Amos Oz was on Andrew Marr's Start the Week program last week. He told the most perfect story about cruelty as a failure of imagination.
Oz said that in Israel, the taxi drivers all know how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem and in a ten minute ride they will tell you. On one taxi ride, Oz was riding with a fellow novelist when the cab driver announced that they should kill all the Palestinians.
"How would you propose doing that," asked the novelist.
"We just kill them," said the cab driver.
"Get more specific," said the novelist. "Are you proposing that doctors kill them by injection, that soldiers shoot them .... What do you propose."
The cab driver was silent for a time, reports Oz, considering this question. Finally, he said, "We'll all have to kill a few."
"Okay," continued the novelist. "Let's say that you are assigned a block in Haifa," a mixed city with Jews and Arabs. "You go door-to-door, asking people whether they are Jews or Arabs. If they are Arab you kill them. Then, as you walking away from your assigned block, you hear a baby crying from the third floor. Do you go upstairs and kill the baby?"
The cab driver was silent for quite some time, pondering this question. Finally, he told the novelist, "You, sir, are a cruel man."