Interview with Uri Avnery
By Mazal Mualem Haaretz (
Benjamin Netanyahu is lying when he says the
blockade exists in order to prevent the transfer of
Journalist and former Knesset member Uri Avnery is one
of the most prominent political activists identified
with the Israeli peace camp. As has been the 86-year-
old's habit for decades, he did not miss the leftist
demonstration in Tel Aviv, on Saturday night - this one
protesting the government's handling of the Gaza-bound
flotilla incident last week.
All told, only 6,000 people took part in the
demonstration. Is the Israeli peace camp in
fact just a negligible minority?
That number is wrong. There were at least twice
as many demonstrators, and that is a huge amount when
you take into account the unprecedented brainwashing
the country experienced during the week, when a a
near-totalitarian propaganda machine repeated a single
picture and a single story, and prevented citizens from
seeing or hearing anything else. We hardly saw anything
except for a few minutes shot and edited by the
Defense Forces spokesman's office, which confiscated
the films shot by journalists. The question may be
asked: Why? What are they afraid of?
The photos published by the IDF and the Turkish media
clearly show Israeli naval commandos being
attacked,thrown from the deck and bleeding. Are you
saying those photos were fabricated?
The gap is created when you see only two minutes [of
footage]; you don't see what came before or after, and
so it is possible to get the impression that the Turks
attacked a Jewish ship. Imagine if Jews were in
distress, attacked on the high seas, with dead and
wounded - just imagine the uproar. Not only the Turks
see this as an Israeli attack, but the whole world does.
Are you convinced this was an aid flotilla?
There is no doubt. The intention of the Israeli
government is to create a crisis that is so terrible
that the people of
Meanwhile, four years have passed and Hamas is stronger
than it was. What is the siege for? Who is it good for?
If the Israeli government hadn't sent the poor soldiers
to attack the ship, just as the cabinet secretary [Zvi
Hauser] suggested, all of this could have been
prevented. They could have stopped [the ships],
examined them and let them go on. It seems we have to
protect IDF soldiers from [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak
and [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu.
When Netanyahu calls it a flotilla of hate, is he lying?
Not only Netanyahu, the ministers, too, in addition to
a few people in uniform: the army chief of staff and
the commander of the navy. In any well-run country, the
head of the navy would have resigned that same night.
The operation itself reflected an astounding and
disastrous lack of military capability. What is the
nature of an army whose admiral personally commands
such a stupid undertaking? I was a soldier and I don't
remember any of my commanders ever putting me in such
an idiotic situation. A person who can give such an
order cannot command our soldiers.
And the mounting evidence that the flotilla was a
provocation by terrorists fails to convince you?
The story begins with the fact that
Turkish ship because it was bringing aid. The ship was
attacked and [the forces] did what they did. After all,
we experienced this ourselves with the Exodus, when
British soldiers attacked and the illegal immigrants
defended themselves any way they could. Three
immigrants were killed and dozens were injured. That
was the beginning of the end of the British Mandate
just eight months later.
Continuing this parallel that you are making, what
does this say about us?
Parallel? Then there was a British government minister
named Ernest Bevin who was stupid and coarse, and now
we have a defense minister who is stupid and coarse. We
are led by a gang of idiots. After last week a big
change has taken place en route to ending the
occupation and the siege on
based on lies and wrapped in stupidity.
Benjamin Netanyahu said the siege exists in order to
prevent the transfer of weapons to
He prevents the entrance of noodles, fruit, children's
toys and paper for books. The damage caused to
standing this week is greater than that caused by
Operation Cast Lead [in
2009]. I am receiving messages from liberal Jews
[abroad] and they see this as a disaster. We are moving
forward with the blindness of the people of
struck blind and going on, increasing the wave of
Is it possible that something good can come from this
low point, as it did with the Exodus incident?
In Goethe's "Faust," Satan appears and says: I am the
power that always wants evil, but causes good. It might
happen that, paradoxically, something good comes out of
Who will lead? After all, the peace camp has no
All of the disasters in
declaring himself the head of the peace camp. He went
he did not say that the negotiations would continue.
Instead he said: I have turned over every stone on the
way to peace; we haven't got a partner. These words
caused a disaster we haven't yet recovered from.
But perhaps now, because of this incident, people who
have been standing on the sidelines will understand
that we have an existential problem. I see the
demonstration [Saturday night] as a new awakening. We
have a long way to go. We are in a situation in which
the political system is split wide open. Last week in
the Knesset we saw that Kadima is not a different
version of the Likud; it is even worse. I was a Knesset
member for 10 years and I don't remember any disgrace
that came even close to this: physical attacks [on Arab
MKs] by nearly all the Jewish members accompanied by
the shouting of racist and sexist remarks.
And the Arab MKs did not take part in the uproar?
There is polarization on both sides. Actions create
reactions. There's a vicious cycle here when the
parliament descends to such a nadir. I am looking for
the right word: parliamentary rabble. It terrifies me
anew. It is a death blow to parliamentary democracy.
Did [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan incite the region?
That is part of the stupidity. We have had one very
important friend in the
Turkish army. Turkish politics has been changing over
the last two years;
like the fact that
did we do? We united all of