Post-Zionist Avram Burg claims he is a Zionist – and defends settlements boycott

End Israeli occupation of Arab land!

Avram Burg has written an opinion article in today’s Independent where he makes the absurd claim that even he, a Zionist, supports a settlement boycott.

In order to understand the absurdity of Burg’s claim, one first has to understand Burg himself. The short bio at the end of his article correctly states that “Avraham Burg was Speaker of the Knesset (1999-2003) and Chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization“. However, these illustrious titles do not give anywhere near the full picture.

Back in 2007, Burg said that “Defining Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end“.  This is possibly the strangest statement that any Israeli official, never mind a former Knesset Speaker and Chairman of the Jewish Agency and WZO, could make. Read some of his other “Zionist” observations here:

Avraham Burg, former Knesset speaker and former head of the Jewish Agency says “to define the State of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end. A Jewish state is explosive. It’s dynamite.” In an interview in Haaretz Weekend Magazine, he said that he is in favor of abrogating the Law of Return and calls on everyone who can to obtain a foreign passport.

Burg, who was interviewed on the occasion of the publication of his book “Defeating Hitler” said “the strategic mistake of Zionism was to annul the alternatives. Israeliness has only body; it doesn’t have soul.”

Oh, where does this concerned Israeli “Zionist” live now?

“Judaism always prepared alternatives,” says Burg, who three years after leaving Israeli politics is now a citizen of France and a successful businessman.

Isi Leibler took Burg to task for his dangerous views after Burg published his book “Hitler’s Victory”.

…the Hebrew version of Burg’s book caused barely a ripple, for the simple reason that most Israelis simply wrote him off. His tirades against his country and nation were so primitive and offensive that Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit roasted him, alleging that his book reeked of “loathing of Israeliness.” Even Burg’s leftist allies like Yossi Beilin dissociated themselves from him.

However, this English edition will doubtlessly embolden Diaspora Jews already engaged in anti-Israel campaigns. And it is significant that in contrast to their Israeli counterparts, radical American Jewish critics of Israel like J Street proudly identify themselves with Burg. It is also disconcerting to observe the favorable coverage Burg’s book is receiving in some trendy Jewish media publications, which treat his defamatory musings as serious contributions worthy of discussion.

FOES OF Israel seeking a Jewish imprimatur to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state will be able to find what they are looking for in this diatribe. More importantly, they will not just be quoting another post-Zionist hack. Burg is the scion of one of Israel’s most renowned religious Zionist families, a son of the late revered Dr. Yosef Burg, who headed the National Religious Party for many years. His mother’s family was butchered during the 1929 pogrom in Hebron. More importantly, Burg was a former speaker of the Knesset, as well as former chairman of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization.

The British site Engage, who monitor racist antisemitism, also excoriated Burg for another Haaretz article of his:

Former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg has written an article of a Eurocentric bent to the effect that antisemitism shouldn’t any longer be thought of as racism against Jews but as a bad-faith accusation made by Israel’s advocates against honest critics of Israel. He argues that for Jews to give any particular attention to antisemitism is both right wing and falls short of the kind of Jewishness to which he aspires.

So now that you have the general picture of Avram Burg’s post-Zionism, if not outright anti-Zionism, you will understand my intense discomfort (to put it mildly!) at the Independent article he wrote today. I am doubly discomfited by the fact that he chose to write davka in one of the more anti-Israel media outlets, rather than an Israeli newspaper or any other more neutral media.

Let’s take his arguments one by one:

Amid the darkness surrounding the Middle East peace process, we now see a ray of light. Since 2009, the United Kingdom has been taking measures, in accordance with European consumer protection rules, to ensure that settlement products – goods you might find on your supermarket shelves that have been produced in the occupied Palestinian territories – are no longer labelled as “made in Israel”.

After a meeting of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers last month, several European member states now appear ready to follow the British initiative. …

Contrary to what you may think, EU member states which take these measures act in Israel’s interest.

This tough love “this will hurt me more than it will hurt you” attitude is intensely condescending and patronising towards a sovereign state.  As if they know better than us what is good for us.

Burg goes on to contradict himself twice before breakfast, in consecutive paragraphs no less.

