Saturday, June 5, 2010

Israeli Writers Oz And Grossman On The Misuse Of Force

For renowned Israeli writers Amos Oz and David Grossman, the commando raid on the flotilla was symptomatic of the misuse of force as a supposed answer to the country's conflicts. Oz (left), one of the founders of Peace Now, commented in "Israeli Force, Adrift on the Sea":

Even if Israel seizes 100 more ships on their way to Gaza, even if Israel sends in troops to occupy the Gaza Strip 100 more times, no matter how often Israel deploys its military, police and covert power, force cannot solve the problem that we are not alone in this land, and the Palestinians are not alone in this land. We are not alone in Jerusalem and the Palestinians are not alone in Jerusalem. Until Israelis and Palestinians recognize the logical consequences of this simple fact, we will all live in a permanent state of siege — Gaza under an Israeli siege, Israel under an international and Arab siege.

I do not discount the importance of force. Woe to the country that discounts the efficacy of force. Without it Israel would not be able to survive a single day. But we cannot allow ourselves to forget for even a moment that force is effective only as a preventative — to prevent the destruction and conquest of Israel, to protect our lives and freedom. Every attempt to use force not as a preventive measure, not in self-defense, but instead as a means of smashing problems and squashing ideas, will lead to more disasters, just like the one we brought on ourselves in international waters, opposite Gaza’s shores.

Grossman (left), who lost his son Uri in the second Lebanon war, famously refused to shake then prime minister Ehud Olmert's hand upon receiving a prize for his literature. For Grossman, the recent mayhem was part of a tragic cycle described in "A Puppet on a String":

No explanation can justify or whitewash the crime that was committed here, and no excuse can explain away the stupid actions of the government and the army. Israel did not send it soldiers to kill civilians in cold blood; indeed, this is the last thing it wanted. And yet, a small Turkish organization, fanatical in its religious views and radically hostile to Israel, recruited to its cause several hundred seekers of peace and justice, and managed to lure Israel into a trap, precisely because it knew how Israel would react, knew how Israel is destined and compelled, like a puppet on a string, to react the way it did.

...I would like to believe that the shock of yesterday’s frantic actions will lead to a re-evaluation of the whole idea of the closure, at last freeing the Palestinians from their suffering, and cleansing Israel of its moral stain. But our experience in this tragic region teaches that the opposite will occur: the mechanisms of violent response, the cycles of vengeance and hatred, yesterday began a new round, whose magnitude cannot yet be foreseen.

I highly recommend the work of these two writers, both of whom deserve the Nobel Prize for their literature and peace activism. For Oz, start with his astonishingly detailed autobiography, "A Tale of Love and Darkness," set in the war-torn Jerusalem of the forties and fifties. For Grossman, pick up his "Death as a Way of Life: From Oslo To The Geneva Agreement," a searing collection of reflections on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Start reading one of these books this weekend.

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