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Wednesday, July 7, 2004


Former Speaker of Knesset to give talk

Avraham Burg appears in Ketchum Saturday

Express Staff Writer

Among the impressive speakers valley organizations have enticed to the valley in the past, the guest this week of the Wood River Jewish Community, Avraham Burg, is what the news industry calls a "get." Burg, a prominent player in Middle East politics, is speaking 5 p.m. Saturday, July 10, at St. Thomas Church in Ketchum.

Born in Jerusalem in 1955, Burg became by age 30 the youngest speaker ever in the history of the Israeli Knesset. He is a staunch supporter of peace in the Middle East, and is an outspoken critic of Ariel Sharonís methods.

"I am coming because of Edgar Bronfmanís match making between you people," Burg said in a phone interview. "He is like an elder brother to me, when a call like this comes, I just say tell me what you want me to say and when."

Burgís speech is titled "Israel Misunderstood: A World Perspective on the Middle East Conflict."

"What happened to the world from the 1990s which was a decade of reconciliation, this is a decade of intensified conflict?" Burg said.

"I ask what would make a good president? Itís like a good parent who does not what the child wants but what the child needs."

Burg, a committed advocate of the separation of politics and religion in Israel, founded the Open Midrasha Center for Jewish Studies.

"I started my career as a recently released paratrooper in the war against Lebanon, (in which he was seriously injured). Right away I established the first ever protest against the Lebanon war, which was Ariel Sharonís."

In 1985, he was appointed by then Prime Minister Shimon Peres to serve as his adviser on Diaspora Affairs. In 1988 Burg was elected to the Knesset on the Alignment Party List, where he was a prominent member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, the Finance Committee and the State Control Committee.

Burg helped to make changes in the structure and role of the National Institutions, including the return of property stolen during the Holocaust and the battle for religious pluralism and tolerance in Israel. He stepped down from this position in 1999 to run again for the Knesset and in 1999 was elected Speaker of the Knesset.

After 13 years Burg resigned last week. "They couldnít stand me anymore," he said, laughing. "I took a very hard position against the joining of the Labor Party and Sharonís positions.

"I donít like what America is doing or what our country is doing. Weíve been adopting a patronizing attitude or ignoring the other in the process. I prefer to solve the problem with discussion in a bilateral approach.

"Iím happy with the core of Sharonís understanding, occupation is bad. We have to walk out of Gaza, but I would do it differently. The ruling majority in the country of the day are short sighted, they see an opportunity and they just go for it.

"We were a part of the problem for 37 years, now we have to be part of the solution."

Itís this attitude that makes Burg a fascinating speaker. He is well informed and articulate about his passions, which are anything but narrow minded.

The event is free and open to everyone.


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