In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on America, Uri Avnery, the ancient icon of the Israeli Left, a bitter old fool who serves as living refutation of the belief that wisdom is an inevitable byproduct of old age, placed the blame squarely on the U.S. and its support of Israel.
America, he wrote, “is hated by millions of Arabs, because of its support for the Israeli occupation and the suffering of the Palestinian people. It is hated by multitudes of Muslims, because of what looks like its support for the Jewish domination of the Islamic holy shrines in Jerusalem.”
When Yasir Arafat made the world a better place by leaving it in November 2004, a mournful Avnery told Haaretz that the world’s most notorious terrorist, responsible for more dead Jews than anyone since Hitler, would be recognized as one of history’s great men.
“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,” said Avery.
“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 went on to praise Arafat as “a giant,” someone who “will be remembered as one of the greatest leaders of the second half of the 20th century” and described him as “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….”
What, asked the Haaretz interviewer, would Avnery have said to Arafat if the two had held a “farewell conversation?”
“I would say a few things,” Avnery responded. “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….”
Given that kind of pathological makeup, it’s hardly surprising that Avnery would react apoplectically to Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress last month.
In a column that immediately got wide play on the many of the most virulently anti-Israel websites and blogs (where he has long been an honored presence), Avnery compared Congress – unfavorably – with the old Soviet government; implied that those who applauded Netanyahu were similar to the mobs that swooned for Hitler; and, competing his Hitler analogy, essentially labeled the democratically elected prime minister of Israel a dictator.
Here’s Avnery in all his dementia:
It was all rather disgusting.
There they were, the members of the highest legislative bodies of the world’s only superpower, flying up and down like so many yo-yos, applauding wildly, every few minutes or seconds, the most outrageous lies and distortions of Benjamin Netanyahu.
It was worse than Stalin’s Supreme Soviet, when showing less than sufficient respect could have meant death. What the American senators and congressmen feared was a fate worse than death. Anyone remaining seated or not applauding wildly enough could have been caught on camera – and that amounts to political suicide. It was enough for one single congressman to rise and applaud, and all the others had to follow suit. Who would dare not to?
The sight of these hundreds of parliamentarians jumping up and clapping their hands, again and again and again and again, with the leader graciously acknowledging with a movement of his hand, was reminiscent of other regimes. Only this time it was not the local dictator who compelled this adulation, but a foreign one.
Avnery would have gullible readers believe his criticism of Israel is reactionary, in the sense that it’s merely a response to what he sees as misguided and immoral Israeli policies, particularly vis-?-vis the Palestinians.
But as Aryeh Tepper noted on the website Jewish Ideas Daily in a review of a political biography of Avnery (published in Israel and available only in Hebrew): “Years before there were any ‘occupied territories,’ [Avnery] incessantly compared Israel with Nazi Germany, demonizing the Jewish state in language that would later become commonplace in the United Nations and on the ‘progressive’ Left everywhere.”
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org