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The Speech that was Not Delivered

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Message Uri Avnery
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Source: Gush Shalom

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Note: This text was written on Wednesday, a day before President Obama made his historic speech in Jerusalem. It appears that my text came much closer to his actual speech than I had dared to hope. Some passages are almost identical. Readers may want to compare the texts, to see what he left out.

DEAR CITIZENS of Israel,

I feel the need to speak to you directly, and especially to the young Jewish people amongst you, in order to reach out to your minds and to touch your hearts.

To do so, I gave up the great honor of speaking in your Knesset, as my predecessors have spoken before me. The Knesset, like all parliaments, is composed of politicians, but this time I want to speak directly to you.

I COME as a true friend. A true friend is bound to tell you the truth as he sees it. A true friend does not flatter you. He does not twist the truth to make you feel good.

I know, foreign statesmen and women come to visit your country and feel obliged to tell you how wonderful you are, how brilliant your leaders, how great your achievements. I don't think that a true friend needs to do this.

When you are drunk, a true friend does not encourage you to take the wheel. A true friend asks you for the keys of the car.

If you are drunk with power and success, a true friend does not egg you on to behave irresponsibly. A true friend asks you to calm down, to reflect, to weigh your next steps carefully.

That is my aim today.

I CAN honestly tell you that I have always admired the State of Israel, which was born just 13 years before I was.

You have created a vibrant state out of nothing. Just a few years after the terrible Holocaust, one of the greatest crimes in the annals of mankind, this ancient people has arisen from the ashes and established itself as a powerful presence among the nations. You have established a flourishing democracy. Your science, agriculture, high-tech industry and all the other accomplishments in many fields have aroused the envy of many. Your military prowess is acknowledged by all.

No one with eyes to see can deny the profound similarities between the history of our two nations. From a small group of pioneers, driven by religious persecution, we have developed into mighty nations. Against huge odds, we have built new civilizations. Each of us has built a shining city on the hill. Both of us have achieved liberty and independence in the middle of a terrible war, which threatened our very existence. Both of us had to fight many more wars, earlier and more recent. Both of us can look back on our past with pride and satisfaction.

But both of us know that this history also harbors dark shadows. We have dealt harshly with the people who lived in our countries before us. We have much to apologize for. We should not suppress the bad while celebrating the good.

THOUGH MENACED by enemies, like all of us, Israel can look forward to a bright future. However, dark clouds threaten these prospects. Some of them, I am sorry to say, are of your own making.

It is of these that I want to speak to you.

For the last four years I have followed events in your country with growing apprehension. Indeed -- with great fears for your future.

No nation, great or small, can prosper for long without peace. War is the curse of mankind. It coarsens our spirit, consumes our resources, spreads death and destruction. In our time, with the development of ever more deadly means of mass destruction, war threatens our very existence.

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Uri Avnery is a longtime Israeli peace activist. Since 1948 has advocated the setting up of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In 1974, Uri Avnery was the first Israeli to establish contact with PLO leadership. In 1982 he was the first Israeli ever to meet Yassir Arafat, after crossing the lines in besieged Beirut. He served three terms in the (more...)
 

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