Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
A Palestinian-Israeli Confederation Is the Only
By Uri Avnery
September 12, 2017
Uri Avnery writing his opposition to the Israeli Apartheid Wall,
Israeli and Palestinian flags, expressing his
support for the two-state solution
TODAY IS the last day
of the 93rd year of my life. Ridiculous.
Am I moderately
satisfied with my life until now? Yes. I am.
If by a miracle I
could be returned to, say, 14, and travel all this long way again, would
I like that? No, I would not.
Enough is enough.
93 years, the world has changed completely.
A few days after my
birth in Germany, a ridiculous little demagogue called Adolf Hitler
attempted a putsch in Munich. He was put in prison, where he wrote a
tedious book called Mein Kampf. Nobody took any notice.
World War (no one called it World War I yet) was still a recent memory.
Almost every family had lost at least one member. I was told that a
remote uncle of mine had frozen to death on the Austrian-Italian front.
On the day of my birth, inflation was raging in Germany. My birth
cost many millions of marks. Many people lost all they had. My father, a
young banker, got rich. He understood how money works. I did not inherit
this talent, nor did I wish to.
We had a telephone at home, a
rarity. My father loved new gadgets. When I was three or four years old,
we got a new invention, a radio. No one even dreamed of television, not
to mention the internet.
We were not religious. We lit Hanukkah
candles, fasted on Yom Kippur and ate Matzot on Passover. Giving this up
looked like cowardice in the face of the Anti-Semites. But it had no
real meaning for us.
MY FATHER was a Zionist. When he married my
mother, a pretty young secretary, one of the wedding presents was a
printed document stating that a tree had been planted in the name of the
couple in Palestine.
At the time, the Zionists were a tiny
minority among the Jews in Germany (and elsewhere). Most Jews thought
that they were a bit crazy. A current joke had it that a Zionist was a
Jew who gave money to a second Jew in order to send a third Jew to
Why did my father become a Zionist? He certainly did
not dream of going to Palestine himself. His family had been living in
Germany for many generations. Since he had learned Latin and Ancient
Greek at school, he imagined that our family had arrived in Germany with
Julius Caesar. That's why our roots were in a small town (I have
forgotten its name) on the banks of the Rhine.
So what about his
Zionism? My father was a "Querkopf", a contrarian. He did not like to
run with the herd. It suited him to belong to a lonely little group. The
This quirk of my father’s personality probably saved
my life. When the Nazis came to power - I was just nine years old - my
father decided immediately to leave for Palestine. My mother told me
much later that the trigger was a young German who told my father in
court: "Herr Ostermann, we don't need Jews like you anymore!"
father was deeply insulted. At the time he was a highly respected
court-appointed receiver, a person in charge of bankruptcies, famous for
his honesty. For years a terrible economic crisis had ravaged Germany,
and bankruptcies were plentiful. This helped the demagogue called
Hitler, the same one, on his way to power, shouting "Down with the
I was an eye-witness to the Nazi victory. Brown shirts
could be seen everywhere in the streets. They were not alone: every
major party had a private army, wearing uniforms. There were the Red
Front of the communists, the Black-Red-Gold Flag of the
Social-Democrats, the Steel Helmet of the Conservatives, and more. When
the time came, not one of them lifted a finger.
I never attended
kindergarten and was sent to school when I was five and a half years
old. At the age of nine and a half I was sent to the Gymnasium, where I
started to learn Latin. I was in a Zionist youth movement. Half a year
later I heaved a profound sigh of relief when the train carried us
across the Rhine to France – some 2000 years after my forefathers had
crossed the Rhine in the opposite direction, according to family legend.
For many years I suppressed the memory of these first years of my
life. My life started when I stood on the deck of a ship and saw in the
early daylight a thin brown strip appear in the east. I was ten years
and two months old. It was the beginning of my new life.
bliss! A large boat with a huge, dark boatman brought me from the ship
to the shore of Jaffa. What a mysterious, magical place! Full of people
who spoke a strange, guttural language, who gesticulated wildly! All
around the wonderful smell of a market with exotic foods! Horse-drawn
carriages in the streets.
I mention these first impressions
because later I read the biography of David Ben-Gurion, who had arrived
at the same place some years before me. What an awful place! What a
guttural language! What barbaric gesticulation! What disgusting smells!
I LOVED this country on first sight, and I still love it, although
it has changed beyond recognition. I cannot imagine living anywhere
People keep asking me if I am a "Zionist". I answer that I
don't know what "Zionism" means these days. To my mind, Zionism died a
natural death when the State of Israel was born. Now we have an Israeli
nation, closely connected with the Jewish people everywhere – but a new
nation nevertheless, with its own geopolitical surroundings, with its
own problems. We are bound to world Jewry rather like, say, Australia or
Canada are to Britain.
This is so clear to me, that I can hardly
understand the endless debates about Zionism. To me, these debates are
empty of real, honest content.
So are the endless debates about
"the Arabs", debates neither real nor honest. The Arabs were here when
we arrived. I have just described what I felt towards them.
I still believe that the early
Zionists made a terrible mistake when they did not try to combine their
aspirations with the hopes of the Palestinian population.
Realpolitik told them to embrace their Turkish oppressors instead. Sad.
The best description of the conflict was given by the historian
Isaac Deutscher: a man lives in an upper floor of a house that catches
fire. In desperation the man jumps out of the window and lands on a
passer-by down below, who is grievously injured and becomes an invalid.
Between the two, there erupts a deadly conflict. Who is right?
Not an exact parallel, but close enough to inspire thought.
Religion has nothing to do with it.
Judaism and Islam are close relatives, much closer to each other than
either of them is to Christianity. The catchphrase
"Judeo-Christian" is bogus, an invention of ignoramuses. If our conflict
turns into a religious one, that would be a tragic aberration.
am a complete atheist. In principle I respect the religion of others,
but, frankly, I cannot even start to understand their convictions. They
look to me like anachronistic relics of a primitive age. Sorry.
I AM an optimist by nature, even if my analytical mind tells me
otherwise. I have seen in my life so many totally unexpected things,
both good and bad, that I don't believe that any thing "must" happen.
But looking at the daily news, I could waver.
So many stupid wars all over the
place, so much awful suffering inflicted on so many innocent people.
Some in the name of God, some in the name of race, some in the name of
democracy. So stupid! So needless! In
the year 2017!
The future of my own country
fills me with anxiety. The conflict seems endless, without a solution.
Yet to me, the solution is completely obvious, indeed so obvious that it
is hard for me to understand how anyone in their right mind can avoid
have here two nations – Israelis and Palestinians.
Innumerable historical examples show us that they cannot live together
in one state. So they must live together in two states
– "together" because both nations need close cooperation, with open
borders and some joint political superstructures. Perhaps some kind of a
voluntary confederation. And later on,
perhaps some kind of union of the entire region.
All this in a world that is compelled by modern realities to unite more
and more, moving towards some kind of world government.
live long enough to see all this – but I am already seeing it in my
mind's eyes on the eve of my 94th (a nice number, all in all.)
realize how lucky I have been throughout. I was born into a happy
family, the youngest of four children. We left Nazi Germany in time. I
was a member of an underground organization, but never caught and
tortured like some of my comrades. I was severely wounded in the 1948
war, but fully recovered. I had an attempt on my life, but the assailant
missed my heart by a few millimeters. I was for 40 years the chief
editor of an important magazine. I was elected three times to the
Knesset. I was the first Israeli to meet with Yasser Arafat. I have
taken part in hundreds of peace demonstrations and was never been
arrested. I was married for 59 years to a wonderful woman. I am
reasonably healthy. Thanks.
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