for multiple transgressions of…

The words of Amos, who was among the writ­ers of Tel Aviv, which he saw, con­cern­ing Israel in the days of Cas­tro, Sartre, Rus­sell and all the rest…

The fol­low­ing text appeared in the Octo­ber 1968 edi­tion of Mid­stream mag­a­zine. It was dis­trib­uted very wide­ly as a long leaflet in the late 1960s. Jay tracked down a copy for me. Con­sid­er­ing that it’s over forty years old and there are no copies of it on the web, and the author is now dead (August 4, 2009 יד אב תשסט), and that it’s still a very good piece I have tak­en the lib­er­ty of offer­ing it here (with links to help make clear some of the ref­er­ences as well as sub­head­ings to break up the con­tin­u­ous text.

Jay and I were among the many young Jews who were touched by what Kenan had to say. We dis­trib­uted the arti­cle as wide­ly as pos­si­ble in the late ’60s. Among oth­ers who were so touched and have now writ­ten appre­ci­a­tions of Kenan are J. J. Gold­berg in the For­ward and David Twer­sky at the JTA.

With very few updat­ed ref­er­ences, this Let­ter is, sad­ly, as time­ly now as it was then… and wor­thy of being read by a new gen­er­a­tion.

A Letter to all Good People

To Fidel Castro, Sartre, Russell and All the Rest

By AMOS KENAN ז“ל

I am for Cuba. I love Cuba. I am opposed to the geno­cide per­pe­trat­ed by the Amer­i­cans in Viet­nam. I want the Amer­i­cans to get out of Viet­nam imme­di­ate­ly.

But I am an Israeli, there­fore I am for­bid­den to take all these stands. Cuba does not want me to love her. Some­one has decid­ed that I am per­mit­ted to love only the Amer­i­cans. I don’t mind so much that some­one, espe­cial­ly the good peo­ple every­where, have decid­ed to out­law me. I shall be able to get along with­out their help. But I do mind that I am not per­mit­ted any longer to love and hate accord­ing to my feel­ings, and accord­ing to my polit­i­cal and moral incli­na­tions, and that I am refused invi­ta­tion or even admit­tance to par­ties held by the good peo­ple. I am not per­mit­ted any longer to toast jus­tice with a glass of cham­pagne. I am not per­mit­ted to eat caviar and denounce the Amer­i­cans. I am not per­mit­ted to stroll in the sun-drenched streets of Havana, arm-in-arm with my erst­while good friends from St. Ger­main, Via Vene­to and Chelsea, and cel­e­brate the mem­o­ry of Che Gue­vara, cast­ing a threat­en­ing look at impe­ri­al­ism. I am also final­ly and absolute­ly for­bid­den to sign peti­tions of all sorts for human rights and for the release of polit­i­cal pris­on­ers from the jails of reac­tionary regimes. I am not “In,” I am “Out.” For me the par­ty is over. Peri­od.

This sit­u­a­tion dri­ves me slight­ly out of my mind. There­fore I wish to relate a few con­fused, dis­con­nect­ed sto­ries. Per­haps some good man will find the con­nec­tion. Here we go.

hasten to the aid of distressed vessels; or not

One day an Israeli sub­ma­rine sank in the Mediter­ranean with its six­ty-nine crew mem­bers. Its SOS was answered, among oth­ers, by the British, Turk­ish and Greek fleets. The Russ­ian navy, which was cruis­ing very close to the loca­tion, did not join in the search. Moscow Radio’s Arab broad­casts, took the trou­ble to denounce the coun­tries whose ships rushed to help the lost sub­ma­rine.

It is a sacred prin­ci­ple of sea­men of all nations to has­ten to the aid of dis­tressed ves­sels. In civ­i­lized coun­tries, like Eng­land, it is cus­tom­ary to aid even an ene­my, even in wartime. The explic­it rule bind­ing on any cap­tain is to risk his life and his ves­sel in order to save the vic­tims. It is well worth not­ing that even com­man­ders of Ger­man U‑boats dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, except mem­bers of the SS, used to sur­face after sink­ing an Allied ship, sup­ply the sur­vivors with water, food and maps, and give them the cor­rect course to a safe haven. But the glo­ri­ous days of Nazi human­ism are appar­ent­ly over. The Israeli sub­ma­rine was not on a war mis­sion, and Israel is not in a state of war with the Sovi­et Union. Nev­er­the­less, Moscow Radio is of the opin­ion that any­one rush­ing to my aid in my dis­tress does not help human­i­ty.

