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Briefing PLO leaders about Yitzhak Rabin


Sailing on the Japanese Peace Boat
Uri Avnery Social activist
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וכך מפעם לפעם באמצע, אחרי כמה שנים, באה הנה ספינת השלום היפנית, והזמינו אותי. מה זה ספינת השלום היפנית? זו אונייה גדולה, האונייה עצמה הייתה אוקראינית דווקא, הצוות היה אוקראיני, אונייה מלאה יפנים ויפניות, בעיקר צעירים, אבל גם כמה קשישים, והאונייה הפליגה מסביב לעולם, ובכל נמל שהיא עגנה העלו לאונייה כמה אנשים מקומיים באזורי סכסוך שיציגו את הסכסוך משני הצדדים. וכך הם היו פה, בקפריסין, ביוון ובכל מיני מקומות. והם רצו לקחת אותי לטוניס. הם גם עגנו בטוניס, הזמינו גם את לאה צמל, עורכת-הדין, וכמה פלסטינים, שכחתי מי, והפלגנו, הפלגה מאוד נעימה. אני נורא אוהב להפליג, מילדות. כמעט ואף פעם לא הפלגתי מפני שרחל הייתה רואה אונייה בים הייתה מקבלת מחלת-ים, כך שאף פעם לא הפלגנו יחד ותמיד טסנו, למרות שהיא גם שנאה לטוס ופחדה. וכמובן נורא נהניתי מההפלגה. הגענו לטוניס. בדרך הרגילה ביקשו מאתנו להיפגש קודם עם אבו מאזן, אני חושב שכבר הזכרתי שבכל הפגישות בטוניס תמיד ביקשו שקודם ניפגש עם אבו מאזן, נתכנן אתו תכניות ואם יש לנו תכנית מגובשת הולכים לראיס לקבל את הסכמתו. הוא היה המחליט והמחליט היחידי. וכך גם היה, היינו אצל אבו מאזן. בפעם הראשונה היינו גם עם אבו עלא, שהוא היה די אנונימי והוא שלט בכספים של אש"ף, שזה היה דבר מאוד מאוד מסובך מפני שאש"ף החזיק פקדונות בכל מיני בנקים ברחבי העולם מפוזר על שמו של ערפאת באופן פרטי בדרך כלל מפני שאש"ף היה ארגון בלתי חוקי, ורק אבו עלא וערפאת היה להם איזשהו מושג איפה הכספים האלה. והיו אלה שונאי ערפאת שתמיד האשימו אותו שהוא עושה בכסף כבתוך שלו. אבל זה היה מגוחך מפני שערפאת לא היה לו לא בית, לא דירה, כלום, חי בדרך כלל במטוסים. ולאורך הדרך נתנו הרצאות באנגלית לאה ואני, והפלסטינים מולנו, ואז העלו את "המשלוח הבא", הסכסוך הבא, ולמדנו המון ככה. אני עברתי את זה פעמיים. נסעתי אח"כ עוד הפעם מפה עד לונדון, ולמדתי על כל הסכסוכים שבעולם לעומקם.‏

Some years later, the Japanese Peace Boat came here and invited me to join them. What was this Japanese Peace Boat? This was a large ship − the ship itself was actually Ukrainian and the crew was Ukrainian – a boatload of Japanese men and Japanese women, for the most part young people, but also some elderly people, and they sailed around the world, and at each port where they anchored some local people in conflict areas were invited aboard, to present both sides of the conflict. So they were here, in Cyprus, in Greece and all over the place. And they wanted to take me to Tunis. They also docked in Tunis, and also invited the lawyer Leah Tsemel, and some Palestinians, I don't remember who, and we sailed, and the voyage was very pleasant. I always really loved sailing ever since childhood. I almost never sailed because Rachel would just see a ship at sea and she would already feel seasick, so we never sailed together and always flew, although she also hated flying and was afraid of it. I, of course, enjoyed the voyage hugely. We arrived in Tunisia. Normally they would ask us first to meet with Abu Mazen. I think I've mentioned that in all the meetings we had in Tunis, we had always been asked to meet with Abu Mazen. We would make plans with him and once we had a formal plan, we would go to the Rais to get his consent. He was the only one who made the decisions. And so it was, we were with Abu Mazen. At our first meeting, we were also with Abu Ala, who kept a very low profile and was in control of the PLO funds. This was a very, very complicated thing as the PLO had deposits in various banks scattered around the world − usually privately in Arafat's name – since it was an illegal organization, and only Abu Ala and Arafat had any idea where these funds were. There were people who hated Arafat and who always accused him of using the money for himself, but that was ridiculous because Arafat had no house, no apartment, nothing, he lived in planes normally. Along the way, we gave lectures in English − Leah Tsemel and I − to the Palestinians facing us, and then they raised the 'next shipment', the next conflict, and we learned a lot that way. I went through this twice. I went there again, from here to London, and I learned about all the conflicts around the world in depth.

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: Tunis, Leah Tsemel, Abu Mazen, Abu Ala, Yasser Arafat

Duration: 4 minutes, 1 second

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 26 June 2017