/ / /

haGalil onLine -


Spenden Sie mit PayPal - schnell, kostenlos und sicher!

Search haGalil


Newsletter abonnieren
Bücher / Morascha

Koscher leben...

Aktiv gegen Nazi-Propaganda!
Jüdische Weisheit

Online Translation, Now!
Get this article translated online from english
to hebrew, french, spanish, german...

Uri Avnery at SCUPAD - the Salzburg Congress of Urban Planning and Development - held by an international association of top town planners. The speech concerned Austria, Haider, nationalism, Jerusalem and other subjects.


Dear Friends,

First, let me thank you for inviting me to address such an important gathering.

When I received the invitation, I wondered why I, out of all people, have been chosen for this honor. The only explanation I could come up with was this: That you have been searching all over the world for the person with the least knowledge about architecture and town planning, and that the computer found out that I was that person.

Ladies and Gentleman, i suppose I must first tell you who I am.

I was born in Germany 76 years ago. As an impressionable child, I witnessed the rise to power of the Nazi movement. As a schoolboy, I experienced the Third Reich for half a year, but then my father, with unusual foresight, took us to Palestine and saved our lives. All my relatives, who ridiculed my father's fears, disappeared in the Holocaust. No wonder, then, that throughout my life I devoted much thought to the basic questions: How does it happen that a civilized nation chooses a genocidal maniac as its leader, when does nationalism become converted into fascism, in what circumstances do the demagogues of hatred flourish.

In Germany we were rich, in Palestine we were poor as church mice, or rather synagogue mice. I left school at the age of 14, never to return. When I was 15, I joined an underground organization fighting against the British colonial regime. They called us terrorists. Since then I know exactly the difference between terrorists and freedom-fighters: freedom-fighters are on my side, terrorists are on the other.

During the great Jewish-Arab war of 1948, when the State of Israel was born, I served as a commando soldier and was severely wounded. Since then, the fight for peace has become the central theme of my life.

After the war I created a weekly news-magazine which became a thorn in the flesh of the Israeli establishment. We fought for Israeli-Palestinian peace, human rights, social justice, the rights of the Arab minority in Israel and the separation between religion and state. I served as its editor-in-chief for 40 years.

In 1965, we founded a peace party and I was elected to the Knesset. I served for 10 years. One of my main subjects was the need to recognize the rights of the Palestinian people and help it to create the State of Palestine, side by side with the State of Israel. At the time, that was something between madness and high treason. But we established contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). During the Lebanon war of 1982, I crossed the front-line into besieged Beirut and became the first Israeli to meet Yassir Arafat. Now I am the chairman of Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), the most militant Israeli peace organization, engaged in a daily fight against occupation and for reconciliation between Israel and Palestine.


Perhaps this explains why I hesitated before accepting the invitation to come to this beautiful town. Actually, this beautiful town is the problem.

As you notice, the chairs of your Israeli colleagues are empty. They have decided not to take part, in protest against your decision to hold the conference here, in Austria, in spite of the fact that the government of this country now includes the party of Mr. Haider. They very strongly urged me to follow their example. Indeed, they were quite furious when I rejected this advice.

I have come here - not because I ignore the dangers represented by Mr. Haider, but quite on the contrary, because I am extremely worried and want to express these worries on Austrian soil.

Mr. Haider is the arch-type of the kind of politicians who have created such immense misery during the 20th century, a century in which 180 million human beings have been destroyed by other human beings. We, who have lived in that sick century, must do everything possible to prevent the transmission of this disease into the 21th.

This is the kind of politicians, who base their careers on hatred - hatred of foreigners, of minorities, of the "other". Politicians who follow the maxim of Dr. Goebbels: "Again we must appeal to the lowest instincts of the masses."

I don't care what Mr. Haider says. I am not going to analyse his every utterance, to see if he really praised Adolf Hitler or only his labor policies ("Arbeit macht frei!"), whether he hates Jews or only Slaws. There is a certain tone, a certain smell, that is easily recognizable. Perhaps Jews recognize it a little bit earlier than others. After all, we have many centuries of experience. We have learned to see the danger a little bit before everyone else does.

