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Reading Amos Oz on Gaza

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This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Here we go again. Ceasefires that don’t hold. The excuse this time: an Israeli soldier has fallen into Palestinian hands. At least that’s the word from Israel and the US State Department.

Ceasefires that don’t hold are less about an Israeli soldier than they are about outside powers like the United States that are so concerned about Palestinian suffering that they transfer weapons to keep Israel’s army on the move.

Ceasefires that don’t hold are about strategic advantage, gas and oil fields and corporate profit.

For Palestinians, ceasefires that don’t hold are about more burning children.

Ceasefires that don’t hold are also about a people on the other side of history being bombed into oblivion by those who earnestly built the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and solemnly pledge that never again should the world stand by in silence while Jews or anyone else suffers injustice and genocide.

Perhaps that pledge has been fulfilled in a strange and inverted way. The world is decidedly vocal about the injustice and violence Israel is visiting upon Palestinians. Even parts of the mainstream media are broadcasting the reality in part or in whole. Yet the world remains unwilling or unable to stop the carnage.

Thus Jeffrey Goldberg’s fear  that the capture of the Israeli soldier might cause Israeli military policy to go “all-in,” or as the title of his commentary puts it, go “off the rails.”

What could going off the rails mean in this situation? Israel is ravaging entire cities, rocketing hospitals, shelling UN schools and shelters. What’s left in Netanyahu’s “all-in” strategy – the overt ethnic cleansing of Gaza? The nuclear option?

Goldberg features Amos Oz, that venerable and much-feted Israeli novelist, peacenik and enabler of denigration of Palestinians, as Israel’s “all-in” weather vane. If Oz becomes convinced that more violence is needed then Israel might indeed go off the rails.

If Oz is the person with his finger in the dam of Israeli rage, then all-in could become a reality in a heartbeat. Here is Oz in the interview itself:

Would you consider the present ground offensive to be limited or unlimited?

I think in some points it is excessive. I don’t have detailed information on what is actually happening on the ground, but to judge from some of the hits that the Israeli army caused in Gaza, I think at least in some points the military action is excessive – justified, but excessive.

Can you imagine a Palestinian state that is not hostile toward Israel?

Absolutely. I believe the majority of the Palestinians are not in love with Israel, but they do accept with clenched teeth that the Israeli Jews are not going anywhere, just like the majority of Israeli Jews – unhappily and with clenched teeth – accept that the Palestinians are here to stay. This is a basis not for a honeymoon, but perhaps for a fair divorce just like the case of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

You have been talking about a long-term solution. But what could a short-term agreement look like?

The present hostilities will only stop, unfortunately, when one of the parties or both of them are exhausted. This morning I read very carefully the charter of Hamas. It says that the Prophet commands every Muslim to kill every Jew everywhere in the world. It quotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and says that the Jews controlled the world through the League of Nations and through the United Nations, that the Jews caused the two world wars and that the entire world is controlled by Jewish money. So I hardly see a prospect for a compromise between Israel and Hamas. I have been a man of compromise all my life. But even a man of compromise cannot approach Hamas and say: ‘Maybe we meet halfway and Israel only exists on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.’

Oz hasn’t hopped off his highly-honored fence yet but, if you read his words carefully, don’t tempt him. If Palestinians get too uppity, he might join the raging crowd.

As usual, though, the question is what is tolerated by the world that counts, the ones that tally the global scorecard? Israel’s level of violence has until now been defined as “on the rails.” Can we expect the world to refuse to tolerate another level of violence it defines as “off the rails?” Or will an “all-in” Israel continue to be tolerated and enabled?

Amos Oz wants the world to know that he is busy carefully reading Hamas’s charter. But perhaps the world needs to read Amos Oz carefully.

Literary giant or not, Oz is ready to pull the plug. Can Israel be far behind?

Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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24 Responses

  1. Donald on August 2, 2014, 12:38 pm

    Justified, but excessive? True, but false? Black, but white? Democratic, but racist? Moral, but murderous?

    This could be a new word game, though it gets boring after awhile like anything based on hasbara would.

    • tree on August 2, 2014, 10:43 pm

      Justified, but excessive?

      Well, to explain Oz, let me do a Zionist riff off a speech by Barry Goldwater, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty Zionism is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice Palestinians is no virtue!”

      In other words, Zionists are “justified” in being excessive. Everyone else in the world “owes” it to them.

      Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld in 2003:

      We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force. Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: ‘Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.’ I consider it all hopeless at this point. We shall have to try to prevent things from coming to that, if at all possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.

