January 19, 2018
NYU Washington, DC presented a dialogue between former leader of the Israeli Knesset, Avraham Burg and Associated Press writer Seth Borenstein. The conversation examined Burg's writings and speeches that relate to what he describes as the death of democracy and the rise of fascism in Israel. The discussion also covered prospects of peace, a one state solution, and the history and future of US/Israel/Palestine relations.
Avraham Burg, Speaker of the Fifteenth Knesset, was born in Jerusalem in 1955. Following his military service as an officer in the Paratroop Division, Avraham Burg became one of the leaders of the protest movement against the war in Lebanon. (He was wounded by the hand grenade thrown at the protesters of the Peace Now movement in Jerusalem that caused the death of Emil Grunzweig.)
In 1985, he was appointed by then Prime Minister Shimon Peres to serve as his adviser on Diaspora Affairs, a position he continued in until 1988. That year 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 was elected to the Knesset once again in 1992, having placed third on the Labor Party list, after the late Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Until 1995, he served as Chairman of the Knesset Education and Culture Committee.
In February 1995, Burg was elected Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the World Zionist Organization and, on taking up this position, resigned from the Knesset. Under Burg's leadership there were significant changes in the structure and role of the National Institutions, which began to operate in several new areas, such as the restitution of Jewish property stolen during the Holocaust and the battle for religious pluralism and tolerance among the Jewish people. He stepped down from this position in 1999 to run for the Knesset on the One Israel list, and in July 1999 was elected Speaker of the Knesset.
Avraham Burg's father, Dr. Yosef Burg, was a prominent leader of the National Religious Party, who served as minister in Israeli governments from the first years of the state until the 1980's.
Seth Borenstein was part of an AP Gulf of Mexico oil spill reporting team that won the 2010 George Polk Award for Environment Reporting and a special merit award as part of the 2011 Grantham environment reporting prizes. He was part of a team of finalists for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Columbia space shuttle disaster. A science and environmental journalist for more than 20 years, covering everything from hurricanes to space shuttle launches, Borenstein has also worked for Knight Ridder Newspapers’ Washington Bureau, The Orlando Sentinel, and the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. He is the co-author of three long out-of-print books, two on hurricanes and one on popular science.