Uri Avnery: Wikis


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Uri Avnery
Date of birth 10 September 1923 (1923-09-10) (age 86)
Place of birth Beckum, Germany
Year of aliyah 1933
Knessets 6, 7, 9
Party Left Camp of Israel (1979-1981)
Former parties Meri (1965-1974)

Uri Avnery (Hebrew: אורי אבנרי‎, also transliterated Uri Avneri, born 10 September 1923) is an Israeli writer and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. A member of the Irgun as a teenager, Avnery sat in the Knesset from 1965-74 and 1979-81.[1] He was also the owner of HaOlam HaZeh, an Israeli news magazine, from 1950 until it closed in 1993.

He is famous for crossing the lines during the Battle of Beirut to meet Yassir Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery is the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including 1948: A Soldier’s Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem (2008); Israel’s Vicious Circle (2008); and My Friend, the Enemy (1986).



Born in Beckum, Germany as Helmut Ostermann, Avnery and his family emigrated to Palestine in 1933, fleeing the Nazi regime.[2][3] He attended school in Nahalal and then in Tel Aviv, leaving after 7th grade, at age 14, in order to help his parents. He started work as a clerk for a lawyer, a job he held for five years or so.

He joined the Irgun, a Revisionist Zionist paramilitary group, in 1938[4] and wrote for some of their internal publications. At one point he edited the internal Revisionist journal Ba-Ma'avak ("in the Struggle").[5] He started writing for independent publications at the age of 17. He left the Irgun in 1942[4] after becoming disenchanted with their tactics, stating in a 2003 interview that, "I didn't like the methods of terror applied by the Irgun at the time", noting he did not back killing people in retaliation for similar acts by the Arabs.[6] In 1947 Avnery started his own small group, Eretz Yisrael Hatze'ira ("Young Land of Israel"), which published the journal Ma'avak ("Struggle").[4][7] Avnery's early political thought was influenced by Canaanism; in 1947 he proposed a union of the countries in the "Semitic region": Palestine, Transjordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.[8]

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War Avnery fought on the southern front in the Givati Brigade as a squad commander, and later in the Samson's Foxes commando unit (and also wrote its anthem).[2][4][9] He wrote dispatches from the front line which were published in Haaretz and later as a book, In the Fields of Philistia (Hebrew: בשדות פלשת‎, Bi-Sdot Pleshet).[2] Avnery was wounded twice, the second time, toward the end of the war, seriously; he spent the last months of his army service convalescing and was discharged in the summer of 1949.[2]

Avnery with Arafat in Beirut - July 1982.

After briefly working at Haaretz, in 1950 Avnery (with Shalom Cohen and two others) bought the failing magazine HaOlam HaZeh ("This World").[2] Avnery edited the weekly magazine during the 1950s and the 1960s Avnery, turning it into an anti-establishment tabloid known for many sensational scoops and for featuring nudes on its back cover. The formula seemed to work, as for many years it was Israel's leading alternative-media publication.

After the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 Avnery used his editorials in HaOlam HaZeh to call for a preventive war against Egypt, arguing that "the reactionary Arab regimes" would attack Israel "the minute Arab superiority in weapons over Israel is great enough."[10] He began to revise his views after the 1956 Suez Crisis, which ended in Israeli withdrawal and strengthened Nasser.[11] In June 1957 Avnery suggested that Israel aid Palestinians in overthrowing the Hashemite monarchy in Jordan (a "product of imperialism"); Israel would then form a federation with the new Palestinian Jordanian state.[11] In the late 1950s Avnery was among the founders of the group Semitic Action, which argued for a regional federation of Israel and its neighbors.[12]

Uri Avnery at a Hadash rally against the 2006 Lebanon War.

In 1965 Avnery created a political party bearing the name of his and Cohen's magazine, HaOlam HaZeh – Koah Hadash, and was elected to the Knesset in the 1965 election. Although he retained his seat in the 1969 election, the party disintegrated and Avnery renamed it Meri. Although it failed to win any seats in the 1973 elections, Avnery returned to the Knesset as a member of the Left Camp of Israel after the 1977 election, but did not retain his seat in the 1981 election. He was later involved in the Progressive List for Peace.

In late 1975 Avnery was among the founders of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.[13] Shortly after the group's founding, Avnery was assaulted and stabbed several times.[14]

Avnery famously met Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, during the Siege of Beirut — said to have been the first time an Israeli met personally with Arafat.[15]

He later turned to left-wing peace activism and founded the Gush Shalom movement in 1993, which he continues to lead as of 2009. He is a secularist and strongly opposed to the Orthodox influence in religious and political life.

