Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Amos Oz gets booed at presidential conference

Israeli President Shimon Peres, Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, and author Bernard Henri-Levy played it safe in their speeches at the opening plenary titled Nation, Interests and Ethics in the Journey Towards Tomorrow, but author and philosopher Amos Oz pulled no punches last night, telling hundreds of the worlds most influential people that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is immoral and bad for Israel’s interests.

Eliciting both enthusiastic applause and merciless boos, Oz said that while he is “a man who loves Israel dearly,” he believes that “kicking Palestinian residents out of their homes in East Jerusalem and putting Israeli settlers in their place is immoral.”

He said Israel faces many dilemmas when it comes to a conflict that is as ambiguous as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding that the issue is not black and white, it’s light gray and dark gray.

He said the international community tries to determine who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

“But this is not a Hollywood movie, it’s more like a Greek tragedy; a clash between right and right and sometimes, a clash between wrong and wrong.”

While philosophers have debated for centuries what is defined as “good,” everyone understands what is considered “bad.”

“The definition of bad is inflicting pain on others… When we inflict pain on others we know what we’re doing,” he said.

But Israel faces a moral dilemma.

“When we are faced with a neighbour who sits on his balcony, places his child on his lap and starts shooting into your own nursery… there is no good solution. There is only the lesser of many evils.”

He said that in the same way that Israel is the Jewish homeland, Palestine is the homeland of the Palestinians.

“No one is moving out,” he said, adding that if there is going to be a two-state solution, Israel has to give up some of its ancestral land, and the Palestinians will also have to give up on what they regard as their historical homeland.

“It’s going to be like an amputation, but it can be done and has to be done simply because there is no alternative… The patient – Israeli and Palestinian – is definitely ready for the surgery, but the doctors are cowards.”

Oz appealed to the international community to stop “wagging its finger like an old-fashioned Victorian headmistress, moralizing and preaching, instead of asking themselves, ‘What can we do to help both sides.’”

Oz, who predicts that there will be two sovereign states – one Israeli, one Palestinian – sharing Jerusalem as the capitol, realizes that neither side will be “dancing in the streets” when that happens.

“My slogan vis-à-vis the Palestinians is not the hippy slogan, ‘Make love, not war.’ My slogan is, ‘Make peace, not love.”

“You should not be pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian, you should be pro-peace.”

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