Video Interview with Fania Oz-Salzberger

by May 2024

JST columnist Ksenia Svetlova interviews Israeli writer and historian Fania Oz-Salzberger about the position of the center-left in Israel today. Oz-Salzberger co-authored the book, Jews and Words, with her late father, the novelist Amos Oz. 

Read the full transcript below. Note: This transcript is lightly edited.

Ksenia Svetlova: I follow you on Twitter and read your opinion pieces in the [Israeli] news websites. It seems that you’re often attacked from inside Israel by people on the right who think that maybe your ideas belong to the past. But also by the other side, by supporters of Hamas and the most radical Palestinian factions who think that you are an ardent Zionist, a colonialist who just wants to eradicate all Palestinians.

Fania Oz-Salzberger: I am a domestic voice inside Israel. I make my political views very clear and I am attacked from both the extreme left and the extreme right, but more from the right. The Israeli left maybe thinks that I’m probably in a moderate space [not really with them]. 

Right now, I’m being attacked far more by the global left, not from Palestinians and Arabs who are a minority among my tormentors, but more by the Western radical left who essentially say, and you will forgive the language though I’m actually softening the language, “Zionist bitch, you should lay down and die.” 

Meanwhile the right wing, mainly Jews and some other die-hard defenders of the Netanyahu regime, call me a traitor to Israel because I am critical of the government and of my army’s behavior when it deserves criticism. So I’m a traitor to one side and a Zionist monster to the other. 

I define myself as a liberal left humanist Zionist, and there is such a thing as a humanist Zionist. It hinges on respect for the Palestinians’ right to life, security and to a country of their own. It’s totally compatible with my Zionism that Palestine and Israel would live side by side. I say this out loud. 

The outcome is that I have many enemies but also many followers and many intelligent conversations for which I am very grateful.

Ksenia Svetlova: Are you surprised by this anti-Israel movement within the global left, did you expect this to happen?

Fania Oz-Salzberger: Yes. On the 7th of October, I was traveling in India and I was trying to get back home after the flights were cancelled. And I was hearing and watching videos until my battery died. And I watched some of the worst videos because I was looking at the Gazans’ [videos]. I am sorry I watched them but now I cannot unwatch what saw.

I knew already then that Israel will have to respond to this attack, that Israel would go to war with Hamas and that Israel would eventually draw a lot of hate in the world for whatever it does in Gaza. I didn’t expect the world to be quite so horrible. I didn’t expect us to cause the sheer number of casualties that we have. I’m not talking about the half of the casualties that are Hamas combatants. I’m not sorry we killed Hamas combatants. But I’m sorry for every civilian. 

I knew that Israel would come under attack. Moreover, I saw it when I was standing in the terminal at New Dehli airport. I already saw an eruption of radical left hatred against Israel when Israel was still merely the victim. In the evening of the 7th of October, there were already anti-Israeli vibes all over social media. 

The Israeli left is not being weakened by radical global left’s attacks on Israel. The Israeli left will only be weakened if it doesn’t speak to the moderate left abroad, our social democratic friends, our liberal friends. We have to listen to them. We have to converse with them and we have to create another government for Israel. Now this won’t be a leftist government. This would be a centrist government. But as long as the leaders are liberal and humanist, we will have a chance.

Ksenia Svetlova
Ksenia Svetlova is the Executive Director of ROPES (The Regional Organization for Peace, Economics & Security) and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Programs. She is a former member of the Knesset.
Read the
print issue
Get the latest from JST
How often would you like to hear from us?
Thank you! Your request was successfully submitted.