Uri Avnery, Israeli journalist and peace activist, is dead at 94

Uri Avnery, fourth from the left, in 2003 alongside Yasir Arafat and others at Mr. Arafat’s compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (photo: Jamal Aruri / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images)

Avnery was one of the first Israelis to actively seek a Palestinian state as a peaceful solution to the conflict.

By Isabel Kershner | The New York Times | Aug 20, 2018

“What in my eyes is the great success is that I and my friends raised for the first time the principle that there is a Palestinian people with whom we have to make peace at the end of the 1948 war. I don’t think there were 10 people in the world that believed in this. Today it is a world consensus.”
— Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery, a firebrand Israeli journalist, politician and peace activist who riled the establishment by exposing national scandals and conferring with Yasir Arafat, the father of the Palestinian cause, long before that was legal or fashionable for Israelis, died on Monday in Tel Aviv. He was 94.

His death was confirmed by the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, his hometown, where he was admitted two weeks earlier after suffering a stroke.

An unwavering and acerbic critic of the government and a disrupter of the reigning national consensus, Mr. Avnery wrote regular opinion pieces for the liberal newspaper Haaretz up until he was hospitalized.

In what appears to have been his last column, published on Aug. 7, he attacked the Israeli Parliament’s recent enactment of a contentious nationality law, which anchors Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and enshrines the right of national self-determination as “unique to the Jewish people,” not to all citizens. Mr. Avnery described the law as “clearly semi-fascist.”

Years ago, he wrote, he and his friends asked the Israeli Supreme Court to change the “nationality” entry on their identity cards from “Jewish” to “Israeli.” The court refused, stating that there was no Israeli nation.

In the column, he cited Israel’s 1.8 million-strong Arab minority, which makes up 21 percent of the population, as well as hundreds of thousands of European non-Jews who had immigrated from the former Soviet Union with their Jewish relatives.

“So is there an Israeli nation?” he wrote. “Of course there is. Is there a Jewish nation? Of course there isn’t.”

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