August 5, 2014

In Blog


Reader comment on an interview with Amos Oz on Gaza, published 1 August 2014, at:


Amos Oz: Building or Burning Bridges?

Qantara says it seeks to build bridges “with the Islamic world.” (“The Arabic word ‘qantara’ means ‘bridge,’” it notes.)

The project “represents the concerted effort” of four major German institutions, including this one: “The Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Federal Center for Political Education) supports the efforts of all interested citizens to learn more about politics. The center’s mission is to promote understanding of political issues, to reinforce democratic awareness and to strengthen citizens’ willingness to engage in political work.”

The “Islamic world” would seem to include the Gaza Strip, while efforts to “promote understanding of political issues” would seem to warrant the exclusion of propaganda.

Why, then, does Qantara allow the self-proclaimed Israeli “peacenik” Amos Oz to fuel Israel’s war machine?

It’s easy for him to denounce aggression. Doesn’t Israel only defend itself?

But wait a minute. Who’s killing whom?

Who’s blowing up whose homes?

And who’s kidnapping whom? (Hint: check out Israel’s widespread practice of “administrative detention.”)

Oz begins the interview by asking, What would you do, if your neighbor put a child on his lap and started shooting at you? Here’s a question for Mr. Oz: Were the four boys who were blown to smithereens on Gaza’s beach sitting on a militant’s lap, or were they playing soccer?

The claim that Hamas is using civilians as human shields is as baseless now as it was in 2008/9. As human rights organizations have documented ad nauseam, the misuse of individuals as human shields is a typical Israeli war crime, while there’s no evidence that Hamas has done the same.

Leaving aside that Israel, as the occupying power, does not have the right to bomb one inch of Palestinian territory, and that Palestinians are not legally barred from the use of force in their struggle for self-determination: Were there Hamas tunnels underneath the sleeping children in the UN school? Were the donkeys, killed in front of the building, also Hamas? Kind of like the 31,000 chickens mowed down – “systematically,” according to the Goldstone Report – by Israeli armored bulldozers during the 2008/9 Gaza invasion?

If Qantara seeks to “reinforce democratic awareness,” how can it allow Oz to advocate for the overthrow of an elected government (which, incidentally, thwarted a coup in 2007)? How dare he make the end of the illegal and inhuman blockade conditional on good behavior? Indeed, why is he pointing his finger at Palestinians when entire families are being wiped out as he speaks?

If Qantara seeks to build bridges, how can it describe Oz as an “advocate of the two-state solution” after he has just perverted the term’s meaning? He claims, “the whole world knows” it means “co-existence between Israel and the West Bank.” In fact, the whole world knows – and reaffirms annually in the UN General Assembly – that the entire Gaza Strip together with the entire West Bank, including East Jerusalem, constitutes one single unit: the occupied Palestinian territory designated for Palestinian self-determination and statehood.

If Qantara wants “interested citizens to learn more about politics,” what’s the point in having Oz, the novelist, present fiction as fact? His interview is pedagogically useful only as an exercise in the dissection of state propaganda.

The facts are available from UN bodies, human rights organizations, doctors, journalists, and other witnesses on the ground, while insightful analysis is available from American-Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein. Those longing to hear from a sane Israeli Jew can turn to journalist Gideon Levy who now needs a bodyguard because, unlike Oz, he is a true dissident.

Israeli intelligence officials have conceded years ago that the odious Hamas charter is no longer relevant. Yet, here we have Oz saying, “This morning I read very carefully the charter of Hamas.” It’s a morbid obsession he shares with Alan Dershowitz, whose work he reads “with thrill.”

Insofar as Qantara is “funded by the German Foreign Office,” it is perhaps inevitable that Oz is given a platform, especially after Raji Sourani was given one. (“Balance”!) But shouldn’t any self-respecting journalist oppose the dehumanization of an oppressed people? And shouldn’t a publication devoted to “dialogue with the Islamic world” take extra care to avoid vilification of Palestinians? Finally, aren’t the images coming out of besieged, bombed, burning Gaza eerily reminiscent of the images of the smoldering Warsaw Ghetto, and shouldn’t Germans in particular feel compelled to speak out and stop this madness?

In Ari Shavit’s bestseller, My Promised Land, Oz is dubbed “the chief rabbi of Israel’s peace congregation.” The truth is, Amos Oz’s performances in the service of state power are as deserving of contempt and ridicule as those by Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev.


Maren Hackmann-Mahajan


(Comment posted underneath the interview, 4 August 2014)