I am not so naive as to believe that this is anti-Semi­tism, Sovi­et style. I have nev­er believed that the Sovi­ets are guid­ed in their cal­cu­la­tions by such pow­er­ful and sin­cere emo­tions as anti-Semi­tism, which is com­mon to both the pro­gres­sive and the reac­tionary camps. I know that the Rus­sians con­duct a cool, con­sid­ered, prag­mat­ic pol­i­cy and are guid­ed by clear polit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions. This was a polit­i­cal move, car­ried out as a part of a polit­i­cal game.

The mean­ing of this move can only be: Israel must be iso­lat­ed from the civ­i­lized human com­mu­ni­ty. The rules that apply to the civ­i­lized com­mu­ni­ty, rules of hon­or, con­sid­er­a­tion and mutu­al aid, do not apply to me.

the shedding of my blood is no crime

I am out. There is only one more step to the con­clu­sion: the shed­ding of my blood is no crime.

And now the con­clu­sion: A dev­as­tat­ing attack on me. Dev­as­tat­ing, but nec­es­sary and just. It is per­mis­si­ble to destroy a per­son whom it is not oblig­a­tory to save. It is a duty to destroy a per­son whom it is oblig­a­tory not to save.

For­give my bru­tal way of putting things. I can­not con­ceive of it oth­er­wise. If this was a move in a game, the game must have an object. The object is the pen­e­tra­tion of the Mid­dle East, and let us assume, for the sake of argu­ment, that this is for the pur­pose of advanc­ing world rev­o­lu­tion and the over­throw of impe­ri­al­ism. The Mid­dle East con­tains one-hun­dred-mil­lion Arabs and two-and-a-half mil­lion Israelis. There is no need for an elec­tron­ic com­put­er to prove which is the eas­i­er way out. But it is not so easy, in our enlight­ened world, to wipe out two-and-a-half mil­lion peo­ple. A rea­son and a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion are need­ed. You can­not wipe out just like that. First of all, you must out­law. In an excel­lent Czech film we have seen how the towns­peo­ple did not object to the con­fis­ca­tion of Jew­ish prop­er­ty. Those who did not oppose the con­fis­ca­tion did not oppose the depor­ta­tion, and after the depor­ta­tion …

There­fore, as long as there is one good Israeli, you can­not destroy Israel. There­fore there must not be a sin­gle just Israeli in Sodom. There­fore you must not invite an Israeli Com­mu­nist Par­ty to a con­ven­tion of Com­mu­nist par­ties. There­fore you must not invite a left­ist Israeli author to a con­fer­ence of left­ist authors in Havana.

There are no more class dis­tinc­tions. There are only nation­al dis­tinc­tions. Even an Israeli left­ist is an impe­ri­al­ist. And an oil sheikh is a social­ist. The way is open.

it is permissible to compare me to the Nazis

There­fore it is per­mis­si­ble to com­pare me to the Nazis. It is per­mis­si­ble to call me a gauleit­er. It is per­mis­si­ble to mobi­lize all of the world’s con­sci­en­tious peo­ple against me – with­out them you can­not do it – and all this because there is an object loom­ing beyond the hori­zon, an object for the sake of which this tac­tic is jus­ti­fi­able and use­ful.

I beg your par­don. I want to tell you some­thing about myself, before I con­tin­ue with my con­fused sto­ries.

Until quite recent­ly I also belonged to the good peo­ple. Mean­ing that not only did I sit in cafés and sign peti­tions for the release of polit­i­cal pris­on­ers in coun­tries not my own. Not only did I join procla­ma­tions, after sip­ping my aper­i­tif, for the release of the down­trod­den from the yoke of impe­ri­al­ism in places I shall nev­er reach; I also did some­thing against what seemed to me to be oppres­sion and injus­tice in my own coun­try.