Haider is an Austrian, but there are Haiders everywhere. There are French Haiders, German Haiders, Russian Haiders, American Haiders, yes - sad to say - even Israeli Haiders. Each of us, in his own country, must fight against his own Haiders.

What, then, is so special about the Austrian Haider? First of all, in Austria a world-wide taboo has been broken. This party has become a part of government. It has been legitimized. A sign has been given to all xenophobic, neo-fascist and chauvinist parties in Europe: You are now salonfaehig. The yellow flag of quarantine, the flag that says "danger, infectious disease on board", has been taken down.

It is doubly shocking that this has happened in Austria. We cannot forget that Adolf Hitler was an Austrian, that this beautiful town once was full of Swastika flags, that this flag of genocide probably waved over this graceful palace too. In Austria, every sign of racist hatred of foreigners and minorities must arouse special anxiety.

Democratic elections? Hitler, too, was elected democratically. Power was handed to him on a platter - in German you could perhaps say "in einer Schuessel".

If so, should we boycott Austria? I don't think so. On the governmental level, yes. But on the people-to-people level, no. The fight against Haider and his allies concerns all of us. But the main battle-ground is here, is Austria, and in the forefront of this fight are all those brave and wonderful Austrians who cry out, protest, demonstrate and act week after week. I want to salute them. By staying away we do not encourage them. We must come here and join their fight.

Adolf Eichmann was an Austrian, but so was Sergeant Schmidt, a Wehrmacht soldier who was executed for helping Jews in the Holocaust. Last month. an army barracks in Germany was re-named after him. Haider is an Austrian, but so was Bruno Kreisky, the Jewish Kanzler elected and re-elected by the Austrian people.

Some of my Austrian friends say that in a perverse way, the Haider episode did some good, too. The tired democratic forces in Austria have come to new life. The alarm sounded throughout Europe is creating a new political awareness. Perhaps one could quote the devil in Goethe's Faust who said: "I am a part of the power that always want the evil and always creates the good."

Of course, one can ask why we should interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. The answer is found in the Bible, when Cain asked God: "Am I my brothers keeper?" Yes, each of us is his brother's keeper. Too many times, during the murderous 20th century, genocide was made possible by the false doctrine of sovereignty and non-interference. The genocide of the Armenians, the Jews, the Cambodians, the Soviet and Chinese victims, the people of Ruanda and so many, many others.

Only at the end of the century, in Kossova, a new doctrine has emerged: interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state is not only permissible, it is obligatory, when human rights are concerned. I am ready to take part in any fight for such rights everywhere, whether the oppressed are Kurds, Kossovars or Chechnians. In the same spirit, I call upon all people of good-will to help us in our fight for justice and peace in my own country.

An ancient Hebrew text found near the Dead Sea speaks of the universal fight between the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness. This fight is still raging everywhere, in every country. It is a world-wide fight, and the Children of Light everywhere belong to the same army, as do the Children of Darkness. I am standing here, on Austrian soil, to testify to this.


Some of you may think that this is besides the point of this conference. I don't think so.

Haider and the likes of him are mutations of nationalism. Nationalism is the dominant political culture of our age. Speaking about "Cities in Global Change", the changing meaning of nationalism is an important subject. It certainly has a profound influence on architecture and town-planning.

Let me voice some thoughts on nationalism. Initially, it was a positive force, a necessary step in human progress.

It is a basic human need to "belong", to be a part of a "we" and be proud of it.

Throughout history, the character of the "we" has changed. At different times "we" was a clan, a tribe, a city-state, a kingdom, an ethnic-religious community like the Jews, a feudal order, a monarchy. For the last two or three hundred years, "we" is the nation.

In my opinion, the emergence of the nation as a spiritual and material entity at that point in time was not accidental. It filled both a psychological and a practical need. Psychologically, it took the place of tired religions. It provided a new total concept. Practically, the development of economic and military technologies made the formation of big national states necessary, and the new mass culture made such a state feasible. Corsica or Brittany could not defend themselves anymore, nor could they create their own economy. Big armies and big markets were needed. They had to merge in France and become parts of the "imagined community" of the French nation. A Corsican with an Italian name, Napoleone Bonaparte, shaped the destiny of France. The same happened to Bavarians in Germany, Lombards in Italy, Scots in Great Britain.

