Thursday, February 26, 2009
Avraham Burg and the Post-Zionist Wrecking of the Pri Hagalil Company
By Steven Plaut
Avraham Burg is without a question one of the worst Israelis in the world
and also a despicable person. A one-time Knesset Member from the Labor
Party and a speaker of the Knesset, and later Chairman of the Jewish
Agency, Burg is openly seeking to put an end to Israel's existence as a
Jewish state. He is a leader in the "Post-Zionist" movement of
ultra-leftists, Israelis and ex-Israelis seeking Israel's annihilation.
But now he is also up to his ears in financial scandal. It turns out he
is one of the central figures involved in the collapse of the Pri Hagalil
company, a collapse that has dominated the economic news in recent weeks
Let's back up a little.
Avraham "Avrum" Burg has been a far-leftist for decades. He is the son of
the great Joseph Burg, a Holocaust survivor and one of Israel's founders.
Father Burg was a leader of the National Religious Party and sat in
Israeli cabinets for so many years that there were many jokes about him
having sat in a cabinet with Pharaoh. Mother Burg had grown up in Hebron
and survived the 1929 Arab pogroms against Jews there.
Junior Avraham had been a leader in "Peace Now," and supposedly was
standing near the favorite martyr saint of the Israeli Left, Emil
Grunsweig, when the latter was killed by a grenade tossed at the
demonstrators by a rightist. (The perp, by the way, is NOT on the list of
people Olmert wants to release as part of the general release of
terrorists.) Avraham is religious, sort of, showing his ambivalence about
that by wearing a yarmulke smaller than many postage stamps. In recent
years he has been making headlines for his demands that Israel stop being
a Jewish state, that the Law of Return for Jews be revoked, and that
Jewish symbols of the state be junked. He is a founder of the new
anti-Israel lobby in the US, "J Street." He has lived in recent years in
France. His current "thinking" can be read here:
As speaker of the Knesset, "Avrum" defied Israeli law and illegally went
to speak before the PLO's "parliament" in Ramallah in 2002.
Since then he has morphed into one of Israel's most extremist
"Post-Zionists" (http://www.arabworldbooks.com/arab/avraham.htm ). He
denounces Zionism in the anti-Israel Guardian
(http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/comment/0,10551,1042071,00.html ). The
anti-Semite Pat Buchanan has applauded him
He has denounced Israel as an evil entity
(http://www.haaretz.com/GA/pages/ShArtGA.jhtml?itemNo=360539 ). The
journal Azure reports
(http://azure.org.il/magazine/magazine.asp?id=117&search_text= ) that Burg
'declared the late Yeshayahu Leibowitz (of 'Judeo-Nazis' fame) to be his
'moral compass.' Burg's advisers Haim Ben-Shachar and Arik Carmon have
developed a plan whereby the Zionist movement would drop its focus on
Jewish immigration and concern itself with distributing 'pluralistic'
Jewish material over the Internet. He teamed up with Yossi Beilin to
promote the latter's "Geneva Misunderstandings" to dismember Israel
Burg demands that Israel desist altogether from defining itself as a
"Jewish state". His take on suicide bombers? "Having ceased to care
about the children of the Palestinians, [Israel] should not be surprised
when they come full of hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of
He has published an anti-Israel 'book', one that ruminates about Israel
and Zionism, compares Israel and Germany, harshly criticizes Eichmann's
hanging by Israel, reflects on Judaism in the age of globalization and
remembers his father's house. In 2007 the media reported that Burg junior
had left Israel altogether to do "business" in France. We will see in a
minute what sort of "business."
Meanwhile, back to Pri Hagalil. It is a fruit canning and processing
company located in the impoverished Israeli "development town" of Hatzor,
not far from Kiryat Shmona, close enough to be on the receiving end of
many a Hezbollah rocket. It is the main employer in the town, and it is
The background to this is that the company was once one of so many
mismanaged enterprises owned by Israel's Histadrut Trade Union Federation.
The Histadrut is essentially Israel's leading organized crime family. Pri
Hagalil had been managed by the Histadrut's own industrial holding company
Koor, before the latter was privatized. Pri Hagalil was sold by Koor in
the 1990s to two dubious characters, an Israeli business man named Aviv
Algor, and a British investor named Ian Davis. I say they are dubious,
but I mean they are crooks. A month ago the two were convicted of serious
fraud in a separate affair involving the Mediterranean Pipes Company
(Maariv Feb 25) and had other previous fraud convictions (see
The two crooks had purchased Pro Hagalil and at the same time purchased
the "Vita" company, which makes soups and other processed foods, and
merged it with Pri Hagalil to make a new company. The merged enterprise
was owned by "Kedem," their own holding company, which also bought up
other failing Israeli companies from different industries.
At that point they struck a deal with .. (drumroll) . our own Avrum Burg!
He came in as a partner in their corporation and was appointed chairman of
the board of directors of Pri Hagalil. The company kept losing money (if
you are interested and read Hebrew, you can check its books out at
It went deeper into debt, borrowing from the banks and others. And to
make matters more confusing, the assets of Pri Hagalil were pledged as
collateral not only for the factory's own debts but also for the debts of
the other companies owned by the fraudulent duo and their Post-Zionist
partner, Burg. Burg did not pony up much or any cash of his own to become
the partner of Algor and Davis. So what exactly did he offer them?
Perhaps his wide-ranging political contacts as the past Speaker of the
In any case, Pri Hagalil went bust, and is now insolvent. The two large
Israeli banks that are its largest creditors began preparations to
foreclose and liquidate the company. That has serious implications
because it is the lifeline of the large portion of the population of
Hatzor. Shutting down the factory would make Hatzor look like Oklahoma
in a John Steinbeck book.
So in the past few weeks, the business news in Israel has been revolving
around the prospective shutting down of the factory. Its workers are
striking on and off, and holding noisy demonstrations. The banks are
demanding that the court put the company into receivership, and that a
"rehabilitation plan" be negotiated. Everyone is pretty clearly trying to
pressure the government to bail out the company Obama-style. But the new
Minister of Finance will likely be Bibi and he is opposed to corporate
welfare. Burg and his buddies are accusing the banks of insensitivity in
trying to get repaid the money owed to them by the Pri Hagalil company.
The banks themselves are in the red even without writing off their
investments in Pri Hagalil, because of the financial crisis and recession.
They are accusing Burg of mismanaging the company and its finances.
The bottom line is that the mainstay source of sustenance for an entire
impoverished development town in Israel was destroyed under the
stewardship of dear old Avraham Burg And then to top it all off, Maariv
Feb 25, 09 is reporting that the Israeli banks are accusing Burg of being
involved in the disappearance of funds plowed into the factory. They
claim they invested 270 million shekels in keeping the factory operational
and that these funds simply "disappeared." Whither did they disappear?
The media are not saying and neither is Burg.
As of this morning, the court gave the company a brief reprieve before
putting it into receivership, so that its owners can try to negotiate with
its creditors. My guess is that the Israeli government will bail it out,
forcing taxpayers to pony up the cash to cover Burg's incompetence.