Oz: Israel Must ‘talk Business’ with Syria to Enable Israel to Withdraw Its Troops from Lebanon
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Oz: Israel Must ‘talk Business’ with Syria to Enable Israel to Withdraw Its Troops from Lebanon

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Amos Oz, the Israeli novelist and peace activist said here that Israel must “talk business with Syria” if it is to be able to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. “Lebanon is irrestorable,” he told a group of students several days ago. “I think it is doomed. I think Syria is going to have it one way or another.”

He noted that Syria had lived up to its part of the 1974 Golan Heights agreement and had maintained an “enduring cease-fire” there. Israel, Oz contended, should offer to recognize Syria’s “claims in Lebanon in return for a durable cease-fire or more” on Israel’s northern border.

Oz spoke to the students following a speech he gave at Harvard University, sponsored in part by the Boston Friends of Peace Now, entitled, “Certain Israeli Perspectives.” He is currently in the United States to promote his new book, “In the Land of Israel.”

In his speech, Oz sought to explore “the complex, mysterious emotion that Israel evokes in the hearts of hundreds of millions of people” around the world, who wait for Israel “to perform a couple of miracles a day or to come crashing down” in ruin. He pointed to diaspora Jews especially as “miracle consumers.”


“Israel is a pain in the neck … a troubling mystery,” to both an Orthodox Jew and a devout Christian, a “dogmatic Marxist” and a “pragmatic person,” he said. Each of these expects something different from Israel, he said, but all agree that Israel should either “produce a dazzling light or go down altogether.”

Israel itself, Oz told the audience of over 300, is “neither a nation nor a country but a collection of arguments,” which have surfaced most visibly since what he called “the unjustifiable invasion of Lebanon.”

Oz called Israel “the most talkative, most passionate country in the world. Everyone is a Messiah.” He added, however, that with all the “sound, fury and pain,” Israel is “not likely to have a civil war. The constant Israeli civil war is a verbal war, a traditional Jewish battle.” Israelis are “screaming not over conflicting interests, but over conflicting dreams,” he said.

He attacked those Jews in the diaspora who claim that Israel has destroyed the “Jewish genius” who claim that instead of producing the “Kafkas and Einsteins” of the diaspora, Israel is producing “colonels, peasants and tank drivers.”


Judaism in the diaspora, Oz countered, “is a museum, which parents take their children to and ask them to keep” and maintain. Israel, on the other hand, “is the only place in the world now where live drama is at work,” he said. And while the “world is ahead” of Israel in terms of what he said was “individual creativity” — “the numbers are against us, time is against us” — Israel is today “the only place where collective creativity is going on,” he declared.

Since the destruction of Eastern European Jewry, Oz claimed, “the Jews outside Israel have become almost barren. They have produced nothing to be compared to Hasidism, the Bund, Yiddish, and even Zionism itself.” Meanwhile, he noted, Israel has produced the revival of the Hebrew language, the kibbutz and the new city of Jerusalem.

Several members of the audience later challenged the appraisal of diaspora Jewry, pointing to the developments of Reform and Conservative Judaism, and to the growth of Jewish feminism as more recent examples of “collective creativity,” in the diaspora. Oz replied that he would be “embarrassed but happy” if he were proven wrong in his assessment.


He also told his audience that “non-Israeli Jews should get involved” in the affairs of Israel, but warned that they should “never fail to remind your listeners (in America) of your gut solidarity with Israel.”

Oz urged them to “address yourselves to us (the Israelis) rather than talk about us. Send your letters to the Jerusalem Post to be quoted by The New York Times the next day” rather than send letters directly to The New York Times. “Are you talking to us or about us?” he asked.

When questioned later at a reception at the Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel, about the current feeling in Israel toward the war in Lebanon, he said there was “a realization by most Israelis that we shouldn’t have done it. The Palestinian problem has to be solved not squashed.”

Oz said the war created a “rift in the national consensus that has existed since the beginning of the State that” Israel would “launch a full-scale war only if it is a matter of life and death” for the country. He noted the beginnings of a “restoration of the national consensus” but only at great expense to the nation.

Oz said that if Premier Yitzhak Shamir “could go out of Lebanon tonight, he would.”

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