Amos Oz Remembered: The Sharp Talons of a Zionist “Dove”

It is wrong to speak ill of the dead. Amos Oz, however, was not a private man, not just an individual but an icon. He thrived and benefited greatly from his image as a Zionist, a patriot, and with that, a peace-loving man, a true “dove.” Oz was the icon of the culture of the colonizer.

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL — The Israeli writer Amos Oz died on December 27, 2018, ten years to the day after the Israeli army began carpet bombing Gaza, murdering countless innocents. Oz referred to this massacre as “understandable and acceptable.”

Amos Oz was 79 years old, his books sold millions of copies around the world and were translated into dozens of languages. He was seen as representing the liberal, Israeli intellectual who, in vain, tried to push Israel towards peace. Under this disguise, however, he was a Zionist, who for decades whitewashed horrific crimes committed by Israel against the people of Palestine.

“I have been here for a long time and I saw great things happen,” Oz said, referring to the Zionist colonization of Palestine. He was deeply impressed with the development of the Hebrew language and the city of Tel Aviv but said little of the fact that this culture was developed on the ashes of others, who preceded Zionism and are now living a life of misery in refugee camps.

 

The myth of symmetry

In an interview Oz gave to Huffington Post’s Johann Hari in London in 2009, Hari writes:

It seems far away and long ago, but Oz once dreamed of bombing this city [London]. He was once a child of what he calls ‘the Jewish intifada’ — the stone-throwing, death-defying Jewish rebellion against British occupation.”

Hari then asks: “If you were a child in Gaza now, Mr. Oz, would you be dreaming the same dreams against Israel?” and Oz replies:

I don’t even have to imagine the answer to this question – I know it. Because I was a kid in Jerusalem in ‘48 when the city was besieged, shelled, starved, [and] the water supply [was] cut off. And I know the horror, and I know the despair, and I know the hopelessness, and I know the anger, and I know the frustration.”

The Jerusalem Oz speaks of, West Jerusalem, is also the city in which I was born and raised, though much later. It was subjected to an ethnic cleansing campaign at the end of which not a single Palestinian resident of the city was allowed to remain. The lovely homes were taken by Israelis; the neighborhoods still exist but the people are gone. The things that once belonged to the Palestinian Jerusalemite families were looted and all this with such efficiency that even the rare books were collected, cataloged and are now in the hands of Israel.

Amos Oz | Palestine Israel

The books of Amos Oz at his home in Tel Aviv, Nov. 4, 2015. Dan Balilty | AP

Oz compares the life of a settler colonizer that for a relatively short time had to be inconvenienced while the ethnic cleansing was taking place and some fighting was going on, to that of Palestinians in Gaza, who for seven decades have lived in unlivable conditions and subjected to carpet bombings and constant raids by Israeli forces.

“I know the hopelessness, and I know the anger, and I know the frustration.” How could he possibly have known? Not unlike the Europeans who colonized America, he says, “I was born here as a native under the rule of King George V.” In both cases the colonizers raped and pillaged the native people and then when they got tired of paying taxes to the king of England, they rebelled and presented themselves as oppressed people seeking freedom.

 

The myth of both sides

In his London interview, Oz went on:

Hamas fired some 10,000 rockets on southern Israel, where I live. And I don’t think any country in the world would simply turn the other cheek to that. I don’t think England would restrain if anybody showered Yorkshire with 10,000 rockets. So, an Israeli response was understandable and acceptable, in my view.”

That carpet bombing began at 11:25 a.m., and by the end of the day Israel had dropped 100 tons of bombs on a population that has no military force, no tanks, and no defenses.

In another interview Oz describes the Israeli colonization and destruction of Palestine and the Palestinian resistance as “a clash between right and right;” in still another he calls it “a quarrel between us and the Arabs.” “Israel is eager to face peace,” he said, and continues to warn that “living together is not realistic, we need to divide.”

At a conference in Tel-Aviv titled “Security Challenges in the 21st Century,” Oz explained that democracy with equal rights is unacceptable because “a single state from the river to the sea will be an Arab state and if that happens I do not envy our children and grandchildren.” He recommended as the only solution a strong, militarized Israel, albeit within the pre-1967 boundaries, saying that “for 70 years and even today our military strength stands between us and destruction.”

Oz, in another interview in Hebrew, says that although he had visited Germany and Austria countless times, he was not able to sleep there at night and had to resort to the use of sleeping pills — “many, many sleeping pills.” What about sleeping in Khulda, the kibbutz in which he chose to live for three decades? Khulda is just a few kilometers from the Palestinian village of Khulda, which was destroyed by Zionist terrorists in 1948. What about sleeping in Arad, a Zionist colony where Oz chose to live for another three decades? It was built in the Naqab on lands taken from the Palestinian Bedouin Jahalin tribe, who to this day are being terrorized by Zionist colonizers. Oz called Tel Aviv a dream, a miracle, and seemed to say little about it being a city built on the ashes of several destroyed Palestinian towns — not to mention the great city of Yafa that once was, and from which Palestinians were forced to march into exile.

 

Speaking ill of the dead

It is wrong to speak ill of the dead. Amos Oz, however, was not a private man, not just an individual but an icon. He thrived and benefited greatly from his image as a Zionist, a patriot, and with that, a peace-loving man, a true “dove.” Oz was the icon of the culture of the colonizer.

Amos Oz | Palestine Israel

The coffin of Amos Oz is placed on a theater stage during his funeral service in Tel Aviv, Israel, Dec. 31, 2018. Ariel Schalit | AP

Can a settler-colonial society that is also racist and violent develop a culture of resistance, a culture that is not oppressive? The movie Black Butterflies, which depicts the life of the South African poet Ingrid Jonker, gives us an answer to that question. Jonker was an Afrikaner, an icon of Afrikaner culture, but spoke and wrote about the injustice of apartheid for its people and paid dearly for it. In May 1994 Nelson Mandela mentioned her and recited from her poem “Die Kind” (The Child), which was written in the wake of the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre.

In Palestine, as in South Africa, the colonizer has created a new culture and new people. Israelis are like white South Africans and both are part of the landscape of these lands that were brutally colonized. However, there is a difference between a culture that at least recognizes and appreciates the injustice in which it exists, and one that ignores it. Jonker represents the former, Oz the latter. It is unlikely that the president of the new free Palestine will be reciting Amos Oz.

Top Photo | Amos Oz poses for a photo at his home in Tel Aviv, Israel. Israeli media said Friday, Dec. 28, 2018 that Israeli author Amos Oz has died at the age of 79. Dan Balilty | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.