Death as a Way of Life From Oslo to the Geneva Agreement

David Grossman, translated by Haim Watzman




Trade Paperback

224 Pages



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Ten years ago, Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat signed a Declaration of Principles—known as the Oslo Accords—in which both sides agreed "that it is time to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict, recognize [our] mutual legitimate and political rights, and strive to live in peaceful coexistence." It was a time of great hope for the Israeli peace movement, and the Accords enjoyed popular support among both Israelis and Palestinians. However, the following years brought a series of reversals, including Rabin's assassination and the rise of the right-wing Likud Party. Since then, provocations on both sides have led to suicide bombings on an unprecedented scale, military retaliations, and increasingly aggressive Israeli settlement in the West Bank. Ten years after Oslo, peace has never seemed further away.

What went wrong? How can Israelis and Palestinians recapture the lost momentum of the peace process? How has all the violence changed their lives, and their souls? For the last ten years David Grossman, one of Israel's most celebrated novelists and journalists, has addressed these questions in a series of passionate essays, writing not only as a political commentator, but also as a husband and father, and as a peace activist disillusioned with the leaders on both sides.

These essays, many of which first appeared outside Israel—in American, English, French, German, Italian, and Palestinian publications—show us the Israel-Palestinian conflict from the inside, and in the moment. They are indispensable reading for anyone who wants to understand the roots and consequences of the turmoil in the Middle East.

This paperback edition of Death as a Way of Life includes six new essays, all composed since the hardcover publication and offered here in the final pages, which together end the book on a note of cautious hope. The last of these addresses why Grossman joined the Geneva initiative.


Praise for Death as a Way of Life

"Grossman's position is liberal, tolerant, measured, intelligent, poignant, and persuasive, even in its despair."—Jonathan Wilson, The New York Times Book Review

"Powerful . . . [Grossman's] depth of understanding and facility of expression rekindle regret for a decade that began with Oslo's cautious hopes and collapsed—notably after Rabin's assassination—into outright despair."—Milton Viorst, The Washington Post

"Grossman is one of Israel's greatest writers, the author of imaginative novels and probing essays . . . Throughout [the essays in this book], gathered from many publications, Grossman brings a refined, discriminating passion, tempered by a novelist's eye for subtext and nuance . . . Reading Death as a Way of Life is a rewarding experience in its own right, but it has particular utility at this time for Americans who have confused support for Israel with support for Israel's right-wing policies and governments. They are far from the same, and David Grossman's work is an eloquent testimony to that critical distinction."—Harold S. Steinberg, Jewish Book World

"Grossman is something that is perhaps even more useful and precious in the current debate: a humanist who speaks in a human voice about the deathly conflict that can only be solved by human means—understanding, empathy, communication, and will. For his continuing courage in squarely addressing the bloody situation, Grossman should be respected, and honored."—Amy Wilentz, Los Angeles Times

"[Grossman] excels in expressing the profound anxiety and despair of a writer who, like most Israelis since 1948, yearns for a civilized, normal life, but grows certain he'll never experience it."—Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Readers who though that Amos Elon's A Blood-Dimmed Tide would be hard to top should try David Grossman's Death as a Way of Lifep0: a milestone in a maelstrom."—Clive James, The Times Literary Supplement

"Death as a Way of Life is a must-read for anyone interested in how the Left has viewed the demise of Oslo and other major developments in Israel over the past ten years . . . [Grossman's] writing, beautifully translated in this book by Haim Watzman, is immensely appealing . . . You don't have to agree with him; you probably won't. But that shouldn't stop you from reading this book. On the contrary, Grossman's strong ideas about Israel pose an irresistible challenge to anyone who feels anything for this country."—Steve Linde, The Jerusalem Post

"[Grossman's] essay collection Death as a Way of Life leaves [readers] with the sensation of having just stepped off a roller coaster. The wild ups and downs, the raised hopes and shattered dreams of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process over the past decade have been just that."—San Francisco Chronicle

"By collecting his impressions from the last decade, noted Israeli novelist Grossman creates something astonishing—a moving tale of, and comment on, modern Israeli culture and politics . . . Grossman holds out for peace even when events suggest otherwise, maintaining criticism of both Israeli civilians and leaders for not trying to understand the Palestinian heart and mind. But these aren't simply the untempered cries of a dove. [He] writes convincingly of the inner torment he feels after several attacks on innocent Israelis and candidly engages in self-questioning when dreams of peace start to float away. That gives him credibility, which, mixed with a heartfelt love of Israel and a courtly tone, lend the book an uncommon force."—Publishers Weekly

"A compilation of ten years (1993-2002) of passionate essays about the state of the Middle East [as] Grossman addresses the question of whether there will ever be peace."—Translation Review

"Accomplished . . . Important . . . Death as a Way of Life serves as a worthy successor to Grossman's penetrating volumes about Arab Israelis (Sleeping on a Wire) and Palestinians in the occupied territories (The Yellow Wind). Grossman here arranges [his] essays in a tragic, highly effective narrative arc [that begins with] the White House handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat, which sealed the 1993 Oslo accords."—Samuel G. Freedman, Newsday

"Grossman, the author of six novels and two other nonfiction works, has [collected herein nearly 40] essays—'articles and responses to particularly turbulent moments in the years since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.' A peace activist, he is intensely discouraged by the actions of both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Israeli reality, he writes, is 'more than anything else, a depressing sequence of compromises and anxieties, apathy and fatalism.' Writing about the Holocaust and Germany, he says that fifty years is too short a period for the wound to heal and there is no urgent need to speak about reconciliation. Grossman urges both Israel and the Palestinians to end their uncompromising rhetoric and reduce their violent actions to the bare minimum. There is much more here that is required reading for anyone hoping to get a basic knowledge of what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about and what it's like to live in a nation under fire."—Booklist

"[An] elegant collection of articles and essays."—The Economist

"Can Israel and Palestine ever make peace? Israeli novelist Grossman addresses this question from the perspective of a Jerusalem journalist who is also a husband, father, and peace activist bitterly frustrated by the leaders of both sides. In a series of essays, Grossman documents the ten-year descent from that memorable Arafat/Rabin handshake at Oslo into the present-day spiral of violence and death: with little hope of peace, Israelis settle for security; with little hope of security, Palestinians settle for vengeance. Acknowledging a constant struggle against upwelling pessimism, the author frames a conflict long since commandeered by the extremists on both sides; peace is fundamentally unattainable, he reasons, because nobody deserves it. In Grossman's view, a semi-amnesiac Israeli majority has lost track of its own ethos and lacks the courage for peace, while an equally benumbed Palestinian population has neither the vision nor the leadership to bestow it. Yet it is not hard for him to pick a winner: Sharon's political genius has been to reduce everything to the single issue of security through force; by resorting to suicide bombings, on the other hand, the Palestinians have assured that even justifiable acts against repression will be seen as terrorism by Western policymakers. But in 'winning' the conflict, Grossman asserts, Israel has paid the price of becoming a 'more militant, nationalistic, and racist country' than it has ever been, now virtually without internal political opposition even while its 'economy, morale, and security are all in decline.' Continuing failure to acknowledge a connection between 35 years of repressive occupation and today's Palestinian terror, he believes, 'ensures that for many years to come we will all [remain] each other's hostages, agents of gratuitous and pointless death.' Chillingly, sometimes agonizingly, eloquent on hope's fading light."—Kirkus Reviews

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