Exchange with Uri Avnery

A brief exchange with Uri Avnery, of Israeli peace group Gush Shalom, following his most recent article, accessible here: http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1282429124/

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Dear Uri,

A couple of questions re your latest article…

1) Why do you describe the UN partition plan as “very sensible”. Was not a unitary democratic state (something the UN also considered at the time) eminently more sensible, not just in theory, but – with the benefit of hindsight – also in practice? Partition, by any measure, has been disastrous for the Palestinians. This being so, could you clarify why you consider partition to have been “sensible” please.

2) In what realm is it appropriate to describe Herzl’s “vision” as “humanist”? I can’t claim to be an expert on Herzl, but it’s clear from just a cursory glance at the available evidence that he was well aware that establishment of a “Jewish State” would entail transfer (aka ethnic cleansing) of the indigenous population. This being so, could you clarify what you mean by “humanist” please.

Look forward to your comments.

Regards,

Joe

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Dear Joe,

Thanks.

The unitary state is nonsense. Have written about this often.

Herzl never advocated transfer in Palestine. His humanist vision is set out in “Altneuland”.

Shalom,

uri

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Thanks, Uri. I’m left to assume you mean nonsense in practice, not theory. Correct? Regards Herzl, how then to explain the oft-cited entry in his diary: “We shall endeavour to expel the poor population across the border unnoticed,procuring employment for it in the transit countries, but denying it any employment in our own country”. A momentary aberration? An unfair decontextualisation, perhaps?

Best,

Joe

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Dear Joe,

Thanks.

Sure, nonsense as a practcal solution.

The oft quoted words are a falsification. Before becoming Palestine-centered, Herzl thought about a state in South America. In that context, he wrote those (ugly) words.

Shalom,

uri

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Hi again, Uri. Thanks for the response. One final question, plus a comment, if I may…

1) You’ll be aware that a relatively small group of zionists, including one Noam Chomsky, advocated a single binational state until as late as the early 70s. This seems an awfully long time to be engaged in nonsense. Did you stop to consider that binationalism might actually have been more “sensible” than partition?

2) Re the Herzl quote, by “falsification” I assume you mean conscious citing to imply he was referring specifically to Palestine? Fair enough – I agree it’s always important to be clear about the precise context, which I understand was Argentina in this instance. And yet, this rejoinder sits rather uncomfortably nonetheless, since Herzl’s words are a clear indication of the measures he knew would be necessary to establish a settler state on land where an indigenous community was already present. In other words, the quote betrays Herzl’s understanding that his settler colonial project would invariably violate the most basic right of the indigenous people, wherever they may be: the right not to have their land taken from them. There’s nothing humanist about such a project, no matter how it’s packaged.

Best wishes,

Joe

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Dear Joe,

Bi-nationalism in the 1930s was basically a plan to get Arabs to agree to Jewish mass-immigration, when we were less than 25% of the population. Noam was in the country for some time, and later had a lingering longing for this idea, which he, however, realized was quite unrealistic. I spoke with him about this several times.

Herzl was a complex person, and the subject is far more complex than meets the eye.

Shalom,

uri