Avraham Burg

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Avraham Burg
Avraham Burg by David Shankbone.jpg
Date of birth (1955-01-19) 19 January 1955 (age 59)
Place of birth Jerusalem
Knessets 12, 13, 15, 16
Party represented in Knesset
1988–1991 Alignment
1992–1995 Labor Party
1999–2001 One Israel
2001–2004 Labor Party
Other roles
1999–2003 Speaker of the Knesset

Avraham "Avrum" Burg (Hebrew: אברהם בורג‎, born 19 January 1955) is an Israeli author and politician; he was formerly a member of the Knesset, a chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and a Speaker of the Knesset.

Biography[edit]

Burg was born and raised in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood. His father was Yosef Burg, a German-born Israeli politician and long-time government minister for the National Religious Party. His mother Rivka (née Slonim), was born in Hebron and survived the 1929 Hebron massacre.[1]

In the Israel Defense Forces, Burg served as a lieutenant in the paratroopers brigade. He graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a degree in the social sciences.

Burg is married to Yael and lives in Nataf, a rural community on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Burg and his wife have six children.[2]

Political career[edit]

Burg was an activist in left-wing organizations and the Peace Now movement. He was injured in the grenade attack on a Peace Now demonstration in Jerusalem in February 1983, which killed Emil Grunzweig.[3] In 1985, he served as advisor on Diaspora affairs to Prime Minister Shimon Peres. In 1988, he was elected to the Knesset as a member of the Alignment.

In 1992, when the Alignment merged with the Labor Party, he was reelected to Knesset. In 1995, he was appointed Chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization, and resigned from the Knesset. As head of the Jewish Agency, he worked to recover Jewish property lost during the Holocaust, and in the transfer of approximately half a million predominantly Jewish citizens from the Commonwealth of Independent States (the former Soviet Union) to Israel. After his term as chairman of the Jewish Agency, Burg continued to use a car and driver provided by the agency for 10 years.[4][5] When this was cut due to budgetary constraints, he sued to continue to receive these benefits, but lost the court case, with the judge saying, "Burg didn't explain the fact that he also uses the car for his own personal business."[6]

In 1999, Burg returned to domestic politics, and was elected to the Knesset on Ehud Barak's One Israel list (an alliance of Labor, Meimad and Gesher). Burg was elected Speaker of the Knesset, a position he held until early 2003. In his capacity as speaker of the Knesset he served as interim President of Israel for 20 days, from 12 July until 1 August 2000 when the presidency was vacant following Ezer Weizman's resignation. Following Barak's defeat in the 2001 election for Prime Minister and his subsequent resignation, Burg ran for the Labor Party leadership, and won under amid accusations of voter fraud. In a revote he lost to Benyamin Ben-Eliezer. Burg called for cancellation of this second vote, a move supported by Labor Party chairman Ra'anan Cohen.[7] Nevertheless, Burg retained his seat in the Knesset in the 2003 elections.

In October 2003, Burg published an article in the British newspaper The Guardian named 'The end of Zionism' calling for a withdrawal from the West Bank.[8]

Also in 2003, Burg published an article in Yedioth Ahronoth in which he declared, "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 centers of Israeli escapism."[9]

After retirement from political life[edit]

In 2004, Burg resigned from the Knesset and public life. In 2007, a Burg-led consortium won the rights to purchase Ashot Ashkelon Industries, but the sale was cancelled by the Israeli government. Burg's attorney said that if it was cancelled since the government wanted to sell it together with Israel Military Industries (IMI), then "we may bid for IMI." There had also been a review by the State Comptroller and the Israeli Police "into suspicions that [Burg] was a straw-man for Ian Nigel Davis and Aviv Algor. (Davis and Algor have been indicted in a securities case, on charges of fraudulently obtaining the approval of Middle East Tube Ltd. shareholders for a NIS 250,000 monthly management fee.)" The prosecutor closed the file against Burg for lack of evidence.[10]

Burg has lectured at international events and served on the board of directors of Vita Pri Hagalil.[11] Burg was embroiled in a controversy over an "alleged missing 270,000,000 New Israel Shekels," money lent to Vita Pri Hagalil. Burg referred to the banks involved as being "hypocritical" since, according to Burg, the banks had received substantial interest payments on the loan. However, a senior banker questioned this, saying "had the owners demonstrated serious intent to use the capital injection to rescue the company, there's no question that we'd contribute to the rescue effort. The owners' abandonment of responsibility is what forced us to ask for the appointment of a receiver. We had no choice."[12]

In 2007, Burg published a book called "Defeating Hitler", in which he claimed that Israeli society is fascist and violent, due to continuing trauma over the Holocaust.[13]

In an interview in Haaretz in June 2007, Burg suggested abolishing the Law of Return and stated that "to define the State of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end. A Jewish state is explosive. It's dynamite." He also called on all Israelis who could to obtain foreign citizenship. Burg himself had acquired French citizenship in 2004, as part of his campaign in Israel calling "on everyone who can to obtain a foreign passport."[14] In response to public criticism of the interview, however, he published a retraction, recommending that Israel be defined not as a "Jewish State" but as a "State of the Jews."[15][16]

