The wisdom of the late Akiva Orr

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Akiva Orr died last week at 81, a leading Israeli anti-Zionist intellectual who was for one democratic state in Israel and Palestine. Joseph Dana wrote this heartfelt goodbye to Orr on facebook:

Akiva, you provided me grounding while I struggled to understand this place. You were an endless source of inspiration and humour, necessary guidance and support. I will not soon forget driving around in your cluttered car, finding half drunk bottles of whiskey in the glove compartment or the hundreds of emails, which were sometime impossible to understand. I wish that I could write that this place will soon be getting better but we would both know that is a lie. The only thing that I can say is that you will be missed and not forgotten.

I admired Orr for his generous support of the J14 movement; he explained to doubters that his own politicization began in 1951 with a seamen’s strike, and led in time to his recognizing Palestinian humanity.

Two years ago Joseph Dana and Max Blumenthal did a great long video interview of Orr, below, in which they had to ask few questions. 

Author and activist Akiva Orr on Israel’s wars from Max Blumenthal on Vimeo.

Orr relates his story on the video: He was born in Germany in 1931 and emigrated to Palestine with his parents in 1934. His anti-Zionist father understood what a disaster the situation was when he explained to his son in 1948 (minute 7:30) that he regretted moving there: “I made a mistake, I didn’t know there’s another nation living here.” And so for the next 100 years Israel would be consumed by nationalism– and “all the talent and all the thinking, everything will be sucked into this.” A clairvoyant statement.

The video includes Orr’s insight that only Communists really seemed to care about other people, to not be entirely selfish (worth pondering). And at minute 56, Orr speaks about dual loyalty when discussing Baron Edmund de Rothschild founding early Jewish settlements in the 1880s that were welcomed by Palestinians.

“He never was a Zionist, he never wanted to create a Jewish state in Palestine… His model was the French colonization of Algeria.” Rothschild was a French patriot opposed to Zionism, Orr said; when Herzl approached Rothschild in the 1890s, he opposed him because the creation of a Jewish state would expose him to charges of dual loyalty. And the moment the Zionists began to come to Palestine after World War I, the hostility began– because Palestinians saw that they wanted a state.

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