Don’t honor Peres’ war criminal history

The following is an open letter to Professor Ali Dogramaci, Rector of Bilkent University, Ankara:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) views with grave concern your university’s intention to honor Shimon Peres with an Honorary Doctorate. We feel certain that you do so without the knowledge of his personal history and his history as president of a state that practices the most pernicious form of colonialism and apartheid. Bear with us as we recount the most salient points of his career and life which directly point to a record of war crimes which will immeasurably tarnish the image of Bilkent University, should you confer an Honorary Degree upon him. Those who have received this prestigious degree from your university will be tainted by being in the company of such a notorious personality.

On 18 April 1996, when Israel still occupied southern Lebanon, Shimon Peres was Prime Minister. He was in the midst of an election campaign, so he took a decision to do something to change his “dovish” image because doves are not respected in Israel. He launched “Operation Grapes of Wrath” causing 400,000 Lebanese to flee their homes, with almost 800 of them fleeing to a UN base in Qana, South Lebanon.

On 18 April the Israeli army shelled the UN shelter in Qana, killing 102 civilians, mainly women, children and the elderly. Many more were injured. Human Rights Watch, the UN and Amnesty International subsequently disproved the myth that the Israeli army did not deliberately intend to shell the UN base. Shimon Peres said at the time, “In my opinion, everything was done according to clear logic and in a responsible way. I am at peace.”

The Qana massacre led to Shimon Peres being denied the job he coveted at the time: that of UN Secretary-General. He should have been denied it anyway for being the architect of Israel’s nuclear programme — one which remains outside the scrutiny of the world even as Israel bays for the cessation of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear energy for civilian purposes.

Peres is on record for being responsible for other war crimes, from building colonies on occupied Arab land to endorsing a policy of extra-judicial killings, which murders Palestinians and other Arabs without the benefit of a trial or, in fact, any proof other than that provided by Israeli Intelligence, the Shin Bet. He also supports the siege on Gaza, the destruction of its airport, and the elaborate system of checkpoints all across the West Bank. He defends the demolition of Palestinian homes, and he justified the atrocities committed by the Israeli army in its recent war on Lebanon in 2006.

Peres is also on record for defending land gained during war, claiming that Israel has the right to the Golan Heights because it was gained during war. All this makes him wholly unsuitable for consideration for any Honorary Degree — let alone actually being awarded one!

We, like all other Palestinians and international supporters of human rights and international law, expect from Bilkent University to uphold the highest standard of respect for the human rights of the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, which has been under a hermetic siege imposed by Israel for almost two years. Difficult and brave decisions need to be taken in support of Palestinians exactly like South Africa was supported long before it became fashionable to do so. Israeli war criminals should be boycotted, not rewarded.

Turkish people have always shown strong support for the struggle of the victims of both Apartheid and Zionism, and they will continue to do so. We hope that your university will remain within the Turkish consensus and refrain from honoring a dishonorable man.

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