Uri Avnery: A new Guinness Record

 August 17, 2013


I DON’T know if the Guinness Book of World Records has a special section for Chutzpah.

If it does not, it should. That’s the one competition where we might take home a few gold medals.

The first one would surely go to Binyamin Netanyahu. 

THIS WEEK, on the eve of the first round of serious negotiations between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu did two interesting things: he announced plans for several large new settlement projects and he accused the Palestinians of grievous incitement against Israel.

Let’s take the settlements first. As explained by Israeli diplomats to their American colleagues, and repeated by all the Israeli media, poor Netanyahu had no choice. John Kerry compelled him to release 104 Palestinian prisoners as a “confidence building measure”. After such a momentous concession, he had to pacify his extremist colleagues in the Likud and in the cabinet. A thousand new housing units in the occupied territories (including East Jerusalem) was the very minimum.

The agreement to release prisoners let loose a veritable Witches’ Sabbath. All the newspapers and TV news programs were awash with blood – the blood on the hands of the Palestinian murderers. “Murderers” was the de rigeur appellation. Not “fighters”, not “militants”, not even “terrorists”. Just plain “murderers”.

All the prisoners to be released were convicted before the Oslo agreement was signed, meaning that they have been in prison for at least 20 years. The probability that they would take part in future bloody activity must be minimal.

Some of the victims’ families carried out staged stormy protests, with bloody hands and blood-smeared flags. The media vied with each other in publishing pictures of weeping mothers (TV loves weeping women) waving photos of their killed sons and blood-curdling descriptions of the attacks in which they died. (Some of which were indeed atrocious.)   

 However, not so long ago, Netanyahu had agreed to release more than a thousand prisoners in return for one captured Israeli soldier. This means that one single soldier is ten times more precious than the chances of peace.

The actual release bordered on the grotesque. In order to avoid photos in the morning papers of the rapturous reception of the prisoners by their families, the actual release of the first 26 prisoners took place after midnight, in a shroud of mystery. Which reminds one of the Biblical passage, in which David mourned for Saul, slain in battle with the Philistines: “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon (both Philistine towns), lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph.” (II Samuel 1)

Does all this testify to an atmosphere of peace on the  eve of peacemaking? Wait, there is more to come.


THE DAY the new settlement projects were announced, Netanyahu fired off to John Kerry a furious protest against the ongoing Palestinian “incitement” against Israel. This missive could interest the adjudicators of the Guinness record for Chutzpah. 

The main evidence for Mahmoud Abbas’ perfidy, in Netanyahu’s letter, is a text in which a minor Palestinian official called for a Palestinian state “from Rosh Hanikra to Eilat.” Rosh Hanikra (Ras Naqura in Arabic) is on the Lebanese border, so this state would include all of Israel. Also, during a soccer event in Ramallah, anti-Israeli shouts were heard.

Awful, just awful. Kerry should spring from his seat in fury. Were it not for the fact that almost all leading Likud members proclaim that the whole of historical Palestine belongs to Israel, and Naftali Bennett, a pillar of Netanyahu’s government coalition, just announced that the Palestinians “can forget about” a Palestinian state.

 Not to mention a certain Daniel Seaman, the former director of the Ministry of Explaining (that’s its  real name. I didn’t make it up. Israelis don’t do propaganda, God forbid. Seaman has just been appointed to Netanyahu’s own office, in charge of “explaining” on the internet. This week he posted a message on facebook addressed to Saeb Erekat, the chief of he Palestinian delegation to the peace talks, telling him to “go and f**k himself”. To the theological declaration by the Church of Scotland that the Jews have no special claim to Palestine he posted the reply: “We don’t give a [obscenity] for what you say.”

 This genius of public relations is now setting up a clandestine group of Israeli university students, who will be paid to flood the international social media with government “explaining” material. 

As for soccer fans, the Betar stadium, which is linked to the Likud, resounds at every match with shouts of “Death to the Arabs!”’

 So, for what the bell tolls? Nor for peace, it seems. 


ONE OF the problems is that absolutely nobody knows what Netanyahu really wants. Perhaps not even he.

