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As one door closes another opens


Facing bankruptcy
Uri Avnery Social activist
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I have a problem with debt. I had a father who believed in people and could not refuse if a friend came to him and said: 'Please be my guarantor', and because he didn't like to say 'no', he would agree. As a result, all his life he paid the debts of others. And I swore that I would never in my life sign on a guarantee, even if the person closest to me comes, I will not sign on a guarantee. When HaOlam HaZeh began to sink into debt and needed loans from banks, the banks demanded the signature of the owners, of the editor and the owners said: 'Do not agree'. And then something rather strange happened, perhaps it was even unique in Israel: the banks trusted me. HaOlam HaZeh sank into serious debts without my guarantee. But we reached a point where it was impossible to continue, and there were huge debts. I felt − particularly because I had not signed − I felt a sense of moral responsibility, and at the end there really was no other choice. It was a problem to declare bankruptcy and close the newspaper. Bankruptcy meant that all the creditors of HaOlam HaZeh were left without money, including − and especially − all the employees for whom we had stopped depositing money into their compensation fund because there was no money – which, by the way, was a criminal offense. So I either had to close, which I really did not want to do, but, in terms of my personal honor, that was the right thing to do or I could sell. Who would buy HaOlam HaZeh? Anyone who came to mind. I went in despair to Yediot Aharonot, Maariv, all sorts of people on the political left, no one wanted it. Eventually I was told that friends of Arik Sharon wanted to buy it. Among the most suitable friends was Arie Ganger, a financier born in Israel who emigrated to New York, was a close associate of Meshulam Riklis and was a multimillionaire. I had to grapple long and hard with this disaster of bankruptcy, and with the sale of the paper to Arik's friend, which actually meant to Arik. I struggled, I struggled, I struggled and decided in the end to go with the least honorable but most practical solution − to sell HaOlam HaZeh to Ganger.

לי יש בעיה עם חובות. היה לי אבא שהאמין לבני אדם ושלא יכול היה להגיד "לא" וכשבא ידיד ואמר: "בוא תחתום לי על ערבות" לא היה נעים לו להגיד "לא" והוא חתם. כתוצאה מכך כל החיים שלו הוא שילם חובות של אחרים. ואני נשבעתי: "בחיים שלי אני לא חותם על ערבות, יבוא האדם הכי הכי קרוב אלי, לא חותם על ערבות”. וכש"העולם הזה" התחיל לשקוע בחובות והיה זקוק להלוואות מבנקים, הבנקים דרשו חתימה של הבעלים, של העורך, והבעלים אמר "לא מסכים”. ואז קרה דבר די מוזר, אולי יחיד במינו בארץ: הבנקים האמינו לי. ו״העולם הזה״ שקע בחובות די רציניים בלי הערבות שלי. אבל הגיע למצב שאי אפשר היה יותר לשאת, היו חובות מאוד כבדים. אני הרגשתי, דווקא מפני שלא חתמתי על ערבות הרגשתי אחריות מוסרית מאוד קשה, ובסוף באמת לא הייתה ברירה. הייתה בעייה להכריז על פשיטת ולסגור את העיתון. פשיטת רגל פירושו של דבר שכל בעלי החוב של "העולם הזה" היו נשארים בלי כסף, כולל ובעיקר כל העובדים של "העולם הזה" שכבר זמן מה הפסקנו להפקיד כסף בקרן הפיצויים מפני שלא היה כסף, שזה אגב הייתה עבירה פלילית. ואז או לסגור, שממש לא רציתי, אבל זה היה, מבחינת הכבוד האישי שלי זה היה הדבר הנכון לעשות, או למכור אותו. מי יקנה את "העולם הזה"? הצעתי לכל מי שבא בחשבון, אני ממש הלכתי בייאוש ל"ידיעות אחרונות", ל"מעריב", לכל מיני אנשים פוליטיים בצד השמאלי, אף אחד לא רצה. ובסוף אומרים לי שהחברים של אריק שרון רוצים לקנות את זה. בין החברים החבר הכי מתאים זה איש כספים יליד הארץ שירד לניו יורק ושמו אריה גנגר, שהיה קשור מאוד למשולם ריקליס שהוא היה מולטי מיליונר. והייתי צריך להתחבט מאוד מאוד קשה בין האסון הזה של פשיטת רגל, לבין למכור את זה לאיש של אריק, זאת אומרת למעשה לאריק. והתחבטתי, התחבטתי, התחבטתי והחלטתי בסוף על המוצא הפחות מכובד אבל יותר מעשי – למכור את זה לגנגר.‏

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, Arie Granger

Duration: 3 minutes, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 26 June 2017