Rivlin criticized for eulogizing far-left activist

President raises eyebrows after he lauds recently-deceased journalist and former MK Uri Avnery.

Tzvi Lev ,

Flash 90

President Reuven Rivlin raised some eyebrows after he eulogized recently-deceased radical left-wing activist Uri Avnery.

Avnery, 94, passed away on Monday after suffering from a stroke earlier this month and was a radical left-wing activist who was renowned for being one of the first Israelis to meet with PLO head Yasser Arafat.

Avnery's passing prompted a flood of eulogies from leftist MKs and public figures. Among them was President Reuven Rivlin, who tweeted that "we had strong differences of opinion, but they were dwarfed by the desire to build a free and strong society here. May his memory be blessed."

Rivlin added that "in the days of the struggle for the freedom of Israel, Uri Avnery fought in the ranks of the Irgun and adopted the challenge of his special status as an eternal opportunist. Avnery advocated Jabotinsky's words, "Silence is slime," and his struggle for state recognition of Irgun fighters and his wars for freedom of expression paved the way for Israel as a young state."

Rivlin's remarks lauding the controversial activist raised eyebrows, who questioned whether it was proper for the president to praise a man who once called IDF soldiers "murderers in uniform".

"It was needless, Mr. President. Avnery was not a positive figure in any way. He hated his people and supported Israel's enemies. There is nothing to be proud of when he leaves," tweeted haredi journalist Aryeh Ehrlich.

IDF Colonel (Reserve) Erez Viner recalled how "18 years ago, as the commander of the Duchifat battalion, I merited to be called a 'Judeo-Nazi by this man. When I asked him how he dared to do such a comparison, he replied that our actions were worse than that of the Nazis ."

Avnery had been a member of the Irgun before serving as a Knesset member from 1965-74 and again from 1979-81. He was the owner of HaOlam HaZeh, a left-wing Israeli magazine from 1950 until its close in 1993.

Avnery is notorious for crossing enemy lines to meet with Yasser Arafat in 1982 during the Siege of Beirut. He is the author of several books on the Arab-Israeli conflict and campaigned for a Palestinian state at a time when the idea was only supported by the radical left-wing fringe.