Dissecting Uri Avnery
By Ted Belman, November 14, 2004
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For those of us who have followed the career of Uri Avnery, we know him as an extreme leftist, a turncoat if you will. He preferred to embrace the Palestinian cause rather than the Jewish one.
Ari Shavit's article Missing Arafat covered his brilliant interview of Avnery. This article is essential reading for any student of the Middle East. Some of what Avnery says is true. Arafat will go down in history as a man who changed the course of history. His accomplishments are monumental. Avnery will go down in history as a traitor.
Arafat was Machiavellian to the last. The first duty of leadership is to maintain itself. Nothing stood in his way. The cause and winning was everything. It was the only morality that mattered. In this regard, Avnery said, "Underlying our relationship was the fact that we both knew what it is to kill as part of a national struggle." Thus Avnery condoned terror killings totally.
It is true that Arafat was guilty of all the acts the current articles on his passing accuse him of. It is also true that he "never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity" as Abba Eban has said and that he failed his people from the beginning to the end.
Barry Rubin who wrote a biography of Arafat considered him a failure. I once said to him, whether it depends on what standard you judge him by. Certainly if you judge him by his progress toward peace or lack thereof he was a failure. Or if you judge him by what he did for the welfare of his people he was a failure. Or if you judge him as a human being in a moral sense he was also a failure. His failures are legion.
But if you judge him by the impossible goals he set for himself and his progress in achieving them against all odds, he must be considered a great success. And yet, history will be the judge of that. History will determine whether that success is short lived and ephemeral or will stand the test of time, and whether his intransigence and brutality advanced his cause or hindered it.
In this regard, his cause was the destruction of the Jewish state. I pray that history proves him a failure.
As for Avnery, I never could stand him. How any Israeli could have made common cause with Arafat, I'll never know. Yet I do know. Such allegiance stems from a sense of guilt and in a belief that we did them wrong. In fact when Avnery was asked “Is there any connection between the fact that in 1948 you took an active part in the expulsion of Arabs and the destruction of Arab villages, and your later need to link up with Yasser Arafat?” He answered,"Definitely, definitely. I am very much aware of the fact that the State of Israel, which I helped establish, is built on a terrible historic injustice.” This is the sickness of the Left.
This allegiance also has roots in a predisposition on the part of many in the Left to destroy what is for what might be, to destroy, hate or resent the powerful in favour of the powerless and to destroy the self in favour of the other. Thus it was and is rooted in self-hatred.
When Shavet asked “What sort of person was he?” Avnery waxed eloquent. So much so that Shavet went on to ask him if he loved Arafat or admired him. Judging from Avnery’s answer, it is obvious why Shavet would think so.
"Arafat is always a surprise for
everyone who meets him for the first time. How so? In that the gap between his
television image and reality is astonishing. First of all, the beard. On
television it always looks like it's a two-day growth. But in reality the beard
is groomed, black and white, part pepper and part salt. Then the eyes. On
television they look a bit mad, a bit fanatic. In reality, though, they are
exactly the opposite: very gentle, even feminine.
"I held him in very high regard. As a human being, too. I like patriots. I hate traitors. And the fact that Arafat is a great Palestinian patriot went a long way toward determining my attitude toward him.”
Pardon me while I barf.
The ultimate irony is that Avnery thinks he is the patriot and we, who fight to retain our God-given land, the traitors.