The great Israeli novelist Amos Oz is a very funny man.A Zionist of old who was disgusted by the religious ultranationalists who bent every government to their will in Israel. In the mid 70s he was shocked by the arrogance and stupidity of the biblical literalists of the Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) who started the illegal settlements in the West Bank. This was part of an interview he gave in England in 2011.
A friend of mine, the Israeli novelist Sami Mikhael, told me an episode. He was driven once for a lecture in Ben-Gurion University in Bel Shiva, in my university, he was driven from Haifa, which is a long drive, three hours, by a very militant, right-wing, fanatical taxi driver. And during the drive the chauffeur says to Sami, ‘You know, I believe we have to kill all the Arabs.’ As simple as that.
Sami is a sophisticated man. Instead of saying, ‘Shame on you,’ or instead of just wrapping himself in silence, he turned to the chauffeur and said, ‘Yes, you think so? And who exactly do you think should kill all the Arabs?’ ‘We should kill them. All of us have to kill them.’ ‘No, be more specific, please. Should the police kill them, should the army kill them, should the doctors kill them? Who should kill all the Arabs?’ Quiet. The chauffeur is thinking. Then the chauffeur is saying, ‘I think everyone of us has to kill a few.’Sami doesn’t lose his temper. He never loses his temper. He says to the chauffeur, ‘Okay, suppose you are allocated one block of flats, one block of apartments in Haifa, your home town, and you are to kill all the Arabs in the block.
And you’ll knock on every door or ring every doorbell: excuse me, Sir, excuse me, Madam, are you an Arab? And if the answer is yes, you shoot them and kill them. And you finish the block and you turn to walk home, and then you hear a baby crying from upstairs. Would you go back upstairs and kill the baby? Yes or not?’ Silence. The chauffeur is thinking. Then the chauffeur turns to Sami saying, ‘Sir, you are a very cruel man.’ [Laughter]