As reported in the press on March 5 (Dawn), US President Barack Obama has announced America’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for Israeli President Shimon Peres. As the story goes, Shimon once described the story of the Jewish people by saying it proved that ‘slings, arrows and gas chambers can annihilate man, but cannot destroy human values, dignity and freedom.’ Obama believes “Peres has lived those values and has taught to ask more of ourselves, and to empathise more with our fellow human beings.” Obama felt grateful for Peres life’s work and moral example. It did not occur, or matter, to Obama that Israeli leaders have been practicing just the reverse of what they have been preaching.

Peres shared 1994 Nobel Peace Prize with Yasser Arafat and Rabin for his work on the Oslo Accords. However, that was during Peres’s early days when there was perhaps a bit of humanist in him but later, he shed this mask and displayed his true self, supporting inhuman Gaza blockade and advocating an attack on Iran. It is surprising Obama could find no person more eligible for the award than Shimon Peres, but then such are the pressures of pro-Israel lobbies without whose ‘blessings’ Obama could not have come to power and could not hope to win a second term. With elections just around the corner, Obama has got to win the goodwill of pro-Israel lobbies at all costs, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom is a small price to pay for it. Earlier on, he did much more than that like his bold and principled stand “Freeze (on Israeli settlements) means freeze” and later shamelessly reversing that by saying words to the effect “demand for settlement freeze” is not a suitable premise to base peace process upon.”

I remember former US president George Bush once described the Israeli mass murderer and war criminal Ariel Sharon as a man of peace. Of course, Obama had to do better than that and he has just done it. So much for the supposedly world’s most powerful man, and a holder of Nobel Peace Prize.

S.R.H. Hashmi,

Karachi, March 5.