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What Amos Oz tells us about the Israeli Left

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On Friday, Israeli novelist, journalist, and intellectual, Amos Oz, passed away. Oz is regarded as the most prominent Israeli author, an Israel Prize laureate who was also repeatedly mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize for Literature. His death spurred numerous eulogies, lamentations, and words of admiration the worldover, for his many novels, and for his journalism work published by Zionist newspapers and media outlets. He is described by the Israeli majority as a semi-god, an avid “peace advocate,” and an intellectual idol. Even the New York Times described him as such.

Israel’s fascist Culture Minister, Miri Regev, eulogized Oz, saying that his work will resonate all over the world, and President Reuven Rivlin described Oz as “a literary giant.” While a discussion about the quality of his work is indeed worthy, we must also address the political atmosphere, message, and values that he chose to portray in his work, enabling us to gain a broader sense of the person behind the words.

As an artist, I can say that art is never created in a vacuum. Artists in particular, and people in general, cannot fully separate themselves from their own political context. Creativity is driven by our innermost emotions and feelings, which are always molded by the society in which we live and our education. With this in mind it is important to acknowledge from that outset that Oz was a Zionist. A white, Zionist man. So supremely privileged, even his fiction work does not give space to describe the power dynamics so tightly woven into Israeli society. Oz tended to write about Ashkenazi families and Kibbutzim, two emblematic symbols that stand at the forefront of the white Zionist supremacy. Oz deliberately ignored Mizrahi Jews, and was a leading symbol of the Israeli Zionist left. He wrote from a Zionist viewpoint, and the majority of his embracing Israeli audience is Zionist, too. Moreover, Oz was outspoken about the importance of a Jewish state, and supported the two-state solution. Throughout his life Oz remained intransigent, refusing to see the racist, even genocidal nature of the Zionist regime.

The Israeli Left that Oz helped create

Oz serves as a great example of what the Israeli pseudo-left looks like. He, just like his readers, advocate for the existence of a Jewish state, and hence his writing demonstrates his support for a Jewish, white supremacy over an indigenous nation, and his support of a mendacious, ethnonational, racist regime. In addition, he was steadfast in his “delicate” form of apartheid support, never vacillating over these issues. 

Oz called himself a leftist, yet he openly expressed his white supremacist views in both his fiction and non-fiction works. In his recent non-fiction work Dear Zealots, for example, Oz talked about fanaticism. He said that fanaticism:

“dates back much earlier than Islam. Earlier than Christianity and Judaism. Earlier than all the ideologies in the world. It is an elemental fixture of human nature, a “bad gene.” People who bomb abortion clinics, murder immigrants in Europe, murder Jewish women and children in Israel, burn down a house in the Israeli-occupied territories with an entire Palestinian family inside, desecrate synagogues and churches and mosques and cemeteries—they are all distinct from al-Qaeda and ISIS in the scope and severity of their acts, but not in their nature.”

This quote reveals the racism and contradictions of Liberal Zionist ideology. Oz was a secular man. When talking about fanaticism, he refers to Islam, stating that religious fanaticism should be denounced. Oz’s own anti-Muslim racism helped confirm similar beliefs among his readers so that leftists could all believe that speaking against the “fanaticism” of Islam was another step aimed at achieving peace. The secularism of the Israeli liberal left is its most ironic aspect, funny even. On the one hand, it condemns religion, but on the other hand it supports the idea of a religious state. Liberal leftists believe in the false idea of a Jewish nation, albeit they do not acknowledge that Judaism is a merely religion, and a Jewish state will be a religious state. These two aspects simply cannot be reconciled, yet they openly exist in the Israeli left wing.

The orchestrated lamentation of public Zionist figures (especially men) has become routine, demonstrating the Israeli liberals’ mechanized Pavlovian response to the passing of famous apartheid supporters. RIP Amos Oz, “peace activist” and “peace will be his eternal legacy,” as some eulogies touted. The same public response had happened with former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and former President Shimon Peres. Both had committed war crimes, and deliberately incited against the Palestinians while deceitfully positioning themselves as progressive leaders for peace. In the context of Israeli society, they are all white, Jewish men. They say they call for peace (and their loyal followers believe them), yet they enjoy their supremacist position hypocritically. This, among other reasons, is why the political atmosphere in Israel and the Palestinian oppression cannot change from within Israeli society. It has to come from outside, by external force or circumstance, such as boycott, that will create this change internally.