In April 2008, Burg signed a letter of support for the recently created J Street American pro-peace lobby group.[17] On 14 November 2008, he joined a new left-wing movement intending to support the Meretz-Yachad party in the 2009 national elections.[18]

In April 2009, Burg participated in the Doha Debates at Georgetown University in Washington DC, where he debated for the motion "this house believes that it is time for the US to get tough on Israel" with fellow speaker Michael Scheuer, former Chief of the CIA Bin Laden Issue Station. Speakers against the motion were Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. Burg and Scheuer won the vote on the debate, with 63% of the audience voting for the motion.[19]

In 2011, Burg wrote an op-ed in Haaretz, claiming that there was a reasonable chance of a one-state solution coming to pass. On the possibility of one state, he wrote that " It is likely to be a country with nationalist, racist and religious discrimination and one that is patently not democratic, like the one that exists today. But it could be something entirely different. An entity with a common basis for at least three players: an ideological right that is prepared to examine its feasibility; a left, part of which is starting to free itself of the illusions of "Jewish and democratic"; and a not inconsiderable part of the Palestinian intelligentsia. The conceptual framework will be agreed upon - a democratic state that belongs to all of its citizens. The practicable substance could be fertile ground for arguments and creativity. This is an opportunity worth taking, despite our grand experience of missing every opportunity and accusing everyone else except ourselves".[20]

In 2012, Burg endorsed a boycott of Israeli settlement products, and said that he personally boycotts all products produced in the settlements and does not cross the Green Line. He also called Israel "the last colonial occupier in the Western world".[21]

In 2012, Burg became a senior fellow of Molad – The Center for Renewal of Democracy, a "new think tank committed to leftist renewal." According to an article in Haaretz, "the center is funded by left-liberal foundations and groups from the U.S. associated with the Democratic party."[22]

In early December 2013 he confirmed the existence of Israel's nuclear weapons during a speech at a conference aimed at de-nuclearising the Middle East. He stated that national policy of neither confirming or denying the existence of such weapons as "outdated and childish". In response, The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, an Israeli political group, demanded an investigation into his statements, deeming the content as treasonous.[23][24]

Published works[edit]

  • Brit Am: A Covenant of the People, Proposed Policy Guidelines for the National Institutions of the Jewish People, (1995), Jewish Agency for Israel
  • God is Back (2006) (Hebrew)[25]
  • Defeating Hitler (2007) Yedioth Ahronoth (Hebrew)
  • The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise From its Ashes (2008) MacMillan.com, (English)

References[edit]

  1. ^ 'The Forsaken Promise'
  2. ^ Resources and Articles by Avraham Burg[dead link]
  3. ^ "Avraham Burg, MK". Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 26 February 2003. 
  4. ^ The apple that fell far from the tree
  5. ^ The strange voyage of Avraham Burg
  6. ^ Court Decision: Burg to Relinquish Car and Driver in Hebrew
  7. ^ Burg Calls for Repeat of Labor Party Primaries. Israel National News. Retrieved on 2014-01-15.
  8. ^ The end of Zionism The Guardian, 15 September 2003
  9. ^ Letters from Jerusalem: The Apostate The New Yorker, 30 July 2007
  10. ^ Ashot Ashkelon sale cancelled
  11. ^ Bior, Haim (26 February 2009). "Avraham Burg 'confident' Pri Hagalil won't close". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 2012-07-22. 
  12. ^ Avraham Burg, banks spar over NIS 270m
  13. ^ Burg: Israeli fascism result of Shoah trauma
  14. ^ Shavit, Ari (7 June 2007). "Burg: Defining Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end". Haaretz. 
  15. ^ "Avraham Burg's New Zionism," Editor's Notebook By J.J. Goldberg, Forward: The Jewish Daily (Published 13 June 2007, issue of Friday, 15 June 2007). Retrieved 2010-07-18
  16. ^ Another way of understanding my book Avraham Burg's blog on TheMarker
  17. ^ Silverstein, Richard (15 April 2008). "New Kid on the Block". London: Guardian. Archived from the original on 20 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-30. 
  18. ^ "New movement to back Meretz for Knesset unveiled". Jerusalem Post. 14 November 2008. 
  19. ^ "This House believes it's time for the US to get tough on Israel – Transcript". The Doha Debates. 25 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-07. 
  20. ^ Now it's your turn. Avraham Burg. Haaretz op-ed
  21. ^ Even I Think Israeli Settlement Goods are not Kosher. Avraham Burg, The Independent
  22. ^ Reviving the Israeli left is a ten year project, says think tank
  23. ^ Fiske, Gavriel (2013-12-08). Avraham Burg panned for breaking ‘nuclear ambiguity’. Times of Israel. Retrieved on 2014-01-16.
  24. ^ Borger, Julian (2014-01-15). The truth about Israel's secret nuclear arsenal. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2014-01-16.
  25. ^ http://www.agenciariff.com.br/clientes/catalogos/Deborah%20Harris%20Agency/Deborah%20Harris,%20Autumn%202007%20Catalogue%20Final.doc[dead link]

External links[edit]