Burg, Avraham

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BURG, AVRAHAM (Avrum ; 1955– ), Israeli Labor politician, member of the Twelfth, Thirteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Knessets. Avraham Burg was born in Jerusalem, the son of National Religious Party leader Yosef *Burg. He attended a yeshivah in Jerusalem and studied sociology and African studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

After Operation Peace for Galilee, in which he was wounded, Burg set up a group of "soldiers against silence" and was one of the speakers at the mass demonstration held at Malkhei Yisrael Square in Tel Aviv on September 25, 1982, in protest against the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon, and demanding the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry and the resignation of Minister of Defense Ariel *Sharon. He became active in *Peace Now, and was wounded on February 10, 1983, when a hand grenade was thrown by a right-wing Jewish protester into a Peace Now demonstration in Jerusalem, killing Emil Grunzweig. Burg joined the Labor Party and served as advisor on the Diaspora to Shimon *Peres when he became prime minister in 1984. In 1986–88 he headed the Center for Judaism and Tolerance. He was then one of a group of young dovish MKs elected by the Labor Party to the Twelfth Knesset. In the Labor Party Conference held in November 1991, Burg supported the adoption of a declaration in favor of the separation of religion and state, but finally agreed to a compromise that spoke of the separation of religion and politics. In the elections to the Thirteenth Knesset he was elected to third place on the Labor list after Yitzḥak *Rabin and Peres, but was not included among the ministers chosen by Rabin to serve in his government because he had supported Peres in the primaries for the chairmanship of the Labor Party. He served as chairman of the Knesset Education and Culture Committee until resigning from the Knesset in July 1995 when he was elected chairman of the *Jewish Agency. There he called for major changes in the structure of the Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency, made major cuts in their expenditures, and fought for the return, to the Jewish people, of money deposited during World War ii in Swiss banks by Jews who later perished in the Holocaust.

After leaving the Jewish Agency, Burg was reelected to the Fifteenth Knesset, and after prime minister Ehud *Barak failed to appoint him as a minister in his government, ran successfully against Barak's candidate for speaker of the Knesset. As Knesset speaker, he established the Knesset Research and Information Center and the office of the Commissioner for Future Generations, and in defiance of Foreign Ministry policy hosted the Tibetan Dalai Lama and the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Ahmad Ali Saliman Kari'a (known as Abu Allah) in the Knesset. In December 2001 he contested the Labor Party leadership opposite Binyamin (Fuad) *Ben-Eliezer and lost by a narrow margin, claiming fraud. He was reelected to the Sixteenth Knesset but, frustrated by the situation created within the Labor Party following Amram Mitzna's defeat, resigned in June 2004 to take time out from active politics and go into business.

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]