After hav­ing fought as a mem­ber of the Stern Group for the lib­er­a­tion of my coun­try and the whole Mid­dle East from impe­ri­al­ism, I did not turn auto­mat­i­cal­ly from being an oppressed per­son into an oppres­sor, as hap­pens, unfor­tu­nate­ly, to many peo­ple in many places.

I am used to being called a traitor by local patriots

Dur­ing the twen­ty years of the exis­tence of the State of Israel, I helped with my pen in my reg­u­lar news­pa­per col­umn, by fight­ing against the injus­tices com­mit­ted against the Arab minor­i­ty. And not by the pen only, but also in demon­stra­tions, and also when arraigned before a mil­i­tary tri­bunal. I am used to being called a trai­tor by local patri­ots – which is a uni­ver­sal phe­nom­e­non. I shall have to get used to being called a trai­tor by my pro­gres­sive friends, too.

Peo­ple close to me here once estab­lished a Com­mit­tee for a Free Alge­ria. When the Alger­ian MIG’s do appear in Israel’s skies – I say this par­en­thet­i­cal­ly – poet­ic jus­tice demands that they should first bomb the homes of the mem­bers of this Com­mit­tee. Now you can close the paren­the­ses, with us includ­ed.

Dur­ing the Six Day War, in June 1967, the bat­tal­ion I served in was ordered to super­vise the demo­li­tion of four Arab vil­lages: I con­sid­ered it my duty to desert from my unit, to write a report of this action, and to send the copies to the Gen­er­al Staff of the Army, to mem­bers of the Gov­ern­ment and to Knes­set mem­bers. This report has been trans­lat­ed and cir­cu­lat­ed in the world as a proof of Israel’s crimes.

But per­mit me to con­clude the sto­ry. The action I under­took was in fla­grant vio­la­tion of any mil­i­tary law. Accord­ing to mil­i­tary reg­u­la­tions I should have been court-mar­tialed. I have no idea what would have been the sen­tence of a Red Army sol­dier were he to vio­late nation­al and mil­i­tary dis­ci­pline in such a man­ner, and I refuse to guess what would have hap­pened to him even in my worst dreams.

After return­ing to my unit, I was ordered to present myself – I, a pri­vate in rank – before the Gen­er­al com­mand­ing all the divi­sions on that front. He told me that he had read my report and con­sid­ered it his duty to inform me that what had occurred was a regret­table error which will not recur.

I disbelieved his statement that this was only a mistake

Deep in my heart I dis­be­lieved his state­ment that this was only a mis­take. I was con­vinced that who­ev­er ordered such an action did not expect such resis­tance from with­in – the men of my bat­tal­ion refused to car­ry out the order – and was alarmed at the impres­sion such an action might cre­ate abroad. But I was glad that he found it nec­es­sary to announce that this was only an error. I asked him how he intends to ensure that the ‘error’ will nev­er recur. On the spot he signed an order per­mit­ting me free move­ment in all occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries so that I could see with my own eyes that such an action had not recurred.

But since then, in all the peace-papers in the world, my report about the destruc­tion of vil­lages has been reprint­ed over and over again, as if it hap­pened only yes­ter­day, as if it hap­pened again and again, as if it is hap­pen­ing all the time. And this is a lie. It is like writ­ing that witch­es have been burnt at the stake in Eng­land – omit­ting the date.

I here­by request all those who believed me when I report­ed a crim­i­nal act, to believe me now too. And those who do not believe me now, I here­by request to dis­be­lieve my for­mer report too, and not to believe me selec­tive­ly, accord­ing to their con­ve­nience. I should also add that the town of Kalk­iliya, which began to be demol­ished dur­ing the writ­ing of my report, is now in the process of being rebuilt, after the expelled inhab­i­tants have been brought back. I know that any­one protest­ing injus­tice is some­what dis­ap­point­ed if his protest helps to rec­ti­fy the injus­tice. But what can I do if it did hap­pen?

the less you fight me, the more you would help me fight [injustices]

This does not mean that oth­er injus­tices are not per­pe­trat­ed now. The less you fight me, the more you would help me fight them.