The Prime Minister is now the loneliest person in Israel. He has no friends. He trusts nobody, and nobody around him trusts him.

His colleagues in the Likud leadership quite openly despise him, regarding him as a man of no principles, without a backbone, giving in to every pressure. This seems to have been the opinion of his late father, who once declared that Binyamin would make a good foreign minister, but certainly not a prime minister. 

In the government he is quite alone. Previous prime ministers had a close group of ministers to consult with. Golda Meir had a “kitchen cabinet”. Netanyahu has no one. He does not consult with anyone. He announces his decisions, and that’s that.

 In his previous terms he had at least a group of confidants in his office. These officials have been driven out one by one by Sarah, his wife.

 So, as one commentator this week reminded us, this lonely man, unaided by any group of trusted advisors, experts or confidants, is called upon to decide, quite by himself, the fate of Israel for generations to come.


THIS WOULD not have been so dangerous if Netanyahu had been a Charles de Gaulle. Unfortunately, he isn’t.

 De Gaulle was one of the towering figures of the 20th century. Cold, aloof, overbearing, intensely disliked by the rest of the world’s leaders, this extreme right-wing general took the historic decision to give up the huge country of Algeria, four times as big as metropolitan France.

 Algeria, it must be remembered, was officially not a colony, not an occupied territory, but a part of France proper. It had been under French rule for more than a century. More than a million settlers saw it as their homeland. Yet de Gaulle made the lonely decision to give it up, putting his own life in grave danger.

Since then, Israeli leftists have yearned for “an Israeli de Gaulle”, who would do their job for them, according to the old Hebrew adage that “the work of the righteous is done by others” – others meaning, one assumes, people who are not quite so righteous.

There is, of course, one important difference. De Gaulle was supported by his conservative allies, the tycoons of the French economy. These sober-minded capitalists saw how the Germans were taking over the economy of Europe, which was in the process of uniting, while France was wasting its resources on an expensive, totally useless colonial war in North Africa. They wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible, and de Gaulle was their man.

Netanyahu is as close to the Israeli tycoons as de Gaulle was to his, but our tycoons don’t give a damn about peace. This attitude may change, if ever the de-legitimization of Israel becomes a serious economic burden. 

 In this context; the boycott imposed by the European Union against the products of the settlements may be a harbinger of things to come.

By the way, the petition submitted by me and Gush Shalom in the Supreme Court, against the new law to penalize advocates of a boycott of the settlements, will be heard only next February. The court is obviously shrinking back from handling this hot potato. But it paid us a unique compliment: “Avnery v. the Knesset” will be heard by nine supreme judges, almost the full membership of the court. 

SO IS this “peace process” serious? What does Netanyahu want?

Does he want to enter the history books as the “Israeli de Gaulle”, the wise Zionist leader who put an end to 120 years of conflict?

Or is he just another smart guy who is making a tactical move to avoid a tussle with the US and stop the de-legitimization process at least for a while?

As it looks now, de Gaulle in his heaven can relax. No competitor in sight.

There is not the slightest indication of any peace orientation. Quite the contrary. Our government is using the new “peace process” as a smoke screen behind which the settlement bulldozer is working full time.

The government condemns the EU boycott resolution because it “harms the peace process”. It rejects all demands for freezing the settlements because this would “obstruct the peace process”. Investing hundreds of millions in settlements which under any imaginable peace agreement will have to be evacuated is, it seems, favorable for peace.

So is there hope? Time to quote again the Yiddish saying: “If God wills, even a broomstick can shoot!” 

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2 Responses

  1. Poo says:

    Poor Avnery, unable to get elected he is left to seek his seconds of fame suing the Knesset. How do I know this? Avnery boasts about it. “The court is obviously shrinking back from handling this hot potato.” Of course they are, they are facing the Great Avnery. What court wouldn’t recoil from just such a prospect? Our own Supreme Court must be trembling lest the case finds its way across the pond. But the Israeli Supreme Court has agreed to hear his case hasn’t it? Try that in Palestine or any neighboring country. Ego never in check, Avnery even takes his name being identified on the case as a “compliment.” He is litigious enough to know that this is how it works but in his case, well it is a “compliment.” I have had my name on a few cases but never once felt complimented and I even established a precedent once! Avnery needs someone to talk to. I suggest a professional and I don’t mean another lawyer.

