Sunday, February 26, 2012

Begin Saves Uri Avnery


... In his first extensive interview after coming to power in 1977, Menachem Begin disclosed that 20 years earlier, when Isser Harel (nicknamed “little Isser”) was in charge of all Israeli security services, he proposed to Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to put me in administrative detention as a Soviet spy. Harel had a pathological hatred for me and later wrote a whole book about it.

The accusation was quite ridiculous, because I have never in my life been a communist, nor even a Marxist. At the same time that Arthur Koestler wrote his ground-breaking book “Darkness at Noon” I, then a teenager, thought that something must be very wrong with a system which condemns almost all its founders as imperialist spies. Later, whenever an Israeli delegation was invited to Soviet Russia, the KGB struck my name out. (Viewers of the excellent British TV series “Spooks” will recognize at once that this is exactly the hallmark of a master spy.)

Ben-Gurion was not one of my greatest fans, or, to put it simply, he hated my guts. Since I attacked him every week, that was quite understandable. However, he was also a shrewd politician and was afraid that my arrest might cause a scandal. Therefore he told Harel that before arresting me, he should enlist the support of Begin, the leader of the largest opposition party.

Begin told him: “If you have evidence, please show it to me. If not, I shall fight against your scheme tooth and nail.” Ben-Gurion dropped the idea, and Begin sent his most trusted lieutenant to warn me.

If Begin had supported my arrest, who would have doubted that the Shabak had solid proof of my treachery? My voice would have been silenced, my magazine destroyed.

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