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Support comes from Ashkenazi Jews


To the Knesset or to jail
Uri Avnery Social activist
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איך מגיעים לכנסת? אני החלטתי, הקלף שלנו החזק זה חוק לשון הרע, זה עומד במרכז. לא האידיאולוגיה שלנו, לא השקפת העולם, זה עומד! ואנחנו לא נפרסם מצע, מפני שמצע ימשוך אנשים וידחה אנשים. אלא אנחנו נפרסם מין עשר דיברות, עשר סיסמאות קצרות וחוק לשון הרע, עם זה אנחנו הולכים למערכת הבחירות. עשינו מצע של כמה מילים. אני חושב שכל המצע היה פחות ממאה מילים, וקראנו לאנשים. והסיסמא הייתה: "לכנסת או לבית הסוהר”. לחוק לשון הרע היה קל מאוד להכניס אותי לבית הסוהר. וזאת הייתה הסיסמא ועם זה הלכנו לרחוב והייתה מערכת בחירות מאוד מוזרה. רצינו להיות שונים לחלוטין מכל המפלגות הוותיקות, שאגב כולן, בלי יוצא מן הכלל, נולדו בחוץ לארץ. היהודים הביאו אותם מפולין את כל המפלגות. אז שינו את השם פה ושם אבל זה היו מפלגות שלא נולדו בארץ. וזאת הייתה המפלגה הראשונה בכלל בתולדות מדינת ישראל שקמה בארץ. וקמה יש מאין. לא כתוצאה מפילוג, לא כתוצאה משינוי שם, כי אם משהו ממש חדש. היו אנשים מעטים שלא קיבלו את זה שלא יהיה מצע מפורט. היה משוגע אחד, אורי דייויס, שהתפתח לימים ממש לשונא ישראל אמיתי, ועזב אותה בטריקת דלת. היו כל מיני דברים. אבל התאסף גרעין של אנשים. אנחנו אמרנו: אנחנו לא שמאל ולא ימין, אנחנו בכלל לא שייכים למפה הזאת, אנחנו שייכים למפה אחרת, חדשה. זה פתר לנו את הבעיה של שמאל/ימין. והיו אנשי ימין שהצטרפו אלינו, לא מימין קיצוני אבל אנשי ימין מתונים, שחוק לשון הרע הרגיז אותם והמאבק על חופש הביטוי הלהיב אותם, שהצטרפו אלינו. והיה קהל מאוד מגוון.‏

How does one get into the Knesset? I decided that the strongest card in our hand was the Law of Defamation - that was at the center, not our ideology, not our worldview. Those remained! We would not publish a platform because a platform would attract some people and deter others. But we would publish a kind of 'ten commandments', ten short mottos and the Law of Defamation. This is what we would go to the elections with. We prepared a platform of just a few words. I think that the platform was less than 100 words, and we called people. The slogan was: 'To the Knesset or to jail'. The Law of Defamation could easily have seen to it that I landed in jail. So this was the slogan and with this we went out into the street and it was a very strange election campaign. We wanted to be completely different from the old parties, which by the way were all, without exception, born outside of Israel. The Jews brought the Polish parties with them. They changed the names here and there, but these were not political parties that had been born in Israel. Ours was the first party in Israel's history that had been founded in the country. And it was founded from scratch. Not following a split, not resulting from a change in name, but something totally new. There were a few people who did not accept the fact that there would not be a detailed platform. There was one crazy fellow, Uri Davis, who later on developed into a true hater of Israel, and left Israel 'slamming the door behind him'. There were all sorts of things. But a nucleus of people had gathered. We said: we are neither left nor right, we do not belong to this map at all, we belonged to a different map, a new one. That solved the problem of left/right. There were people who joined us from the right, but not the extreme right, moderate rightists. The Law of Defamation angered them and the struggle for freedom of expression inspired them, and they joined us. It was a very diverse community.

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: Knesset, Defamation Law, Uriel "Uri" Davis

Duration: 3 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 11 May 2017