Uri Avnery, one of Israel’s most prominent journalists and a seminal peace activist who was among the first Israelis to advocate for a sovereign Palestinian state, died in Tel Aviv on Monday morning. He was 94 years old.
Born Helmut Ostermann to a bourgeois family in Beckum, Germany in 1923, Avnery’s family moved to Palestine in 1933, shortly after the Nazis came to power. They settled in Tel Aviv. Just a few years after their arrival, Avnery joined the Irgun, the pre-state right-wing Zionist militia. Too young to take part in its militant actions, which included attacks against British soldiers and Arab civilians, Avnery distributed leaflets and edited the Revisionist journal Ba-Ma’avak (“In the Struggle”).
He left the Irgun in 1942, because he was uncomfortable with its harsh anti-Arab position, and joined the Givati Brigade of the Haganah during the 1948 War. During the war he wrote dispatches from the field for Haaretz newspaper, which he later compiled into a book. 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.
Avnery initially supported the idea of one state, in which a single nation would arise as a union of Arabs and Hebrews — the latter a term he preferred over Jews, since he advocated a state for the Hebrew nation rather than the Jewish people.
During the mid-1960s, Avnery believed that the national Hebrew movement was a natural ally of the Arab nation; he advocated cooperation between the two, under a joint name. By the end of the June 1967 war, however, Avnery changed his views: He advocated the establishment of a Hebrew state alongside an Arab one, as per the 1947 UN Partition Plan. [Continue reading…]