Uri Avnery /
November 11, 2013 / Laureate’s speech
Last Monday, the Tel Aviv Journalists’ Association awarded
me the “Lifetime Achievement Prize”. The ceremony took place
in Eilat before an audience of almost 1000 journalists. Here
follows my acceptance speech:
Without Fear, Without
WORDS “lifetime achievement” have a certain undertone. There
is a hint that the work is finished.
I have just been told that the
90-year-old Shimon Peres, who is three weeks older than I,
has announced that he is about to start a new political
career. If he can, why can’t I?
Ten years ago you were so kind
as to award me the Sokolov Prize for journalistic
excellence. I remarked on that occasion that you had spoiled
a boast of mine: that I had received several prizes abroad,
but never a prize in Israel. Now you have done it again.
First of all, I want to thank
Yossi Bar-Mokha, the chairman of this impressive conference,
and Shalom Kital, who initiated this award. I also want to
thank my late wife, Rachel, who had a very major part in my
FOR TEN years I was both a
member of the Knesset and the editor of the news magazine
Haolam Hazeh. At the time I was often asked which of the two
jobs I thought was more important. I always answered without
hesitation: the journalistic one. The journalist carries out
the more important task and he has a greater impact. This is
my view now, too.
A short publicity break: In one
or two months, the first half of my memoirs is about to
appear. I still have no title. If anyone of you has an idea,
please give it to my lector, Rami Tal, who is present here.
TO THE matter in hand:
On the morrow of the 1948 war, a
small group of ex-combat soldiers took possession of Haolam
They wanted to carry out two
simultaneous revolutions: a political and a journalistic
In the political arena, we
completely rejected the regime David Ben-Gurion had set up
in our new state. Not in one field, but in all fields. We
rejected his entire model. We had another model in mind.
We rejected his definition of
Israel as a “Jewish state”. We wanted an Israeli state. A
state rooted in the country. A state that belongs to its
We rejected Ben-Gurion’s
attitude towards the Arab world. We said that there exists a
Palestinian nation, that we must make peace with it, and
that to this end, a State of Palestine must come into being.
Nowadays they call this “the two-state solution”.
We rejected his social agenda.
We wanted a policy of equality, of social justice, of
We rejected the role he accorded
to religion in the state. We wanted a complete separation
between state and religion.
We rejected the contemptuous and
discriminatory attitude towards the new Jewish immigrants
from Islamic countries. At the time we published an
unforgettable headline: “They Screw the Orientals”.
We rejected the racist attitude
towards the Arab minority in the state. And so on.
All these opinions were sheer
heresy, in total opposition to the prevailing national
THIS CREATED a problem.
There are mass-circulation
papers in this world. But they are always super-patriotic,
super-nationalistic papers, which flatter the national
consensus and flow with the stream.
There are papers in the world
which fight against the consensus, which swim against the
stream. But they are always fringe papers, small and
But we wanted to create a
magazine that would fight against the national consensus and
also reach the masses, so as to have an impact on their
Our solution was the two-tier
approach. There was no other magazine in the world like it.
A part of the magazine was deadly serious, expressing views
that were completely non-conformist. The other part was much
lighter, devoted to social trends, gossip and ladies who
were not entirely clad.
At the same time, we created a
journalistic revolution. When we appeared on the scene in
1950, the Israeli press was incredibly boring. Almost all
the many newspapers belonged to political parties. The pages
were full of long articles written in an old-fashioned
style, and the gaps between them were filled with
uninteresting photos. If you look today at one of those
papers, you will not believe your eyes.
We wanted to propel our media
from the world of Pravda and Izvestia into the world of the
New York Times. Pravda embodied the principle that the
public must be told only things that are good for them. The
New York Times promised to publish “all the news that’s fit
To fulfill the task we had taken
upon us, we invented a new Hebrew journalistic language, the
language all of you use now. A well-known writer once
described it as “lean and muscular”. We created a new kind
of press photography. We created a new sort of headline –
provocative and sensational.
By now, the entire Israeli media
have adopted the Haolam Hazeh style.
I WANT to pose a question: Why
are you journalists?
Not for the money. There are
better paying professions. Not for the honor. We are defamed
on every occasion.
The real journalist is a person
addicted to his mission, a person who is involved, an
inquisitive person, a person who has the quest for the truth
in his bones.
For us, there is no life without
democracy. There is no democracy without a free press,
aggressive, investigative, exposing. Without it, how would
the citizen know for whom and for what to vote?
Thomas Jefferson, a founding
father of the USA, said more than two hundred years ago that
if he had to choose between a government without a press and
a press without a government, he would choose a press
without a government.
IN THIS conference, many
speakers lamented the state of the media and doubted their
survival. They foresaw a dark future, or no future at all.
I am not a partner to these
lamentations. I believe that the media will always survive.
Without it, woe to the country!
I hope that all of us shall
carry out our mission in the spirit of the slogan we adopted
in Haolam Hazeh some 63 years ago: Without Fear, Without