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September 16, 2016 7:18 am

It Takes a Judas to Know One; Amos Oz’s Vile Display

avatar by Ruthie Blum

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Amos Oz and his wife Nily in 2008. Photo: Wikipedia.

On Tuesday night, the person touted as “Israel’s most famous living author” appeared on the BBC to promote his latest book. In the course of his interview with “Newsnight” host Kirsty Wark, Amos Oz engaged in his second favorite activity (after receiving international awards and having his novels turned into movies starring the likes of Natalie Portman): He slammed the nation of his birth, which turned him into a cultural icon.

To be fair to Oz, bashing the Jewish state that he represents with such panache is key to his success abroad. Talent is a factor, of course, but it is neither sufficient nor a prerequisite to inspiring adoration among the literati and political elites.

Indeed, had he not been the darling of the Left, the odds are slim that Oz would have been invited by the UK network to discuss Judas, his take on the famous traitor whose story constituted the “Chernobyl of Western antisemitism for 2,000 years,” and the basis for “pogroms, inquisitions, persecutions and the Holocaust.”

From the BBC‘s point of view, having Israel’s crowned jewel provide a stamp of approval for its own dim view of the Jewish state is an opportunity not to be missed or squandered. Nor does any topic segue better into what Wark was really after than “persecution.”

With virtuosity born of brilliance, Oz managed to go above and beyond the call of duty — “defending” his homeland by likening it to the worst of evil regimes.

“If people call Israel ‘nasty,’ I to some degree agree,” he said. “If people call Israel the ‘devil incarnate,’ I think they are obsessed; they are mad. But this is still legitimate. But if they carry on saying that therefore there should be no Israel, that’s where anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism, because none of them ever said after Hitler that Germany should cease to exist, or after Stalin that there should be no Russia.”

Oz pulled a similar stunt when explaining his opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. It is wrong, he said, “because it hardens the Israeli resistance, and deepens the Israeli paranoia that the whole world is [and] always has been against us [as if to say]: ‘They [the boycotters] don’t even discriminate between one Israeli and the next; they boycott all of us, and whatever we do, they are going to hate us, so let’s be bad guys for a change.'”

Furthermore, he added, just because boycotts were effective in the case of South Africa, “you have to be very stupid to think the prescription — the medicine — that worked very well against cholera will also kill the plague. This is a kind of mental laziness.”

Oz then went on to equate Palestinian terrorism with Israel’s response to it: “There are many, many people in … Europe who have a very soft spot for the Third World, saying, ‘Well those people have suffered a lot; you have to understand, it is only natural they are violent. [But] when it comes to the Jews, they often say: ‘Well, they have suffered so much; how can they be violent after such an experience?'”

Nobody, Oz concluded, should be “100% pro-Israel or 100% pro-Palestine.” Everyone needs to “grasp the complexity and ambivalence of the clash between right and right, and sometimes between wrong and wrong.”

Oz’s display was disgusting, plain and simple. Nothing new there. But the way his interview is being reported by one media outlet after the other is equally disturbing. Somehow, the main message that has been plucked selectively from his vile pontification was his acknowledgment that the denial of Israel’s right to exist — or claim that it shouldn’t have been established in the first place — “crosses the line from anti-Zionism to antisemitism.” Wow.

There are two possible reasons for this travesty. One is that a famous leftist like Oz is assumed to be so hostile to Israel that any scrap of recognition he bestows on it makes headlines. The other is that nobody, other than his BBC host, actually listened to, heard or understood what Oz said. Either option reflects a very sorry state of affairs.

What I, for one, have to say about Oz’s book on Judas is that it takes one to know one.

Ruthie Blum is the managing editor of The Algemeiner.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • Reggie Green

    It’s clear that the key to his success are his political views. He has written one good book (Tales of Light and Darkness) in the past 30 years. Authors like Meir Shalev who have written much better books are rarely interviewed in the Western press because they don’t spout the party line.

    • Rhein Ouaiffe

      Meir Shalev is just as much of a leftist as Oz. His problem is that his books, and not only his politics, stink.

  • Ruthie/ I listened to the interview, where is it shown Oz to be disgusting and vile in that interview? I missed that part I guess, I found his candor refreshing, I assume you did not.

    • Rhein Ouaiffe

      Well, how about
      “none of them ever said after Hitler that Germany should cease to exist, or after Stalin that there should be no Russia.”

      So he’s saying Israel’s sins are on par with Stalin’s and Hitler’s. Vile enough for you?

