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Avraham Burg

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Abraham Burg
אברהם בורג
Burg in 2008
Faction represented in the Knesset
1992–1995Labor Party
1999–2001One Israel
2001–2004Labor Party
Other roles
1999–2003Speaker of the Knesset
2000Acting President
Personal details
Born (1955-01-19) 19 January 1955 (age 69)

Abraham "Avrum" Burg (Hebrew: אברהם בורג, romanizedAvraham Burg; born 19 January 1955) is an Israeli author, politician and businessman.[1] He was a member of the Knesset, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Speaker of the Knesset, and Interim President of Israel. He was the first Speaker of the Knesset to have been born in Israel after its declaration of independence in 1948. A member of the Labor Party when he was a member of the Knesset, Burg announced in January 2015 that he had joined Hadash.[2]

From the 2000s onwards he has expressed views described as post-Zionist, a label he self-identified with in 2011. He is in favor of Israel negotiating with Hamas, and has called to abandon Herzelian Zionism (calling it a scaffolding that should be removed) in favor of a form of Cultural Zionism, also citing the civic nationalism of France as an example to follow.[3]

Early life


He was born and raised in Jerusalem's Rehavia neighborhood. His father was Yosef Burg, a German-born Israeli politician and longtime government minister for the National Religious Party. His mother was Rivka (née Slonim) who was born in Hebron and a survivor of the 1929 Hebron massacre.[4]

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

Burg married Yael, and they had six children. He lives in Nataf, a rural community, on the outskirts of Jerusalem.[5]

Political career


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.[6] 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 became the Labor Party, he was reelected to Knesset. He served as chairman of the Education Committee.

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.[7][8] When it was cut, 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."[9]

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). Although Prime Minister Barak backed another candidate, 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 amid accusations of voter fraud. In a revote he lost to Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. Burg called for cancellation of this second vote, a move supported by Labor Party chairman Ra'anan Cohen.[10] Nevertheless, Burg retained his seat in the Knesset in the 2003 elections.

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."[11]

After retirement


In 2004, Burg resigned from the Knesset and public life. He became a businessman. 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), "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 250,000-shekel monthly management fee.) The prosecutor closed the file against Burg for lack of evidence."[12]

Burg has lectured at international events and served on the board of directors of Vita Pri Hagalil.[13] 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."[14]

In 2007, Burg published a book called Defeating Hitler in which he claimed that Israeli society is fascist and violent by the continuing trauma over the Holocaust.[15]

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 to obtain foreign citizenship if possible. 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."[16] 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."[17][18] In 2021 he stated that he was preparing to appeal to the Supreme Court to have the Interior Ministry erase from its records that his nationality is Jewish.[19]

In April 2008, Burg signed a letter of support for the recently created J Street American left-wing lobby group.[20] On 14 November 2008, he joined a new left-wing movement intending to support the Meretz-Yachad party in the 2009 national elections.[21]

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, "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."[22]

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."[23]

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."[24]

In early December 2013, he confirmed the existence of Israel's nuclear weapons during a speech at a conference aimed at denuclearising the Middle East. He stated that national policy of neither confirming or denying the existence of such weapons was "outdated and childish."[25]

Burg joined the leftist Jewish-Arab Hadash Party in January 2015.[2] In a subsequent interview, he criticized Israel for continuing to follow Zionism as a national ideology and calling for the Law of Return to be reduced to a minimum. He also stated that Israel's future was a choice between becoming a fundamentalist Jewish state or as a binational Jewish-Arab confederation with open borders and part of a regional union.[26]

Burg has been a devoted athlete, running marathons and participating in a few ironmen competitions.

