Sunday, 31 May 2009

Respect is due: Amos Elon, 1926-2009

From his obituary in the Independent:

Amos Elon, a leading Israeli writer and historian who became increasingly disenchanted with the course taken by his country after the 1967 Six Day War, has died in Italy, his home since 2004, at the age of 82. He had leukaemia. Elon built up an unrivalled reputation in a 30-year career as a journalist on the liberal daily Haaretz, a public intellectual, and an early critic of the occupation and advocate of Palestinian self-determination. But he will probably best be remembered most for his books; an author who wrote with equal insight and scholarship about Zionism and its impact, and the assimilated pre-holocaust European jewry into which he himself had been born.

Elon was born in Vienna on 4 July 1926. His father, a businessman with a taste for adventure, left Austria for British-run Palestine two years later, bringing the rest of his family, including his young son, to join him in 1933, against the darkening background of Nazism. Elon grew up in Tel Aviv and was for three years a member of Haganah, the pre-state military which fought for Israel's independence, and after the 1948 war studied law and history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and at Cambridge. He joined Haaretz in 1951, and as a protégé of Gershom Shocken, the paper's publisher and editor-in-chief, was sent to Europe as a foreign correspondent and later for six years to Washington.

He was in his forties when he wrote the book which first made him famous. The Israelis: Founders and Sons was an early example of "revisionist" history, in which he examined critically, from an essentially left-wing Zionist perspective, the development of the Zionist project and its failure to take into account the plight of Arabs displaced by the founding of the Israeli state. "The Arabs bore no responsibility for the centuries-long suffering of Jews in Europe," he wrote. "Whatever their subsequent follies and outrages might be, the punishment of the Arabs for the sins of Europe must burden the conscience of Israelis for a long time to come." (1)

His position was not only just, it was patriotic and truly pro-Israeli. Israel will not survive if it refuses to address the massive injustice it has committed. Until it does, it will be hated, attacked and possibly destroyed. Unfortuantely, the people of Isreal seem to be listening more to the strident, intransigent ideologues, who might be viserally appealing but offer no future for Israelis or Palestinians.
1 - "Amos Elon: Writer who became disillusioned with Zionism and advocated Palestinian self-determination," obituary written by Donald MacIntyre, published in The Independent, 28th of May, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/amos-elon-writer-who-became-disillusioned-with-zionism-and-advocated-palestinian-selfdetermination-1691760.html)

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