  • if oz were half as decent as he believes himself to be, he would be mindful of the way in which his promiscuous and foolish denunciations of Israel are used by Israel’s mortal enemies.

    oz can continue his career(!) as a critic of Israel and make a display of the silly conceit that he’s a noble and virtuous enemy of all the notionally horrible things about Israel, but in so doing he exposes himself as a fool, not that he would notice.

    oz would do well to learn something about the world, about the practices of the “good countries” when their vital interests are at stake. but, if oz did that, he would have to find a different career and he’s got too much invested in his present career to do that. I mean, after all, his a got a business and a reputation to protect. (what would they say in berlin, in london, in paris or stockholm? what about all those cocktail parties? what about the serious speeches? and, the articles? book sales? the invitations? the honors?) what would happen if he actually became an advocate, even a critical advocate, of Israel? it’s unthinkable…for the “noble” mr. oz.

  • Oz should be exiled to Gaza.It wouldn’t take much time before they’d kick him out or kill him.

  • Rick

    While he is talking to audiences worldwide and being respected and applauded by different kinds of publics( emphasizing here” different”!!!), as an Israeli, you try to persuade us readers of Algemeiner, with irony between the lines and poor sarcasm, that he is not that much of a writer, definitely knows very little about the conflict and life in Israel….. And , by the way, before you leave, you discredit one of the most globally important media houses, which independently of your personal views and their glitches and mistakes as journalists,…. We need them . That if you understand the meaning of Hasbara….
    Well, pity that you think what you think, but I am writing it not for you , but for Algemeiner and its readers, and display that among us Jews, clearly there are people that can see further beyond your ironies, to try and keep Jews together…

  • Bruce Gardner

    I see that, blunder of blunders, I expected moderation on the Sabbath. Please accept my apology and edit or dump my comments as you wish. My only desire is to promote peace between the people of good will.

  • Bruce Gardner

    Is it my browser not working or is it true that, out of fourteen comments, thirteen have been suppressed and only an anti-Christian one is allowed to remain? I hope not. The Protestant tradition I belong to rejected anti-Semitism and favoured the re-establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, seeing the Return of the Jews as a historic, prophetic sign.

    Many of us support Israel in word, money and action. You may recall that the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles in Yad Vashem, which I have visited three times, contains trees planted in memory of those who helped to save Jews. So, while rightly despising the Jews who ingratiate themselves with the enemies of Israel by selling out for personal or ideological advantage, do not forget thousands of Christians who have given their lives to bless Israel and thousands who continue to support the poor in the Holy Land, like those of Gush Katif whose livelihoods were sacrificed for illusory peace.

    The struggle is not about Christian and Jew. It is about good people who serve others and bad people who serve themselves.

  • nat cheiman

    Not a Jew

  • Julian Garner

    I saw it and I heard it and, I have to say, I believe Ruthie Blum is overreacting. Amos Oz does not come over, to me at least, as anti-Israel. The opposite is true. He obviously finds himself out of sympathy with current policies, but if that makes him anti-Israel then so is a good half the population to some degree or other. Personally, I am passionately pro-Israel and Amos Oz has been to a large degree responsible for making me so. To say all left-leaning people are anti-Israel is absurd, even I suggest a little hysterical.

  • Dr. Luis Osin

    The offensive title has very little to do with the quotations presented in the article!
    Luis Osin

  • Dr. Luis Osin

    The offensive title has very little to do with the quotes presented in the article!!

  • Leslie Benjamini

    Sounds to me like the whole interview was misunderstood by a very biased interpreter.

  • Books are death long time ago! Not because man does contradict him self. The problem is about an ugly min that needs attention hiding behind cover ups of written words. No men on earth can muster the whole of a nation!
    Oz said,
    “If people call Israel the ‘devil incarnate,’ I think they are obsessed; they are mad. But this is still legitimate. But if they carry on saying that therefore there should be no Israel, that’s where anti-Zionism becomes anti-Semitism, because none of them ever said after Hitler that Germany should cease to exist, or after Stalin that there should be no Russia.”
    Observe that he refers stupidly to Europe and Russia which has nothing to do with the collective “Hebrew minds” on earth! We no forget that Israel has architectural physical historical existing space which contains fare more “brain influence” than only from Europe and Russia! Amos Oz is lost in few historical human past physical remains which by fact is here! Amos O. is much known in Norway who has writer who do not writes their own books. In one of Aftenposten news paper article A.O. came up under lost mind simple instinct been brain swallowed said in the article that some Israelis watching TV did found that “Syrian refuges looks human” forgetting that those few Israelis do not represent all Israelis picture views, and that all refuges looks mentally the same no mater who they are from!Is a fact that Amos Oz is a lost mind which he is not able to observe the whole of a nation or a simple thing as a picture of refugees! Amos O. needs attention selling his mind for something which does not exist! Forgetting that the world did change much doing the last thirty years, living in the past of Hitler own fears who was taken from behind by his own dog. Make sure is right!

