Amos Oz-Another Clueless Israeli
Amos Oz-Another Clueless Israeli
In a June 1, 2010 editorial in The New York Times (reprinted in Hebrew in Haaretz on June 2), titled, “Israeli Force, Adrift on the Sea,” Amos Oz, one of Israel’s foremost writers, novelists, social critics, and an active member in the Israeli peace movement, concluded that “the only way for Israel to edge out Hamas would be to quickly reach an

That the Arabs have never stopped trying to eliminate Israel and view the land of Israel as their sacred territory does not seem to faze these people.

agreement with the Palestinians on the establishment of an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as defined by the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem.
Israel, he wrote,  has to sign a peace agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah government in the West Bank — and by doing so, reduce the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip.”

What has Abbas and Fatah ever said or done to suggest that this is a solution they truly desire?  Anyone who seriously wants to understand why this is a utopian fantasy should regularly be visiting the Palestinian Media Watch and MEMRI websites, where they can read what Abbas and Fatah really say to their supporters about advocating the demise of Israel.

Tawfiq Tirawi, a security advisor to Abbas, for example said: “Words are ineffective. Action is effective.” Fruitless discussions “go on for decades.” The only way the Arab refugees will be returned and Jerusalem restored will be through the efforts of “thousands of martyrs.”(1)

In 1995, Amos Oz, informed readers of The New York Times that followers of Israel’s center right Likud party were accomplices of Hamas. After almost 3,000 American citizens were killed on September 11, 2001 by Hamas’ kindred spirits, Oz attributed this massacre to “fanaticism,” not Islamists or radical Muslim ideology. Inexplicably, he even claimed that “almost all [Muslims] are shocked and aggrieved [by the suicide bombings of America] as the rest of mankind.” (2)

Evidently he was either oblivious or in denial of the extensive media coverage of Muslims throughout the Arab world celebrating the death of Jews and Americans. Pictures of Muslims dancing, ululating and distributing candy to children were ubiquitous in the press and on television. Amidst this period of mourning and soul-searching, the most urgent need he could think of was to grant the Palestinian Arabs “their natural right to self-determination.”(3)

When Oz argued that the conflict is a clash “between two rights,” he shifted the discussion away from Israel’s genuine fears about security and threats to its existence. He wanted to pressure Israel to abandon the settlements in Judea and Samaria and return to the pre-1967 borders, which he claimed would lead to real peace.

The Zionists, he said, have the same right to the land as that of “a drowning man who takes hold of the only available raft, even if it means pushing aside the legs of the people who are already sitting on it so as to make room for himself…so long as he only asks them to move up, and does not demand that they get off the raft or drown at sea.” (4)

A Zionism, he continued, that expects “a part of the land is morally justified; a Zionism which asks the Palestinians to renounce their identity and give up the whole land is not justified.” Oz blamed the Palestinian national movement, “one of the most extremist and uncompromising national movements of our times,” for its “insensitivity” and “callousness” to Jewish suffering. He was especially critical of the “misery and tragedy” the PLO and its predecessors have caused Israel, and particularly its own people, by assuming “uncompromising” positions, supporting the Nazis throughout the 1930s and 1940s, and trying to destroy Israel from its inception.(5) 

Why were the Arabs so determined to eliminate Israel?  Oz sees this obsession as most probably a misdiagnosis of Zionism. How could Zionism be a form of colonialism, if the thousands of Jews who returned did not migrate to a land that was prosperous or had any natural resources, was not secure or offered any hope of favorable economic and political conditions? If the Zionists expected to exploit the land, then they engaged “in the worst bargain of all times,” since they invested “thousands of times” more money than they could ever hope to realize.(6)

Zionism was also not a form of racism. As with other national liberation movements, Zionism “has its own ugly, narrow-minded and fanatic components.” 

Yet-- Oz felt the onus for establishing peace was on the Jews. The conflict persists in part, he said, because of the Zionists who are indifferent to the rights of the Palestinian Arabs, those who have a “sense of exclusion,” and who see the world as “us against them” after having been traumatized by the mass influx of Holocaust survivors. Contributing to this impasse are Jews from the Middle East, non-socialists and “anti-socialist” Zionists, the military establishment, and the nation state, which is “bad.”(7) 

He also faulted the Israeli government for not having the fortitude to reach an agreement with the Palestinian Arabs with whom they should sit down and talk to like neighbors. He envisions that one day Israelis and Arabs will be “reasonable next-door neighbors” in their own separate states.(8) This has not yet occurred since Israeli leaders are behaving like a physician who declines to perform a serious operation, even though the patient is ready. 

In other words, if only Israel would make more concessions like agreeing to a cease fire with Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas would have a better opportunity to arrive at an accord with the Israelis. (9)

This is the thinking of some left-wing Israelis who believe that Israel must re-evaluate Zionism’s fundamental tenets including: Israel’s shared identity, her relationship with the Palestinian Arabs, her connection to Judaism and the Jews in the Diaspora, and the viability of Zionism now that the state has been in existence for some time. A satisfactory answer to these questions would help resolve the Israeli/Arab conflict in an equitable way.(10)

That the Arabs have never stopped trying to eliminate Israel and view the land of Israel as their sacred territory does not seem to faze these people. Historian Walid Khalidi notes that though they live in a number of different sovereign states, the Arabs view themselves as part of a single Arab Nation extending ‘from the [Atlantic] to the [Arab/Persian] Gulf.’  This is not a future objective in pan-Arab canon, but “a present reality. (11)

How does Oz think this will change?


1.       MEMRI Clip no. 2189 (July 23, 2009).

2.       Edward Alexander and Paul Bogdanor, eds. (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2006), 35-36; Laurence J. Silberstein, The Postzionism Debates: Knowledge and Power in Israeli Culture. (New York: Routledge, 1999), 56-57, 91.

3.       Ibid.

4.       Oz, op.cit. 36, 38-39, 69, 102; Kenneth Levin, The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege. (Hanover, New Hampshire: Smith and Kraus Global, 2005,308.

5.       Oz, op.cit.39-40, 110. 

6.       Ibid. 38,110.

7.      Ibid. 12-14, 39, 70,110.

8.      Ibid. 12-14, 39, 70.

9.      Akiva Eldar, “Amos Oz in Spain says he doubts the government is brave enough for peace,” Haaretz (October 28, 2007); Amos Oz, “Don’t march into Gaza.” Los Angeles Times. (February 15, 2008); Amos Oz. “From muscle to mystery.” The Guardian. (January 7, 2006) Oz claimed that Zionism is passé: “Zionism is lived out, and as such is disappointing,” Joanna Chen, “The Bitter Taste of Dreams Com e True.” Newsweek (February 14, 2008).

10.   Silberstein, op.cit. 51-66, 89; Amos Oz, Israel, Palestine and Peace Essays op.cit.,12-18; Amos Elon, A Blood-Dimmed Tide: Dispatches from the Middle East (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 269; Amos Elon, The Israelis: Founders and Sons (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971),.23-24, 26, 152, 157-158,170-171; Joel Beinin, Was The Red Flag Flying There? Marxist and the Arab-Israel Conflict in Egypt and Israel, 1948-1965 (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1990.) 

11.   Walid Khalidi, “Thinking the Unthinkable: A Sovereign Palestinian State,” Foreign Affairs, 56:4 (July 1978):695-697.


Dr. Grobman is president of the Balfour Trust, whose recent book The Palestinian Right To Israel was published in April 2010.