The 20th century has seen both the power of nationalism and its evil mutations. No force has been able to overcome nationalism - neither internationalist socialism, nor communism, nor religion, nor the SS ideology of an Aryan race. Communism succeeded when it combined with nationalism, such as in Vietnam and Cuba. Religion prospers where it is allied to nationalism, such as in Iran or Poland. Fascism, of course, was an evil mutation of nationalism.

Today, at the beginning of the 21th century, we witness a fundamental contradiction. Nationalism as a spiritual force is as strong as ever. But the nation-state as an economic, military and even cultural reality is rapidly becoming obsolete. No nation-state can defend itself alone nor live in economic isolation. The answer to this development is the regional super-state, like the European Community.

This was made easier by the catastrophes of the century, the two world-wars and the Nazi madness, all caused by the horrible exaggerations of a nationalism run wild. A true nationalist, one would think, is a person who respects other nations as he wants other nations to respect his. Sometimes we see this kind of attitude on the football field.

The new super-national regional structures could have become unified states. However, Charles de Gaulle, a nationalist par excellence, insisted on the principle of "Europe of the Fatherlands", an association of nation-states, each with its own flag, government and football team. I think that he was right. It made the creation of the new Europe much easier. Only now, fifty years later, the idea of an European federation dares to raise its head.

Interesting enough, the United States jumped over this phase altogether. The original 13 colonies could easily have become 13 nation-states on the European (or South American) model, perhaps in a loose confederation. Instead of American nationalism we could have had Californian or Virginian nationalism. By choosing the federal model and turning the whole federation into a quasi-nation, the United States made a short cut that made it the world's first super-power. The Soviet Union tried to create such a model and failed.

One important, if odd, result of the new regional structures is that while the European Union, for example, becomes bigger and bigger, a kind of provincial nationalism becomes stronger and stronger. Actually, these two processes compliment each other. When economic and military functions move from the nation state to the regional structure, the nation-state created by compulsion is put in doubt. If the real power moves from Paris to Brussels, why must Brittany and Corsica accept the hegemony of Paris? Why must Basques and Catalans accept a unitarian Spanish state, why must rich Lombardy pay for poor Sicily, why must Scots and Welshman remain in a United Kingdom? Why can't all these peoples become direct members of the European Union, like Austria?

If we look into the future, we perceive that even the regional structures are rapidly becoming obsolete before they achieve full status. The markets are global, production is global, the weapons of mass-destruction can reach the remotest corners of the world, communications are global, we all speak English on the internet. One young man in the Philippines can destroy computer programs from Alaska to Zimbabwe. A hole in the ozone layer, we are told, changes the climate around the globe. One nuclear accident can affect dozens of countries. One disease, Aids, can spread from one spot and become a world epidemic. Peace becomes a worldwide concern, multi-national peace-keeping forces serve in many places.

I believe that before the end of the 21th century, a wold-wide order, a quasi-world-government, will be in place. The United Nations will change radically, or some other world-structure will take its place, leading towards a world parliament, a binding international law enforced by effective international law-enforcement. Today this sounds utopian, but it is less utopian than the idea of European federation was in the beginning of last century. I wish I would be around to see it. (I rather doubt it.)


How does this effect cities and architecture?

I hardly dare to talk about such subjects in this august company. I am not a perfect layman, but only because nothing in the world is perfect.

Some of my thoughts may sound banal to you.

Cities, as you know much better than I, are mirrors of the ideas of their time and place. They express the Zeitgeist, they are Ideas cast in stone and cement.

I feel that there is something like the "soul" of a city. Thinking about Paris, for example, even before I see before my inner eyes the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysees, I sense the spirit of the city, an ambiance, an atmosphere that makes it different from all other cities I know. The same goes not only for London and Sankt Peterburg, but also for Salzburg and Smolensk, Naples and Toledo. I don't know what it consists of, or how it came about.

Vienna, I am told, was a hundred years ago the embodiment of a multi-ethnic monarchy. Czechs were a very big minority in the city, Jews had their quarters, Hungarian and Polish magnates built their palaces there. It produced a whole cluster of geniuses, a Freud and a Wittgenstein. It also produced a Hitler and a Herzl, the founder of modern Jewish nationalism, called Zionism. I feel that something of this ambiance is still there, a tension between the multi-ethnic and the nationalist.

