Having recently returned from the battlefield, the writer penned a bitter denunciation of Moshe Dayan’s settlement policies: “The shorter the occupation, the better for us.”
By Mitch Ginsberg | The Times of Israel | Dec 31, 2018
I don’t know how Moshe Dayan’s voice did not tremble while employing that phrase — [‘lebensraum,’ used by the Nazis to justify their expansionist policies] — with all the harrowing memories it raises. ‘Living space’ means one thing: disenfranchising the foreigner, the inferior ‘savage’ and making place for the superior and the civilized — the powerful.
— Amos Oz, Aug 22, 1967
The shelf life of a newspaper article is often brief. But when Amos Oz, who died Friday at age 79 and was laid to rest Monday at the cemetery in his one-time home in Kibbutz Hulda, sat down in August 1967 to write an essay, he produced, just two months after the close of the Six Day War, a lasting document, a piece of writing that has endured as well as many of his works of fiction.
One can agree or disagree with his position on territorial expansion, while still marveling at the timing and the manner in which he marshaled his arguments.
The piece was published on August 22, 1967, in Davar — “the newspaper of the workers of the Land of Israel.” The font was tiny, resembling, in shape and size, a cramped rabbinic commentary. Found on a stained reel of microfilm in the National Library . . . the article is entitled “The Defense Minister / and Lebensraum” (merhav mihya in Hebrew; living space in English).
Oz was 28 when he wrote it. He had published a collection of short stories two years earlier and a debut novel the previous year and was still in the process of earning his writing time from the kibbutz. It was given reluctantly, and amid fierce debate. One old kibbutz hand said, “Young Amos may be the new Tolstoy, but he is too young to be a writer; let him work in the field until he’s 40, and then he knows something about life and he can write,” Oz told Vox Tablet in 2013.
Recently returned from the war, though, he managed to carve out some time. The writing is fluid and forceful and aimed squarely at the hero of the age, Moshe Dayan, and the settlement policies he espoused.