Uri Avnery: Courageous Israeli Campaigner for Peace and Justice

Jeff Halper

August 22, 2018

Uri Avnery. Photo by Gush Shalom

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was the founder of Gush Shalom, the Peace Bloc in Israel, and a campaigner over six decades for a Palestinian state alongside a democratic Israel as a “two-state solution.”

We of the Israeli peace camp will miss Uri. As I listen to commentators on the Israeli radio remembering him, from right to left, the same characteristics emerge: principled, courageous, relentless in the cause of peace, clear analysis, possessor of an enormous historical memory that reached before 1948, based largely upon his own experiences as a journalist and political figure at the center of events, able to effectively employ humor and irony without cynicism, a comrade willing to put his life on the line and “be there” for all our actions on the ground. I came to not agree with him politically from the Left — he never lost his faith in the two-state solution, opposed the Right of Return and also BDS — but always found his views persuasive and very well-articulated.

Uri Avnery, if I may put it this way and be understood in the genuine spirit in which I intend, represented the very best of what could come out of the Israeli project. The fact that he ended up so marginalized and cubby-holed as the “extreme left,” seen by the media and most Israelis as a curiosity, a voice from the past, shows the extent to which the best intentions of liberal/left Zionism have become irrelevant and, in fact, a political dead-end. But Uri will always inspire us as we strive to find a way towards true co-existence, justice, equality and peace– political ends that Uri embodied.

This tribute to Avnery was shared with us by Jeff Halper, author of War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification (Pluto Press, 2015) and founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. Halper is also an organizer for a “New One-State Initiative” for Palestine/Israel.