They do so because they take steps that defend and reinforce the Green Line, the pre-1967 border between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Green Line is of decisive importance to achieving Middle East peace. It is the line that was drawn in green pencil on the maps that were on the table at the time of the cease-fire agreements between Israel and the Arab states, signed in 1949. Regrettably, this line survived only until the 1967 war.

Is the Green Line the border between Israel and the Palestinian territories or is it the pencil-drawn ceasefire line? He also does not give any logical reason why it is “regrettable” that the ceasefire line only survived until 1967. The line was never an internationally recognized border, so what is so holy about it that it should not be moved as a result of a defensive war?  He makes no mention of Abba Eban’s accurate description of pre-1967 Israel’s effective borders as “something of a memory of Auschwitz”, commonly summarized as “Auschwitz borders”.

During this war, Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ever since, efforts of consecutive Israeli governments to blur this line and, ultimately, to erase it have not ceased.

This is nonsense and Burg knows it. How would he describe the evacuation of Gush Katif in Gaza, the northern Shomron settlements, Migron and now Givat HaUlpana? “Blurring the Green Line”? How would marking it in thick felt pen look?  Burg makes no mention of the ceaseless offers to the Palestinians of land withdrawal by Israeli governments from both sides of the political spectrum – offers which have all been rejected.

[..]

The large-scale and expansionist settlement enterprise erodes the Green Line every day. Residential communities, now housing more than 500,000 settlers, were established within occupied Palestinian territory in order to make us forget the Green Line’s existence and prevent the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. It should long have been clear to every Israeli that anything located inside the Green Line is the democratic, legal, normative Israel, and anything beyond the line is something else: undemocratic, illegal, not normative. Not ours.

Burg gives no legal or historical background to any of his outrageous claims. First of all, the “large-scale and expansionist settlement enterprise” takes up no more than about 2% of the entire West Bank. Not very successfully expansionist for 45 years’ work.  Secondly, by putting the settlers’ numbers at 500,000 (Halevai! If only!), he is obviously counting the residents of Jerusalem neighbourhoods. Every Israeli, and every diplomat involved in the “peace process” knows that Jerusalem has been annexed by Israel, and is not up for negotiation. It never was Palestinian, and it never will be. He claims it is “Not ours”. Wrong. It most definitely is ours, and is nobody else’s.

As for the rest of the “West Bank”, that territory is part of what should have become the Jewish homeland according to the San Remo declaration of 1922. The fact that the Jordanians invaded in 1948 and captured the territory is irrelevant. That occupation was recognized by no one besides perfidious Britain, Iraq and Pakistan.

Does Burg deny the existence of the Gush Etzion bloc which was overrun and destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948? If  the Palestinian’s can reclaim all that Israel captured in 1967, shouldn’t the favour be returned and Israel be allowed to reclaim the land it lost in 1948?  Does Burg deny the existence of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem which stood for hundreds of years until the Jewish residents were ethnically cleansed by exile and murder in 1948, its 58 synagogues blown up and the ancient cemetery on the Mount of Olives desecrated?  Again, if the Palestinians can claim a return to their land, are the Jews not to be allowed the same?

Apparently not, for ethnic cleansing only works one way for post-Zionists and anti-Zionists.

Israel recaptured these territories, lost in 1948 to the Jordanians and Egyptians – not Palestinians -  in 1967, and it returned to its rightful owners.  Burg does not explain who were the sovereign owners of the West Bank or Jerusalem before 1967. What was its currency, its capital, what passports did its residents carry? The only Palestinian passports ever issued were to the Jewish residents of “Palestine”.

[...]  This is precisely the situation in which civilised societies urgently need feedback and intervention from the outside: to mirror the absurdity of the situation created and to focus attention on the damage of human and political blindness. To tell Israel that it is impossible to be treated as “the only democracy in the Middle East”, while it is also the last colonial occupier in the Western world.

This paragraph is so risible that it almost comes across as Marxist parody. Burg has not heard of the Russian occupation of the Kiril Islands, the British occupation of dozens of territories worldwide, the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus, the multinational occupation of Kurdistan… would someone please buy Burg a geography and history book?

It is not anti-Semitic and not anti-Israel to convey these messages. On the contrary: the settlers, the conquerors and their political allies – including Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel – are the real enemies of Israel’s future.

It is indeed anti-Semitic because Israel is the only country singled out for such treatment. This fits in perfectly with Natan Sharansky’s 3D test for double standards on Israel.

