Widely known by his nickname Avrum, Burg, a happily married father of six and the son of one of Israel's most admired and longest-serving government ministers, was talked about as a candidate for prime minister. Long before his 50th birthday, he had headed the World Zionist Organization and served as speaker of the country's Parliament.
But four years ago Burg not only walked away from politics. He pretty much walked away from Zionism. In a book that came out last year, and has just been translated and released in the United States, he said Israel should not be a Jewish state, that its law of return granting citizenship to any Jew should be radically altered, that Israeli Arabs were like German Jews during the Second Reich and that, in fact, the entire society felt eerily like Germany just before the rise of Hitler.Pretty strong stuff, although the Israelis are much more used to, and tolerant of, such views that Americans, Jews or non-Jews.
What are Burg's prescriptions? He wants a new Jewish identity focused not on the particular but on the universal, asserting that "if we do not establish modern Israeli identity on foundations of optimism, faith in humans and full trust in the family of nations, we have no chance of existing." He wants Israel to dismantle the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and replace it with the headquarters for the International Criminal Court, making this the epicenter of international prevention of genocide.
One can only hope that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, now that she no longer depends on Jewish votes nor needs to pander to them, will take advantage of the soul-searching now going on in Israel and help negotiate a just peace between that nation and the Palestinians.
Photo: Avrum Burg