Former Knesset speaker and ex-head of the Jewish Agency Avraham Burg has sparked quite a brouhaha with a recent interview in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. Among other things, he said 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.”
Ha’aretz’s Ari Shavit writes:
In an interview in Haaretz Weekend Magazine, he said that he is in favor of abrogating the Law of Return and calls on everyone who can to obtain a foreign passport. Burg, who was interviewed on the occasion of the publication of his book “Defeating Hitler” said “the strategic mistake of Zionism was to annul the alternatives. Israeliness has only body; it doesn’t have soul.” “Judaism always prepared alternatives,” says Burg, who three years after leaving Israeli politics is now a citizen of France and a successful businessman.
Burg also said that his book’s original planned title was “Hitler Won.”
Needless to say, as Ha’artez reports, Burg’s remarks have not sat well with many Israelis. Kadima Knesset member Otniel Schneller called for Burg to be denied the privilege of burial in Israel’s cemetery on Mount Herzl, resting place for senior state officials. And from the left, the article notes:
Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin expressed sadness that “a man like Burg, who is salt of the earth, can say things like that. Obviously I don’t agree with him.” As opposed to Burg, Beilin said “if this country is not the Jewish State, and has no Jewish majority, it doesn’t interest me.”
UPDATE: The full text of Ha’aretz’s interview with Avraham Burg is now online.
UPDATE #2: Forward editor J.J. Goldberg speaks with Burg about his controversial interview here.