The first “D” is the test of demonization

The second “D” is the test of double standards

The third “D” is the test of delegitimization:

Burg goes on to sanctimoniously declare:

I have decided to not buy any product that comes from the settlements. I do not cross the Green Line, not to promote public causes and not for family events. Because everything happening across the Green Line is the dark alter ego of Israel. Its hidden personality is manifest there. Evil, aggressive and impenetrable. This personality threatens to take over the good and humane parts of the legitimate Israel. With international help, we must return these demons to their bottles, or rather to those positive domains for which this state was established.

The demonisation in these sentences are not even subtle. The sinister descriptions of dark forces echo similar sentiments written in hostile journals in the 1930s about the Jews in general. Burg may not feel this is antisemitic, but his words could have been written by the best (or worst) of them.

Contrary to what you may be told, this is not a sweeping boycott of Israel, but a subtle and moral distinction that marks the difference between Israel’s great potential and its destructive capabilities.

How would Burg boycott a product grown in the West Bank, packed in “mainland” Israel and marketed through a company based in Tel Aviv with a branch in Ariel? Or vice versa, how would he boycott a product produced in Tel Aviv but marketed via Gush Etzion? And if the company is based in Jerusalem, does he have a street map showing the Green Line and the Jordanian built wall and no-man’s land? What about if the Green Line runs through a particular house? Would he ask to inspect the bedrooms?

If, God forbid, the Green Line will be permanently erased, from consciousness and from the ground, then Israel will also be erased. The struggle for the preservation of the Green Line is the struggle for Israel. Anyone who defends and reinforces it is a friend of Israel and keeps hope alive.

Utter nonsense! If the cease-fire had taken place a day earlier or a day later, the green line would have lain somewhere else. There is nothing holy or internationally binding about a ceasefire line that has never been recognized by any of the parties. A 9-mile wide Israel is not a defensible Israel, and anyone defending those Auschwitz borders is no friend of Israel.

Avram Burg is a post-Zionist; he should proudly lay claim to that title to which he is entitled through his writings and observations. He should not try to take cover under claims to be a Zionist in order to give credence to his profoundly inimical views.

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21 Responses to Post-Zionist Avram Burg claims he is a Zionist – and defends settlements boycott

  1. normanf says:

    Avram Burg turned into the “wicked son” the opposite of his renowned national religious father Yosef Burg. His journey took him from post-Zionism to anti-Zionism. Its hard to believe such a man was once chairman of the Jewish Agency and Speaker Of The Knesset. He is very clear Israel should disappear. The rest of it is more or less window dressing on his very extremist anti-Israel views.

    • anneinpt says:

      Yes, I quite agree. Even at the time when he was appointed first Speaker, and then chairman of the JA, there was outrage and astonishment, because even then his anti-Zionist views were quite open. He must have been a huge disappointment to his renowned father.

      I wonder if some pop-psychology wouldn’t put his attitudes down to a rebellion against his father.

  2. Rob Harris says:

    Thanks Anne! Avram Burg is using the by now rather tired Beinart’s strategy of saying “I am a friend of Israel, its truest friend unlike mean old Bibi” to try to give credence to his hateful views. He is likely aware of the fact that many pro-Palestinians quote him due to his being an Israeli and his past in the Jewish agency etc. It is that all too common propagandistic practice those that hate Israel adopt, and a neat way of deflecting concerns about anti-Semitism.

    BTW one pro-Pal individual from the UK quoted me a piece by this reputedly… “distinguished Israeli” not too long ago http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/06/opinion/06iht-edburg_ed3_.html?pagewanted=all which stuck in my mind for its awe inspiring stupidity, hatred, and dishonesty, e.g.

    “Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centres of Israeli escapism. They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture. They spill their own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated… Note this moment well: Zionism’s superstructure is already collapsing like a cheap Jerusalem wedding hall.”

    Amusing the claim that Israel is latterly responsible for Palestinian terrorism, when his mother’s family were murdered in the 1929 pogrom. Note the callous way in which he refers to the deaths as a result of the restaurant suicide bombers (“in order to ruin our appetites”), and the deaths of people at the wedding, which were then big contemporary events at the time of the article.

