Friday, June 12, 2009

Amos Elon (1926–2009)

Amos Elon's commitment to Israel, the country where he lived and worked for most of his life, was never in question. But for just this reason his awkward stance, relentlessly engaging with the country's failings, set him apart. His courageous refusal to endorse the clichés with which Israel's defenders parry every criticism contrasts not only with the defensiveness of contemporary left-wing Israeli commentators but also and especially with the pusillanimous apologetics of Israel's American claque.

"The settlements...have tied Israel's hands in any negotiation to achieve lasting peace.... [They] have only made it less secure."

As he foresaw in 2003, Israeli insistence upon ruling over an Arab population that will eventually become a majority within the country's borders can only lead to a single authoritarian state encompassing two mutually hostile nations: one dominant, the other subservient. With what outcome? "If Israel persists in its current settlement policy,...the end result is more likely to resemble Zimbabwe than post-apartheid South Africa."

Amos was perfectly well aware that the present Middle Eastern imbroglio was the achievement of all sides. His sympathy for the "stateless, dispossessed, and dispersed Palestinians" did not blind him to the ineptness of their leaders.

Zionism, as Amos came to realize, had outlived its usefulness. "As a measure of...'affirmative action,' Zionism was useful during the formative years. Today it has become redundant." What had once been the nationalist ideology of a stateless people has undergone a tragic transition. It has, for a growing number of Israelis, been corrupted into an uncompromising ethno-religious real estate pact with a partisan God, a pact that justifies any and all actions against real or imagined threats, critics, and enemies.

Zionism has been hijacked by ultras. Herzl's dream of a "normal" Jewish country has become an exclusivist sectarian nightmare, a development that Amos illustrated by slightly misquoting Keats: "Fanatics have a dream by which they weave a paradise for a sect."

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