Uri Avnery, Israeli Activist for a Palestinian State, Dead at 94


Human Wrongs Watch

By Jonathan Cook – TRANSCEND Media Service*

27 August 2018 – Uri Avnery, a self-confessed former “Jewish terrorist” who went on to become Israel’s best-known peace activist, died in Tel Aviv on 20 Aug 2018, following a stroke. He was 94.

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Uri Avnery

His last TMS column on 4 Aug 2018: Who the Hell Are We?

As one of Israel’s founding generation, Avnery was able to gain the ear of prime ministers, even while he spent decades editing an anti-establishment magazine that was a thorn in their side.

He came to wider attention in 1982 as the first Israeli to meet Yasser Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. At the time, Arafat and the PLO were reviled in Israel and much of the west as terrorists.

Famously, Avnery smuggled himself past the Israeli army’s siege lines around Beirut to reach Arafat.

The pair were reported to have maintained close ties until the Palestinian leader’s much speculated upon death in 2004.

Avnery founded Israel’s only significant – if small – peace movement, Gush Shalom, in 1993.

He and his followers tried to build political pressure in Israel and abroad, seeking to convert the lipservice paid to a two-state solution in the Oslo peace process into a concrete Palestinian state.

A harsh critic of Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government until the end, Avnery filed his final weekly column two weeks ago, lambasting Israel’s new Nation-State Basic Law as “semi-fascist”.

For Israel’s currently besieged peace bloc, Avnery’s passing is a significant blow.

Despite tributes from Israeli opposition politicians on Monday, his voice had long ago become marginalised at home. He was the last major public figure still visibly fighting to bring about a two-state solution.

His unyielding positions in support of an Oslo-style peace had begun to appear to many on the Israeli right and left as obsolete, especially after Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the White House. Since then, Israel has barely veiled its intention to annex parts of the West Bank, destroying any hope of a Palestinian state.

Avnery publicly rejected a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a shared, single state for Israelis and Palestinians.

He also opposed a general boycott of Israel, as advocated by the growing international BDS movement. Gush Shalom, however, did support boycotts restricted to the settlements.

Avnery arrived in what was then British-ruled Palestine in 1933, aged 10, emigrating with his family from Germany as the Nazis rose to power.

At 15, he was an young recruit to the Irgun, an underground Jewish militia the British classified as a terrorist organisation. But increasingly disenchanted with its attacks on Palestinian civilians, he quit a few years later.

Avnery fought with the Haganah – later to become the Israel Defence Forces – during the 1948 war that founded a Jewish state on the ruins of the Palestinians’ homeland. In later books and articles, he referred to his unit’s role in committing war crimes against Palestinians in the Negev region, in modern Israel’s south.

During the fighting, he was seriously wounded. His dispatches from the battlefront, later compiled as a book, briefly made him a national hero.

But his popularity soon waned. In his memoir, he described his convalescence as a period of dramatic change in his thinking: “The war totally convinced me there is a Palestinian people, and that peace must be forged first and foremost with them.”

It was then, he added, that he became a committed advocate for a Palestinian state.

Through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, Avnery was best known for publishing his weekly magazine Haolam Hazeh (This World). Its mix of ground-breaking investigations, political muckraking and dissident opinion made him many enemies in the ruling Labour party.

The head of Israel’s domestic intelligence service of the time described Avnery as “Government Enemy No 1”. The magazine’s offices were bombed several times, and Avnery was seriously assaulted. The publication only closed when Avnery started Gush Shalom. The movement on Monday described him as “a far-seeing visionary who pointed to a way which others failed to see”.

Though a dissident figure, Avnery had been popular enough on the left to launch a separate political career, winning seats in Israel’s parliament in the 1965, 1969 and 1977 elections.

When he made a speech in the parliament to relinquish his seat in 1981, he caused an uproar by being the first legislator to wave the Palestinian and Israeli flags alongside each other.

But it was in 1982 that he established a reputation outside Israel. He was smuggled into Beirut to meet Arafat, as Israeli forces encircled the city in an effort to remove the PLO from Lebanon.

It later emerged that Israeli soldiers had been tracking Avnery in a bid to locate Arafat’s hideout and assassinate him. Avnery’s Palestinian escorts managed to elude them.

In his columns, Avnery often credited himself with using the trust he built with Arafat over the next few years to persuade the Palestinian leader to change the PLO’s political direction.

In 1988 Arafat renounced a long-standing Palestinian commitment to a single secular democratic state in historic Palestine, and formally accepted the idea of partitioning the territory into two states.

It was a concession that paved the way to the Oslo accords, signed between Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn in 1993.

That same year Avnery founded Gush Shalom, or “peace bloc”, to build on that momentum as Arafat and the PLO were allowed to return to parts of the occupied territories from which Israel had withdrawn.

As well as believing in the right of Palestinians to freedom, Avnery argued strongly that Israel’s Jewish demographic majority would be under threat unless it separated from the large Palestinian population in the occupied territories.

There were suspicions that some of Arafat’s more misguided assumptions about Israeli society – especially regarding the strength of the peace bloc and the public’s receptivity to the Oslo process – were informed by Avnery.

When the peace process effectively collapsed with the failure of the Camp David summit in 2000 and the eruption of a Palestinian uprising, Avnery again found his message of reconciliation out of favour in Israel.

But in his late seventies, he found a new international audience, as his translated columns were disseminated online.

Avnery hoped through his writings to resurrect what was left of his political legacy. But more often his columns were sought out for the light he could shed on current controversies, drawing on insights gained from his knowledge of historical episodes now largely overlooked.