    • anneinpt says:

      Oh my goodness, I’d forgotten all about that article! And look when it was written – way back in 2003, at the height of the intifada, when Israelis were being murdered by their hundreds every month. What a revolting piece of work he is.

      And yes, as you note, Burg’s maternal family was murdered in 1929, yet somehow the Israelis didn’t turn into suicide bombers.

      He makes me sick.

      And by penning these pieces he lends credence to the anti-Israel extremists who can claim, “Look, even an Israeli says these things”.

      As you so accurately say: awe inspiring stupidity, hatred, and dishonesty indeed.

      • Rob Harris says:

        Thanks Anne! BTW Issi Liebler’s article, which Anne quotes in her post, notes that Burg was a corrupt politician who tried to win the leadership of the Israeli Labor party by slight of hand, and was forced to resign in a highly publicised case of voter fraud. However, in this sympathetic piece to Bury (in the NYT of course) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/20/world/middleeast/20burg.html?pagewanted=all it says “Mr. Burg pointed to a process that began in 2001 when he ran for leadership of the Labor Party and lost in a tight race that he says was stolen from him through back-room deals.”

        Um… if anyone was doing “back-room deals” it was Burg himself. I did a search of old articles a while back to see what Liebler was referring to. A few things demonstrated that Burg was obviously a very corrupt politician, who magically transformed into Israel’s conscience a year or two later:

        “Members of the Ben-Eliezer camp filed 14 charges of alleged voter fraud in polling stations in the Druze sector and called for new elections there. Supporters of Ben-Eliezer claim they have concrete evidence that party members listed as having voted actually never arrived at polling stations to cast their ballots….
        Yediot Aharonot reported that in a number of cases voter participation in certain polling stations jumped drastically despite the fact that only a few party members had arrived at the polling station. The paper quoted party activists who claimed to have seen people drop large quantities of envelopes into the ballot boxes.” http://www.israelinsider.com/channels/politics/articles/pol_0048.htm and see
        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/1339708/Dispute-over-Labour-vote-in-Israel.html

        • anneinpt says:

          Thanks for your extra research Rob. It all adds to the thesis I was trying to make, that Burg misrepresents both his own politics and his actual integrity.

  3. reality says:

    his wonderful father must be turning in his grave. After all he’s done to have a son who behaves like this is mindboggling.

  4. Paddy O'Prager says:

    Have any of your commentators ever thought that he might be a Mossad agent, and has to build
    himself up with his anti-semitic, anti-zionist publications in order to be accepted by the Muslim
    community, and thus enable him to obtain valuable info for Israel ? Please remember the
    situation of the late Eli Cohen in Syria prior to 1967 !

    Paddy

    • anneinpt says:

      Oh please, no way! Eli Cohen, להבדיל אלפי הבדלות, posed as a businessman, not as a raving Baathist member. Burg has been an anti-Zionist for years, even while he was still living in Israel, even while he was Speaker of the Knesset, even while he was Chairman of the JA and WZO. He’s much too obvious to be an undercover agent.

      Nope. He is what he presents himself as – a post-Zionist if not an anti-Zionist – even if he claims to be a Zionist.

  5. Ken Kelso says:

    There is a difference between terrorism and defense of innocents.
    Israel targets terrorists, Israeli civilian deaths are the Palestinians goal.
    Big difference
    Hamas and the PLO derive their legitimacy by killing Israeli secretaries and high schoolers.

  6. Ken Kelso says:

    Arabs CANNOT make peace with Israel. Without Israel to blame for all the death, poverty, destruction, misery and oppression across Islam, who will the Islamic people blame?
    Wait, they’ll blame the Mossad Shark, Mossad Vulture, the 4000 Jews who didn’t show up at the World Trade Center, and the new crazy Arab theory that Bugs Bunny doesn’t like Muslims.
    If only the Arab could put himself in the 21st century.
    Even the 19th century would be an improvement.

  7. Ken Kelso says:

    Israel is a democracy and has done everything in its power to bring peace and security to its citizens. If you want to look at real racist, aparthied, genocidal countries, why dont Burg look at Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Egypt. How many Jews live in these countries??? None!!! They are ethnically cleansed of Jews. How many Arabs live in Israel? 1.4 million. Facts speak louder than accusations.
    If you want to speak out against Racism Burg should criticize the Arabs aparthied policies against the Kurds, Coptics, Black Christians of Sudan, Berbers and Western Sahara.
    It seems that after 5 decades of terror and murder against Israel, the Palestinians might have realized that this campaign of terrorism and rejectionism has failed.
    We can show sympathy to Palestinians who were hurt because they were victims of their own leadership.

