Israeli author Amos Oz: Arab-Israeli conflict kept alive by fanatics
Renowned author honored by German city of Dusseldorf with Heinrich Heine Prize, a top German award.
Israeli author Amos Oz was presented on Saturday with a top German award for his political and literary work.
Oz, 69, was honored by the city of Dusseldorf with the Heinrich Heine Prize for combining "literary creativity with political sensibility and humanistic commitment."
The award, worth 50,000 euros ($66,000), is named after the 19th century German poet. It has been awarded biannually since 1972 to personalities who share Heine's values of tolerance, human rights and mutual understanding of peoples.
Oz, who was born in Jerusalem in 1939, is one of Israel's best-known authors and political voices. He is a co-founder of the Israeli peace movement and a prominent champion of Palestinian rights.
In his acceptance speech, Oz said the Arab-Israeli conflict could only be resolved in the context of European values of tolerance, rationality and pragmatism. However, it "is being kept alive by fanatics on both sides."
Oz also said Heine taught that humor and irony were the best medicine for extremism and narrow-mindedness, and that modern people can never feel at home in one culture and one place. Oz pointed out that Heine saw Judaism as a culture and a people, and that he believed that a modern people can and should rise above mysticism of ancient theology.
Oz also said that before Zionism dug itself into national borders and locked itself into an armed struggle, it had only dealt in normalcy, in reentering history, in Jews belonging to the family of nations. Those, he said, were the main tenets of Heine's beliefs.
Oz said he was ambivalent about Europe, since many of his forefathers had seen it as the promised land, but it had maliciously turned its back on them. However, it was the European heritage that had tuned us into a modern civil society, and the Arab-Jewish conflict could be settled precisely with European values of rationalism, pragmatism and tolerance.
Last month, Oz joined other Israeli intellectuals and dovish politicians to establish a new political party that aims to unite the Israeli peace camp.
A former professor of literature at Ben-Gurion university, he won the Israel Prize for literature in 1998, the Goethe Prize in 2005 and Spain's Prince of Asturias Prize in 2007.
Among his best known works are A Tale of Love and Darkness, Don't Call It Night and Rhyming Life and Death.