Thursday, June 17, 2010

Questions for Amos Oz

I'm sure you are aware that throughout history wars have been waged not only because of conflicting interests, but also opposing ideas that carried the masses on each side.

By Dina Porat

Dear Amos,
I must confess I was surprised by your op-ed "Israeli Force, Adrift on the Sea" (published in The New York Times June 2, and in the Haaretz Hebrew Edition the same day ), and I would be grateful if you could clarify some of your central arguments.
You note that "Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Hamas is an idea." What kind of an idea is Hamas? The Hamas charter, which was issued in August 1988 and has never since been altered, sums up the movement's ideology quite bluntly. Among other things it says: "Leaving the circle of conflict with the Zionists is a major act of treason and it will bring curse on its perpetrators"; "Israel will remain erect until Islam eliminates it" since the land is sacred to Islam and cannot be compromised; and the banner of Jihad will be raised "to extricate the country and the people from the [Zionists'] desecration, filth and evil."

From Hamas' perspective, the Jews are a cruel enemy, comparable to the Nazis, with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion providing sufficient proof of this. I'm sure this is not the idea you had in mind, Mr. Oz, so which idea was it?

In your words, Hamas is "a desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians," and indeed your words have always had their charm. But must desolation and frustration necessarily lead to uncompromising violence, leading up to and including the eradication of anyone perceived as the enemy?

At the end of the 1920s, the world plummeted into a horrific economic crisis, with millions losing all of their possessions. In the United States, this crisis prompted the rise of the New Deal. In Germany, the state of affairs emboldened the Nazi party, which soon after rose to power.

A desperate idea, you say. With this one word - "desperate" - you throw all responsibility for the current situation on Israel, effectively saying that Hamas, and before them the Palestine Liberation Organization, and before the PLO the Fedayeen, and before them the Arabs of the Land of Israel, all proposed reasonable ideas concerning partition of the land ever since the rise of the Zionist movement, and it was the Zionists who refused. In 1937, the Peel Commission proposed partitioning the country, and in 1947, the plan was endorsed by the UN General Assembly, and so on and so forth up until the latest proposals for resolving the conflict, but the Yishuv and Israel refused, up until the strictly non-violent Arabs despaired and had to resort to violence. Obviously, this is not what you meant either, so what exactly did you mean?

You say that "to defeat an idea you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one." This, too, is an enchanting phrase; one can only dream that an idea could be defeated by the proposition of another one.

I'm sure you are aware that throughout history wars have been waged not only because of conflicting interests, but also opposing ideas that carried the masses on each side. The idea of white supremacy, the idea of the righteousness of Christianity and Islam, the Bolshevik and the Fascist ideas all claimed millions of victims, even though other ideas were proposed at the time. Western culture today offers an alternative to fanatical Islam: democracy, rights for women and minorities, education allowing students free thinking and choice, technological progress, independent cultural pursuits. Here is an attractive, very reasonable idea. What do you think?

Saying "we are not alone in this land, and the Palestinians are not alone in this land" and that both sides need to "recognize the logical consequences of this simple fact," does not require any further clarification. It reminds me of how in your wonderful book, "A Tale of Love and Darkness," Ephraim Avneri, a guard of the fields of Hulda, says: "We will shoot them [if they come to shoot us] not because they are a nation of murderers, but for the simple reason that we are also allowed to live, and for the simple reason that we are also allowed to have a country, not just them." The author chairs the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University.

2. Calling all progressives and caring leftists! It is time to take action against those who support the naval blockade of Gaza. And since the head of the PLO an dthe “President” of the “Palestinian Authority Abbas has now come out in FAVOR of the Gaza blockade, as a way to waken his terror competitors, we must all act now. For details see

Yes, Mahmous Abbas is SUPPORTING the continuation of the blockade of Gaza. So let’s see some Turkish terrorhoids and ISM accomplices and Tel Aviv University professors and Human d Rights NGOs and Arab Knesset members and Haaretz “journalists” organize some violent attacks against the PLO

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