Israeli media have been celebrating the life and mourning the death of prominent author Amos Oz for several days now, and yours truly, who likes washing the dishes while listening to the radio, has been hard pressed to find a talk radio station without eulogies for the great man. On occasion, the Public Broadcasting Corporation, which encompasses several stations, ran the same heartfelt eulogies on more than one station – and you know what soapy hands can do to an iPad, as you hectically looking to change programs.
I don’t particularly like Amos Oz’s work, I shudder when I hear Israeli commentators compare him to Agnon. Seriously? And I get especially angry when I hear them calling him a man of peace. He could write, I’ll grant you that, but a man of peace? With whom?
My Facebook friend Yisrael Medad plugged “Amos Oz” and “Gush Emunim,” the original settler movement, in Google. This is what he discovered:
“At a June 8, 1989 Peace Now rally, Oz decreed that Gush Emunim is a messianic sect, closed-minded and cruel, a band of armed gangsters, perpetrators of crimes against humanity, sadists, pogromists and murderers who crept out of a dark corner of Judaism, from the cellars of bestiality and defilement, in order to impose their bloodthirsty mad ritual.” (Sarah Honig, Jerusalem Post, May 15, 2014)
“A small sect, a cruel and obdurate sect, emerged several years ago from a dark corner of Judaism; and it is threatening to destroy all that is dear and holy to us, and to bring down upon us a savage and insane blood-cult. People think mistakenly, that this sect is struggling for our sovereignty in Hebron and Nablus. But the truth is that, for this cult, the Greater Israel is merely a sophisticated ploy to disguise its real aims: the imposition of an ugly and distorted version of Judaism on the State of Israel… The real aim of this cult is the expulsion of the Arabs so as to oppress the Jews afterwards, to force us all to bow to the authority of their brutal false prophets.” (Saving Grace, by Dr. Jerry Kroth)
Sagi Keisler, director of the Samaria Residents Committee, filed a police complaint against Amos Oz following this report that played everywhere on Israeli media;
“…Amos Oz said that Israelis behind ‘price tag’ attacks against Muslims and Christian are ‘Hebrew neo-Nazis.'” He suggested that the term “price tag” and “hill top youths” are “sweet names for a monster that needs to be called what it is: Hebrew neo-Nazi groups.” Speaking at an event in Tel Aviv marking his 75th birthday and the publication of his new book, Oz said: “Our neo-Nazi groups enjoy the support of numerous nationalist or even racist legislators, as well as rabbis who give them what is in my view pseudo-religious justification.” (AFP,, May 10, 2014)
Oz walked back his irate comments a day or so later, saying, ““I object to comparisons to the Nazis. The comparison I made on Friday wasn’t to the Nazis but to the Neo-Nazis. Nazis erect ovens and gas chambers; Neo-Nazis desecrate places of worship, desecrate cemeteries, beat up innocent people, and scribble racist slogans.”
Liel Leibovitz wrote in Tablet on May 12, 2014 (No, Rowdy Settlers Aren’t Hebrew Neo-Nazis): “Some decades ago, stirring up a storm of his own, the renowned Israeli philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz argued that occupation of the West Bank will send the Jewish State down a path not too dissimilar than the one that had led Germany to Hitler’s arms. Even those who, like myself, strongly oppose this line of argument could see its value as a tool of political discussion, and the debates sparked by the bespectacled philosopher’s incendiary statements were considerably more substantive and civilized than the hot-headed Israeli norm.
“But Oz is no Leibowitz: his comment was designed not to start a conversation but to end one. And unlike Leibowitz’s, Oz’s argument wasn’t moral but political, a fact that only compounds its already glaring flaws. Let’s ignore it then, and take comfort in knowing that even the most culpable of Israel’s ideological outlaws are still a long way from Sieg Heil.”
So, in summation, Amos Oz was no Shai Agnon and no Yeshayahu Leibowitz. And he was genetically incapable of striving for peace – with fellow Jews who challenged his views. With Arabs and folks who worshiped him he got along just fine.