Der unerträgliche Standpunkt

Heinz Kobald

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Antwort von Frau
Dr. Oz-Salzberger

Thema: From Fania Oz-Salzberger
Datum: 14.02.2004 10:08:03 (MEZ)

Sehr geehrte Herr Kobald,

Please excuse me for two deficiencies: my belated answer to your response to my article, 'Warum Europa Angst vor Israel hat', and my preference to write to you in English. I hope this is all right by you.

I greatly appreciate your detailed response, and indeed I agree to many parts of it. I have been active, as an ordinary citizen, in the Peace Now movement and in the Association for Civil Rights. I have been singing the 'Song for Peace' which serves as the motto for your letter, ever since I was fifteen, in the earliest anti-settlement demonstrations.

Another organization close to my heart, which you have not mentioned in your letter, is the Hotline for Victims of Violence, based in east Jerusalem.
It was founded by my late mother in law, Dr. Lotte Salzberger, born in Frankfurt am Main, a holocaust survivor and witness in the Eichmann trial, who decisively turned to protect human rights of Arabs when she was vice mayor of Jerusalem, in the 1980s.

My work as a historian (which I think you derided in one of your texts on the internet) takes two directions: the history of European republican thought, which has a legacy of civic activism and rule of law, and can serve as a viable inspiration for Israelis today; and discovering the Jewish origins of some of the best European traditions of civic and social justice.

For example, the Talmudic origins of 17th-century ideas of clear borders and the rule of law. This, too, can form a lesson for Israel today. Our European past cannot be only the source of militaristic neurosis and nationalism; Jews and Europeans have better sources to draw upon, and they must revisit them together.

My article in FAZ, and the other articles I published there over the last three years, are aimed to make some distinctions which I think many liberal Europeans are not making.

First, the distinction between Sharon's government and Israeli civil society at large. It is sad and irrational that Israel as a whole, including its better parts, its universities, its humanitarian traditions, even its civil rights organizations, is branded an enemy to so many Europeans. It is sad that our best hopes for a decent future, such as the university of Haifa
where I work, are being boycotted en bloc by undiscenring left-wing Europeans.
I can't accept the call to deligitimize Israel as a historic and an existing polity.
Nor can I accept the easy sentence about 1948 (repeated in your letter), which wholly ignores the Arab and Palestinian violent rejection of the UN decision to divide the country into Jewish and Arab states in 1947.

I am much more in agreement of your analysis of the post-1967 situation; but can the forces of peace in Israel really work effectively, with hope and energy, when so many western critics denounce our very right of existence and overlook the Arab contribution to the tragedy and bloodshed?

This narrative is not just wrong from a historical viewpoint, but also, worse, deeply detrimental to our chances of recruiting large numbers of well-meaning Israelis to work and vote for peace-oriented solutions.

Another distinction must be made.
You rely heavily on certain Israeli voices that in effect advocate our dissolution as a Jewish state. I, too, place democracy before Jewish character in my understanding of the 'Jewish and Democratic' formula. But I, and many Israeli liberals and left-of-center voters and activist, refuse to accept that Israel cannot become a democratic Jewish state within the green line.
This is the divide between my colleague Gadi Algazi, for example, and myself.

If one does not understand this inner debate in the Israeli left, the risk is that you rely on the views mere 1% of Israeli Jewish population, leaving behind the 40% or 50% that would gladly support a full retreat, dissolution of the settlements, and a future Israel in compact borders, legitimate and democratic.

Why do you give up this part of Israeli society so easily? It is this quiet middle part that I am trying to represent, the many people who voted Rabin and Barak hoping for a just territorial solution, and who are now stunned by the terror attacks *and* by Sharon's responses and our military degenerations.
This part will not be helped or encouraged by a wholesale defamation of Israel as a state and society.

Many Germans are quick to say that they don't hate the United States, only the Bush administration.
Why can't the same distinction be make about Israel?
Why leave so many Israelis paralized by Palestinian terror, European undiscerning hostility, as well as the antics of a government we strongly oppose?

People like myself need support, encouragement, and especially a deep and distinguishing look at our public sphere and climate of opinion. What we are getting from America is a bear's hug for Sharon. What we are getting from
Europe is - all to often - ignorant hostility directed at us all.

I hope this provides some answers to the points you raised, both in your letter and on the internet.

With best regards, and thanks for your interest and care,
Fania Oz-Salzberger

Dr. Fania Oz-Salzberger, DPhil (Oxon)

Director, Posen Research Forum For Jewish European and Israeli Political Thought.
Senior Lecturer, the Faculty of Law and the School of History.

University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa 31905
Office tel. 972-4-8249020 fax. 972-4-8240681
Home tel. 972-4-6290790 fax. 972-4-6396097
Home page:

Dr. Fania Oz-Salzberger
BA (magna cum laude) in Philosophy and History, Tel Aviv University 1985
MA (summa cum laude) in Modern History, Tel Aviv University 1986
D.Phil, University of Oxford, 1991

Professional Milestones
Senior Scholar, Lincoln College, Oxford, 1988-1990
The Hornik Junior Research Fellow in Intellectual History, Wolfson College, Oxford, 1990-1993
Lecturer, University of Haifa, 1993-1999
Member of the European Science Foundation network on the History of European Republicanism, 1995-9
Senior Lecturer, University of Haifa, 1999-
Fellow, The Jerusalem Institute for Advanced Studies, 1998
Fellow, The Federal Institute for Advanced Studies, Berlin, 1999-2000