He is vegan.[27]

In April 2015, after Jewish immigration to Israel from European countries had significantly increased after several incidents involving Jews in Europe, Burg published an op-ed in Haaretz dissuading anti-Semitism allegations and calling on Jews to remain in Europe.[28]

In August 2023, Burg was one of more than 1,500 U.S., Israeli, Jewish and Palestinian academics and public figures who signed an open letter stating that Israel operates "a regime of apartheid" and calling on US Jewish groups to speak out against the occupation in Palestine.[29][30]

Published works

  • Brit Am: A Covenant of the People, Proposed Policy Guidelines for the National Institutions of the Jewish People, (1995), Jewish Agency for Israel - OCLC 71534243
  • God is Back (2006) (Hebrew) - ISBN 978-965-511-749-3
  • Defeating Hitler (2007) Yedioth Ahronoth (Hebrew) - ISBN 978-965-482-460-6
  • The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise From its Ashes (2008) MacMillan.com, (in English) - ISBN 978-023-060-752-1
  • Weekly Torah Portion for Human Beings (2009) (Hebrew) - ISBN 978-965-517-504-2
  • Avishag (2011) (Hebrew) - ISBN 978-965-517-965-1
  • In Days to Come (2015) (Autobiography) (Hebrew) - ISBN 978-965-566-078-4, (in English) (2018) - ISBN 156-858-978-6


  1. ^ "The Directors". Dun & Bradstreet. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Hadash votes in favor of forming unified Arab list: Arab-Jewish party votes in favor of continued negotiations with Arab parties, welcomes new member: Former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg". Haaretz. 4 January 2015. Retrieved 4 January 2015.
  3. ^ לב-ארי, שירי (22 April 2011). "צריך להחליט אם אנחנו אומת תרבות או דם". Ynet. Retrieved 7 December 2022.
  4. ^ "The Forsaken Promise". Archived from the original on 11 October 2006. Retrieved 11 October 2006.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  5. ^ Resources and Articles by Avraham Burg Archived 22 January 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Avraham Burg, MK". Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 26 February 2003.
  7. ^ "The apple that fell far from the tree". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com.
  8. ^ Gurvitz, Yossi (6 November 2010). "The strange voyage of Avraham Burg". +972 Magazine.
  9. ^ Court Decision: Burg to Relinquish Car and Driver in Hebrew
  10. ^ Burg Calls for Repeat of Labor Party Primaries. Israel National News. Retrieved on 2014-01-15.
  11. ^ Letters from Jerusalem: The Apostate The New Yorker, 30 July 2007
  12. ^ Ashot Ashkelon sale cancelled
  13. ^ Bior, Haim (26 February 2009). "Avraham Burg 'confident' Pri Hagalil won't close". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  14. ^ Avraham Burg, banks spar over NIS 270m
  15. ^ "Burg: Israeli fascism result of Shoah trauma". Ynetnews. 11 June 2007 – via www.ynetnews.com.
  16. ^ Shavit, Ari (7 June 2007). "Burg: Defining Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end". Haaretz.
  17. ^ "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
  18. ^ Another way of understanding my book Archived 7 July 2012 at archive.today Avraham Burg's blog on TheMarker
  19. ^ Ravit Hecht,  'A Scion of Zionist Aristocracy Wants to Quit the Jewish People. Will Israel Let Him?,' Haaretz 2 January 2021.
  20. ^ Silverstein, Richard (15 April 2008). "New Kid on the Block". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 20 April 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2008.
  21. ^ "New movement to back Meretz for Knesset unveiled". The Jerusalem Post. 14 November 2008.
  22. ^ Now it's your turn. Avraham Burg. Haaretz op-ed
  23. ^ Even I Think Israeli Settlement Goods are not Kosher. Avraham Burg, The Independent
  24. ^ "Reviving the Israeli Left Is a Ten Year Project, Says Think Tank". Haaretz.
  25. ^ Borger, Julian (15 January 2014). The truth about Israel's secret nuclear arsenal. The Guardian. Retrieved on 2014-01-16.
  26. ^ Ringel-Hoffman, Ariella (14 January 2015). "'Zionism is over, Israel at critical juncture'". Ynetnews – via www.ynetnews.com.
  27. ^ "A scion of Zionist aristocracy wants to quit the Jewish people. Will Israel let him?". Haaretz.
  28. ^ "The Worst Time for Jews to Abandon Europe". Haaretz.
  29. ^ "Elephant in the room". sites.google.com.
  30. ^ McGreal, Chris (15 August 2023). "US Jews urged to condemn Israeli occupation amid Netanyahu censure". The Guardian.