Amos Oz and the end of liberal Zionism


1.6791664.1261713958Well here’s a new year’s gift. Marc Ellis the Jewish-American theologian who is never invited to a synagogue  writing about the late Amos Oz and Elie Wiesel. Now at least Ellis stands by his views and in many ways has paid for his consistent bravery in speaking truth for 30 years to the tribal Jews who can not or will not hear his fundamental truth: Jews, and not only Jews but sleepy Christians must come to terms with the  dispossession of Palestinians in both 1948 and 1967. 

Failure to link endless Palestinian suffering and humiliation with a serious biblical faith renders your religious belief inauthentic.

Now the blogger who follows Ellis, we do not know who the hell he is, but he lies in the weeds an anonymous critic with a cute Latinate handle. His points are largely true but he seems to be terrified for whatever the reason of the Zionist thought police whom indeed  can make your life miserable,

As Israel continues to dscend in public opinion as the civilized world has caught on to its duplicity  and its brutal occupation, its defenders, paid and unpaid, are literally going berserk in attacking any defender of the  Palestinian cause. Maxinus decimus and most of our Canadian politicians know this and so they keep their powder dry and remain silent.

Amos Oz and the end of liberal Zionism


Though for some the passing of Amos Oz is a time for mourning an international literary figure, on the political scene, regarding Israel’s place in the world, another question is in the air: Has the liberal Zionism, Oz represented, come to an end?

Broadly defined, liberal Zionism is the pairing of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust and the empowerment of displaced European Jews in Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Though some have always questioned whether a Jewish state can be a democracy for all its citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, the seeming permanence of Israel’s occupation and settlement of Jerusalem and the West Bank during last decades, along with its stranglehold on Gaza, has increased the scrutiny of such a possibility. So more is at stake than Oz’s liberal Zionism.

Though Oz’s political life can be parsed in various ways, his passing should be seen in this broader historical perspective. One way of broadening this view is to see Oz’s death as a bookend to the death of Elie Wiesel in 2016. With Wiesel’s death some believed that the era of Holocaust consciousness, as a powerful force on the Jewish and international scene, closed.


The passing of Wiesel and Oz provides a window into the insurgent Jewish past and the stalemate Jews find themselves in today. What Wiesel and Oz’s legacy says about the future is troubling. Without Wiesel and Oz representing the Holocaust and liberal Zionism, could the Jewish future, previously defined by the Holocaust and Israel and now besieged by internal and external critics, unravel?

Wiesel’s early writings on the Holocaust subverted the Jewish self-understanding of progress and enlightenment. In the new age, the Holocaust became the defining event in Jewish history. For Wiesel, Israel was the defining response to the Holocaust. To be Jewish after the Holocaust is to remember Jewish suffering and embrace Jewish empowerment in Israel.

As the Holocaust-Israel axis took hold among Jews around the world, Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and wars in Lebanon and Gaza took on new dimensions. In Israel, Oz, already known for his literary efforts, emerged on Israel’s political scene as an Israeli patriot and a critic of Israel’s excesses. In his political commentaries, Oz attempted to hold together the Israel that Wiesel and many other Jews envisioned, as a response to the Holocaust and as a liberal bastion of collective Jewish life.

Though initially provocative, over the decades both Wiesel and Oz became increasingly disappointing as thinkers and moral witnesses in Jewish life. Initially, their writings about Jewish history and ethics was subversive in many quarters of the Jewish and Israeli community and their vision of Israel spoke to other communities in different parts of the world as well. Over the past decades both grew defensive and stale. Wiesel and Oz increasingly used their liberal ideas as a defensive shield over against their critics within and outside the Jewish community. Their witness became belligerent.

Like Wiesel, Oz, with many of his liberal Zionist contemporaries, and with a critical edge, wrapped himself in the flag of an imperfect but viable Jewish history and ethical tradition. In Oz’s commentaries, Israel is decidedly flawed, its occupation of the Palestinian territories is politically wrong-headed, but Israel, as essential to Jews, is fundamentally sound. What Jews need and deserve is a state of their own. Palestinian rights are secondary to those of Jewish Israelis; Palestinian politics and culture are questioned in their honesty and depth. To Oz and his liberal Zionist contemporaries, Palestinians are less deserving than Jews and sometimes their descriptions of Palestinians are worse. Critics of Israeli policies toward Palestinians are viewed in the same light. Those to the Left of Oz and liberal Zionists in general are seen as either on the side of Israel’s destruction or perilously close.

Has the world been diminished by Oz’s death? There is little doubt about his literary endeavors. But over the decades, Oz’s political side, while having its moments of clarity, became stuck in a narrative of Jewish history and statehood that seems fated. Without the narrative of Jews being innocent in suffering and empowerment and, if flawed, at least liberal and democratic, what does it mean to be Jewish? And why should Jews and, as importantly, Christians in the West, European governments and the international community, support Israel as it systematically violates Palestinian human rights? If the veneer of liberal Zionism is worn thin, and the memory of the Holocaust becomes increasingly seen as an enabler of injustice against Palestinians, do Jews and others simply accept Israel as what some increasingly identify as a colonial settler state?

Like Wiesel, Amos Oz was a witness to the destruction and reemergence of Jewish life in the formative events of the Holocaust and the birth of the state of Israel. What they also experienced but couldn’t fathom was the formative event of Palestinian freedom as a demand on Jewish history. In missing the next question of Jewish life, while trying to deflect and demean those who did, Oz’s liberal Zionist witness became tarnished and, like Wiesel’s Holocaust consciousness, fated.

Maximus Decimus Meridius December 30, 2018,  blogger

It baffles me that someone like Wiesel could in any way be considered a ‘liberal’. He was an out and out tribalist, and a most unpleasant human being. He only cared about wrongs done to his tribe and was endlessly indulgent of wrongs done by his tribe. Remember that grotesque screed he penned about how Palestinians practice ‘child sacrifice’? A slander so horrid even the Murdoch Times rejected it, though the Guardian was happy to publish it.

And ain’t it interesting that despite Wiesel’s ‘love’ for Israel, he chose never to live there. I guess being self-appointed spokesman for the holocaust industry isn’t as lucrative there.

As for Oz, he was a schlock artist, who, in the words of the ‘Angry Arab’ “never met an an Israeli war or an act of aggression which he did not bless. Every one of them, including the recent wars on Gaza and the July war on Lebanon in 2006. But he has a ploy: he supports every war but then in the last days of the war, he issues a statement in which he calls for an end to this war which he just had blessed. He is not opposed to Israeli killing of children but he will speak out if the number of children killed exceed a certain percentage. This is in a nutshell is Zionist liberalism for you. He supported the apartheid wall but believed it should have taken a different route. Amos Oz was not the man Western liberals wanted him to be. But then again: Western liberals are capable of turning Netanyahu into an enlightenment idol.