Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas praised the preeminent Israeli author Amos Oz, who died on Friday at the age of 79, as “a defender of just causes.”
Abbas made the remarks about Oz in a letter delivered to the author’s family at a memorial service in Tel Aviv on Monday.
“With great sorrow, we received the news of the death of the excellent writer and thinker Amos Oz,” Abbas wrote in his letter, calling Oz “a defender of just causes and a supporter of peace and dignified life.”
Ziad Darwish, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society and a cousin of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, said in a phone call that he presented the letter and a Hebrew translation of it to Nily Zuckerman, Oz’s wife, at the memorial service.
Darwish sent an image of the letter to the Times of Israel.
Other members of the PLO committee, including Ashraf al-Ajrami, a former PA minister, also helped deliver the letter and attended the memorial service.
In the letter, Abbas added: “With his passing, we offer all of you and those who loved him our condolences. We pray God will bring peace and tranquility to his soul.”
Darwish, a fluent speaker of Hebrew, said he spoke to Oz some six months ago about setting up a meeting between him and Abbas.
He said while the author told him he wanted to meet Abbas, he said his deteriorating health would not allow him to travel to Ramallah to sit down with the PA president.
Darwish added he has not read Oz’s books, but intends to start reading them in the near future.
“Even though I unfortunately have not read his books, I have heard many statements Oz has made throughout his life,” Darwish said. “He was a man who wanted peace and supported Palestinian rights and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.”
Oz was a leading voice in Israel’s peace movement and a friend of the late Shimon Peres, a former prime minister and president who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to reach a deal with the Palestinians. The author frequently wrote essays and delivered lectures urging the Israel’s leaders to establish a Palestinian state as part of a peace agreement with the Jewish state.
Ajrami, the former PA minister, said Oz was deeply committed to humanitarian values.
“He was heavily biased in favor of humanitarian values whether that relates to peace and the rights of the other people or equality in Israel,” Ajrami, who said he has read some of Oz’s books, said in a phone call.
Oz was among the founders of Peace Now, a leftist organization that opposes Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and was a leading voice in the 2003 “Geneva Initiative,” an unofficial peace plan reached by leading Israeli and Palestinians. He also was a supporter and activist in Meretz, a dovish Israeli political party.
In recent years, he, along with fellow authors David Grossman and A.B. Yehoshua, had become pillars of the Israel’s peace movement, which has grown increasingly marginalized over the past two decades.
Grossman, like Oz a winner of the Israel Prize in literature, said he felt “the world is diminished a little” with the novelist’s passing.
TOI staff and agencies contributed to this article.