Novelist Amos Oz was one of the first Israelis to advocate a two-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict after the Six-Day War. In 1978, he was one of the founders of Peace Now. He is opposed to Israeli settlement activity and was among the first to praise the Oslo Accords and talks with the PLO. His thoughtful book ‘How to cure a fanatic’ is a collection of Amos Oz’s lectures on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Oz mentions that Europeans regularly invite him to occasions where he could meet Palestinians and, over coffee, “learn to know one other”; he reacts against the European idea that every conflict is essentially no more than a misunderstanding:
“Well, first I have bad news for you: some conflicts are very real, they are much worse than a mere misunderstanding. And then I have some sensational news for you: there is no essential misunderstanding between Palestinian Arab and Israeli Jew.
In 2002, Amos Oz picked olives with Palestinian villagers in protest against increasing violence from Jewish settlers
“The Palestinians want the land they call Palestine. They have very strong reasons to want it. The Israeli Jews want exactly the same land for exactly the same reasons, which provides for a perfect understanding between the parties, and for a terrible tragedy.”
“The Palestinians are in Palestine because Palestine is the homeland and the only homeland of the Palestinian people. In the same way in which Holland is the homeland of the Dutch, or Sweden the homeland of the Swedes”.
They have tried living in other Arab countries and have been humiliated, persecuted and rejected. “They had to learn the hard way that they are Palestinians, and that’s the only country which they can hold onto.”
Oz draws a parallel between the experience of the Palestinian people and the experience of the Jews:
“The Israeli Jews are in Israel because there is no other country in the world which the Jews, as a people, as a nation, could ever call home. As individuals, yes, but not as a people, not as a nation . . . The Jews were kicked out of Europe; my parents were virtually kicked out of Europe some 70 years ago. Just like the Palestinians were first kicked out of Palestine and then out of the Arab countries, or almost”
He explains that the Israeli-Palestinian, the Israeli-Arab conflict, is essentially conflict between two victims of the same oppressor
Europe, which colonised the Arab world, exploited it, humiliated it, trampled upon its culture, controlled it and used it as an imperialistic playground, is the same Europe which discriminated against Jews, persecuted them, harassed them, and finally, massacred them in an unprecedented crime of genocide.
Oz sees a profound ignorance on both sides about the backgrounds, about the deep traumas of the two victims
“Very often Arabs fail to see us as what we Israeli Jews, really are – a bunch of half-hysterical refugees and survivors, haunted by dreadful nightmares, traumatised not only by Europe but also by the way we were treated in Arabic and Islamic countries”.
“By the same token we, Israeli Jews, don’t see the Arabs, particularly the Palestinians, as what they are: victims of centuries of oppression, exploitation, colonialism and humiliation … ”
He concludes that as the best answer to what he sees as a “real-estate dispute” is “a painful compromise”, stressing that both claims to Palestine are justified and advocating the two-state solution. One way forward would be to extend John McDonnell’s proposal to convene an international conference with the stated aim of creating viable Palestinian and Israeli states.