Amos Oz and the Real Israel

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

On 29 December 2018 the New York Times (NYT) reported the death of the charismatic Israeli writer Amos Oz. Born in Jerusalem in 1939, Oz was altogether Israeli. That is, he did not come to Palestine from somewhere else. Only nine years old when Israel came into being, Oz knew no other nationality.

Nor did he really know his Palestinian neighbors. His view of them was typical of the Western view of his time—that their political and social potential did not go beyond what could be found in the stereotypical “Arab state.” That stereotype had only negative connotations for Oz, and this was the reason he denied the possibility of a one-state solution wherein Palestinians and Israeli Jews lived together in relative harmony. He claimed that “there could never be a binational state but only an Arab state with a Jewish minority” and he, Amos Oz, did not want to live in an “Arab state.” That meant he could never believe in, or struggle for, a truly democratic multi-ethnic and multi-religious Israel. His was a dualistic world—the two-state solution was Oz’s solution.

It is important to understand that his support for two states made Oz a “moderate” among Zionists and consigned him to the political margins of Israeli politics. Mainstream Israeli politics could not abide his assertion that a real peace required that the Palestinians have their own separate “Arab state” in the West Bank and Gaza, alongside Zionist Israel….

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