Ever since June 1967, the people living within the borders of Israel have marked the anniversary of the Six Day War. This year’s commemorations are especially significant marking the 50th anniversary of a war which ended with Israeli forces capturing East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and Sinai. To many, the result of the war was hailed as a liberation which primarily allowed Jews to once more enter the holy city of Jerusalem, but to others, the end of the war marked the beginning of a harsh and unjust occupation of lands which they had owned and cultivated for generations.
Over the ensuing decades, bitterness and resentment grew on both sides, often exploding with terrifying ferocity but with little positive effect. Palestinians continued to be banished from their ancestral homes, while the country’s population swelled as Jews left places where they were unwelcome to settle in the State of Israel. National and international opinion on the rights and wrongs of this situation polarised journalists, politicians and commentators. It was easy to demonise both sides as they fought uncompromisingly for possession of the strip of land which would guarantee their very national existence.
Of the different voices raised to champion the conflicted sides in this unresolved and, as some would say, unresolvable conflict, one of the most enduring has been that of journalist and peace activist, Uri Averny. A German-born Jew, Avnery came to Israel as a child with his parents when they escaped the persecution unleashed on Jews in Nazi Germany. His early exposure to discrimination on grounds of ethnicity made him sympathetic to the cause of the Palestinians. He espoused their concerns and supported them both as a journalist and as member of the Knesset to which he was elected twice. He, together with his wife, Rachel, went on to establish the peace movement, Gush Shalom which has been described as ‘one of Israel’s most influential peace movements’.
Towards the end of 2015, Uri Avnery agreed to record his remarkable life story for Web of Stories (https://www.webofstories.com/play/Avnery/1). He speaks about the landmark wars fought between the Israelis and the Arab nations: the War of Independence in 1948 – in which he participated as a young soldier; the Six Day War in 1967; the Yom Kippur War in 1973. He talks at length about his political activism as a member of the Knesset and about his time spent editing the weekly newspaper, HaOlam HaZeh, which became one of the platforms from which he denounced Israeli’s official policy towards the Palestinians. And he speaks about his remarkable wife, Rachel, who was by his side as they quite literally battled time and again to make the call for peace between Israelis and Palestinians heard. In the course of his political career and his activism Uri Avnery has come into contact with every major Israeli and Arab politician from David Ben-Gurion to Yasser Arafat to Benjamin Netanyahu. His truly unique experiences and life story, as recorded here on Web of Stories, merit a place in both national and international history.