Israeli activist, journalist, and former member of Israel’s Knesset who founded Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), one of Israel’s most influential peace organizations.
Uri Avnery, tireless activist, legislator, and journalist, was born in Beckum, Germany, in 1923 and immigrated to Palestine at the age of ten with his family. Avnery was one of the first Israelis to establish contacts with PLO representatives. In 1993, together with his wife Rachel, he founded Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), one of Israel’s most influential peace organizations.
In 1938, Avnery joined the Irgun underground in order to take part in the fight against British colonialism. He became disillusioned with the group’s tactics and left it in 1942 in opposition to terrorism and anti-Arab ideology. He also served as an Israeli Defense Force commando in the 1948 war.
Having developed journalistic skills during the war, he worked at the Ha'aretz newspaper, which he left because he could not voice his opinion on key issues, including opposition to expropriation of Arab lands. For the next forty years, he was the publisher and editor of Israel’s now-defunct newsweekly, Haolam Hazeh, which was one of Israel’s leading alternative-media publications.
He served three terms in Israel’s Knesset, where he became known as one of its leading parliamentarians. Avnery became well-known for meeting with Yasser Arafat during the "Battle of Beirut" during the war in Lebanon in July 1982.
Since its founding in 1993, Gush Shalom has called for creating a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, releasing all Palestinian political prisoners, dismantling all Israeli settlements, and recognizing Jerusalem as the joint capital of both states.
Since its creation, Gush Shalom has organized hundreds of demonstrations, many in conjunction with Palestinian activists. Other actions have included an ongoing boycott of the products of the settlements and the issuing of a manifesto, "Our Jerusalem," which was written by Avnery. It calls for the recognition of Jerusalem as the joint capital of the two states: Israel and Palestine.
In 2001, Gush Shalom and Rachel and Uri Avnery received the prestigious international The Right Livelihood Award, "for their unwavering conviction—in the most difficult circumstances—that peace and an end to terrorism can only be achieved through justice and reconciliation."
"Ours is but a small part in a worldwide struggle for peace, justice and equality between human beings and between nations, for the preservation of our planet," Avnery says. "It can all be summed up in one word, which both in Hebrew and in Arabic means not only peace, but also wholeness, security, and well-being: Shalom, Salaam."
For more information about Gush Shalom, please see www.gush-shalom.org.