Berlin was the embodiment of the Prussian-inspired second Reich. Hitler and Speer, in a crazy attack of actual town-planning, shaped the model of a grandiose capital for a megalomaniac, genocidal empire. Now it is becoming, so I am told, the embodiment of a new multi-cultural era, with architects from all over the world converging on the Potsdamer Platz to turn their ideas into buildings, a clear example of new political, spiritual and economic facts changing the face of a city. Only a few years ago, the Berlin wall was a symbol of a very different world.

I live in Tel Aviv, which prides itself of being the ugliest city in the world, ugly and alive. But an hour's drive from where my apartment, the city of Jerusalem is the embodiment of all the problems of our time. A beautiful city, a city with a past like no other, is torn apart by extreme nationalist passions. Two peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, claim it as their exclusive capital, three great religions claim it as their holy place. While all proclaim the unity of Jerusalem, an invisible border, known and felt by everyone who crosses it, divides the city into two. The Israeli half is again divided by an unseen border between orthodox and secular Jewish quarters, which detest each other.

Of course, throughout its 5000 years of history, Jerusalem was hardly ever a city of peace. It has been conquered more than 80 times, and each conqueror left his mark in stone, hoping to establish eternal possession by building. Thus some of the most beautiful architectural gems in the world, like the Ottoman Damascus gate and the Arab Dome of the Rock, were created.

Today, architects and town planners of both sides have become soldiers in a merciless war over the city, destroying its beauty by building heaps of ugly housing in order to create demographic "facts on the ground", all in the name of "love of Jerusalem". It's the kind of love Cannibals have for tender children.

My friends and I have created a vision of a united Jerusalem serving as the capital of two states, Israel and Palestine, and becoming, perhaps for the first time in its history, a Capital of Peace.

I would like to read to you the text of a manifesto which we published in 1995 under the headline "Our Jerusalem":

Jerusalem is ours, Israelis and Palestinians - Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Our Jerusalem is a mosaic of all the cultures, all the religions and all the periods that enriched the city, from earliest antiquity to this very day - Canaanites and Jebusites and Israelites, Jews and Hellenes, Romans and Byzantines, Christians and Muslims, Arabs and Mamelukes, Othmanlis and Britons, Palestinians and Israelis. They and all the others who made their contribution to the city have a place in the spiritual and physical landscape of Jerusalem.

Our Jerusalem must be united, open to all and belonging to all its inhabitants, without borders and barbed-wire in its midst.

Our Jerusalem must be the capital of the two states that will live side by side in this country - West Jerusalem the capital of the State of Israel and East Jerusalem the capital of the State of Palestine.

Our Jerusalem must be the Capital of Peace.

850 prominent Israelis, including most of the important writers, poets, artists, academics and peace activists have signed this petition.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you see, I believe that architecture is not just an esthetic or practical function. I believe that it can become an instrument of evil, as it can become an expression of the most lofty ideals. It can lift up the human spirit, inspire and be inspired by its aspirations. With this in mind, I wish you a successful conference.

May this gathering in Salzburg, on Austrian soil, be another contribution to the fight against hatred and discrimination, for peace, social advance and beauty.

Uri Avnery / Speech / Salzburg / 26.5.00

Gush Shalom
Gush Shalom
P.O.Box 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 Phone 972-3-5221732

  • Wenn Sie Ihre Meinung äußern möchten:
    Bitte melden Sie sich im NahOst-Forum zu Wort!

  haGalil onLine
1999/2000© by haGalil onLine® - All Rights Reserved
haGalil onLine - Editorial

Werben in haGalil?
Ihre Anzeige hier!

Advertize in haGalil?
Your Ad here! ist kostenlos! Trotzdem: haGalil kostet Geld!

Die bei haGalil onLine und den angeschlossenen Domains veröffentlichten Texte spiegeln Meinungen und Kenntnisstand der jeweiligen Autoren.
Sie geben nicht unbedingt die Meinung der Herausgeber bzw. der Gesamtredaktion wieder.
haGalil onLine

haGalil - Postfach 900504 - D-81505 München

1995-2006 © haGalil onLine® bzw. den angeg. Rechteinhabern
Munich - Tel Aviv - All Rights Reserved