      Israel is a nation that doesn’t have a clue how to deal with its own power. It has its vaunted “Jewish self-determination” but can’t admit or acknowledge its own agency, or get past its own Jewish navel-gazing to understand how the rest of the world perceives it.

      • Citizen on August 3, 2014, 11:26 am

        The whole world needs to see that the Samson Option threat is very real. Their governments won’t. This is what Hagee clones want. Rapture me, thanks to the Jews.

      • Peace2All on August 3, 2014, 7:26 pm

        Yes, very true, Nation of mad dogs indeed.

    • Tuyzentfloot on August 3, 2014, 4:44 am

      Justified, but excessive? True, but false?

      I don’t think that is how it works. While previously mainstream outrage took the form of ‘justified but excessive’, the shift that I see currently is that there is no more talk about justification. The focus goes to ‘excessive’. But ‘justified’ is there, lurking in the background. Media have not yet challenged justifications. I don’t know if they will.

  2. ahhiyawa on August 2, 2014, 1:46 pm

    What if “going all in” results in the same stalemate at present.

    What would Israel and the US do if all that would be accomplished is another 1,000 murdered Gazans and hundreds of slain IDF soldiers. Not counting the bombardment of civilians, all the ordnance Israel has thrown against HAMAS has failed to stop the rockets or dented their will and capacity to resist.

  3. Nevada Ned on August 2, 2014, 2:16 pm

    Amos Oz is a splendid example of the weakness of the Israeli peace movement.
    Consider the record:

    In 2006, Israel invaded Lebanon, and Amos Oz supported the war, holding a press conference with David Grossman and A. B. Yehoshua to claim that Israel was acting in “self -defense, pure and simple”. But Hezbollah put up stiff resistance to Israeli aggression, Israeli casualties mounted, and Israel faced a long-drawn-out guerrilla war. The war became unpopular among Israeli Jews, and Amos Oz stopped supporting the war.

    In 2008, Israel attached Gaza, and Oz supported the massacre. Two weeks later, the nimble-footed Oz supported calls for a ceasefire with Hamas.

    The naive and untutored may say that Oz is a man of no principles at all. Actually, that’s not true. Oz hold to the following principles:

    Support Israel’s wars of aggression, especially if the war is popular.

    UNLESS the war becomes unpopular, in which case Oz opposes the war.

    This opportunism enables Oz to be saluted as a peace activist while in fact supporting Israel’s wars.

    Amos Oz is a weathervane, not a compass.

    • Peace2All on August 3, 2014, 7:29 pm

      Amos Oz is an insult to those who perished in the Holocaust and their living relatives !

  4. Cliff on August 2, 2014, 3:01 pm

    Why does that Zio matter?

    Another Jewish supremacist and racist, upset with the uppity negroes.

  5. amigo on August 2, 2014, 3:26 pm

    “I think at least in some points the military action is excessive – justified, but excessive.”oz

    Anyone figure out what the hell that means.

    Seems to me he is sitting on a very narrow fence.

    • Citizen on August 3, 2014, 11:29 am

      @ amigo
      No problem. That narrow fence is funded by Soros and Adlelson.

  6. PAF on August 2, 2014, 3:43 pm

    ” I don’t have detailed information on what is actually happening on the ground”

    Has Amos not seen the numbers of civilians killed and injured?
    Or has he not read Gideon Levy in Haaretz re this war of choice?

    Is he also not aware that Hamas has agreed to accept Israel if it is the will of the Palestinian electorate, regardless of it’s charter?

    Is he not aware that Netanyahu and his caucus have repeatedly said that they will not tolerate an independent Palestinian state? If Netanyahu had accepted the Palestinian unity government, it would not have had to deal with Hamas, but rather the whole Palestinian electorate.

    In the UK, we no longer need to deal with the IRA and it’s car bombs and capture and murders of UK soldiers…….because we sought a resolution through dialogue…and without levelling the republican ghettos in Belfast and Derry.

  7. Keith on August 2, 2014, 5:10 pm

    AMOS OZ SAID- “This morning I read very carefully the charter of Hamas.”

    Noam Chomsky says: “The (unrevised) 1999 platform of Israel’s governing party, Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud, “flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.” And for those who like to obsess about meaningless charters, the core component of Likud, Menahem Begin’s Herut, has yet to abandon its founding doctrine that the territory on both sides of the Jordan is part of the Land of Israel.”