At the height of the second intifada, Avnery and Gush Shalom were often alongside Palestinians protesting against abuses by the Israeli military or the settlers. They also demonstrated to stop Israel’s building of a “separation barrier” that subsequently ate up large chunks of Palestinian land in the West Bank.

In 2003, Avnery joined Arafat in his besieged presidential compound in Ramallah, serving as a “human shield” – to foil an expected Israeli assassination attempt. After Arafat died in mysterious circumstances a year later, Avnery was among those arguing that Israel was behind his poisoning.

His last column explored one of his enduring concerns: Israel’s identity as a Jewish state. It was provoked by the recent passage of the Nation-State Basic Law, which confers on Jews around the world privileges in Israel that are denied to the country’s large minority of Palestinian citizens.

For many years Avnery had been among those warning that Israel could not be a democracy if it did not treat all citizens as equal, but instead allocated key rights based on differing Jewish and Arab nationalities.

In 2013 he and other Israelis appealed to the supreme court to recognise for the first time an Israeli nationality shared by all citizens. The judges rejected their arguments.

——-

Uri Avnery was a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.

He was an Israeli journalist, writer, peace activist, a former Knesset member, and the founder of Gush Shalom.

Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, since 2001. He is the author of: Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish State(2006); Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East(2008); and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair(2008).

In 2011 he was awarded the Martha Gellhorn Special Prizefor Journalism. The same year, Project Censoredvoted one of Jonathan’s reports, “Israel brings Gaza entry restrictions to West Bank”, the ninth most important story censored in 2009-10.

Go to Original – jonathan-cook.net

(Source: TRANSCEND Media Service)

Read articles by Uri Avnery published in Human Wrongs Watch:

Adolf and Amin

The March of Folly

“Not Enough!”

A Very Intelligent Person

Princely Visits

Two Souls

The Siamese Twins

Are YOU Brainwashed?

Strong as Death

The Luck of the Gambler

The Day of Shame

Who Is the Vassal?

That Woman

The Real Victor

The Great Day

A Song Is Born

“Pour Out Your Wrath”

Son of a Dog

The Fake Enemy

The Great Conspiracy

Because There Is Nothing

Go in Peace!

Pity the Almond Tree

What the Hell?

“Not Enough!”

The Jumping Parliament

May Your Home Be Destroyed

Bibi’s Son or: Three Men in a Car

Why I Am Angry

The Man Who Jumped

Cry, Beloved Country

A Curious National Home

Children of Stones

From Barak to Trump

A Terrible Thought

King and Emperor

Two Meetings

A History of Idiocy

Pickled Cucumbers

Who Is Afraid of the Iranian Bomb?

A New Start

The Terrible Problem

Separation Is Beautiful

A Tale of Two Stories

A Confession

Crusaders and Zionists

One, Two, Three – Rejoice!

The Israeli Macron

Palestine’s Nelson Mandela

CUI BONO?

The Tunic of Nessus

University of Terror

The Israeli National Riddle

The Most Moral Army

Perhaps the Messiah Will Come

The Cannons of Napoleon

The Great Rift

That’s How It Happened

Respect the Green Line!

President Kong

Being There

Confessions of a Megalomaniac

Yes, We Can

Anti-Semitic Zionists

Don’t Send Him!

Remember Naboth

The Call of the Nation

Oh My God, Trump!

The Shot Heard All Over the Country

The Orange Man

Petty Corruption

Those Funny Anti-Semites

“Us” and “Them”

The Other Gandhi

Squaring the Circle

The Case of Soldier A

My Terrorist, Your Terrorist

The Great BDS Debate

The Last Trump

Holy Water

When God Despairs

A Lady With A Smile

Optimism of the Will

The Pied Piper of Zion

Extreme, Extremer, Extremest

The Widening Gap

A Bribery Case

Imagined Nations

A Lonely Lawyer

King Bibi

Seashore Thoughts

The Reign of Absurdiocy

The Cats of Ariel

Adolf, Amin and Bibi

Weep, Beloved Country

The Settlers’ Prussia

Nasser and I

The Ministry of Fear

“Don’t Talk Zionism!”

The Real Menace

The Face of a Boy

The Molten Three

The Magician’s Apprentice

Jewish Terrorists

Divide et Impera

Sheldon’s Stooges

The Treaty

To Be Greek

The Second Battle of Trafalgar

War Crimes? Us???

Isratin or Palestrael?

BDS, the New Enemy

The Real Naqba

The Map on the Wall

Who Will Save Israel?

A Day and Night-mare

A Boy Called Bibi

Cats in a Sack

“There Are Still Judges…”

National Unity

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Bomb?

The Israeli Salvation Front

The Messiah Hasn’t Come

For Whom to Vote?

The Speech

An Expensive Speech

Anti-What?

The Casino Republic

Over Bottled

Zionists All

Galant’s Gallant Act

Waving in the First Row

Half of Shas

The Rock of our Existence

Splendid Isolation

My Glorious Brothers

Can the Duke Become King?

The Plebiscite

The Son of my Eyes

The Unholy City

Wine, Blood and Gasoline

Is ISIS Coming?

Muhammad, Where Are You?

Two Speeches

Ah, If I Were 25

Scotland on the Euphrates: The Obsolescence of the Nation-State

God Wills It!

The War for Nothing

Eyeless in Gaza

Meeting in a Tunnel

Who Is Winning?

A Shameful Chapter

No, We Can’t!

2018 Human Wrongs Watch

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