Avraham Burg isn’t giving an inch.
In a scathing op-ed in the New York Times on August 4, Burg lacerates Israel, its “warmongering” prime minister and its unconscionable treatment of the Palestinians.
Burg is an unusual character. Back in 2008, the Times profiled Burg as a critic of Israel whose pedigree, at the very least, is unexpected: he’s the scion of an old-line ultra-religious Zionist clan, and he served as speaker of Israel’s Knesset and as chairman of the World Zionist Organization. His father, Yosef Burg, was one of the chieftains of the old National Religious Party, which was a long-time member of Israel’s ruling coalition. But, as he told the Times in 2008:
“I realized something about myself and Israel that frightened me. I realized that Israel had become an efficient kingdom with no prophecy. Where was it going? What is a Jewish democratic state? What does it mean that Jews define themselves by genetics 60 years after genetics were used against them?”
So he wrote a book called The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From Its Ashes. Among other things, he’s suggested that Israel dismantle the memorial of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem, which serves as a prime stop for every American politician who visit Israel—as if, somehow, what the Germans did to European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s justifies what Jews from Morocco, Russia and Iran do to Arab Palestinians today.
In his op-ed, Burg slams Mitt Romney for his callous anti-Iran rhetoric while seeking to profit from snuggling up to Benjamin Netanyahu:
When an American presidential candidate visits Israel and his key message is to encourage us to pursue a misguided war with Iran, declaring it “a solemn duty and a moral imperative” for America to stand with our warmongering prime minister, we know that something profound and basic has changed in the relationship between Israel and the United States.
And he provides a chilling warning about racism, intolerance and religious fanaticism in Israel today:
The winds of isolation and narrowness are blowing through Israel. Rude and arrogant power brokers, some of whom hold senior positions in government, exclude non-Jews from Israeli public spaces. Graffiti in the streets demonstrates their hidden dreams: a pure Israel with “no Arabs” and “no gentiles.” They do not notice what their exclusionary ideas are doing to Israel, to Judaism and to Jews in the diaspora. In the absence of a binding constitution, Israel has no real protection for its minorities or for their freedom of worship and expression.
Of course, Burg is regularly slammed by right-wing Israelis, by neoconservatives, by Zionist traditionalists and others, as the following commentary in Commentary, published August 5, indicates:
You might think that even the New York Times would get tired of publishing rants from failed Israeli politicians denouncing not only their nation’s current government but also the entire society that had rejected them. But apparently the newspaper’s appetite for such tirades is undiminished as the publication of Avraham Burg’s in the Times’ Sunday edition today proved.…
Burg, who is the scion of a famous family and was once thought to be a man with an unlimited political future, seems to despise his country these days. Though he attempts to wax lyrical about trends in its society, the main reason he thinks Israel is no longer a democracy is that Israel’s electorate has consistently rejected his views about the peace process as well his own hopes for high office. This has caused him to question not only their judgment but the entire ideological edifice on which the country rests. His egotism is pathetic.
In recent years, he has become increasingly isolated as an anti-Israel, anti-Zionist crank who blinds himself to existential dangers faced by his country from the likes of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, and instead unleashes a flood of blame-Israel screeds.
One commentator, in The Algemeiner, somehow ignoring the hundreds of op-eds published by the New York Times by Zionists, including probably every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir, says this:
Given Burg’s vehement anti-Zionism, it is hardly surprising that he should find a welcoming home in The New York Times (August 5).
Has the Times become a bastion of “vehement anti-Zionism”? We should be so lucky.