Zionists vs. Dissidents

As for the political polarities in Israel, it would be inaccurate to divide the local landscape into “right wing” and “left wing,” simply because the left wing in Israel is nonexistent, as I explained above. The worldover, leftists have always supported human rights in all its forms, except in Israel. In this country, the left wing supports the army, maintains the supremacy of the privileged (in this case, white Jews), as Oz’s example shows. Highly Islamophobic, to the point of constant dread, Israel’s left is alarmed even by the possibility of the expansion of a Palestinian nation, viewing it as a “demographic threat.” In their support of the IDF, they also amplify other negativistic viewpoints, such as misogyny and homophobia, which always go hand in hand with belligerence. In a patriarchal world, the army is primarily led and shaped by men who cherish the ideal of aggressive, invasive masculinity. This violent, macho, militant archetype does not abide by any proper leftist ideology, except in Israel. The majority among the Israeli left do not accept the fact that Israel is an apartheid state, let alone genocidal. They do not support the Palestinian right of return to their homeland, preferring instead to buy into the fear-spreading propaganda that portrays peace and equal rights as a risk to their livelihood.

Instead of dividing Israeli society into “left wing” and “right wing,” one should divide the Israeli political atmosphere into Zionists and dissidents, while the latter is such a small group, it is almost absent from both political and social landscapes. In Israel, the so-called left wing is so similar in its values to the right wing, it can easily be tagged “liberal right.” This is the reason the Israeli society cannot be left to its own devices when it comes to creating change. An international support of boycott is required, placing pressure from outside, which can morph into the mobilization of a new, true left wing that will actively bring about a just solution based on equality and human rights, not supremacy or fear.

A critical step towards this, is the growing international support of the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). By heeding this call of the oppressed, people worldwide can strengthen this nonviolent approach, which is the least that privileged social groups can do. Only outside pressure will bring about change, and end the Palestinian suffering. Israeli society itself is too indoctrinated, militant, and patriarchal to bring its own change.

Oz was a mirror image of the “Israeli left wing,” and supported more than a few massacres committed by Israel in Gaza, and spoke in favor of apartheid soldiers. He fatuously believed in the misleading, dangerous idea of a “humane apartheid”, so archetypical of the liberal left ideology. Not only was Oz a white supremacist, he was also a masculine, militant human being, the mirror of Zionism, which is masculine and militant to its core. Zionism adores masculinity, cherishes militarism, and idolizes white supremacy. Oz was a living example of this infamous, and insidious ideology.

Danielle Alma Ravitzki

Danielle Alma Ravitzki is a human rights and BDS activist, artist and singer, with two original albums, and the third currently in the making composed by Danielle to lyrics by Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour. Born in Jerusalem to an Israeli mother and a French father, she divides her time between New York, Paris, and the South of France.

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17 Responses

  1. wondering jew on December 31, 2018, 8:26 pm

    I think the dividing line between the “true left” and “liberal zionism” are the twin issues of the nakba and the right of return. The true left rejects the expulsion that is named as the nakba and liberal zionism more or less accepts the nakba as a necessary evil. as such the left demands the right of return to undo the damage done by the expulsion and liberal zionism rejects this demand and sees this demand as a recipe to undo the existence of the state.

    • wondering jew on December 31, 2018, 8:39 pm

      Amos Oz is typical of those who are not “true left” on these issues. More interesting are Gideon Levy and Avrum Burg. Levy is preoccupied with the perfidy of the current policy and regards all talk of the two state future as a means of defending the status quo. Burg is trying to create a new position that is not wedded to previous conceptions and is groping to find a self definition that somehow lessens the fear (by the Jewish Israelis regarding the future/present ) of the Arab majority.

    • Misterioso on January 1, 2019, 9:37 am

      @wondering Jew

      “‘liberal zionism'” is a contradiction in terms. As the historical record and current events clearly attest, Zionism is racism, Zionism is fascism, Zionism is theft, Zionism is based on lies, Zionism is Judaism’s curse, Zionism is doomed – it’s only a matter of time.

      Zionism in action:

      “A Palestinian Vineyard Annihilated With Chainsaws, With a Chilling Message in Hebrew. Vandals slashed hundreds of mature grape plants near Hebron, and the odds that the culprits will be caught are slim.” By Gideon Levy and Alex Levac. May 24/18 – Haaretz.

      “The grapes are shriveled. The vineyard is dead. Reduced to a large, dried-out, yellowing stain in the heart of the verdant region along Highway 60 where the road runs past the town of Halhoul, north of Hebron. The ‘yellow wind’ that David Grossman wrote about 30 years ago is a dying vineyard here. Two plots of land, with hundreds of vines that were slashed, their stems and shoots sawed off – and within a week everything here had withered and died.

      “This is a particularly horrible sight because all the damage was wrought by the hand of man. A wicked, loathsome hand that hates not only Arabs but despises the land itself. In fact, we can assume that it wasn’t just one individual who raided and destroyed this vineyard late Tuesday night last week. To saw off that many plants in such a short time requires a few pairs of nasty hands. And someone also had to smear the threatening words in Hebrew on a rock: ‘We will reach everywhere.’ All before first light illuminated the dark deed.

