(JTA) — Yelena Bonner, human rights activist in the former Soviet Union and widow Nobel Prize-winning Andrei Sakharov, died in Boston on June 18 at 88.
Daughter of an Armenian Bolshevik revolutionary father and Jewish mother, she spoke frequently in favor or Israel and against anti-Semitism.
"I hope to live out my life until the end worthy of the Russian culture in which I’ve spent my life, of the Jewish and Armenian nationalities, and I am proud that mine has been the difficult lot and happy fate to be the wife and friend of academic Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov," she wrote in her 1988 memoir, “Alone Together: Story of Elena Bonner and Andrei Sakharov’s internal exile in the Soviet Union.”
Wounded twice while serving as a nurse in World War II, she enrolled in the Leningrad Medical Institute after the war, but was expelled during a Stalin-era campaign against Jews.
Natan Sharansky, fellow former dissident and activist Natan Sharansky and current chairman of the Jewish Agency, said "The Jewish world and the State of Israel have lost one of their most passionate champions. At the same time, the global community of democratic dissidents, political prisoners and human rights activists has lost one of its greatest leaders and advocates.”
Attempts to delegitimize have “infected American students, Hollywood stars, European scholars, members of the Norwegian parliament and human rights organizations,” Mrs. Bonner wrote. .“Politicians have a short memory. They have forgotten how Arafat’s Black September almost destroyed Jordan, the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, and much else. The hysteria has tragically isolated Israel, but it is also dangerous for Europe and America, where it has stirred up a troubling wave of anti-Semitism.”
Bonner said she focused on Israel and Jews “not just because I’m Jewish, but primarily because the Middle East conflict during the time that has elapsed since the end of World War II has been a springboard for political games and gambling by the big powers, the Arab countries and some politicians who want the so-called ‘peace’ process to renew their political name, and maybe even win a Nobel Peace Prize.”