When Alon Ozery was already on his way to writing a novel, he stopped over at the Yellowjacket Books store in Bethesda, Maryland, a few days before his 36th birthday in 2009. A fellow Jewish bookstore owner handed him the novel, The Historian’s Tale: A Mysterious Other Book about the Holocaust in Palestine. It was the memoir he had been waiting for, Ozery wrote. This literary revelation transformed his life.
Ozery’s memoir, published last month by Parsec Press and quoted in the Washington Post, takes readers through the political pressure for the 1995 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He recounts his internal debate between an ultimately successful policy driven by his thinking and that of critics like Norman Finkelstein, the academic who would later accuse him of defaming Israel.
But like the thinking behind the Oslo process, the book also raises troubling questions about the conduct of Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian Authority president whose ability Ozery criticizes. And it raises troubling questions about the role of the United States government in dealing with Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He writes about his decision not to be a published letter writer and advocate for a Palestinian state while he lived with his wife in Ramallah, the West Bank capital. Those decisions, he writes, ultimately cost him a life and career as an American expatriate.
Ozery, who is 54 and has two grown children, recounted what he calls “the humbling lessons” of the book in an interview at Newseum on a chilly Sunday morning.
When your biography becomes known, and someone’s livelihood is affected by it, then they’re going to read it, and they’re going to say, well, wait a minute.