J Street mourns the death of the Israeli peace activist, journalist and politician Uri Avnery, who has passed away at the age of 94.
“We have lost a true champion of the Israeli peace movement, a man who left an indelible mark on Israel and whose inspiration, positive drive and humanist vision we will never forget,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami.
Avnery, who was born in Germany in 1923, immigrated as a 10-year-old to Palestine, then under British rule. As a 15-year-old, he joined the Irgun underground organization, and was later seriously wounded in the Israeli War of Independence. Avnery’s early experiences convinced him that the only way to end the conflict with the Palestinians was through a two-state solution. He reached that conclusion decades earlier than the Israeli political establishment and remained proudly loyal to it for the rest of his life.
In his memoir he wrote: “The war (of 1948) totally convinced me there’s a Palestinian people, and that peace must be forged first and foremost with them. To achieve that goal, a Palestinian nation-state had to be established.”
As editor of the weekly news magazine HaOlam HaZeh (This World), a post he held for 40 years, Avnery spoke out fiercely against religious coercion, the absence of a democratic constitution, discrimination against ethnic groups and the anti-Arab policies of Israeli governments in the 1950s and 1960s. He later served several terms as a member of Knesset.
Avnery was one of the first Israelis to have contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the first to sit down with PLO chief Yasser Arafat, whom he met in Beirut in July 1982. He helped demonstrate that genuine dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians was possible.
Avnery is one of the last of Israel’s founding generation to pass from the scene. Like many of them, he fought bravely and shed his blood for Israel, yet his ultimate legacy will be the ferocity and passion with which he fought for peace and coexistence.
To truly honor him, we must continue his struggle for peace. May his memory be for a blessing.