In 2001, Avnery and his wife Rachel Avnery were honoured with the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes called the "Alternative Nobel Prize", "… for their unwavering conviction, in the midst of violence, that peace can only be achieved through justice and reconciliation".[16] In 2006, settler activist Baruch Marzel called on the Israeli military to carry out "a targeted killing" against Avnery.[17]

Avnery is a contributor to the news and opinion sites CounterPunch, Information Clearing House, Scoop.co.nz LewRockwell.com and The Exception Magazine.


"You can’t talk to me about terrorism, I was a terrorist." (referring to his Irgun activities).[18]
"I myself am a 100% atheist. And I am increasingly worried that the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, which dominates our entire life, is assuming a more and more religious character." [19]
"I define myself as a post-Zionist - I recognize Zionism and its importance but believe that that chapter in our history is over and we need to move forward."[20]

Bibliography (partial list)

  • Avnery, Uri (1968): Israel Without Zionists: A Plea for Peace in the Middle East, MacMillan Co., New York, Hardbound (1st Edition in 1968; many reprints)
  • Avnery, Uri (1986): My Friend, the Enemy, Zed Books; Paperback. 1986 ISBN 0862322154 Paperback; Lawrence Hill & Co, 1987 ISBN 0882082132 Hard cover; Lawrence Hill Books (1987) ISBN 0882082124
  • Avnery, Uri (2008): 1948: A Soldier's Tale - The Bloody Road to Jerusalem, Oneworld Publications; Paperback. 2008 ISBN 978-1-85168-629-2 (English edition of two books originally published in Hebrew in 1949 and '50)

See also


  1. ^ Uri Avnery Knesset activities Knesset website
  2. ^ a b c d e http://books.google.com/books?id=Mt8ZK0rhC7UC&lpg=PA126&dq=avnery%201948&lr=&pg=PA126#v=onepage&q=avnery%201948&f=false
  3. ^ Uri Avnery biography, Knesset website.
  4. ^ a b c d http://www.knesset.gov.il/lexicon/eng/avneri_eng.htm
  5. ^ Shavit, Jacob (1987). The new Hebrew nation. Routledge. p. 138.  
  6. ^ Jon Elmer (14 September 2003). "Violence is a symptom; the occupation is the disease". http://www.fromoccupiedpalestine.org/node/764.  
  7. ^ Shavit 139
  8. ^ Shavit 141
  9. ^ Bar-On, Mordechai (2001), The Beginning of the Israeli Historiography of the 1948 War; Ministry of Defense Publishing; ISBN 965-05-1126-1 (Hebrew)
  10. ^ Shavit 144-45
  11. ^ a b Shavit 145
  12. ^ http://www.tikkun.org/mediagallery/download.php?mid=20090505142537689
  13. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=B3ahGTZzTfYC&lpg=PA27&dq=%22Israeli%20Council%20for%20Israeli-Palestinian%20Peace%22&pg=PA28#v=onepage&q=%22Israeli%20Council%20for%20Israeli-Palestinian%20Peace%22&f=false
  14. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=Fi2QH5_x1pYC&pg=PA390&dq=uri+avnery+stabbed&lr=#v=onepage&q=&f=false
  15. ^ Uri Avnery - Biographical Notes Uri Avnery's website
  16. ^ "MThe Right Livelihood Award - Gush Shalom / Uri and Rachel Avnery (Israel)". http://www.rightlivelihood.org/gush_shalom.html. Retrieved 2009-02-10.  
  17. ^ "Marzel to cabinet: Kill left-wing leader". http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3230185,00.html. Retrieved 2006-05-07.  
  18. ^ Uri Avnery and Richard Swift, Blunt Talk 'New Internationalist', Issue 348, August 2002
  19. ^ A War of Religions? God Forbid!Uri Avnery, 19 February 2006
  20. ^ Prof Tania Reinhardt, linguist and activist, dies in New York, Yediot Aharonot, March 19, 2007.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Uri Avnery also spelled Uri Avneri (אורי אבנרי), born September 10, 1923 in Beckum (Westphalia, Germany) as Helmut Ostermann, is an Israeli journalist, left wing peace activist, Knesset member, who was originally a member of the right wing Revisionist Zionist movement.


