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Photo: In the Knesset Members' Cafeteria: Uri Avnery with guests, 20.12.1966
In the Knesset Members' Cafeteria: Uri Avnery with guests, 20.12.1966

Uri Avnery (Ostermann)

Uri Avnery is a journalist, political activist, and was a member of the Knesset. He was born in Germany in 1923 and made Aliyah in 1933. Between 1938 and 1942 he was a member of the Etzel underground movement, resigning from it on ideological grounds before Menahem Begin was appointed to head the movement. In 1946, he formed a group called “Young Land of Yisrael”, which saw the renewed settlement in Eretz Yisrael as a symbol for a new Hebraic nation. During the War of Independence he served in a motor unit at the Southern Front and was wounded.

In 1949 and 1950, Avnery worked as a journalist for Ha’aretz newspaper. Afterwards, he became the owner and chief editor of Olam Hazeh magazine, a position he held until 1990. The magazine was known for its anti-establishment approach and for uncovering public scandals. Among these were disclosures of further details concerning the Lavon Affair, the revelation of Moshe Dayan’s illegal archeological diggings, the Yadlin Affair, the Offer Affair, and the Levinson-Bank Hapoalim Affair. Since the 1950’s the magazine was publicly supportive for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.

Avnery established the "Semite Actions" political group in 1956, advocating for the creation of a Arab-Israeli federation in the Middle East. Nine years later he founded the "Olam Hazeh – Koach Hadash" party, which he later claimed to be the first "Green Party" in the world. The party gained one seat in the Sixth Knesset and Avnery began serving as a Knesset Member in 1965. In the elections to the Seventh Knesset (1969) the party was given two seats, but shortly thereafter it dissolved. Avnery’s faction, called "Meri," did not pass the electoral threshold to the Eighth Knesset. Meri was later a political group within the Sheli political movement and Avnery served on its behalf in the Ninth Knesset, between the years 1979 – 1981. A split in Sheli brought him to take part in the establishment of a new progressive party – "Alternative" – in 1983, which was among the founding bodies of the Progressive Peace Party.

Avnery made his first contact with PLO members in 1974. In late 1975 he was among the initiators of the Israeli Committee for Israeli-Palestinian Peace. Two of his colleagues – PLO members Said Hammami and Issam Sartawi – were killed by Palestinian extremists. Avnery himself met with Yasser Arafat in July 1982, during Operation Peace for the Galilee, and continued to meet with him and other senior PLO officers in later years, even when forbidden by law.

Avnery’s writings and books have been published worldwide. He continues to write to this day, as well as to take part in extra-parliamentary associations.

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