Burg’s Comments in Interview Make Waves

By Orly Halpern

Published June 13, 2007, issue of June 15, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A stalwart of Zionism caused an ideological earthquake last week when he stated that defining the State of Israel as Jewish is the key to its end. In an interview published in Ha’aretz, Avraham Burg, a former head of the Jewish Agency for Israel and a former Knesset speaker, argued that Israeli society has elements of German fascism, that the Law of Return should be reconsidered and that Israelis who are able to obtain foreign passports should do so.

Leftist Israeli academics and intellectuals have made such statements in the past, but the fact that these words came from the mouth of a man born, fed and bred in the elite of the Zionist establishment created an uproar in the country. Some were angry, others were frightened, but observers from across the political spectrum agreed that Burg’s comments marked a watershed moment in the history of Zionism.

“Burg is in the line of the great leaders of Zionism,” said Yoram Hazony, who founded the Shalem Center, a right-leaning research institute in Jerusalem. “For him to come out against the Law of Return, to abandon Herzl and to compare Israeli laws to Hitler’s laws, it’s like the pope announcing that he has already converted to Judaism.”

The son of Yosef Burg, a National Religious Party founder who participated in the creation of the state alongside David Ben-Gurion, Avraham Burg was one of the few soldiers to publicly oppose the first Lebanon War. He became one of the most powerful members of the Labor Party, serving for 10 years as chairman of the Jewish Agency and as speaker of the Knesset from 1999 to 2003.

While Burg’s comments last week were widely portrayed as having crossed an ideological barrier, he has previously criticized the State of Israel in what was perceived as a post-Zionist fashion. In 2003 he wrote an opinion article titled “The Zionist Revolution Is Dead,” originally published in the Israeli mass daily Yediot Aharonot and subsequently in the Forward. In the piece, he claimed that moral and political corruption had bankrupted the ideology.

But in his interview with Ha’aretz, and in his just-released book, “Defeating Hitler,” the former Knesset speaker goes one step further in attacking the ideological foundation of his home country, questioning whether the Zionist revolution could have ever succeeded and whether a Jewish and democratic state is possible. Israel is spiritually dead, said Burg, who now resides in France, and it is only a matter of time before the best and brightest quit the Jewish state.

“People are not willing to admit it, but Israel has reached the wall,” Burg told Ha’aretz. “Ask your friends if they are certain their children will live here. How many will say yes? At most 50%. In other words, the Israeli elite has already parted with this place. And without an elite, there is no nation.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.