    It is truly a shame that the Israeli media have referred to the freedom fighting militant terrorists as just plain “murderers.” They were tried and jailed for murder but hell, what’s in a name? Call them soul singers for all I care as long as they stay in jail. Avnery, prescient and all knowing as ever asserts that, “the probability that they would take part in future bloody activity must be minimal.” Good to know. Whoever heard of a terrorist terrorizing again? Apparently not Avnery so it must be so. And to any who question whether 20 years is more than enough time to serve for a murder my answer is is no, no it is not. Please do not get me started here.

    It has been a long time, a very long time since I have heard or read anyone say that what their country needed was another De Gaulle. Words fail me. I cannot even imagine that “Israeli leftists have yearned for an Israeli de Gaulle.” This kind of thinking, should it truly exist outside Avnery’s cranium, would explain the significant increase in vodka sales in Israel. I presume this Israeli De Gaulle would hide out in Egypt as De Gaulle did in Germany during the May 1968 riots in France. Maybe he was still smarting from being asked to leave Canada the previous year, one of our best Foreign Relations acts. Who knows, but an interesting choice all the same? Surely Avnery can find some Israeli leader from the past that will pass his righteousness test. How about David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett, Levi Eshkol, Yigal Allon, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon or Ehud Olmert. He can’t find one? I’m guessing he won’t be choosing Benjamin Netanyahu.

    I do, however, confess to being somewhat impressed that Avnery remembers the Algerian War. So few do these days what with history being so little taught and the young unable to Google passed the first page. It is good that he can blame big business though. What else could it possibly be? Climate Change?

    This War of Independence between France and the Algerian independence movements lasted some 18 years from 1954 to 1962. It was a brutal War with unspeakable horrors on both sides. Estimates of Algerian War casualties, like those beheaded by the guillotine, are vague and wide ranging. The French have a certain vagueness with numbers. The casualties were often compared to the numbers that started coming out of Viet Nam. From three hundred and fifty thousand to as many as one million and perhaps more may have died during the Algerian War, the vast majority of them Algerians. Countless others were wounded, maimed or worse. Like I said, the horrors were unspeakable. Some twenty per cent of the Muslim population became refugees or were forced to live in government camps.

    French national treasure Édith Piaf dedicated ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ to the French Foreign Legion. Oddly, I remember that more than De Gaulle. It is a wonderful song emotionally sung as only Piaf can do. It has become a sort of hymn and a part of the heritage of the French Foreign Legion. I believe it is still sung on parade as, though the French colonial empire may have been reduced to mere outposts, the Legion lives on. They still fight too!

    Avnery reads either one of two ways, with one eye closed or only half the book. Perhaps it’s his mind he closes. I really don’t know. This is the only explanation I have for his scant mention of the great Palestinian negotiator, one Saeb Erekat. Someone who continually fails to do their job is normally dismissed and/or replaced. Such is not the case with Saeb Erekat. I have rarely seen someone who loves the camera and the microphone as much as this man. The very fact that the Palestinians have boycotted negotiations for years has been a source of great distress to poor Saeb Erekat. Where are the cameras? Where are the microphones? What about my photo ops not to mention paychecks. Erekat has a special self created image with the media and never forgets to say something, anything in order to maintain the flow of consultations and interviews. It costs a lot to fail and no one knows failure quite like Saeb Erekat. It rests lightly on his shoulders. He is devoted to peace and has made a career out of it despite the fact that he’s never achieved any. Now that’s good and worthy of mention but not by Avnery, of course.

    Saeb Erekat is a veteran of what skeptics like me call “the peace process industry.” This enterprise manufactures processes that lead to more processes. (Insert picture of a dog and his tail here.) He has been widely denounced for fabricating tales on CNN but is still, somehow, highly regarded as a peacemaker and peace negotiator.

