Friday, April 29, 2005


Israeli writer Amos Oz has been awarded Germany's prestigious Goethe Prize for his life's work.

Oz is Israel's most famous author, and it's a shame that his work is not better known in the U.S., something I hope will change. All writers serve,to some degree, as narrators of the life of their countries and cultures, but as a modern literary figure Oz is singular in that he has literally grown up together with his country. Throughout his career he has dealt frankly, probingly, and always artfully with events and circumstances surrounding the birth and growth of the Jewish state. When peace is finally achieved between Israel and Palestine, it will be in part because of the work and ideas of people like Oz.

Oz's observation in this 2002 article is typically astute, that the Israel-Palestine conflict is in fact two wars at once:

Two Palestinian-Israeli wars have erupted in this region. One is the Palestinian nation's war for its freedom from occupation and for its right to independent statehood. Any decent person ought to support this cause. The second war is waged by fanatical Islam, from Iran to Gaza and from Lebanon to Ramallah, to destroy Israel and drive the Jews out of their land. Any decent person ought to abhor this cause.

Yasser Arafat and his men are running both wars simultaneously, pretending they are one. The suicide killers evidently make no distinction. Much of the worldwide bafflement about the Middle East, much of the confusion among the Israelis themselves, stem from the overlap between these two wars.

To draw this out further, just as Islamic extremists attempt to conflate the struggle for Palestinian statehood with the destruction of Israel, so Israeli extremists (and their useful idiots in the U.S.) conflate the war on terror with Israel's war on the Palestinians and its efforts to frustrate Palestinian statehood in order to subsume more Palestinian territory.

Here's an excellent profile of the author which appeared in the New Yorker last November.

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