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The Latrun affair


We publish HaOlam HaZeh in Arabic
Uri Avnery Social activist
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The next stage was...

[Q] The 1969 election?

The next step was the War of Attrition. After two or three years the Egyptians recovered. The Egyptian commander, who was a personal friend of Nasser, committed suicide, Marshal Amer committed suicide. Nasser, after the Six Day War was no longer the same man. He faded. Apparently he also had serious diabetes.

Then came Black September. I think that even before the Six Day War, we published an Arabic newspaper. One day we decided: we are engaged in so many Arab issues it is absurd not to have an edition in Arabic and we published a weekly magazine called Aalm al HadjehHaOlam HaZeh in Arabic – which appeared every week. We had a lot of trouble with it. I came to the conclusion that a person cannot be an editor of a newspaper if he cannot read it. I forgot to mention that in the first years of the country's existence we published a newspaper in Yiddish, and although I understand spoken Yiddish because it is similar to German, I certainly cannot read a single word of it. But the paper went bankrupt and we closed it. Then for an entire year, in 1954, we published an English-language newspaper, quite a good newspaper with partners in South Africa. Not quite top rate but satisfactory, relatively good English. Then the manager of HaOlam HaZeh emigrated to Mexico, where he started HaOlam HaZeh in Spanish. It was called Aseas, and it also folded after a while.

We then published an Arabic newspaper and we had trouble with it. I put together a good editorial staff with poet Samih al-Qasim, a serious poet, as the editor. The Arabic newspaper appeared until one day someone said to me: 'Tell me, HaOlam HaZeh in Arabic - is it your newspaper or does it belong to Maki or Rakah?'  Slowly the entire editorial board had become communist and they did whatever they wanted to, and the newspaper was filled with communist content. So I fired them, of course, and an Iraqi Jew who worked with us, Giladi, took it upon himself to publish the paper and also to edit it. The standard was much lower, but that was common in the Arab world, because once a week or daily, I don't remember, at the Allenby Bridge, after the Six Day War, Israeli officers and Jordanian officers would meet and exchange newspapers: all the Hebrew newspapers were given to the Jordanians and all of the Arabic newspapers were given to the officers. And so, many years later, Yasser Arafat told me he had read HaOlam HaZeh every week so he knew me, which rather surprised me. But this newspaper also deteriorated. People told me that it was not well written, and we lost a lot of money, so eventually we closed it as well.

השלב הבא הייתה מלחמת ההתשה. אחרי שנתיים-שלוש המצרים התאוששו. המפקד המצרי שהיה ידידו האישי של נאצר התאבד, מרשל עאמר התאבד. נאסר, אחרי מלחמת ששת הימים כבר לא היה אותו איש. הוא דעך. כנראה גם שהייתה לו מחלת סוכר קשה, ואז בא "ספטמבר השחור”. אני חושב שעוד לפני מלחמת ששת הימים הוצאנו עיתון ערבי. יום אחד החלטנו: אנחנו כל כך הרבה עוסקים בעניינים ערביים שזה אבסורד שאין לנו הוצאה ערבית והוצאנו שבועון ערבי בשם ״האד׳ה אל עאלם״ – "העולם הזה" בערבית - שהופיע כל שבוע. היו לנו הרבה צרות אתו. אני הגעתי למסקנה שאדם לא יכול להיות עורך עיתון אם הוא לא יכול לקרוא אותו. שכחתי לספר שבשנים הראשונות של המדינה הוצאנו עיתון ביידיש, שבוודאי לא יכולתי לקרוא אף מילה אחת, למרות שאני מבין יידיש כשמדברים מפני שזה דומה לגרמנית. אבל זה פשט את הרגל, סגרנו אותו. אחר כך במשך שנה שלמה, 54', הוצאנו עיתון באנגלית. עיתון די טוב, עם שותפים מדרום אפריקה. לא ממש רמה אל״ף-אל״ף אבל מספק, באנגלית טובה, יחסית. אחר כך המנהל של ״העולם הזה״ היגר למכסיקו, הוא פתח שם "העולם הזה" בספרדית שנקרא "אסיאס", גם התקפל אחרי כמה זמן. ואז הוצאנו עיתון ערבי. עם העיתון הערבי היו לי צרות. הרכבתי מערכת טובה עם המשורר סמיח אל קאסם, משורר רציני, בתור עורך. והופיע עיתון ערבי, עד שיום אחד מישהו אמר לי: "תגיד לי, 'העולם הזה' בערבית זה עיתון שלך או של מק"י, או רק"ח?" לאט-לאט כל המערכת הייתה קומוניסטית ועשו בו מה שהם רוצים והעיתון קיבל תכנים. אז פיטרתי אותם כמובן, ואיזה יהודי עיראקי שעבד אתנו, גלעדי, קיבל על עצמו בקבלנות להוציא את העיתון, גם לערוך אותו. ברמה הרבה יותר נמוכה, אבל הוא נפוץ בעולם הערבי, מפני שפעם בשבוע או פעם ביום, לא זוכר, בגשר אלנבי, אחרי מלחמת ששת הימים היו נפגשים קצינים ישראלים וקצינים ירדנים והיו מתחלפים בעיתונים: כל העיתונים העבריים נמסרו לירדנים, כל העיתונים הערבים נמסרו לקצינים. וככה כעבור הרבה שנים, סיפר לי יאסר ערפאת שהוא קרא "העולם הזה" כל שבוע ולכן הוא הכיר אותי, דבר שדי הפתיע אותי. אבל גם העיתון הזה התדרדר. אמרו לי אנשים שהערבית לא ברמה רצינית והפסדנו עליו הרבה כסף אז בסוף גם סגרתי אותו.‏

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: Aalm al Hadjeh, Aseas, Maki, Rakah, Black September, War of Attrition, Yasser Arafat, Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa, Naeim Giladi, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Abdel Hakim Amer, Samih al-Qasim

Duration: 4 minutes, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 11 May 2017