Young Uri Grossman’s death has affected many of us – both because of his father and that he symbolizes the tragic cost of this and of all wars. Our blog posting today involves three interesting reactions. The first is by Paul Usiskin, chair of Peace Now-UK and a former officer in the IDF, who introduces his broader political analysis with this remembrance:
Why I ask myself. Why does the death of a twenty year-old Israeli soldier who I never knew have such an overwhelming impact on me? Why out of all the deaths in the second Lebanon war does the loss of Uri Grossman bring tears to my eyes? Why is it the same for people across the world, from America through Europe to Israel? I haven’t found anyone who is unmoved by this, and all of them, like me, never knew Uri….
I had the great fortune to meet and spend a little time with his father this year, when David came to London. I found an instant rapport with a complete stranger…. Click here to read its entirety at MidEastWeb for Coexistence, and to link to the text of UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
In a challenging posting at the London Guardian’s “Comment is Free” weblog (“As the smoke clears”) (which I appreciate but disagree with), Tel Aviv freelance journalist Arthur Neslen lays out a dovish critique of the left-Zionist perspective represented by David Grossman and his colleagues:
…. Over the years, Grossman positioned himself as a kind of bellwether of conscience in the dangerous cross winds of Israel’s national consensus. He was forever warning of the dangers of not listening to the pilots who refused to serve in the army; of not seeing the damage inflicted by rampant militarism; of not waking up from national slumber.
For some Israelis, he represents all that was wholesome and moral about the intellectual Zionist tradition…. the boundary line of acceptable discourse in Israel, beyond which lie dragons.
… Grossman wrote of the invasion of Lebanon that Israel had “launched a counter-attack and it has every right to do so,”…. Two days before the death of his son, he, Oz and Yehoshua called for a diplomatic solution to prevent Israel from “sinking deeper into the Lebanese swamp,” but they never retreated from their belief in the justness of the war….
This is from our khaver, Hillel Schenker’s “Comment is Free” blog entry, also on August 16:
Sometimes the terrible tragedy of war is encapsulated in a single lost life. Such a moment happened on Saturday evening, when it became known that Staff Sergeant Uri Grossman, 20, had been killed when his tank was hit by an anti-tank missile in southern Lebanon. He was one of the last Israeli casualties before the cease-fire was declared.
Just two days earlier, his father, the novelist David Grossman, together with his colleagues Amos Oz and AB Yehoshua, had convened a press conference to protest against the Israeli cabinet’s decision to expand ground operations, and called for an immediate cease-fire and the start of negotiations.
Here in Israel, the sense of shock and tragedy when it became known that Grossman’s son had been killed reverberated beyond the sense of individual loss. The story of Uri’s death was featured on the front pages of all of Israel’s dailies, and was a topic of discussion and commentary on many topical radio and TV talk shows.
Clearly we have a blending of the image of father and son, which enhanced this feeling, and a little bit of Abraham sacrificing his son Isaac as well. David Grossman is one of Israel’s most beloved and respected novelists, and his persona is the essence of anti-machismo: he is softly spoken but with strong principles. Although initially a supporter of the war in Lebanon, he later called out firmly and courageously for it to stop. But the fighting didn’t stop in time to save his son.
My feeling is that many Israelis are viewing the personal tragedy of the parents, David and Michal, as a way of expressing their profound sense sadness at the loss of so many other young lives. Uri Grossman was a graduate of the progressive Jerusalem Experimental high school, together with many other children of the city’s intellectual, artistic and political elite, including the children of (prime minister) Ehud Olmert. He wanted to travel abroad to see the world after his release from the army, and he intended to study theater.
David Grossman himself has been silent; but his literary words speak for him: “I once thought of teaching my son a private language, isolating him from the speaking world on purpose, lying to him from the moment of his birth so he would believe only in the language I gave him. And it would be a compassionate language. What I mean is, I wanted to take him by the hand and name everything he saw with words that would save him from the inevitable heartaches so that he wouldn’t be able to comprehend the existence of, for instance, war. Or that people kill, or that this red here is blood. It’s a kind of used-up idea, I know, but I love to imagine him crossing through life with an innocent trusting smile – the first truly enlightened child”.
Hillel Schenker is co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal.