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Op-Ed: A Moment with Amos Oz

How can a stylist so tender and careful with his prose turn so reckless?
Published: Sunday, May 11, 2014 5:33 PM



The politics from men in your craft is secondary to language. These are our tools.
Over the years I have been a friend of your works, from  “Elsewhere, Perhaps” onward.

These are all first-rate. I read them as translated into the English from the Hebrew, which (the Hebrew) makes it especially precious (to me personally) as you avail yourself of the same living and restored language used by King David some 3,000 years earlier…history’s first literary stylist besides Torah itself.

You write with clarity, with brevity and with conscience.

As a man of conscience, you would be expected to wake up two in the morning in a cold sweat and mutter into a soaked pillow:

“What have I said! What have I done!”

To equate any Jew, any Israeli, with any Nazi, as you did here is astonishing and repellant. I cannot bring myself to quote you directly otherwise I too will have nightmares, so I have provided the attachment, and even to do that much is disturbing. Surely those words were not meant to increase your fame.

You already have an international reputation. When we speak of Israeli writers, most often you top the list. For good reason, as I have suggested.

Along with that reputation comes a measure of responsibility. In a sense, artists like yourself carry the name of Israel on your shoulders. That is a heavy task.

Those of us outside Israel who should be there with you but nevertheless risk our lives for the sake of Zion, against a world that seeks Zion’s destruction, count on you to give us strength.

Whether left or right, observant or non-observant, the politics from men in your craft is secondary to language. These are our tools.

From Shlomo, as you know: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

So what you say makes a difference. Even one word can tilt the balance in a 50/50 world.

How can a stylist so tender and careful with his prose turn so reckless?

If we cannot expect you to support us, please have the decency to keep from harming us.

If you cannot help us, please don’t hurt us.

Keep in mind the power of silence.

People outside – outside the family – are watching and listening. They wait in ambush.

Private squabbles ought to remain private. The rabbis who devised our Talmud over a period of some 400 years were in constant dispute, but always emerged with love and respect for one another – and managed to do so hushed from public glare. You have written wonderfully and lovingly about these sages. Consider, then, their wisdom.

But when we rebel openly and hatefully, our enemies glorify themselves in our pain and disarray. They are attentive to our squabbles.

They wait for that moment to exclaim, “Aha.”

Freedom to speak and to dissent – this we value and expect, but without the poison and the mud.

Be certain that your ill-chosen phrasings are words to you, but ammunition to them. Where does it take us, these sharp words? What’s the point?

I cannot imagine that you walk comfortably “in the counsel of the wicked and the scornful.”

Thus your embrace of convicted murderer Marwan Barghouti is equally puzzling and disappointing.

But when morning comes, perhaps you can find and extend the same merciful spirit for your brothers as you do for their killers.

Jack Engelhard writes a regular column for Arutz Sheva. New from the novelist, the 25th anniversary edition of the international bestseller Indecent Proposal and the anti-BDS thriller Compulsive. Website: www.jackengelhard.com