Why Peace Activist Uri Avnery Refused to Give Up – and Six Other Must Reads

Here are six must reads written by the late Avnery for Haaretz, plus an interview marking his 90th birthday

Uri Avnery in July, 2014.
אורן זיו

Uri Avnery, veteran left-wing journalist, lawmaker and peace activist, died Monday morning at 94. Avnery asked to be cremated, for his archives to be handed to the National Library, and his money donated toward peace activism. 

Avnery was born in Germany in 1923 as Helmut Ostermann. As a youth in Israel he fought with the Irgun pre-state underground militia and later in life moved to the left of the political spectrum.

A founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement, Avnery was also one of the first Israelis to actively advocate for the establishment of a Palestinian state, more than 70 years ago. He was also among the first Israelis to met Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Here are six must reads writted by Avnery for Haaretz, plus an interview marking his 90th birthday.

Uri Avnery 1923-2018

1. Why BDS won’t save us

"I believe in peace. Peace between Israel and Palestine means the State of Israel existing alongside the State of Palestine. I am not sure that this is also the goal of the BDS movement. There are things it says and does that seem to imply that it wants a peace without Israel. And so I think that BDS must first of all say very clearly whether it wants peace with Israel, or peace without Israel." Continue reading

2. The Green Line is not sacred

"The settlers in the occupied territories have lately begun to mock their critics in Israel: Hey, whats the big difference between you and us? You're also living on Arab land. Who are you to sniff at us? You did the same thing we're doing. The only difference is that you did it before 1967 and were doing it now. Here is the difference." Continue reading

3. The Hebrew state is disappearing, the Jewish state is taking over

"This danger is now hovering over Israel. The settlers are neither 'wild weeds' nor youth from the margins. They constitute an extreme and immediate threat to everything that has been built in this country in recent generations. The Hebrew state is disappearing, and in its place, the Jewish state is taking over. And this isn’t the Judaism that arose during 2,000 years in exile." Continue reading

4. How a Mossad plot to kill Yasser Arafat nearly cost me my life

"When we arrived at the IDF Spokesperson’s office in Beirut, some other guests were waiting for us, including foreign journalists who were permanently stationed in Lebanon. One of them was a German television reporter who recognized my name, since articles of mine had been published in Germany. I told him I was interested in meeting with Lebanese leaders. He gave me their phone numbers, and then asked a stunning question: 'Why don’t you meet with Yasser Arafat?'" Continue reading

5. Palestinian right of return, not such a complicated issue

"Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of discussions with Palestinians about a solution to the refugee problem – from Yasser Arafat to residents of the refugee camps near Beirut. The vast majority would sign up on the spot to a formula that sought “a just and agreed-upon solution to the refugee problem,” meaning “agreed upon” with Israel. This wording also appears in the Arab peace plan that was drawn up in Saudi Arabia and officially accepted by the entire Muslim world. What would it actually look like?" Continue reading

6. Who really started the 1948 war and when

"We watched the troupes, including one from an adjacent Arab community, dance the debka with such verve that it could barely be induced to leave the stage, when it was announced over the loudspeakers that members of UNSCOP had come to visit. Spontaneously, all those thousands rose to their feet and sang “Hatikva,” the national anthem, with such enthusiasm that the song rang among the hills. It was the last time our generation was to convene. Within a year, thousands of them were dead." Continue reading

7. Uri Avnery at 90: Still leftist, after all these years

"A miracle will occur. It might happen the hard way, perhaps preceded by a catastrophe. The consciousness of the Israeli public has to undergo a change. Like what happened when [Anwar] Sadat alighted from the plane [referring to the Egyptian president’s visit to Israel in 1977]. That is the essence of a miracle. Sooner or later, the two peoples will have to get along. Maybe after a war, maybe in the wake of irresistible international pressure. In fact, I hope to write a third volume about the miracle of the peace, if it occurs in my lifetime." Continue reading