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Israel Should Recognise Unilateral Palestinian State: Amos Oz

August 2, 2011

If Palestinians unilaterally declare a Palestinian state next month, Israel should be the first country to recognise it. That was the most challenging observation by Israeli novelist Amos Oz, speaking at the Ervin Graf Oration in Sydneylast night.

He added Israel should reserve the right to dispute the boundaries of the new nation.

What prospect did he see for peace? He pointed to what he called “a syndrome of fatigue and exhaustion” between Palestinians and Israelis. He said both are tired “and it is a blessed fatigue.”

Oz is a long term supporter of the peace movement in Israel.

His address was on fanaticism. He said it is a basic component of human nature, a bad gene. Osama bin Laden differs only in degree, in scale, from the fanaticism of someone who blows up abortion clinics in the United States. Fanatics lack imagination. They live without curiosity or humour which are the best antidotes to fanaticism. Another antidote to fanaticism is being able to accept “an open ended situation.”

He said comparing Israeli occupation of the West bank to apartheid is a flawed analogy. From his perspective both are evils. But they are different forms of evil. The Israeli occupation is not apartheid because it is not based on race but insecurity. He said to equate it with apartheid is laziness.

Oz views Israel’s moral standing with Palestinians, he says, sinking lower and lower. On the other hand the forthcoming Durban Conference will simply be a festival of anti-Jewish, anti-Israel fanaticism.

He concluded by quoting the wisdom of his grandmother who lectured young Amos on the need to avoid any prejudice towards Christians. She told him that Christians believed that the messiah has come and will come again. Jews believe the messiah will come. She said, so we just wait. If the messiah comes and says, “I am here again,” then the Jews apologise. Likewise for the Christians. If the messiah comes and says “this is my first time,” then they apologise to the Jews.

Just wait and we’ll see, she said.

That’s an intuitive tolerance. We’ll see, one way or another.

“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a tragic clash between right and right, and sometimes between wrong and wrong.”

That’s wisdom.

  1. Watson permalink
    August 2, 2011 4:56 pm

    Reading this reminds me of the observation of ‘Blue Eyes Brown Eyes’ teacher, Jane Elliott who discovered that the ‘blue eyed’ children identified as ‘superior’ in her experiment soon began to internalize this sense of superiority and abused their ‘brown eyed’ peers. The effect even showed up as enhanced cognitive functioning when their test scores improved, while those of the ‘brown eyed’ group deteriorated. The most profound lesson however came when Elliott told the children that she had made a mistake in the original assessment, and that it was the ‘brown eyed’ ones who were superior. The newly elevated brown eyed children immediately took on the ‘superior’ role, without the least sign of compassion for those children whose lowly status they had so recently experienced for themselves.

    The effect is not isolated, it pervades all human society, and lies at the heart of so many examples of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’, as Phillip Zimbardo has so eloquently argued in his book, ‘The Lucifer Effect’.

  2. August 2, 2011 7:02 pm

    Thanks Bob such a complex problem, many years ago I did a sub major in Medieval studies at ANU and of course part of the focus was the crusades etc as well a brilliant course on Byzantine history by Dr Ann Moffatt. Sometimes you get the impression some Christian leaders still view the Holy land through this prism and even with the recent events in Norway we see echos of some of the same thoughts. From the aftermath of WW! and the negoitiations conducted by the British and French setting up countries with inherent problems, followed by the 1948 creation of the modern state. During a recent debate on refugees people pointed out that many Palestians have been at the back of the queue for over 60 years waiting in camps in Jordan etc.

    It is interesting to note the interviews the Israeli PM gave in the US, especially on Fox, it is hard to think compromises can be made but then we remember M Begin (who some would call a terrorist in an earlier life King David Hotel bombing etc) maybe we will see a new break through at some unexpected juncture.

    It puts into perspective people’s constant wingeing in our own country,

    On a different note when does the Byron Bay writers festival start?

    • Bob Carr permalink
      August 2, 2011 10:52 pm

      I am doing two functions in Byron tomorrow so it’s off and running.

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