On Wednesday, President Obama issued a proclamation ordering all American flags at official buildings and posts at home and across the globe to be flown at half-staff through sunset on Friday, September 30, as “a mark of respect for the memory of Shimon Peres.” Peres’s funeral will take place in Israel on Friday.
The rules for this honor “in the event of a death of a member or former member of the federal, state or territorial government or judiciary,” vary from that of a foreign leader, making it a rare occasion. As far as my research shows, only seven other foreign personages have been honored with a presidential order to fly American flags at half-staff.
Peres is the second Israeli leader to be given this honor. The first was Yitzhak Rabin after his assassination in 1995. Both Rabin and Peres were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Yasser Arafat, in 1994, after negotiating the Olso Accords.
Most recently, in 2013, President Obama ordered the American flag to be flown at half-staff to honor another Nobel Peace Prize winner, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, who was awarded the prize in 1993. Prior to that, George W. Bush ordered the flags to fly at half-staff to honor Pope John Paul II, after his death in 2005. In 1999, the honor went to King Hussein of Jordan, who signed the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty with Rabin and Bill Clinton in 1994. Peres also played a pivotal role during the proceedings as foreign minister.
Anwar El Sadat, who signed the Camp David Accords with Menachem Begin in 1978 with Jimmy Carter as a witness, received the half-staff honor in 1981, following his assassination. In 1965, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, one of the great leaders of the 20th century and a key American ally during World War II, received the honor from Lyndon B. Johnson.
And last but not least on the list, is former United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, who received the honor from John F. Kennedy in 1961. Hammarskjold, a Swede, died in a plane crash. He was posthumously awarded the Nobel Prize.
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Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.