If the Allies had defeat­ed Ger­many in 1940, there would have been no Auschwitz death camps. And today, were any­one to claim that the Ger­mans intend­ed to mur­der six mil­lion Jews, peo­ple would have said: This is mere­ly pro­pa­gan­da. They only talked that way. They did­n’t mean it. What can we do if the threats to destroy Israel, voiced before the Six-Day War, bore no fruit?

When the Rus­sians announced con­cen­tra­tions of Israeli troops on the Syr­i­an bor­der, Prime Min­is­ter Eshkol invit­ed Sovi­et Ambas­sador Chubakhin to accom­pa­ny him on a trip to the bor­der and to see for him­self that this was not true. The Sovi­et ambas­sador declined the invi­ta­tion. What naiveté on Eshkol’s part! If the Sovi­ets decid­ed, in order to advance their polit­i­cal aims, that they need Israel troop con­cen­tra­tions, what is the use of truth? Who said that the Rus­sians are not ready to fight to the last Egypt­ian, to the last Viet­cong?

On the very day that the Sovi­et ambas­sador decid­ed that he had no inter­est in the truth, on the very day that the Rus­sians denounced Israel in spite of the open threats of destruc­tion issu­ing from the rulers of Egypt, Com­mu­nist Rus­sia joined a con­spir­a­cy of geno­cide.

No greater dis­as­ter could befall a man of the left. Even the most left­ist of men will not con­sent to be slaugh­tered when a sword is point­ed at his throat. Even when the sword is a pro­gres­sive one, it does not make it any the pleas­an­ter. The trou­ble is that not a sin­gle seri­ous per­son in the world believes today that Israel was real­ly in dan­ger of being anni­hi­lat­ed. This is the opti­cal illu­sion of 1968.

does anybody in the world have any memory

Does any­body in the world have any mem­o­ry at all? Who does real­ly remem­ber what hap­pened yes­ter­day?

The gigan­tic Goliath is threat­en­ing lit­tle David. The fact that Goliath is a giant, and that David is small, is only an opti­cal illu­sion. If Goliath tri­umphs and tram­ples David under his feet, it is a sign that he real­ly is a giant. But if lit­tle David beats the giant, peo­ple say: the giant David has tram­pled poor lit­tle Goliath in the dust.

I claim that Israel played the role of David. And I claim that even now, after the stun­ning vic­to­ry, she still is lit­tle David who has indeed beat­en the stunned Goliath, but Goliath still is a men­ac­ing giant. Today, no less than in June 1967, Israel is in dan­ger of anni­hi­la­tion. Unless the enlight­ened world mobi­lizes now, imme­di­ate­ly, per­haps it will be too late. But I am afraid that there are not many peo­ple in the world today who will be sor­ry if vic­to­ri­ous David is destroyed.

Many more peo­ple would have been ready to mourn the anni­hi­lat­ed, beat­en David. And here again it is only a mat­ter of a moral opti­cal illu­sion.

A bit­ter sus­pi­cion ris­es in me that even the most enlight­ened among the pro­gres­sive peo­ple still adhere to the Chris­t­ian tra­di­tion that they imbibed in their moth­ers’ milk: Jew, stay on the cross. Nev­er get off it. The day you get off the cross and hurl it at the heads of your cru­ci­fiers, we shall cease to love you.

An accursed peo­ple, the cru­ci­fied Mes­sian­ic peo­ple of the cru­ci­fiers of the cru­ci­fied Mes­si­ah.

a quiet, peace-loving, socialist country like Egypt…

The pic­ture which emerges today is more or less as fol­lows: A qui­et, peace-lov­ing, social­ist coun­try like Egypt, a coun­try try­ing, by means of an Ara­bic or Islam­ic social­ism, to trans­form itself rapid­ly from reli­gious feu­dal­ism into an indus­tri­al soci­ety, has been beset by a mil­i­taris­tic, cun­ning, expan­sion­ist state, which had hus­band­ed its might for years for the crush­ing and dev­as­tat­ing attack, and thanks to its tech­no­log­i­cal might has tram­pled a back­ward, help­less ene­my under­foot.