  • Oz’s display was not disgusting, as you say.
    YOUR display is disgusting.
    The intelligence, the intellectual integrity and the unembellished honesty of everything he says here obviously passes either over your intelligence, or over your ability to think logically.
    I read with amazement all the quotations you brought, finding each single one to be a totally wise, shrewd and correct observation of the truth, and it is amazing that you find these disgusting.
    If you love Israel this does not mean that you will regard everything Israel does as correct. One can love a child even if the child does wrong. And the way to help the child is to correct the wrongs, not ignore or excuse them. Criticizing wrong things is essential.
    You do not seem to be able to see beyond the buzzwords.
    There should be no doubt in your mind that the Israeli government’s settlement policies are regarded as very bad by the vast majority of the world. Oz states that one should not hate the entire Israeli polulation or all the jews because one disagrees with certain aspects of the current government policy. He brings Hitler as an extreme example to illustrate this point: he says even the horror of Hitler’s doing did not cause the world to hate the german people – thus it should not be doneto Israel and the Jews. And all you can understand is the word Hitler, and reach the wrong, stupid understanding that he is comparing Bibi to Hitler . Duh !?!?!?!?!
    He speaks AGAINST the BDS, saying that although it worked in South Africa it cannot work here to alter policy. Rather than simply say how bad it is, he also shrewdly points out that it will not succeed.Is this BAD ? Disgusting ?
    He CORRECTLY points out that people expect more humane treatment of the Palestinian underdog by Israel after the treatment the Jews received from Hitler. (When we say “yiskor”, it does not only apply to jews – we should remember the wrong done to all people).IS THIS WRONG ? IS THIS DISGUSTING ? OR DO YOU SIMPLY FAIL TIME AFTER TIME TO SEE WHAT THE MAN IS SAYING. He is not trying to excuse this – he is pointing out the existing line of thought.
    You have described Oz in derogatory terms from the beginning, and you therefore fall into the mental trap of jumping at every buzzword as proof of your prejudiced pre-formed conclusions. You simply display bigoted bad thinking. This is the plight of the right wing – emotional thinking.

  • Yohanan

    Oz is a tragic figure to say the least… why should he let his opportunities to parade his total lack of respect for those who made it possible for him to denigrate the country he lives in and that they died to establish pass? He is a disgrace.

  • felix d

    Amos OZ was an sob before he become”famous”

    He and the like had to spend their childhood under fascists of
    iron guard or Ceausescu’s communists.

  • Brian Shapiro

    Jew and Israel haters will always have an audience and the audience will always produce the next Hitler. Oz is an ingrate and doesn’t deserve to live in Israel.

  • Bruce Gardner

    I am a Christian who supports Israel by words and actions. Many of us do, while some Jews seem to fail to do so. The fact is that there are those who seek to honour the God of Israel according to the particular light given them. Some of them are Jews; others are Gentiles according to the flesh.

    Similarly, there are those who walk in darkness and never understand or value the inheritance of faith: some of these are Jews and some are gentiles. Some people who claim by mere blood to know God daily betray Him, His People and His Word; others, the alien within the gate perhaps, may try to honour the Lord, His People and His Word, according to their light.

    It is time for Christians or Jews to stop demonizing each other and make the distinction between the people of good will and those of bad will towards Israel and Israel’s God.

    We won’t all agree, because of the light given or withheld, but we can all recognize that God’s Enemy is Israel’s enemy too, while he who prays for and loves Israel is its friend.

    Only the heart counts: “Man looks on the outward show but the LORD looks upon the heart.” (1st. Samuel 16:7; Psalm 122:6)

  • Yaakov

    Sounds as though the writer accepts the Christian narrative.

    Well, Judas was undoubtedly a leftist, so the story about him must be true.

    • Edna

      Judas was not a lefty. Judas was actually the most “righteous” of them all.

      Jesus was a very strong lefty. He was anti-capitalist to the core. Making money according to him was a big sin.

      One had to be poverty stricken, a thief, or even a “working girl” (Mary Magdalen) in order to be worthy. He eventually married her, and like a typical “loving” Jewish daughter in law she managed to distance and disconnect him from his mother, and his brothers.

      As a good Jewish girl I was sent to a private school where I studied the New Testament in great detail.

    • What an arrogant and totally stupid response. If he was bad, he must be a leftist ? Was Judas a leftisi’ or do you simply not know what you are talking about ?


      it seems as though this Judas is selling his soul to the devil for monetary rewards.
      Write bad story about Israel, and you are sure to have a best seller. Which means more money, more money, more money
      Why does he not go and live in Iran. Then maybe he will see that Israel is the ONLY honest country in the world

      He never refers to Iran, Saudi Arabia. and other Islamic state where they execute anyone who has the gaul to tell the truth.
      Nobody in Israel, who converts to Christianity has ever been executed.

      I hope this Judas will see what he has done and is doing.