Three passionate lectures about the state of politics in Israel.
In this rumination about the country he loves and whose policies make him ashamed, novelist and peace activist Oz (Judas, 2016, etc.) sounds humorous, mournful, enraged, and uplifting. In the title essay, “Dear Zealots,” the author argues, noncontroversially, that zealotry can be found among all peoples, places, and religions. Oz particularly bemoans not only Islamic fanaticism, but Jewish fanaticism. In one of the book’s sharpest insights, he suggests that Jewish-Israeli fanaticism is increasing in part because while the Holocaust and Stalinism seemed to have infused people, for a few decades, with a fear of extremism, that “gift” is fading as the years pass. The second piece locates the “heart of Judaism” in the call to protect, and demand justice for, the weak and the oppressed. Oz argues that Israel is moving further away from that heart and that the left has too readily accepted the idea that real Judaism is the possession of the ultra-Orthodox or the settlers, not of the justice-seeking secularists. In one of the book’s most memorable lines, which could serve as a fitting slogan for the Zionist left and its allies around the world, the author declares, “what occurs inside the borders is exponentially more important than what their outline should be.” In the final essay, Oz urges a two-state solution, the national equivalent, writes the author, of a duplex. If that doesn’t happen soon, there will be “an Arab state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan” preceded by “a racist regime” of “fanatic Jews” trying to prevent said Arab state and possibly by a bloodbath. It’s a pessimistic prophecy, but Oz maintains there’s rarely been a better moment to make peace than now. And while a peace treaty won’t make everything perfect, without one, “things will be worse.”
Slender but forceful.