Shlomo Avineri, Israeli Scholar Skeptical About Peace, Dies at 90


Shlomo Avineri, an Israeli political scientist, historian and former authorities official whose pessimism about resolving the battle with Palestinians didn’t cease him from advocating measures to ease it, died on Nov. 30 in Jerusalem. He was 90.

His demise, in a hospital, was confirmed by Hebrew College, additionally in Jerusalem, the place he taught, and by his daughter and solely fast survivor, Maayan Avineri-Rebhun.

Mr. Avineri was what Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to america, referred to as a public mental: a scholar of Marx, Hegel and Zionism who introduced his educational eminence to bear in a column he wrote for the newspaper Haaretz; who was typically quoted by journalists; and who performed a task in peace negotiations with King Hussein of Jordan when Mr. Avineri was director common of the Israeli International Ministry, a place he held from 1975 to 1977.

He was considered “fairly dovish,” Mr. Rabinovich mentioned in a telephone interview. Yossi Klein Halevi, senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, famous that Mr. Avineri was “one of many first outstanding Israelis to name for negotiations with the P.L.O.” Nonetheless, he added, Mr. Avineri would later turn out to be “a strong critic of the Palestinian nationwide motion” beneath the impression of intifada and suicide bombings.

Mr. Avineri immigrated together with his dad and mom from Poland within the Thirties, and Zionism was in his bones. “He was somebody who had deep empathy for the opposite facet, however not on the expense of defending Israel,” Mr. Halevi mentioned.

In his writings in Haaretz and elsewhere, Mr. Avineri was persistently skeptical about Israel’s prospects for attaining peace with its enemies. He was satisfied of Palestinian and Arab hatred for Israel and Zionism, whose Nineteenth-century roots he chronicled in 1981 in an admired e book, “The Making of Trendy Zionism.”

The Hamas assault in Israel on Oct. 7 solely buttressed this view. Instantly afterward, chatting with The New York Occasions, he famous what he mentioned was Hamas’s view that in Israel “each civilian is a soldier.”

“This was not rhetoric,” he mentioned, “however figuring out the vulnerability of the Israeli communities inside Israel.”

This was in step with views that he had lengthy expressed and that led some critics to query the place of some Israeli liberals. In 2015, Mr. Avineri wrote in Haaretz that “there isn’t any selection however to confess there isn’t any likelihood for any mutually accepted settlement within the foreseeable future.”

This “pessimistic prognosis,” he added, “referred to as for “options not to be able to ‘resolve’ the battle, however to mitigate its severity and maybe transfer either side finally to an agreed resolution.”

The explanations for pessimism have been apparent to him. The Palestinians, he wrote, seen Israel not as a nation however as “an illegitimate entity, eventually doomed to vanish.”

However, in the identical Haaretz column, Mr. Avineri referred to as for palliative measures that he offered as good-will gestures, like ceasing building within the settlements in occupied territories and promising monetary support to settlers who agreed to maneuver again to Israel.

“He thought that the realpolitik method was higher,” mentioned Avner de-Shalit, a former scholar of Mar. Avineri’s and later a colleague in Hebrew College’s political science division. “He thought you needed to have your eyes open on a regular basis.”

In different columns, Mr. Avineri referred to as for “concrete steps that may obtain lower than peace”; hailed the “historic roots” of Israel’s democracy whereas doubting Arab states’ capability to realize democracy themselves; and expressed reservations about financial cooperation between Israel and Palestinian territories.

This pressure, between a want for peace and a skepticism that proposals to additional it could result in something, permeated his journalism. It’s what led the historian Tony Judt to jot down in The New York Evaluate of Books that Mr. Avineri and different Israeli liberals “have largely misplaced their manner” and to chide him for forgetting that “each context has a context,” particularly the mass displacement of Palestinians in 1948.

Mr. Avineri was broadly admired for his unique scholarship on tough Nineteenth-century thinkers. His e book “The Social and Political Considered Karl Marx” (1968) “breaks new floor,” George Lichtheim wrote in The New York Evaluate of Books, including that Mr. Avineri was “proper to emphasise that political democracy remained an issue for Marx and his followers.”

One other e book, “Hegel’s Political Philosophy: Issues and Views,” was “extremely, however by no means oppressively, realized,” Anthony Quinton wrote in that very same publication in 1975, evaluating Mr. Avineri to P.G. Wodehouse. “Avineri is the Jeeves of the Absolute Concept,” he wrote. “To Hegelian equivalents of such Woosterisms as ‘sprint all of it, a conk on the noggin is a little bit of a facer,’ he responds with one thing like ‘I agree, Sir, {that a} sharp blow on the top is a trigger for concern.’”

“The Making of Trendy Zionism” was praised by the political philosophy scholar Werner J. Dannhauser in The New York Occasions Book Review for its “indubitably nice accomplishments.” He lauded Mr. Avineri for exposing what he referred to as leftist “slander” over Zionism’s supposed “obliviousness to the very existence of Arabs.”

Earlier than writing these books, when he was a younger lecturer, Mr. Avineri had dazzled college students at Hebrew College together with his erudition.

“Within the Nineteen Sixties, there was a younger, sensible, charismatic lecturer filling the political science division’s lecture halls on the Hebrew College of Jerusalem’s Givat Ram campus,” Uri Benziman wrote in Haaretz in 2015, in an article in any other case important of Mr. Avineri for failing to supply context for a few of his conclusions. “Shlomo Avineri mesmerized the scholars with the breadth of his information and the sharpness of his evaluation in lectures on political thought.”

Shlomo Avineri was born on Aug. 20, 1933, in Bielsko-Biala, Poland, the son of Michael and Ester-Erna (Gruner) Wiener. His father was an accountant, his mom knowledgeable secretary. He emigrated to Palestine together with his dad and mom in 1939. He acquired his doctorate from Hebrew College, the place he later turned head of the political science division and dean of the college of social science.

His spouse, Devora, died in 2022.

Mr. Avineri had a distinguished educational profession behind him when he entered Israel’s international ministry in 1975 as director common within the authorities of Yitzhak Rabin. His humanism formed his method to negotiations over the way forward for the Palestinians, evident in a 1970 article in Commentary. “What I take into account particularly,” he wrote, “is a dialogue with the Palestinians now beneath Israeli rule regarding the potential for establishing a Palestinian Arab state on the West Financial institution and in Gaza.”

That was past what many Israelis have been prepared to simply accept, a minimum of in public. And when the conservative Likud occasion got here into energy, Mr. Avineri was out.

If his views hardened over time, he remained “like a guru for many individuals on the average left in Israel,” Mr. de-Shalit mentioned, including, “He used to say, ‘I’m one of many few Israelis who don’t know what the way forward for this space will likely be.’’’

Steven Erlanger and Myra Noveck contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett and Susan Beachy contributed analysis.



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