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To the Knesset or to jail


I decide to join the Knesset
Uri Avnery Social activist
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ישבתי פה, בחדר הזה, עם חבר טוב שלי שהיה מראשי מפ"ם, בשם דב זכין, חבר קיבוץ להבות הבשן נדמה לי, משהו כזה, בגליל העליון, ושוחחנו. ואני באמצע אמרתי: "בוא נשמע רגע רדיו, חדשות”. היו חדשות: "הכנסת קיבלה בקריאה שלישית”. אז אמרתי לו: "זהו זה, אני הולך לכנסת", באמצע שיחה.

עכשיו, צריכים ללכת לכנסת יש מאין. בלי כסף. לגמרי בלי כסף. איך עושים את זה? הייתה החלטה לא פשוטה. ״העולם הזה״ כוחו היה בזה שהוא היה עיתון לא מפלגתי. פתאום לזהות את ״העולם הזה״ עם מפלגה, זה מפנה חד מאוד. פניתי לקוראים ושאלתי אותם. ביקשתי מהם לשלוח לי תשובה, צירפתי גלויית תשובה ואמרתי: "אנא תכתבו לי אם אתם חושבים שצריכים ללכת לכנסת”. וקיבלתי ערימות של תשובות על הגלויות האלה שכן, עם שמות. בשביל ללכת לכנסת אז היה צורך באני חושב שבע-מאות חמישים, חתימות של ממליצים על רשימה חדשה. זה נשמע כלום, זה נשמע קל 750?, מה זה כשאתה צריך אז זה היה אני חושב איזה 12,000 בוחרים בשביל לעבור את אחוז החסימה. אבל זה היה קריעת ים סוף. אנשים לא אוהבים להזדהות בציבור. להמליץ פירוש הדבר שאתה צריך על טופס של הכנסת לחתום ש"אני ממליץ על רשימה”. וזה היה קריעת ים סוף. הפעילים שלנו הלכו, הקמנו דוכנים ברחובות בשביל להחתים עוברים ושבים וזה היה מבצע גדול. ולאט-לאט התאסף קהל של תומכים, ציבור של תומכים, מאוד מגוון, מאוד.‏

I was sitting here in this room with a good friend of mine who was one of the leaders of Mapam, named Dov Zakin, a member of Kibbutz Lehavot HaBashan, I believe, in the Upper Galilee, and we were talking. And in the middle of our conversation, I said, 'Let's listen to the radio for a minute, to the news'. The news was: 'The Knesset has passed the bill on the third reading'. So I said, 'That's it, I'm going to join the Knesset', in the middle of our conversation. Now, that meant going to the Knesset with nothing, without any money. Absolutely no money. How could that be done? It was not an easy decision. The strength of HaOlam HaZeh was that it was not a party newspaper. Suddenly to identify HaOlam HaZeh with a party was a very sharp turn. I turned to the readers and asked them. I asked them to send me an answer. I enclosed a response card and said: 'Please write to me if you think that we should go to the Knesset'.  And I received piles of answers on these cards with people's names, saying 'Yes'. I think to run for the Knesset at that time I would have needed 750 signatures of recommenders on a new list. It sounds like nothing, it sounds easy - 750? What is that when you need, I think, it was some 12,000 voters to pass the threshold. But it was like parting the Red Sea. People do not like to identify themselves in public. To recommend means that you have to sign on a Knesset form saying that 'I recommend the list'. And it was like parting the Red Sea. Our activists went, we set up stalls in the streets to get passers-by to sign, and it was a major campaign. And very slowly a group of supporters was gathered, a community of supporters, all very diverse, very different.

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, Kibbutz Lehavot HaBashan, Mapam, Knesset, Red Sea, Dov Zakin

Duration: 2 minutes, 46 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 11 May 2017