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Uri Avnery's Loyalty

By Virginia Tilley

28 April, 2007

There is no reason simply to assume that Avnery is right about this analysis, which is much circulated these days. It is full of reversals, contradictions, and deliberate distortions: for example, when he cites Adam Keller's question, "Why do you think that a boycott would break the Israeli public, which is far stronger economically, so that they would give up the Jewish character of the state?" (There was no answer.)" In fact, Adam Keller addressed this question not to Ilan Pappe but to Omar Barghouti, who shared the panel and who answered the question at length, and whose answer triggered loud sustained applause from the audience. Avnery is also greatly mistaken about the nature of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, about which he knows next to nothing and which he uses and distorts only to serve his efforts to defend Israel from serious and effective international repercussions.

Avnery has opposed a one-state solution from the very beginning; his first strong statement against it was issued immediately after the PLO issued its formal support of a democratic unified state, in 1968. Over the decades he has used every argument to defeat calls for democracy and he knows exactly why: he has never escaped his early romance with and loyalty to Jewish statehood or his nostalgic memories of his own fighting with Zionist forces in 1948, although his own battalion was directly involved in forced expulsion of Palestinian villages and was implicated in the massacres that took place as well. He is indeed a sharp critic of Israel's worst racist abuses. But the basic abuse which necessarily gives rise to all the others, which is the tenet that Israel must remain a state with an overwhelming Jewish majority, is one he has always worked to defend.

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