Who will believe us today, that what guid­ed us in the awful days of May 1967 was the oath to the six mil­lion? Who will believe that we tri­umphed because we had no oth­er alter­na­tive?

We have no army, no might, noth­ing. We have a nar­row coastal strip, unpro­tect­ed civil­ian cities. But on that bit­ter day when we felt that every­thing had closed around us, we knew that what had hap­pened once, what had always hap­pened, must nev­er hap­pen again. We decid­ed to resist. We decid­ed to fight in the hous­es, in the stair­wells, from street to street and from house to house. No flat in Tel-Aviv could have been con­quered with­out killing all men, women and chil­dren in it. No white flag would have been raised on a sin­gle build­ing in Tel Aviv. The con­quest of Israel would have been a very expen­sive busi­ness.

Today the Arabs boast of wag­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary guer­ril­la war­fare. They claim to have copied the Viet­cong method of war­fare and are apply­ing it in the Mid­dle East. They march with Che Gue­vara’s pic­ture.

This makes me laugh.

Just as Che Gue­vara’s pic­ture made me laugh hang­ing in the lux­u­ri­ous salons of Mont­par­nasse.

I have always won­dered whether Che Gue­vara had a pic­ture of Che Gue­vara hang­ing in his salon.

What is the Viet­cong? The Viet­cong is not white flags on build­ings. The Viet­cong means fight­ing to the last man. The Viet­cong of the Mid­dle East, whether those who demon­strate with Che Gue­vara’s pic­ture like it or not, are we. We are pre­pared, at any moment, to wage the bat­tle to the death.

having been morally assassinated

After hav­ing been moral­ly assas­si­nat­ed, we are pre­pared to fight for our bare ter­res­tri­al lives, even with­out the sym­pa­thy and the bless­ing of the world’s pro­gres­sive camp. After the death camps, we are left with only one supreme val­ue: exis­tence.

Some­thing about the use of the word “we”; I am not proud of this usage. Once, when I used to say “we,” I mean we, all those who love Che, who hate France. Those who love Nâzım Hik­met and hate oppres­sion. Once I believed that the real ene­my always dwells at home, and that the only true war is a civ­il war. Gone are the days. Today, if you are ready for me to die because of Dayan, and Dayan is not ready to die with me but to fight, whom should I choose?

Our exis­tence, today, is incon­ve­nient for those who work at the glob­al bal­ance of pow­er. It is more con­ve­nient that there should be two camps, one white, the oth­er black. We num­ber, as I said before, only two-and-a-half mil­lion peo­ple. On the glob­al map, what is the val­ue of a few hun­dred-thou­sand left­ists oppos­ing the Eshkol gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy and striv­ing for a gen­uine peace with the Arabs, who strive to lib­er­ate them­selves from the one-way depen­dence on Amer­i­can pow­er?

Some­body has already decid­ed to sac­ri­fice us. The his­to­ry of rev­o­lu­tion is full of such sac­ri­fices since the days of the Span­ish Civ­il War. Once world rev­o­lu­tion was sac­ri­ficed on the altar of the “rev­o­lu­tion in one coun­try.” Today the cal­cu­la­tion is some­what sub­tler.

Today they try to explain to us that there is an Arab social­ism. There is an Egypt­ian social­ism, and an Alger­ian social­ism. There is a social­ism of slave-traders, and a social­ism of oil mag­nates. There are all kinds of social­ism, all aim­ing real­ly at one and the same thing — the over­throw of impe­ri­al­ism, which hap­pens to be one and indi­vis­i­ble.

there was only a single kind of socialism

Once there was only a sin­gle kind of social­ism, which fed on prin­ci­ples, some of them moral. On the day that moral­i­ty died there was born the par­tic­u­lar, con­ven­tion­al social­ism, chang­ing from place to place and from time to time, for which I have no oth­er name but Nation­al Social­ism.

