David Grossman
Photo: Yaron Brenner

Listen to David Grossman

Syrian writer calls on Arab thinkers to take Israeli author's call seriously

I read with great interest the translation of renowned Israeli author David Grossman's address at Yitzhak Rabin's memorial. He is my age, born in 1954. He was born after the tragedy of Palestine and after the establishment of the State of Israel. He is the author of many books and contemplative political articles, and he recently lost his son Uri in the war in Lebanon.


Grossman eulogized his son in the French Le Monde newspaper. It was a bitter eulogy. It appears that Grossman is settling scores with Israeli politics and its leadership that led it to this impasse.


To be honest, I admire writers who indulge in self criticism and who criticize the history of their nation before lashing out at others. We are sick of those intellectuals who go out of their way to defend the leaders of dark regimes. We are in need of "thinkers," not people who blindly follow their leaders.


In the case of Arab intellectuals, I hate the demagoguery and the ears that have been deaf for the past 50 years. And I am writing this after hearing one of these "thinkers" here attack Mahmoud Abbas, Yasser Abed Rabbo, Nabil Amr and defending Hamas in a style reminiscent of the 50s and 60s of the last century.


Clearly, this educated-intellectual is indifferent to the plight of ordinary Palestinians. As far as he is concerned the suffering can go on indefinitely.


Why adopt radical stances

What is Grossman actually saying? He is saying that anyone with an iota of intelligence in Israel, and he adds, in Palestine as well, is familiar with the outline for a two state solution. Anyone with any common sense there (Israel) must be able to distinguish between dreams and reality.


This is what makes me wonder about adopting radical stances. Why ignore the existence of another people?


In his rage, Grossman slammed the inclusion of the radical Avigdor Lieberman into the Israeli cabinet. He views this step as a blow to democracy, ethics and humanness. Moreover, he leveled criticism at anti-Arab racism and the segregation of minorities prevalent in Israel. And then he sounded his cry of desperation: 100 years have elapsed, and we, he said, are still embroiled in a continued armed struggle with the Palestinians. For how much longer?


Arab moderates exist, believe me

Grossman is making a proposal that would not lead to destruction and ruin and he is calling upon Israel's leadership to enter dialogue with the Palestinian people, not with Hamas. He is calling for serious negotiations with the moderates in the Palestinian camp. And they exist, believe me, despite the effort by extremists on one side or another to push them into the sidelines.


These extremists are now posing a threat to peace in the region, perhaps to the world at large. And he (Grossman) is condemning Israelis who prefer seeing Palestinians only through the barrel of a gun. Besides, he says, everyone knows a Palestinian state will be established, so why waste time?


Arab intellectuals must relate to Grossman's call in all seriousness and to enter dialogue with thinkers, like him. Author Mahmoud Darwish called for the "humanization of the enemy" sparking heated debate against him. And I argue: Our perception of Israelis as a whole will not work in favor of Palestinians or Arabs. However, I assume there will also be those who will level harsh criticism at me.


Hashem Saleh is a Syian writer and researcher residing in Paris. The article was originally published in al-Sharq al-Awsat and translated (with minor exclusions) from Arabic into Hebrew by Smadar Peri in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. 


פרסום ראשון: 11.30.06, 09:10
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