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Finding my place on the political spectrum


The breakaway
Uri Avnery Social activist
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They also sent me all to kinds of youth groups to establish a cell, to try to recruit people and to establish cells. I was in Young Maccabi and I was in Zebulon. Zebulon was a marine youth movement that I really loved.  I had a white uniform with a sailor's hat and everything. Where else was I? I was in Hanoar Hatzioni − Zionist Youth. There I did one of the stupidest things in my life: I fell in love with a girl. I was already 17. In my battalion in Hanoar HaZioni there was a beautiful girl, really outgoing and friendly, and I started to court her. And to show off to her I divulged, in the strictest confidence, that I was a member of Etzel. And she went straight to the head of the nest and they conducted a kind of ceremony like they did with Dreyfus, tearing off the epaulettes and all sorts of things like that. Then World War II broke out. At the same time, Jabotinsky, our 'god,' died. Then the breakaway occurred: Stern left Etzel. Stern was, in fact, more appealing, more Israeli, less from the northern neighbourhoods. Etzel mainly focused on the southern neighbourhoods, a mixture. And war broke out. Six months after the outbreak of the war, on the eve of the invasion, Jabotinsky moved from Paris to America and in America he suddenly died, a day or two after the Nazis occupied Paris. And the breakaway erupted. It is impossible to describe what the breakaway was. When was it? 1940, which means I was 17. It is impossible to describe. Suddenly this sacred thing, this perfect thing, the Irgun – the National Military Organization − was divided. It was not just a simple breakaway. They started to slander one another terribly. 'He's a traitor, he's an informer to the British'. Until the breakaway we did not know who our officers were; we had met the commander of the company and that was it. Suddenly we started to know who Raziel was and who Stern Yair was and so forth. Our world was torn apart − it is impossible to describe the impact this had on a boy aged 17. I had to choose. My inclination was to go to Lehi which was more intellectual; there were more high school graduates there. But Stern said we needed to collaborate with the Germans. For me this idea of collaborating with the Germans, even in 1940, which was before the Holocaust, was a monstrous idea. It was not something that I could even think about it without shuddering. So I couldn't go with Stern. I withdrew entirely. We set up an independent unit; however, after a few months, I went back to the Irgun − but it was not the same. The spell had been broken.  

גם שלחו אותי לכל מיני תנועות נוער, להקים תאים, לנסות לגייס אנשים ולהקים תאים. הייתי ב"מכבי הצעיר", הייתי ב”זבולון". "זבולון" הייתה תנועת נוער ימית שנורא אהבתי אותה, היו לי מדים לבנים עם כובע של מלחים והכל. איפה עוד הייתי? הייתי ב"נוער הציוני”. ב"נוער הציוני" עשיתי את אחד הדברים הכי טיפשיים בחיים שלי: התאהבתי בבחורה. הייתי כבר בן 17. בפלוגה שלי ב"נוער הציוני" הייתה בחורה יפה, חברה'מנית כזאת והתחלתי לחזר אחריה. ובשביל להשוויץ בפניה גיליתי לה בסודי-סודות שאני חבר אצ”ל. והיא הלכה ישר לראש הקן ועשו לי איזה מין טקס כמו דרייפוס עם הורדת הכותפות וכל הדברים האלה. אחר-כך פרצה מלחמת העולם. אחר-כך מת ה"אלוהים" שלנו, ז’בוטינסקי. ואז היה הפילוג: שטרן פרש מאצ"ל, שטרן היה יותר מושך, למען האמת, יותר ישראלי, פחות משכונות הצפון. אצ"ל היה בעיקר שכונות הדרום, מעורב. ופרצה המלחמה, חצי שנה אחרי פרוץ המלחמה, ערב הפלישה ז'בוטינסקי עבר מפריז לאמריקה ובאמריקה הוא פתאום מת, יום או יומיים אחרי שהנאצים כבשו את פריז, ופרץ הפילוג. פילוג אי-אפשר לתאר מה זה היה. מתי זה היה? ב-40', זאת אומרת שהייתי בן 17, אי-אפשר לתאר. פתאום הדבר הקדוש הזה, המושלם הזה, ה"ארגון הצבאי הלאומי", התפלג. זה לא היה סתם פילוג. התחילו להשמיץ אחד את השני השמצות איומות. "זה בוגד, זה מלשין אנגלי"; עד לפילוג לא ידענו בכלל מי המפקדים שלנו, הכרנו את מפקד הפלוגה וזהו. פתאום התחלנו להכיר מי זה רזיאל ומי זה שטרן, יאיר, וכוליי. נשבר עולם, זה היה בשביל נער בגיל 17 אי-אפשר לתאר את ההשפעה. הייתי צריך לבחור. הנטייה שלי הייתה ללכת ללח"י שהיה יותר אינטלקטואלי, כאילו היו יותר אנשי גימנסיה. אבל שטרן אמר שצריכים לשתף פעולה עם הגרמנים. בשבילי הרעיון הזה לשתף פעולה עם הגרמנים, אפילו ב-40', זה עוד היה לפני השואה, זה היה מפלצתי, זה בכלל דבר שלא יכולתי אפילו לחשוב עליו מבלי להתפלץ. אז עם שטרן לא יכולתי ללכת. פרשתי בכלל. הקמנו איזה יחידה עצמאית, אבל אחרי כמה חודשים חזרתי לאצ"ל אבל זה כבר לא היה אותו הדבר. הקסם נשבר.

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: Zebulon, Etzel, Maccabi youth movement, Hanoar Hatzioni, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Avraham Stern, David Raziel

Duration: 4 minutes, 28 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017