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Uri Avnery, Moral Idiot

In an extraordinary interview published last Friday in Haaretz, Uri Avnery, the grand old man of the Israeli Left, spoke of his deep affection for Yasir Arafat, his great sadness at Arafat’s passing, and his belief that Arafat would be recognized as one of history’s great men.

Though most Israeli leftists had long given up on Arafat, there remained a hard core group who until the very end sought to give him every benefit of the doubt while castigating Israeli leaders for not living up to what they saw as Arafat’s visionary statesmanship. The 81-year-old Avnery, whose writings are to be found on countless anti-Israel and neo-Nazi websites, is founding father, pastor, and chief theologian of the Israeli Left’s Church of Arafat. What follows is just some of what he had to say to Haaretz about the object of his veneration; for the full interview, go to  www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/500556.html 

Goaded by his interviewer into comparing Arafat to Moses, Avnery readily complied: “There is a great similarity to the death of Moses, who removed a people from slavery and led its march to freedom for 40 years, almost exactly like Arafat. There is also a similarity in the fact that Arafat too reached the gate of the Promised Land, saw it from afar but did not enter it. I have been thinking about that a great deal in the past few days. The symbolism here is very great, and because of it the dead Arafat will be even stronger than the living Arafat.”

Avnery was then asked whether he considered Arafat a “giant historic leader.”

“A giant,” he affirmed. “Yasir Arafat will be remembered as one of the greatest leaders of the second half of the 20th century….He will enter the pantheon of symbolic Arab heroes, like the Caliph Omar and like Salah a-Din.”

It was, however, when Avnery attempted to describe Arafat’s personal characteristics that the old fool slipped into full adoration mode, his words a lunatic melding of fan magazine gush and Sunday School devotional:

“Arafat is always a surprise for everyone who meets him for the first time. How so? In that the gap between his television image and reality is astonishing. First of all, the beard. On television it always looks like it’s a two-day growth. But in reality the beard is groomed, black and white, part pepper and part salt. Then the eyes. On television they look a bit mad, a bit fanatic. In reality, though, they are exactly the opposite: very gentle, even feminine….All in all, Arafat is a very gentle person. His hands are gentle, his body language is gentle. And he is a very warm person. Very much so. Filled with empathy….”

Avnery begged to differ when his interviewer wondered whether it was at all possible that “in the end, General Sharon vanquished General Arafat after all?”

“I don’t think so,” replied Avnery, upset that his god had been blasphemed, however tentatively. “The dead Arafat vanquishes the living Sharon….Twenty years after Sharon is gathered unto his forefathers, no one will remember him. In contrast, Arafat will be remembered even in another hundred years and five hundred years. Maybe even a thousand years. Every Arab remembers Salah a-Din eight hundred years after his death. They will remember Arafat, too.”

What about the failure of Camp David and the breakdown of the peace process? Does Arafat bear responsibility for any of that?

“It is Ehud Barak who bears that responsibility. Barak is the arch-idiot of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is also the arch-criminal. A normal statesman, a statesman who is not a psychopath, would not say after the failure of the conference that there is no partner. He bears the main responsibility for the terrible loss of human life in the past few years. He is worse than Sharon.”

What would Avnery have said to Arafat if the two had held a “farewell conversation?”

“I would say a few things. I would tell him, You are a great leader. You did something for your people that no one else did. And I would say to him, Rest in peace….”

Would such a final conversation have had about it “a sentiment of “farewell, friend?” “

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at jmaoz@jewishpress.com.

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