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In the Land of Oz

NOTE: This article appeared in Ha’aretz on 26 August, 2005.

I read Mr. Amos Oz’s recent article “A Bloodless Victory Over Fanaticism” with great interest. I too, am an Israeli author. And, according to the majority of our Palestinian neighbors who view both Jerusalem and Arad (my home and Mr. Oz’s home respectively) as occupied territory, I guess we are both settlers.

Mr. Oz, in his description of “settlers” ‘ dream for the future of Israel, has created a totally fictional Jewish opponent, the same way he has created totally fictional Palestinian peace partner, willing to live together with him peacefully in the secular democratic state of his dreams.

Yes, I consider myself an Orthodox Jew. But I too view a state run by Rabbis as a nightmare. In the State of Israel I have lived in for the past 35 years — and which as far as I know all Jewish settlers live in — Palestinians are doctors, engineers, builders, gardeners, delivery men, electricians, plumbers, actors, musicians and handymen, not the hewers of wood and water-carriers he accuses us of wanting.

Yes, I believe that one day the Messiah will come and redeem this world, but last I checked that wasn’t a crime, or else we’d need billions of places in jails for Christians too.

I also believe that religion is a private matter, and that however I choose to live my life, I can have no control over how people like Mr. Oz live theirs. This is true even when my Sabbath tranquility is blasted away by my neighbor’s high volume music, and malls that insist on keeping people working seven days a week.

In Mr. Oz’s fantasy of the fanatic, hate-filled ultra-religious settler, there is no place for people like me, who constitute the majority of the people of Israel, including the peaceful settlers of Gaza who, without any reasonable expectation of better security, better lives, or benefit to their country, had their lives and livelihoods destroyed to fulfill Mr. Oz’s fantasies.

I too, Mr. Oz, want to live in peace and freedom, not under the rules of the Rabbis (read my books and you’ll see how long and hard I’ve struggled against them).

You want to be free from the “lasting occupation of Palestinian territories?” Then I suggest you move back to Europe, or to America, or South America, because I have yet to hear any Muslim leader suggest that you are not, by your very existence on Middle Eastern soil, occupying land that does not belong to you.

The settlers “pushed forward their vision and trampled over our dreams.”

And what then, was Oslo? Was it not your dream, Mr. Oz, the idea of land for peace? Were treaties not signed? And would it have been possible if settlers were truly, as you say, “lords of the country?” And did not the realization of that dream result in national tragedy on a scale never before experienced by Israeli civilians or civilians anywhere? Over twenty thousand terrorist attacks, thousands upon thousands injured, over a thousand murdered in one of the biggest orgies of terrorist bloodshed in human history?

You believe that the struggle against Orthodox Jews in Gaza was a struggle between Church and State. What, then, is the struggle between Israel and its neighbors if not a struggle between Mosque and State? All over the world, Muslims kill, maim and threaten mankind in the name of their religion. If you think clerics have no place running a state, then what have you accomplished by throwing out the Jews of Gaza only to replace them with the fanatic Imams of Hamas?

As always, you try to portray yourself as rational and pragmatic, and your fellow Israeli opponents as fanatics. But what is rational about ceding land to the Palestinian Authority while it is still overwhelmed by terrorist groups over which it has yet to demonstrate control? What is pragmatic about turning thousands of productive citizens into homeless, jobless drains on Israel’s just recovering economy? What is “rational and pragmatic” about planning the next stage of withdrawals and the next round of destruction before there is any indication whatsoever that this round has not been a total disaster that will, as many fear, fuel terrorism?

You plan this even as you yourself ask the unanswered questions: “Will they (the Palestinians) reciprocate by taking bold steps against their own fanatics?”

If you can’t figure out the answer to that question after signing a peace treaty that was followed by four years of absolute hell on earth for all Israelis, then might I suggest that your fantasy of Israeli settlers, is only matched by your fantasies about your enemy and the world you live in? People like yourself, who live in a fantasy world, should not be involved in politics.

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