  • By that time it was already clear that the next prime minster was going to be Golda Meir, a woman whom I frankly detested - a mutual sentiment, I might add. I knew her as an opinionated, obstinate person, primitive in her outlook, rigid in her attitudes, with a genius for reaching and exploiting the deepest fears and prejudices of the Jewish masses. I was certain that with her as prime minister, all peace efforts would come to a total standstill.
    • My Friend, the Enemy (1986) - page 80
  • [Issam al-]Sartawi and I are sitting in a small restaurant on the Boulevard St. Germain. After the main course, he excuses himself. 'I have to go to the bathroom. Keep an eye on my briefcase.' His attaché case - the kind Israelis call James Bond cases - stands under the table. After a few minutes he comes back, takes his seat and bursts out laughing. 'If I told anyone of my friends that I left a briefcase full of PLO secrets in the care of a Zionist, they wouldn't believe me', he says. 'If I tell anyone of my friends that a PLO terrorist put an attaché case under my table and went away, and I remained there, they'd think that I was crazy', I reply. We laugh and order a dessert.
    • My Friend, the Enemy (1986) - page 128
  • [Henry] Kissinger has always been a paradox for me. I was profoundly impressed by his book about European politics in the first half of the last century. One of his main theses was that peace agreements are valueless if a major party to the conflict is left out and sees in the agreement a threat to its basic interests. If ever this rule were true - as it surely is - this is the case with the Palestinians in the Middle East conflict. It is also true for the Soviet Union. Yet once he became the political genius of the Nixon and Ford administrations, Kissinger behaved as if he had never read his own book - the classic example of power blinding the intellectual. He tried to make peace of some kind without the Palestinians, treating the rulers of the various Arab countries as so many Metternichs and Castlereaghs, trying to push the Soviets out of the Middle East altogether. I strongly suspected him of obstructing any real move towards peace, favoring the salami approach of little pieces of peace, so as to keep everybody screaming for American support and dependent on American protection. This was the famous step-by-step approach.
    • My Friend, the Enemy (1986) - Page 144
  • I have often wondered how different Zionism might have been if Herzl had not been a Viennese journalist but a shopkeeper in a Damascus bazaar. Would Zionism have realized that Palestine was a part of a big area inhabited by Arabs? Might some solution have been found at the very beginning to the problem of co-existence with the people who considered Palestine their own homeland ? But these are, of course idle thoughts. Herzl could not have been anything but a European Jew, because his whole idea was a response to a specific challenge posed by European conditions.
    • Israel without Zionism (1971) - page 50
  • James Baker was the only leader in America who had the guts to stand up and act against Israel's malignant disease: the settlements. When he was the Secretary of State, he simply informed the Israeli government that he would deduct the sums expended on the settlements from the money Israel was getting from the US. Threatened and made good on his threat. Baker thus confronted the "pro-Israeli" lobby in the US, both the Jewish and the Christian. Such courage is rare in the United States, as it is rare in Israel.
    • Baker's Cake (December 9, 2006)
  • It is an irony of fate (or a triumph of folly) that Hamas was created, in fact, with the help of Israel itself. Much as the Americans created the al-Qaeda of Osama bin Laden in order to fight against the Soviet army in Afghanistan, Israel supported the Islamic movement in the occupied territories as a counterweight to the PLO. The assumption was that pious Muslims would spend their time praying in the mosques and would not support the secular PLO, which was then considered the arch-enemy. But when the first intifada broke out at the end of 1987, the Islamists organized as Hamas (the Arabic initials of "Islamic Resistance Movement") and quickly became the most efficient underground fighting organization. However, the Security Service started to act against them only after a whole year of the intifada had passed.
    • Red Herring (June 21, 2005)
  • Critics of the war plans (including myself) have pointed to the disastrous political results that must be expected: Iraq would break into three parts (Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center, Shi’ites in the south), the Middle East would be exposed to the onslaught of Iranian fanaticism, pro-Western Arab regimes would collapse. Israel would be surrounded by aggressive Islamic fundamentalism, like the Crusader kingdom with the advent of Saladin.
    • War Now! (September 9, 2002)
  • Every honest Jew who knows the history of his people cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam, which has protected the Jews for 50 generations, while the Christian world persecuted the Jews and tried many times "by the sword" to get them to abandon their faith.
  • The prophecy of Professor Yeshayahu Leibovitz, that the occupation would corrupt us through and through and turn us into a people of exploiters and secret-service-men, has come awfully true. Nothing has remained of the "beautiful Eretz Israel " but a cloying nostalgia, of which Naomi Shemer was a standard-bearer. A small and gallant state, progressive and (relatively) egalitarian, respected by the world, has become an occupying and looting state, hostage to delirious settlers, full of internal violence and "swinish capitalism" (a phrase coined by Shimon Peres, one of those most responsible for this situation). Throughout the world, the idea of boycotting Israel is gaining ground.
    • Death of a Myth (May 12, 2005)

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