Amos Oz: a digression on fanaticism

by Kim on November 19, 2012

Let me digress into a story, I’m a notorious digressor, I always digress. A dear friend and colleague of mine, the wonderful Israeli novelist Sammy Michael, had once the experience, that some of us writers have from time to time, of a very long inter-city car drive with a chauffeur who was giving the usual lecture on how urgent it is for us Jews to kill all the Arabs. And Sammy listened to him and rather than scream, “What a terrible man you are. Are you a Nazi, are you a fascist?” he decided to deal with it differently. He asked the chauffeur: “And who do you think should kill all the Arabs?” The chauffeur said: “What do you mean? Us! The Israeli Jews! We must! There is no choice, just look at what they are doing to us everyday!” “But who exactly do you think should carry our [sic] the job? The police? Or the army? Or maybe the fire brigade? Or the medical teams? Who should do the job?” The chauffeur scratched his head and said: “I think it should be fairly divided between every one of us, every one of us should kill some of them.” Sammy Michael, still playing the game, said: “OK, supppose you are allocated a certain residential block in your home town of Haifa and you knock on every door, or ring the doorbell asking: ‘Excuse me, sir, or excuse me, madam, do you happen to be an Arab?’ and if the answer is yes, you shoot them. Then you finish your block and are about to go home,” Sammy said to the chauffeur, “you hear somewhere on the fourth floor in your block a baby crying. Would you go back and shoot this baby? Yes or no?” There was a moment of quiet and then the chauffeur said to Sammy Michael: “You know, you are a very cruel man.”

Amos Oz, How to Cure a Fanatic (London: Vintage, 2012), pp. 58-60.

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Pam 11.19.12 at 9:16 pm

Powerful story Kim.

It reminds me a little of a poem (!) I’m always moved by. It’s written by young Aussie poet Bronwyn Lea and titled “Girls’ Night on Long Island”. Well worth a read I think.

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