    Saeb Erekat holds a PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies but his true life’s work is as a member of the Palestinian parliament. In 1991, he was deputy head of the Palestinian delegation at the Madrid Conference and at follow-up talks in Washington in 1992. He was chief Palestinian negotiator during the creation of the Oslo Accord and later worked as negotiator under Yasser Arafat at Camp David in 2000 and Taba in 2001. He signed up with Mahmoud Abbas, who he much disagrees with, in time to sign on for the 2007 Annapolis Conference. Now, we have the Kerry Round. He seamlessly moves from one failure to another. Lord take me now!

    The deputy defense minister of Israel, Danny Danon, recently suggested that negotiators such as Erekat may be one reason the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have not succeeded. Erekat has logged endless, but billable, hours with Israeli counterparts and given interviews beyond number to Western media, yet “has not brought the Palestinians even one inch closer to peaceful existence with Israel.” Why should he? It’s a career and he has made himself a star, a well paid star too. That’s pretty good for a guy with no history of success.

    For the record, the Palestinians refused to take part in another round of talks unless Israel offered advance proof of good faith. The hapless socialite and American Secretary of State, John Kerry, demanded that Israel agree. I believe he stamped his foot while waving his tax payer backed cheque book.

    This is how the 104 Palestinian prisoners, read “murderers,” most of them jailed years ago for random murders of Israelis, “earned” their freedom. A quarter of them have already been welcomed home by deliriously happy Palestinians. Imagine how they would welcome someone who actually did something positive. No, I’m serious. Try to imagine it. The other “murderers” will be released in stages, provided the talks continue. Oh joy, there will be more murderers on the streets. And you wonder why we in North America want all wars to be over there, somewhere, anywhere but here?

    Avnery apparently does not like Netanyahu’s wife very much. I’ll leave that alone. It’s a slippery slope once you start on people’s families. He feels that Netanyahu “does not consult with anyone” yet there was a cabinet vote on the prisoner release proposal/demand. 13 Israeli ministers voted in favour, seven voted against, with two abstentions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t claim to be pleased.

    “This moment is not easy for me,” he said. “It is not easy especially for the families, the bereaved families, whose heart I understand.” Me too.

    Finance minister, Yair Lapid, said “It is not a happy day.” He said he voted ‘Yes’ to help the peace process. Moshe Ya’alon, the defence minister, also voted ‘Yes’, “with a heavy heart.”

    Naftali Bennett, minister of trade, said: “Let my hand be cut off should I vote in favour of releasing terrorists.” He said no other country would agree “to release murderers as a gift.” I’m with him. The transport minister, Yisrael Katz, also voted ‘No’. “I am against releasing murderous terrorists. It encourages terror.”

    Danny Danon called it “Lunacy.” I’m with him too.

    Saeb Erekat promised to work for the freedom of all “our political prisoners.” There is not a “murderer” in the bunch. That too is good to know. And you wonder why the “Peace Process” is endless and creates careers for Chesire Cat charlatans like Erekat?

    We all know that this current Peace Process is in laughable aid of President Obama’s Legacy and why not? He sure can’t go with Benghazi, Camp Bastion, race relations, anything in the Mid East, the crumbling state of Obama Care, the National Debt, the alarming increase in Welfare and Medicaid fraud, Detroit or the record numbers on food stamps. Besides, most previous Presidents since 1947 have taken a stab at it from time to time. In the end, the U.S. will write a cheque and things will muddle along until the next rocket flies. Erekat will be available for the next round of peace negotiations, naturally.

    The settlements will be on the table. Have no doubt about that. Maybe the future will lie in real people living peacefully with other real people sharing their similarities rather than their differences with no career building, feather bedding bureaucrats and hypocrites building bigger processes or lawsuits that advantage only themselves.

    As for Avnery, to paraphrase an old Canadian saying, “If God wills, maybe he will be told where to stick his broomstick!” Here in the Great White North we do not use broomsticks, just hockey sticks and curling brushes!

  2. Rochelle Owens says:

    Bravo Poo!
    Zionism = Oldest National Liberation Movement.
    And here comes old man Uri Avnery
    yearning for a hottie (Charles De Gaulle)
    Rochelle Owens latest book
    “Out of Ur” New and Selected Poems 1961-2012
    Shearsman Books

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