≡ Menu

Avrum Burg to Found New Israeli Political Party: Shivyon Yisrael

Today’s Haaretz brings the interesting news that Israeli iconoclast, Avrum Burg is founding a new political party to be called Shivyon Israel (Equality Israel).  It will represent one of the few attempts by a mainstream political leader to form a post-Zionist party.  Here is Burg on its platform:

The time has come for an Israeli party, a Jewish-Arab party, that will carry the banner of total commitment to equality, without a trace of discrimination and racism…A party that will sail far beyond the paradigms of classic Zionism, which to this day ignores the place of Israel’s Arabs. A party that will demand full equality for all Israel’s citizens, the kind of equality we demand for the Jews in the Diaspora wherever they live.

The party, Israel Equality (Shivyon Yisrael ) – with the acronym Shai in Hebrew, gift – will fight for a state that will be a total democracy…The party will wrestle with the…internal contradiction of “a Jewish and democratic state,” which means a great deal of democracy for the Jews and too much Jewish nationalism for the Arabs. It will be the party of those who are committed to the supreme universal and Israeli cultural values of human dignity, the search for peace and a desire for freedom, justice and equality.

Those who vote for it and its candidates will accept the definition of Israel as “a state whose regime is democratic and egalitarian, and which belongs to all its citizens and communities. The state in which the Jewish people have chosen to renew their sovereignty and where they realize their right to self-determination.” The practical expression of this commitment will be a supreme effort to change the social balance of power, which is unjust, to give equal opportunities to the entire population in Israel, regardless of national background, ethnic origin, race, sex or sexual preference.

Frankly, I’m ambivalent.  It’s all well and good for this new party to embrace the idea that Israel is a state in which Jews renew their sovereignty and their right to self-determination.  But frankly there is an Arab nation too within Israel and its dreams are no less vivid than those of its Jewish citizens.  Besides, the history of Israeli politics is littered with new political parties and catchy acronyms which don’t live up to expectations.

Further, I wonder how Burg, who soured on Israeli politics several years ago and decamped to France where he’s pursued a business career, will explain his absence.  It will be all too easy for the Israeli political barons to categorize Burg as the jilted Israeli pol who took his marbles home when he couldn’t realize his political ambitions there.  How does he avoid being tarred as a Johnny Come Lately, smelling of French Bordeaux and other decadent foreign tendencies?

I also wonder how this party will differ from Hadash.  He complains in this article that the latter party has “emotional baggage.”  By which he means that it is hated by many Israeli Jews.  But why is it hated?  Because it has a mainly Arab constituency and because it has forged an alliance between Jews and Arabs.  So why does Burg not think that his party won’t be tarred with the same brush since it appears to have an overlapping agenda?  Why the need for two parties representing a similar program?  Isn’t this just the left cannibalizing itself?

One welcome outcome of this should be the long-awaited demise of Meretz, the liberal Zionist party which claimed the mantle of the Jewish left but never really embraced it with vigor, forthrightness or courage.  It may also mark the further weakening of Labor, a party of which Burg was once a crown prince, and which also deserves to be put out of its misery.

In closing, let me say that I’m all in favor of the general outlines of this initiative (with the few caveats above) and wish it well.  Israeli politics is so f*#%ed up that anything would be better than what we have now.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Gene Schulman July 23, 2010, 1:33 AM

    I would tend to agree with you, Richard. Burg is a bit of an idealist. But if nothing else, if he gets across the ideas he expressed in his book, “The Holocaust is Over; We must Recover from its Ashes,” he will have accomplished some good. I see him as an Israeli Ralph Nader: Not a chance in hell of winning, but useful in waking people out of ignorance and apathy. A little shaking up will do Israel a lot of good.

    I wish him luck.

  • iris July 23, 2010, 2:31 AM

    How can Burg do anything new and honest ? the man has such a bad record, and why fall again for the same scam ? I suspect that you are becoming a desperate Israeli, richard, with the accompanying dissociative disorder….perhaps you need a good summer vacation.

    Vertigo is a phenomenon whereby a person rationalizes fantasies of the senses…
    for lack of honest people, we become victims of our wishfull thinking. THis is what enabled the return of Netanyahu, barak and the recycled crowd of meretz who use good PR companies that come up with catchy phrases.

    Your local drug dealer can tell you how this is done.

  • Yossi July 23, 2010, 5:51 AM

    I wish Burg will succeed if not elctorally then atleast in furthering the ideas of true democracy in Israel. The baggage he talks about in Hadash could be their affilation with the communist party, which is problematic for many democratic Jews and Arabs.

