Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery

Who would have thought it possible to explain the modern Middle East in a single newspaper column? Yet Israeli writer Uri Avnery has done it here.

Entitled “Shukran, Israel” (or “Thank you, Israel” in Arabic), he explains how Israeli government strategy has weakened regional Christians and moderate Muslims, while strengthening extremists from Egypt to Lebanon to even Iran.

The 88-year-old commentator is a fascinating fellow who, despite his controversial positions, was voted among the 200 most important Israelis in 2005. Born to a prominent family of German Jews who fled Hitler to Palestine in 1933, he became a self-confessed terrorist for the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun, in 1938 but left them four years later in opposition to their retaliatory killings of Arabs. He served as a squad commander in the 1948 Israeli-Arab War, but moved steadily Left as a journalist and parliamentarian, becoming in 1982 the first Israeli to meet personally with Yasser Arafat.  He founded the famous Gush Shalom peace-movement in 1993 and remains its leader while he writes for the prominent Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, and several American websites.

Mr. Avnery’s numerous and fascinating examples of “blow-back” include the Israeli state security agency, Shin Bet, helping to eclipse Egyptian Christians and strengthen radical Islamists: “Turning the Palestinians toward Islam, it was thought, would weaken the PLO and its main faction, Fatah. So everything was done to help the Islamic movement discreetly.”

He never pulls his punches, in 2010 having written: “The Government of Israel has insulted the Vice President of the United States, and spat in the face of the President … they wiped the spit off their faces and smiled politely … as the saying goes: when you spit in the face of a weakling, he pretends that it is raining.”

A secularist and avowed atheist, Mr. Avnery’s enormous and moral volume of writing either shows that many roads lead to goodness and peace, or rather, how the Abrahamic religions continue to influence even those individuals who have suspended their memberships.

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