Ho-hum, Sigh, Who cares?

August 11, 2006

In News

By Shiri Lev-Ari, Haaretz Correspondent

Acclaimed Israeli authors Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, and David Grossman publicly stated their opposition Thursday to the cabinet’s decision to expand ground operations in Lebanon, calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis based on the proposal put forth by Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

This past Sunday, the literary giants published an advertisement in the press calling for a cease-fire and negotiations. Critics felt the demand for a halt in the fighting was late in coming, and that the advertisement was aimed both at justifying the war as well as an attempt to distance the authors from the war.

The three men convened a joint news conference with reporters Thursday afternoon, a rarity in the world of Israeli literature, a few meters from the Defense Ministry compound at the Kirya in Tel Aviv. Later Thursday evening, Meretz and Peace Now are to stage a large demonstration in the vicinity.

“The literary people who are sitting here thought that Israel initiated a just war,” said the organizer of the joint briefing, Professor Nissim Calderon. “After yesterday’s cabinet meeting, they feel that the decision to widen the war is mistaken, and that [we] need to go from a military operation to a diplomatic operation.”

Yehoshua said Israel has reached a true crossroads. “No one is happy to go to battle,” he said. “We know that Israel doesn’t have its eyes set on conquerings. We were at the Litani River twice, and we don’t have any need to be there a third time. But now, there is an initiative by the prime minister of Lebanon which offers to deploy the Lebanese army all along the border with Israel.”

“Lebanon is our neighbor forever, it isn’t Vietnam nor is it some Soviet republic,” Yehoshua said. “Thus, there’s a need to be more careful with it, not to destroy it.” Yehoshua said he called upon the government to renew negotiations with the Palestinians.

Oz said the cycle of hatred exhibited by extremist Islam is different than that which characterizes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Hezbollah, Oz said, seeks to destroy Israeli society, and “Israel was right in that it responded to the provocation militarily.”

“On the first day of the operation, it was said that its goal is to deploy the Lebanese army along the border,” Oz said. “As time went by, bizarre and unreasonable objectives popped up, such as crushing Hezbollah totally, and wiping out the axis of evil – goals which are not within our abilities. Siniora’s seven-point plan is a turning point.”

“I’m not saying there are no black holes in [Siniora’s plan],” Oz said. “But Israel should have accepted it publicly as the basis for negotiations, and [accept] it privately as a victory.”

David Grossman believes that in this war, Israel has gone beyond its right to protect itself and is now endangering itself and strengthening Hezbollah. “It is in Hezbollah’s best interests to make us sink deeper in Lebanon,” he said.

He said the “disastrous” situation could be averted if steps are taken immediately. Grossman sounded much less at peace with the Israeli leadership. According to him, Israel’s leaders believe that “what doesn?t work with force, will work with even more force. If the prime minister of Lebanon had suggested this plan the day before the war broke out, we would have accepted it. The leaders of an army and a state must recognize moments in which they can achieve the best results for their people. I believe we have already passed that moment by and are now sliding down a slope, but even a slope has certain points at which you can stop before falling into an abyss.”

Grossman rejected claims that the Zionist left has been rendered embarrassed and confused by the war. “I do not feel confused. We had a right to go to war, but then things got complicated, and not in a way that worked in our favor. This war touches on such profound anxieties and deep-rooted traumas, and these may cause people to loose a some of their sense of balance and their ability to recognize what is in their best interests right now, and in the long term,” the author said.

According to Grossman, “We are not necessarily the persecuted Jew. We sometimes are the persecuted Jew, but this is a Jew with a few hundred planes, some thousands of tanks. I don’t wish to ignore the element of basic, fundamental Jewish tragedy that exists in this war as well, the feeling that after 60 years we have still not been accepted into the Middle East, nor have we been absorbed by other nations in the world, and that this place is not yet a home, it?s more like a shelter. But still, I believe there is more than one course of action available.”