The inexcusable ease with which it is possible to steal a car and within minutes to drive to safety in territory controlled by the PA, encouraged this type of theft. In 1998 the police were forced to establish a special unit, called Etgar, to deal with this problem...[I]n 1997 the number of car thefts jumped to over 45,000 annually...In 2006, 53,485 cars were stolen from the territory of the State of Israel.")
Then again, this is the same politician who said with pride in 1998:
"I went over to Arafat in the name of Rabin and myself. I told him, 'Have right away a Palestinian state in Gaza and an autonomy on the West Bank, and eventually we shall continue on the West Bank as well.' So, we offered him formally the formation of a Palestinian state without any doubt." (See 20:15 here.)
If Israel is to have greater security and national unity, a starting point is honest assessment of people like Shimon Peres. By doing so, one advances justice and honors Rav Hirsch's call in Horeb: "And you, son and daughter of Israel, make yourselves replete with that justice which is demanded by the name which you bear, and show by just living what it means to be a man and an Israelite."