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Israeli civil rights pioneer Shulamit Aloni dies

Shulamit Aloni

By: Tia Goldenberg - Jan. 24, 2014 6:02AM EST

JERUSALEM (AP) - Shulamit Aloni, an Israeli legislator who championed civil rights and was fiercely critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, died on Friday. She was 85.

Meretz, the party she helped found and led, announced her death in a statement on its website. The party did not reveal the cause of death.

Aloni was born in Tel Aviv and fought in the 1948 war that led to Israel's creation. First elected to Israel's parliament, the Knesset, in 1965, she served for 28 years and held a number of Cabinet posts.

An audacious speaker and one of few women to openly challenge the nation's rabbis, Aloni fought for civil liberties, women's rights and a separation of church and state. But her boisterous crusade for secular rights was perceived as offensive by some ultra-Orthodox.

She irritated religious Israelis by being photographed at an Arab restaurant with a breadbasket during Passover, when observant Jews don't eat bread.

She created the Citizens' Rights Movement, or Ratz, in 1973, with the primary goal of ridding Israel of Orthodox rabbis' monopoly over marriage and divorce.

But the party later took up peace issues and the treatment of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Aloni became a loud dissenting voice in the governments she served in, often criticizing new settlement construction in territories she believed should be reserved for a future Palestinian state. Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005.

She helped found Meretz in 1991, winning the party 12 seats in the 1992 elections and leading it into Israel's governing coalition, which, with the ruling Labor party, made strides toward Mideast peace. She stepped down in 1996.

Israeli lawmakers from across the political spectrum praised Aloni.

"Despite the deep disagreements we had over the years, I appreciated her contribution to the Israeli public and Aloni's determination to stand firmly for the things she believed in," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Israeli President Shimon Peres called Aloni "a warrior for peace and civil rights in Israel."

Aloni was recognized for her devotion to civil liberties in 2000, when she was awarded the Israel Prize, the country's highest distinction.

Her funeral is to be held on Sunday.

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Rhoda January 24 2014 at 10:53 AM

May she rest in peace.

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Steve January 24 2014 at 11:14 AM

Maybe someday soon, her vision of a peaceful coexistence will be a reality

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bigfile4 January 24 2014 at 8:15 AM

When someone like her criticizes Israel's policies towards Palestinians, I listen. Lies and propaganda from Palestinian terrorists targeting Israel and the West have no credibility as their goals and motives are suspect. Peace can be theirs if they can summon legitimate leaders and diplomats to make a liveable deal.

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Randy bigfile4 January 24 2014 at 11:38 AM

This statement is nonsense. The true obstacles to peace in the region are the United States and Israel. The peace process over the last several decades has been a sham designed to allow Israel to confiscate more and more Palestinian property and change the facts on the ground. The Lies and propaganda come mainly from Israel and the United States. If Israel and her American backers were truly interested in peace, they would stop building settlements in occupied territory in defiance of UN resolutions and international law.

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zeesi January 24 2014 at 10:07 AM

Glad to respond to something so meaningful. Sorry that I didn't know of her until I read about her and how she stood her ground and gave Israel more progress and a stronger nation.

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Dan January 24 2014 at 8:25 AM

Real civil rights in Israel would be to end the preferential treatment given to Orthodox Jews while discriminating against the non-orthodox even though many of them serve in Israel's armed forces and work to make the country great.

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Judith Dan January 24 2014 at 3:31 PM

According to my friends and relatives in Israel (not the news media), that is being addressed.

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Tom January 24 2014 at 7:28 AM

Sounds like she was like Martin Luther king or Nelson Mandela but even braver because she was doing her efforts for another ethnic group-People like this are rare -hopefully more like her will come forward to champion peace and equality for both sides -of course the Palestinians must do their part as well.

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1 reply
Randy Tom January 24 2014 at 11:26 AM

She was certainly courageous, but I don't know if she was braver than King or Mandela. The fact that she was an Israeli citizen afforded her some protections and rights that are not available to Palestinian activist. I suspect that any Palestinian activist that obtained the influence of King or Mandela would be killed or imprisoned.

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jurmik January 24 2014 at 10:38 AM

I'm sorry I do not know this lady, but do know the lovely country of Israel after many visits. Shalom.

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mary January 24 2014 at 8:21 AM

I met Shulamit Aloni several times and admired her greatly as a no nonsense civil rights lawyer and Parliamentarian leader....I believe she understood the way to achieve peace and harmony among the Israelis and Palestinians. was to protect their rights and treat them with dignity and respect .I am deeply saddened by her passing on. ... Hon. Mary Rose Oakar

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mortkap January 24 2014 at 10:05 AM

She was in the great moral tradition of the Jews as expressed in their greatest prophets from Moses to Jesus.

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gmj123 January 24 2014 at 11:07 AM

I have yet to hear of a Palestinian condemning Arabs who have murdered Israeli men, women and children. In fact, the Palestinians treat cold blooded Arab killers as heroes. Israel just released at least 100 terrorists with blood on their hands in good faith to advance peace negotiations. The Palestinians welcomed the terrorists and celebrated the fact that they killed children. Israel must remain vigilant and never negotiate away land for a worthless piece of paper.

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1 reply
Reynaldo Hernand gmj123 January 24 2014 at 11:23 AM

Nothing will be gained by either side condemning the other. That only increases the defensiveness on both sides. I am sure there are plenty of Israelis and Palestinians both that GRIEVE over the violence. Unfortunately, grieving does not get the attention that screaming does.

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1 reply
gmj123 Reynaldo Hernand January 24 2014 at 11:27 AM

The point is that Israelis truly desire peaceful coexistence. Palestinians truly desire to kill Israelis.

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