Avnery (Ostermann), Uri

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AVNERY (Ostermann), URI

AVNERY (Ostermann ), URI (Helmut ; 1923– ), Israeli journalist, writer, and peace activist. Member of the Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth Knessets. Avnery was born in Beckum, Westphalia, in Germany. His father was a private banker and financial advisor. Avnery immigrated to Eretz Israel with his family in 1933. Owing to the family's financial difficulties, he left school at the age of 14 to go to work, turning to journalism at 18. At the age of 15 he joined the *Irgun Tzeva'i Le'ummi, remaining a member until 1942. In 1946 he founded a group called Eretz Yisrael Hatze'irah, which argued that the Jewish community in Palestine constituted a "new Hebrew nation" within the Jewish people and was part of Asia and a natural ally of the Arab nation. Avnery advocated turning the Middle East into a "Semitic region."

In the War of Independence he served in the Givati Brigade, and later volunteered for the famous Shu'alei Shimshon commando unit that fought on the southern front, being badly wounded toward the end of the war.

While on active service Avnery reported from the front to the Ha'aretz daily. In 1949–50 he was on the Ha'aretz editorial board but left due to his radical views on such issues as the expropriation of Arab land after the war. He then purchased a failing magazine called Ha-Olam ha-Zeh, which he soon turned into a popular weekly tabloid combining sensationalism with serious writing on issues that no other paper in Israel dared touch, especially corruption in government. Consequently he gathered around him a large group of admirers while provoking the wrath of the establishment. From 1950 to 1990 he served as both publisher and editor-in-chief of Ha-Olam ha-Zeh, whose name David *Ben-Gurion could not bring himself to pronounce.

In 1956 Avnery established, together with Nathan *Yellin-Mor, a political group called Ha-Pe'ullah ha-Shemit ("Semitic Action"). In 1965 he formed a party by the name of Ha-Olam ha-Zeh–Ko'aḥ Ḥadash ("This World–New Force") and ran in the elections to the Sixth Knesset, winning a single seat. In the elections to the Seventh Knesset, which took place after the Six-Day War, his party won two seats but soon split in two. In the Knesset Avnery was one of the most prolific speakers, holding forth on a large variety of topics, including the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Following the Yom Kippur War, after he lost most of his radical voters to the new Ratz party, and consequently lost his Knesset seat, Avnery turned to extra-parliamentary political activity, advocating direct contacts with the plo. In 1975 he was one of the founders of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, and was part of a secret dialogue that began between Israeli personalities and plo representatives Sa'id Hamami and Issam Sartawi, both of whom were eventually assassinated by fellow Palestinians for their meetings with Israelis. In the elections to the Ninth Knesset in 1977, Avnery ran within the framework of a new radical party called Sheli, serving in the Knesset for a short period between 1979 and 1981. In July 1982, during the Israeli siege of Beirut, which ended with the departure of the plo leadership from Lebanon to Tunisia, Avnery met with *Arafat in the Lebanese capital, and was thus the first Israeli to openly meet with the Palestinian leader. In 1983 he established a new party called Alternativah, which joined the Progressive List for Peace – a joint Jewish-Arab party – the following year. Avnery became the chairman of the new party, which won two seats in the Eleventh Knesset, but he himself did not run for election, and in 1988 left party politics altogether.

After Ha-Olam ha-Zeh closed down in 1990, Avnery continued to write as a columnist in Ma'ariv, and to participate in demonstrations and other protest activities against the Israeli occupation and in favor of a two-state solution. In 1993 he was one of the founders of a peace movement called Gush Shalom. Later he published a regular column on the Internet. Avnery has received numerous prizes abroad for his peace and human rights activities.

His writings include Bisdot Pleshet: Yoman Kravi ("In the Fields of the Philistines," 1948), an account of the War of Independence; Ha-Ẓad ha-Sheni shel ha-Matbe'a ("The Other Side of the Coin," 1950); Ẓelav ha-Kerres: Eichmann – Ish u-Tekufato ("The Swastika: Eichmann – the Man and His Time," 1961); Israel without Zionists: A Plan for Peace in the Middle East (1968); Milḥemet ha-Yom ha-Shevi'i ("The War of the Seventh Day," 1969); My Friend the Enemy (1986); Lenin Lo Gar Po Yotter ("Lenin Doesn't Live Here Anymore," 1992).


Zichroni (ed.), 1 mul 119: Uri Avnery Ba-Knesset (1969); A. Bechar, Hanidon: Uri Avnery – Dyokan Politi (1968); Die Jerusalemfrage: Israelis und Palaestinenser im gespraech (1996).

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]