I want to live. What can I do if Rus­sia, Chi­na, Viet­nam, India, Yugoslavia, Sartre, Rus­sell, Cas­tro, have all decid­ed that I am made all of a piece? It is incon­ve­nient for them to admit that there is an oppo­si­tion in Israel too. Why should there be an oppo­si­tion in Israel if in the Pop­u­lar Democ­ra­cies, in Cuba or Alge­ria, there is only one par­ty?

And per­haps they do have pangs of con­science. But they have made their cal­cu­la­tion and found out that I am only one, only ten, only one-hun­dred-thou­sand, and on the oth­er side there are tens of mil­lions, all led like a sin­gle man, in a sin­gle par­ty, towards the light, towards the sun. And if so, who am I?

I will tell you who I am: I am the man who will con­fuse and con­found your pro­gres­sive cal­cu­la­tions. I have too much love with this vain world, a world of caviar, tele­vi­sion, sun­ny beach­es, sex and good wine. You go ahead and toast the rev­o­lu­tion with cham­pagne. I shall toast myself, my own life, bot­tle in one hand, rifle in the oth­er.

Beware. God is not with you.

You send Sovi­et arms to Egypt. You iso­late me. And in order to make it eas­i­er to iso­late me, you change my name. My flesh, which you eat, you call fish. You don’t want to pro­tect me – nei­ther against the Arabs, nor against the Rus­sians, nor against Dayan or John­son. More­over, when I try to call on you and tell you that I am against Dayan, against Eshkol, against Ben-Guri­on, and ask for your help, you laugh at me and demand that I should return to the June 4 bor­ders uncon­di­tion­al­ly. Hold it! I refuse to play this game. If you give me back the pis­tol with which I tried to kill you, I won’t kill you. Because I am a nice fel­low. But if you don’t give it back to me, I shall kill you, because you are a bad fel­low.

why weren’t the June 4 borders peace borders on the fourth of June?

Why weren’t the June 4 bor­ders peace bor­ders on the fourth of June, but will only become so now? Why weren’t the UN Par­ti­tion Plan bor­ders of 1947 peace bor­ders then, but will become so now? Why should I return his gun to the ban­dit as a reward for hav­ing failed to kill me?

I want peace peace peace peace, peace peace peace.

I am ready to give every­thing back in exchange for peace. And I shall give noth­ing back with­out peace.

I am ready to solve the refugee prob­lem. I am ready to accept an inde­pen­dent Pales­tin­ian state. I am ready to sit and talk. About every­thing, all at the same time. Direct talks, indi­rect talks, all this is imma­te­r­i­al. But peace.

Until you agree to have peace, I shall give back noth­ing. And if you force me to become a con­queror, I shall become a con­queror. And if you force me to become an oppres­sor, I shall become an oppres­sor. And if you force me into the same camp with all the forces of dark­ness in the world, there I shall be.

There is no lack of rabid mil­i­tarists in Israel. Their num­ber is steadi­ly increas­ing, the more our iso­la­tion becomes appar­ent. Nass­er helps Dayan, Kosy­gin helps Eshkol. Fidel Cas­tro helps the Jew­ish chau­vin­ists. Who of the world’s giants cares how many more Jews, how many more Arabs, bleed to death in the Sinai sands?

there is no lack here of mad hysterical militarists

There is no lack here of mad hys­ter­i­cal mil­i­tarists. All those qui­et cit­i­zens who went out to war with KLM trav­el bags and in laun­dry trucks, who scrib­bled on their tanks: “We Want to Be Home”. All those who fought with­out anger, with­out hatred, only for their lives, are becom­ing mil­i­taris­tic, con­vinced that only Israeli pow­er, and noth­ing else in the world, will ever help us.

The only ones who are pre­pared to defend me, for rea­sons I don’t like at all, are the Amer­i­cans. It is con­ve­nient for them, for the time being. You are fling­ing me towards Amer­i­ca, the bas­tion of democ­ra­cy and the mur­der­er of Viet­nam, who tram­ples the down­trod­den peo­ples and spares my life, who oppress­es the Negroes and sup­plies me with arms to save myself. You leave me no oth­er alter­na­tive. You don’t even offer me humil­i­at­ing terms, to be admit­ted through the rear door into the pro­gres­sive orgy. You don’t even want me to over­throw my gov­ern­ment. You only want me to sur­ren­der, uncon­di­tion­al­ly, and to believe the spokes­men of the Rev­o­lu­tion that hence­forth no Jew­ish doc­tors will be mur­dered, and that they will lim­it them­selves to the dec­la­ra­tion that Zion­ism is respon­si­ble for the riots in War­saw.