  8. Ken Kelso says:

    Burg’s type of people.
    73% of Palestinians Believe Jews Should Be Killed Wherever They Hide
    by Jim Hoft
    07/16/2011

  9. anneinpt says:

    Thank you for your comments Ken and welcome to my blog.

  10. Colin Stephenson says:

    A week ago Anne you welcomed me to your blog – like Moriarty & Fu Manchu I promise to return!

    As for Avrum Burg he is a has-been, one is almost tempted to say never-was. A high flyer whose hope to soar to further highs were dashed when he lost the leadership battle for the Labour party. A pity he did not hold the article a week it would have fitted so nicely with next week’s Parsha – a big bunch of sour grapes to boot!

    • anneinpt says:

      LOL Colin! Unlike Moriarty et al, I am always very happy to see you here. :-) Shavua tov to you.

      I like your tie-in to next week’s parsha, and I agree with your assessment of him.

  11. Yehuda Erdman says:

    I am somewhat shocked by the invective everyone above including the author of the post have heaped on Avraham Burg. Whilst I accept there is some truth in your various ad hominem attacks on him, I would expect some more recognition of his own achievements. Where for example some condemned his corruption in public life have you forgotten that some other Israeli politicians of the Right have also been forced to leave public life. Does anyone remember Moshe Katsav? The list is long and encompasses Israeli politicians of many parties to the extent that rational observers should question the mindset of these individuals who either think they are above the law, or that their sins will be forgiven by the public because they have served their country well in other spheres such as the army.
    What is the relevance of comparing father and son? The son is responsible for his own actions and whatever achievements Burg’s illustrious father had were in his own right. There is no hereditary principle in Israeli politics but when individuals in the past such as Chaim Weitzmann and his nephew Ezer Weitzmann both became Presidents it was on their own merit. I would argue this also applies to Menachem Begin and his son Benny so why select Avraham Burg to receive such hate?
    My advice to all of the posters above is to distinguish between polemic and narrative and to “curb your enthusiasm”.

    • anneinpt says:

      Yehuda, thank yuo for yoru comment and welcome to my blog.

      To answer some of your questions:

      You are quite right to point out the corruption that is quite prevalent unfortunately in Israel politics today. However, whereas Moshe Katzav was caught, arrested, indicted and is now serving time in prison, Burg is walking around as a free man, and smearing his country for all he’s worth.

      Yes, his father is not responsible for his son, obviously. I was using his father’s illustrious career and character purely to highlight how far his son has fallen from his father’s heights.

      You cannot compare Menachem Begin and his son Benny to Burg pere et fils. The two Begins are both similarly very correct and full of integrity, with not a whiff of corruption around either of them. Both are principled, and Benny is continuing his father’s politics, perhaps in a slightly moderated version. He has never smeared his country, not within Israel nor outside its borders, unlike Avram Burg.

      Burg is absolutely deserving of our polemic, not because he has discarded his family’s traditions (that is their own private sorrow) but because he has smeared, libelled and besmirched Israel, his homeland and his father’s homeland. And all for no reason other than for personal status or prestige, all under the guise of “caring” for the state.

  12. Rob Harris says:

    @ Yehuda Erdman: sadly there is corruption everywhere with democracy. Your agrument almost seems to be that because there is corruption, Burg shouldn’t be criticised for it. That may not be what you intended to say but it does sound like that. Burg, like anyone else should be held to account. This goes for anyone on the left or indeed the right, and I didn’t get the impression Anne criticised him for being on the left. He hasn’t been censured for whatever reason. Pointing out a person’s ethical and moral failings is especially pertinent when they grandly present themselves as the moral conscience of a nation of a given people they sought to cheat. Indeed Burg has at times presented himself as a person having held positions of some prestige when making his case, opening up the issue of personal actions.

    • anneinpt says:

      Rob, thanks for your comment. You understood my point which Yehuda seems to have missed. My issue with Burg is more his claims to be a Zionist while promoting an anti-Zionist agenda, rather than any corruption he was or was not involved in.

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