      “When dawn broke, the owner of the vineyard, Dr. Haitham Jahshan, a hematologist, arrived and couldn’t believe his eyes. His vines had been ravaged. First he saw one sawed trunk, then another and another – a sea of butchered vines, whose grapes were grown to be eaten, not for wine – until the full scale of the calamity hit home.”

  2. Citizen on January 1, 2019, 6:06 am

    Hannah Arendt had a better grasp on mental integrity and Zionist Israel than Oz. I wonder how he integrated what she wrote in his own mind–he must have read her.

  3. tony greenstein on January 1, 2019, 8:52 am

    I agree with most of Danielle’s article except for this:

    ‘Judaism is a merely religion, and a Jewish state will be a religious state’

    Israel isn’t a religious state although it may often seem like that . Certainly the religious Orthodox are very powerful, not least in the settler movement and in their position of defining who is and who is not Jewish with their control over personal status relating to birth, marriage, divorce and death.

    However religion is primarily used to delineate the borders of race. Who is in and who is out. Who is part of the herren volk and who is part of the untermenschen.

    In Israel religion is used to define race in other words. Israel is primarily a racially exclusive state not a religious state.

    Saudia Arabia and Iran are religious states and in those states it is Muslims, being Islamic states, who are the persecuted. The religion is used to justify the terror of the regimes. That is not true in Israel. Those of the Jewish religion are privileged. This is a really important distinction because one of the cries of the Zionists is that ‘there is only one Jewish state in the world’ and our response should be that it is one too many. There should be no apartheid states anywhere.

    See also my tribute to Amos Oz:

    On the day that Amos Oz died we should remember that it is Gideon Levy who is one of Israel’s few heroes
    We should no more feel sympathy for dead Jewish settlers than we would have done for German settlers in the Warthegau

    • Mooser on January 3, 2019, 6:53 pm

      “Israel isn’t a religious state although it may often seem like that . Certainly the religious Orthodox are very powerful, not least in the settler movement and in their position of defining who is and who is not Jewish with their control over personal status relating to birth, marriage, divorce and death”

      I’ll explain. It only seems like Israel is a “religious state” until you consider the fact that everybody (that is, everybody who isn’t Arab) in Israel is an Orthodox Jew.

  4. Stephen Shenfield on January 2, 2019, 1:14 pm

    Do ‘misogyny and homophobia’ really ‘always go hand in hand with belligerence’?

    Were the Iceni who followed Boudicca and her daughters into battle misogynists? Did the ancient Greeks not value homosexual bonds between warriors?

    • RoHa on January 3, 2019, 12:22 am

      “Do ‘misogyny and homophobia’ really ‘always go hand in hand with belligerence’?”

      This is one of those fashionable beliefs you are not allowed to question, regardless of how little support they have either from evidence or logical argument, and however many counter-examples you can find.

      • Mooser on January 3, 2019, 6:58 pm

        “however many counter-examples you can find.”

        Each “counter-example” excusing a case of misogyny, homophobia and belligerence?

      • RoHa on January 3, 2019, 8:36 pm

        For this specific belief, counterexamples would be cases in which there is clear misogyny (in the fashionable meaning) and/or homophobia without associated belligerence.

        It is not entirely clear whether the line in the article means only
        “m & h imply belligerence”,
        or whether it also means
        “belligerence implies m & h” .

        Stephen’s examples would be counter examples to the second meaning, but not to the first.

      • echinococcus on January 4, 2019, 7:16 am

        Mooser seems to have converted to Logic as a Political Weapon.

    • Mooser on January 4, 2019, 12:11 pm

      “Were the Iceni who followed Boudicca and her daughters into battle misogynists? Did the ancient Greeks not value homosexual bonds between warriors?”

      “For is there not beauty, even in bloodthistiness?”

      • RoHa on January 4, 2019, 8:10 pm

        Is a maiden all the better when she’s tough?

      • gamal on January 4, 2019, 8:29 pm

        “Is a maiden all the better when she’s tough?”

        I should Ko Ko.

      • gamal on January 4, 2019, 9:16 pm

        “Is a maiden all the better when she’s tough?”

        Now while seeking scholastic support I find that Grand Mufti Hassoun spends some time paying tribute to the tough maiden who has come to interrogate him..

      • eljay on January 4, 2019, 9:17 pm

        || RoHa: Is a maiden all the better when she’s tough? ||

        She’s best when she’s iron because, y’know, “Iron Maiden can’t be fought.”

  5. Mooser on January 4, 2019, 12:00 pm

    “Mooser seems to have converted to Logic as a Political Weapon.”

    ROTFL! You stick to your ‘weapons’ and I’ll stick to mine, m’okay?

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