Very fun­ny. The truth is that I and Sartre, two peo­ple with the same vision, more or less, with the same ideals, more or less, and if I may be per­mit­ted the imper­ti­nence, with the same moral lev­el, more or less, are now on oppo­site sides of the bar­ri­cade.

We have been pushed to both sides by the cold cal­cu­la­tions of the peo­ple who sent us or aban­doned us. But the fact remains – these are not Amer­i­cans shoot­ing Rus­sians, nor cap­i­tal­ists shoot­ing social­ists, or free­dom-fight­ers shoot­ing the oppres­sors.

neither do I know who shall be more lucky

It is I, shoot­ing Sartre. I see him in my gun sights; he sees me in his gun sights. I still don’t know which of us is faster, more skilled, or more deter­mined to kill or be killed. Nei­ther do I know who shall be more lucky – the one who has no oth­er alter­na­tive, or the one who acts out of choice.

One thing is clear to me: if I sur­vive, I shall mourn Sartre’s death more than he would mourn mine.

And if that hap­pens, I shall nev­er be con­soled until I wipe from under the heav­ens both the cap­i­tal­ists and the com­mu­nists. Or they me. Or each the oth­er. Or all destroy all.

And if I sur­vive even that, with­out a god but with­out prophets either, my life will have no sense what­so­ev­er. I shall have noth­ing else to do but walk on the banks of streams, or on the top of the rocks, watch the won­ders of nature, and con­sole myself with the words of Eccle­si­astes, the wis­est of men: For the light is sweet, and it is good for the eyes to see the sun.

AMOS KENAN, one of Israel’s out­stand­ing jour­nal­ists, express­es here the pro­found sen­ti­ments of much of Israel’s pro­gres­sive com­mu­ni­ty and calls for the under­stand­ing and par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Left through­out the world in achiev­ing peace in the Mid­dle East. Kenan is a fea­ture writer for Yediot Achronot, from which the above was trans­lat­ed.

If you own copy­right to A Let­ter to All Good Peo­ple and you do not want me the pub­lish it here, let me know and I’ll, grudg­ing­ly, remove it.


If I remem­ber cor­rect­ly, at the time it pub­lished A Let­ter to All Good Peo­ple, Mid­stream was housed in the offices of the Jew­ish Agency for Israel (the Sochnut הסוכנות) at 515 Park Ave. in New York City. That build­ing has been torn down and a new, high-rise lux­u­ry apart­ment build­ing now has the address.

at 515 Park Ave., New York City

at 515 Park Ave., New York City

the lapel button for the Radical Zionist Alliance (Los Angeles, CA)

a lapel but­ton of the Rad­i­cal Zion­ist Alliance (Los Ange­les, CA)

Date: ca. 1971
Size: 2.3
Pin Form: straight
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
Text RZA

some references to the Radical Zionist Alliance

This entry was posted in politics, who and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to for multiple transgressions of…

  1. Ruth says:

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.

    Thank you for post­ing this. I’d nev­er seen it before.

  2. Paul Golomb says:

    I hap­pened on Kenan’s let­ter in 1970, through read­ing Emil Fack­en­heim’s “God’s Pres­ence in His­to­ry,” (which includes his famous Com­mand­ing Voice out of Auschwitz). I believe it to be a sem­i­nal insight into the (to put it bad­ly) Israel prob­lem, and chose to write about it in 2004. The essay can be found at http://www.vassartemple.org/essays/essay_3_9.html

    Kol tuv,
    Rab­bi Paul Golomb
    Pough­keep­sie

  3. Jery Weider says:

    515 Park Ave.….….. an address from my past.
    Thank you for post­ing the Amos Kenan arti­cle. It brings back good mem­o­ries.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.