  • Kung Fu Jew 18 July 23, 2010, 6:51 AM

    I think the emotional baggage Burg could be referring to are (a) its leadership is wholly non-mainstream faces, like Dov Hanin, and (b) it’s expressly communist philosophy.

    I think this is interesting because I had the honor of meeting Hadash top MK Dov Hanin two weeks ago, in which he outlined a party platform that sounded absolutely lovely. In fact, it sounded like a presentation at the New Israel Fund — equality for all, minority rights, shared living between Jews and Arabs, and peace with the Palestinians.

    Further interesting, Dov Hanin ran in the last Tel Aviv mayoral election and won over 30% of the vote against an incumbent mayor. That’s 30% of Israel’s largest, most liberal city. His prominence in Knesset, I am told, rose and the broader palatability for his party platform was tested.

    Essentially, I’m told if you’re under 35 and solidly pro-peace liberal, then you’re almost certainly a Hadash voter.

  • Dave Boxthorn July 23, 2010, 3:03 PM

    So Burg is starting a new Jewish-Arab party.

    In keeping with his actions I would like to announce the start of my new Jewish-Martian party.

    Sure there are no actual Martians in my party, and the name of my party won’t feature any Martian words, and I don’t actually live on Mars.

    But since some people know my Daddy I expect Haaretz to report on its founding.

    Garcon! Ou est mon steak cordon bleu. J’ai faim me-od.

  • delia ruhe July 23, 2010, 3:35 PM

    Whether or not this new party is the mother of all lost causes, I’m for it. Burg is my idea of what a Jew is — a cosmopolitan, a globalized Jew who brings together many of the qualities I love about Jewish thought and Jewish ideals. He could possibly break this closed, incestuous relationship between American right-wing Jews and Israel’s power elite.

  • Shirin July 24, 2010, 8:14 AM

    I like Avrum Burg, but this shows absolutely zero connection with reality and logic.

    …Israeli cultural values of human dignity, the search for peace and a desire for freedom, justice and equality.

    Those are “Israeli cultural values”?! Why has Israel never displayed those values at any time during its 62-year history?

    a state whose regime is democratic and egalitarian, and which belongs to all its citizens and communities. The state in which the Jewish people have chosen to renew their sovereignty and where they realize their right to self-determination.”

    You can’t have it both ways. Either Israel is a democratic, egalitarian state that belongs to all its citizens, or it is the sovereign Jewish State. The two are incompatible and cannot exist together in the same place at the same time.

  • Itay Kander July 25, 2010, 12:23 AM

    he would have done us more good if he joined hadash. even hadash’s name means the ideals he’s aiming for: the democratic frontier for peace and equality.

  • Kalea July 25, 2010, 7:43 PM

    I hope he succeeds. As long as he’s completely honest with himself and not patronizing towards Arabs, I see success in his future.

  • esther August 10, 2010, 2:34 AM

    Burg is a moral person .He needs a chance to reverse the society that has bocome so materialistic ,and is blinded by selfish values. I don’t think that we should be LIGHT INTO THE NATIONS necessarily,the USA took this role, upon itself, but, we don’t need to be bling and ethnocentric either, focusing only, on money, real estate, and on what do i get out of this? my generation , had other values ,and more meaning!

  • Ray September 25, 2010, 11:40 PM

    [comment deleted for comment rule violation]

    • Ray September 26, 2010, 3:03 PM

      I read the comment rule. I did not violate any comment rule. Please explain which comment rule I violated and if there is anything in my comment that is not true.

      • Richard Silverstein September 26, 2010, 8:37 PM

        I erased yr comment & have not retained the text. If you still retain a copy of it you can send it to me via e mail & I will explain your violation. If you violate any future comment rule you will be moderated, & on further violation you will be banned.

        I do not delete comments that contain truth or facts. I assure you yr comment was neither factual nor truthful. And if you continue maintaining it was, there are thousands of other websites at which you may make such statements. This isn’t one of ’em. Sorry.

  • Überblick! October 7, 2010, 2:29 PM


    I think, that Avraham Burg ist Wrong! – WHY???

    BECAUSE if he would found a citizen-organisation, like greenpeace, robinwood or so BUT for the ideaas he pronounces and explains – he would get some more advantages:

    1.) – he could contact and try to engage ALL political parties!
    2.) – He would be get “support” from peoples of ALL political flavors
    3.) – He had a better because more neutral position to engage against ALL Peoples and parties but not only ONE – his own!;-(
    4.) – With an “neutral” Organisation he would easily get money e en from external Israel….

Leave a Comment