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I decide to join the Knesset


Choosing between politics and journalism
Uri Avnery Social activist
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עכשיו אני צריך לקפוץ אחורה איזה 17 שנה, משהו כזה, 15 שנה. כשיצאתי מהצבא ועוד לא ידעתי מה לעשות, הייתה לי ברירה בין שתי אפשרויות: להקים מפלגה חדשה, או לפנות לעיתונות. שקלתי. מבחינה מסויימת נמשכתי מאוד לאופציה הפוליטית. כבר סיפרתי, באתי ממשפחה פוליטית, תמיד התעניינתי בפוליטיקה. כבר כמה שנים לפני המלחמה אני עסקתי בדברים פוליטיים. אבל שקלתי ואמרתי: אין כל אפשרות שאדם כמוני, בלי כסף, אקים יש מאין תנועה פוליטית חדשה. זה מקסימום יהיה קבוצת שולייים כמו שהיינו קודם קבוצת “במאבק". ולזה אין לי חשק. אף פעם לא היה לי חשק להיות קבוצת שוליים. אז נשארת האופציה השנייה: עיתונות. וכאמור, הלכתי ל"הארץ", עברתי ל"העולם הזה". אבל פה באיזשהו מקום תמיד הייתה המחשבה שבאיזשהו שלב להחליף את המשטר, אתה לא מחליף את המשטר בעיתון, אתה מחליף את המשטר בכנסת. וצריכים להגיע לכנסת ולהקים כוח פוליטי שיכול להחליף את המשטר. זה היה לי תמיד בראש, כל הזמן. ואז בא חוק לשון הרע. וחוק לשון הרע היה לא רק קללה, היה גם ברכה. חוק לשון הרע עם התקפה ישירה על "העולם הזה", וזה היה אגב ברור לכולם שזה מכוון נגד "העולם הזה”. הקריקטוריסט הכי מפורסם בארץ באותם הימים היה אריה נבון, קריקטוריסט של “דבר". ו"דבר" היה עדיין עתון מספר 1. ושמה הייתה קריקטורה שכאילו אני ואני אומר: "חוק לשון הרע, כבר אי-אפשר לחיות בעולם הזה”. זה משחק מילים פשטני משהו, אבל זה היה ברור לכולם שזה עניין של "העולם הזה", הממשלה ו"העולם הזה”. ופה היה מבחן. אמרתי שהקוראים שלנו לא היו קוראים, היו שותפים. וכך התייחסתי אליהם וכך כתבתי עשרות פעמים במאמרים במדור "קורא יקר" שפתח את העיתון. תמיד התייחסתי לקורא היקר כאל שותף והתייעצתי אתו כאילו וכו’. ביקשתי ממנו לעשות כך ולעשות אחרת. והייתי משוכנע שיש מספיק אנשים שיביאו אותנו קרוב לפחות לאחוז החסימה שאז היה אחוז אחד. ואני החלטתי. ההתרגשות שאנחנו ניצור סביב חוק "חולר"ע" קראנו לו. "חוק לשון הרע" – "חולר"ע" – ראשי תיבות. וסיכמתי עם עצמי בלבי: אם החוק יעבור, אני אעשה ניסיון רציני להגיע לכנסת.‏

Now I have to jump back some 17 years or so, or 15 years. When I left the army, and I didn't know what to do, I had a choice between two options: to establish a new party, or to become a journalist. I weighed the options. In a way I was very attracted to the first option. I have already mentioned, I came from a political family; I was always interested in politics. For several years before the war I dealt with political things. But I considered it and I said there is no way that someone like me, with no money, could establish a new political movement from scratch. We would at most be a marginal group like we were previously with the 'In the Struggle' group. And I had no desire for that. I never had any desire to be a marginal group. So I chose the second option: journalism. And, as I said, I went to Haaretz, and from there to HaOlam HaZeh. But there had always been a thought that at some point it would be possible to replace the regime. You cannot replace the regime with a newspaper, but you can replace the regime in the Knesset. And I needed to get to the Knesset and establish a political force that would be able to replace the regime. It was always in my mind, all the time. Then came the Defamation Law.

And the Defamation Law was a blessing as well as a curse. It was a direct attack on HaOlam HaZeh, and it was, by the way, clear to everyone that it was directed against HaOlam HaZeh. The most famous cartoonist in Israel at that time was Aryeh Navon, the cartoonist at Davar. Davar was still the number one newspaper and there was a cartoon in the paper which was obviously me saying: 'The Defamation Law, it is already impossible to live in HaOlam HaZeh in this world'. It was a somewhat simplistic play on words, but it was clear to everyone that it was referring to HaOlam HaZeh. The government and HaOlam HaZeh. And here was a test. I mentioned that our readers were not just readers, but they were partners. And that was the way that I related to them, and so I wrote articles dozens of times in the section entitled 'Dear Reader' which opened the newspaper.  I always referred to them as Dear Reader and as partners, as if I were consulting with them. I asked them what to do about this and what to do about that. And I was convinced that there would be enough people who would bring us close at least to the threshold, which was at that time 1%. And I decided. We will create excitement around the Cholera Law, as we called it.  The Defamation Law (cholera is an acronym for the name in Hebrew). And I decided that if the bill passes, I will make a serious attempt to get into the Knesset.

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: HaOlam HaZeh, In the Stuggle, Haaretz, Davar, Defamation Law, Knesset, Cholera Law, Aryeh Navon

Duration: 4 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 11 May 2017