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Opinion | The Passing of Shlomo Avineri | Israel Hayom

2023-12-04T08:16:17.837Z

Highlights: Shlomo Avineri was a scholar of political thought, Israel Prize laureate and director general of the Foreign Ministry in the 70s. He was not a Marxist in outlook, but a social democratic Zionist and a member of the non-Marxist mainstream in the labor movement. The Israeli contribution to the study of Marx in the world was unique in undermining Marxist orthodoxy. He has remained silent in the face of the recent escalation of the High Court. His silence may have stemmed from a certain contradiction between the elitism of his political thought and opposition to the rule of unelected experts. We'll treasure his sharpness for days to come.


Avineri, who was not a Marxist in outlook, but a social democratic Zionist and a member of the non-Marxist mainstream labor movement, was actually Israel's most important expert on Marx's theory


It's not every day that we say goodbye to an intellectual like Shlomo Avineri, a scholar of political thought, Israel Prize laureate and director general of the Foreign Ministry in the 70s, who has passed away. Shlomo Avineri was one of a small group of academic intellectuals who led the humanities and social sciences in Israel and had a prominent international standing. He was much younger than such figures as Samuel Noah Eisenstadt, Martin Buber, Jacob Talmon and Nathan Rottenstreich, and was a student of some, yet he belonged to them substantially. Like them, he held a prominent international standing, unlike other important academic intellectuals, whose wisdom remained steeped in Israel.

Avineri was a prominent scholar of Marxism and illuminated the importance of the writings of the young Karl Marx. Avineri's interpretation was, and still is, very important, because for a long time the interpretation of dogmatic Marxists in the spirit of Soviet communism, which greatly emphasized the economic necessity of historical processes, according to Marx, at the expense of the role of the will in shaping history.There is a double irony here: Avineri, who was not a Marxist in his outlook, but a social democratic Zionist and a member of the non-Marxist mainstream in the labor movement (Mapai, "from the ground up", "Labor") – he was actually the most important expert in Israel on Marx's theory; And most of his achievement lay in the status of the desire to shape history – an issue that was at the basis of the reservations of many members of the pioneering-Zionist labor movement about Marx's teachings, at least in its Orthodox or Communist version. The Israeli contribution to the study of Marx in the world was unique in undermining Marxist orthodoxy.

Avineri's writing influenced many in Israel. He was not Urim and Thummim. It is possible, and sometimes necessary, to disagree with him, especially his radical dovish positions, which were not updated in light of the ongoing failure of the Oslo Accords, even before the current war. But his views were a landmark that an Israeli intellectual had to address. Avineri was one of the personalities of the Hebrew University, but he also perceived himself as an educator of the educated public in Israel in many publicist articles.He addressed the public mainly from his fields of research: the study of the thought of Marx, Hess, Herzl and Arlozorov, the study of Hegel's political philosophy, the study of socialism and the European and Zionist workers' movement, and the study of foreign relations.

Avineri spoke out strongly against what he called the High Court of Justice – a rule of judges that does not depend on the consent of the governed. But he has remained silent in the face of the recent escalation of the High Court. His silence may have stemmed from a certain contradiction between the elitism of his political thought and opposition to the rule of unelected experts

Avineri played important advisory roles in the democratization of post-communist countries in Eastern Europe. European nationalism, and Zionism in and in comparison with it, was central to his academic and public writing. Avineri also stood against the anti-national tendencies that developed since the 80s among European liberals and social democrats, as well as against the nationalist trends that took root in post-communist Eastern Europe and, more recently, in Western Europe, in light of the waves of immigration and the crisis of the European Union. Left-wing nationalism and the Zionist position on the political liberation of the Jewish people were at the root of these pro-national positions.

Avineri has consistently advocated an extreme proportional electoral system, out of his aspiration for a guided democratic regime, balanced by a "politics of consent," that is, also based on compromises between elites, and not just on "politics of decision" in elections. Nonetheless, Avineri feared for democracy, and therefore spoke out strongly against what he called the High Court of Justice – a rule of judges that does not depend on the consent of the governed. But he has remained silent in the face of the recent escalation of the High Court. His silence may have stemmed from a certain contradiction between the elitism of his political thought and opposition to the rule of unelected experts. His elitism was ultimately the elitism of elected representatives. He may have remained silent because he did not want to help the right, which had gradually taken the lead in the struggle against the High Court of Justice. Either way, his voice has been missing lately, if only to argue with him. We will treasure its sharpness for days to come.

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Source: israelhayom

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