  8. American on August 2, 2014, 8:32 pm

    ”’ This morning I read very carefully the charter of Hamas. It says that the Prophet commands every Muslim to kill every Jew everywhere in the world. It quotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and says that the Jews controlled the world through the League of Nations and through the United blah blah….>>>

    Yawn…so what.
    We are constantly treated to current reports of your Rabbis telling the tribe that it is permissable to kill gentiles and their babies and so forth and calling for total destruction of Palestines, Muslims…..
    A ‘giant’ of any kind this man is not since hes so slack about telling the rest of the story….more like a turd that floated to the top of the cest pool.

  9. talknic on August 2, 2014, 8:35 pm

    “This morning I read very carefully the charter of Hamas”

    But not carefully enough to read article 31 …

  10. Bandolero on August 2, 2014, 8:52 pm

    Please note the notice at the bottom of DW World’s page.

    An earlier version of this interview indicated that Amos Oz’ relative had been liberated by American soldiers. Mr. Oz later corrected himself, explaining that Soviet soldiers had been responsible.

    The correction came after I tweeted and commnted here at Mondo Weiss about Amos Oz faking history. To me saying him a relative of him who survived the Nazi Holocaust in Theresienstadt “always” reminded her children and her grandchildren that her life was saved in 1945 not by peace demonstrators with placards and flowers but by American soldiers and submachine guns looked quite strange.

    That sounded to me like he wanted to jump into current anti-Russian propaganda campaign and deny the Russians even that they liberated Theresienstadt in 1945. In the German version of the interview, after I tweeted about it, at first DW silently deleted the attribute “American” and then, after a while, they put on the correction notice.

    I find it OK to make mistakes. However, I still wonder how much truth, knowledge and honesty is to be found in stories by Amos Oz in general, given that he used the word “always” to underline the strength of his wrong assertion of American liberation of KZ Theresienstadt.

    Or, maybe he did that error intentionally to expose the German media for their colportation of Zionist nonsense? I don’t know.

    • just on August 2, 2014, 8:58 pm

      Bravo to you, Bandolero for exposing what lies beneath!

      Pretty interesting ‘mistake’.

  11. eljay on August 2, 2014, 9:07 pm

    Hamas really needs to ditch that charter. It reads far too much like a primitive, religiously-driven, conspiracy-filled diatriabe against “the Jews” and a call for Islamic supremacism.

    Even article 31 isn’t what I would call reassuring:

    • The People of Other Faiths
    Article 31:
    The Islamic Resistance Movement is a humanistic movement that takes care of human rights and follows the tolerance of Islam with respect to people of other faiths. Never does it attack any of them except those who show enmity toward it or stand in its path to stop the movement or waste its efforts.

    1. Humanistic and “takes care of human rights” sounds great; “the tolerance of Islam” does not and, moreover, it’s redundant.
    2. Hamas will attack anyone who “stands in its path to … waste its efforts” – that’s pretty vague. And what constitutes “enmity toward it”?

    In the shadow of Islam it is possible for the followers of the three religions-Islam, Christianity, and Judaism-to live in peace and harmony, and this peace and harmony is possible only under Islam: The history of the past and present is the best written witness for that.

    What happens to people who do not want to live “in the shadow of Islam”? Does refusing to live in that shadow – and instead, say, advocating for a secular society that embraces justice, accountability and equality – constitute “enmity toward” Hamas?

    Followers of other religions should stop fighting Islam in ruling this area, because when they rule, there will only be murdering, punishing, and banishing, because they make life hard for their own people, not to mention the followers of other religions. …

    So…if you fight Islam when it comes to being humanistic and taking care of human rights, you’ll get murdered, punished and banished…and it’ll be your own fault.

    Yup, Hamas really needs to ditch that charter.

  12. Tuyzentfloot on August 3, 2014, 6:46 am

    I can easily believe Amoz Oz is a good person while at the same time thinking he’s a lousy guide in this conflict. (*)

    I think Hamas is a reasonable partner for negotiations.
    If people start playing with that idea there’s a good chance they’ll read their moral compass Amoz Oz, he’s bound to get in the way. So his reading of Hamas’ charter has a preemptive effect.

    (*) And I can put up an argument in defense of doublethink in that respect.

  13. Boomer on August 3, 2014, 1:53 pm

    Oz sounds like a fairy tale, a fable for children. But such stories can be important, they can shape lives and nations. “Germany was stabbed in the back.” “God gave us this land.”

    It isn’t clear to me why, but evidently some American Zionists set great store by what Oz says. It seems that they look to him for rhetoric and rationalizations that let them feel righteous and judicious. For example:

  14. Tuyzentfloot on August 3, 2014, 5:00 pm

    In the New Yorker, in a reply to a piece by Khalidi, Amoz Oz is presented as a moral compass by
    Philip Gourevitch

    They’re busy at the Newyorker.

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