Gideon Levy is praised as a Jewish Israeli journalist who “specialize[s] in describing the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians from the viewpoint of the Palestinians.”1 Jonathan Cook calls him “one of the saner voices still to be found in Israel.”2
Nonetheless, despite Israel’s inhumanity and violence, Levy’s defensiveness of it is quite ostensible.3 Electronic Intifada concurred, criticizing Levy for putting the “political activism [of outsiders] in a conceptual and moral straitjacket while denying the fundamentally international character of Israel’s occupation.”4
Levy still adheres to a gentler, less apparent form of Zionism. He writes:
The situation in the south is depressing. Qassam rockets are being fired out of a territory beset by boycott, siege and intolerable conditions at Israeli communities whose situation is no more tolerable, and the Israeli defense establishment admits it has no real response. With the exception of a few loud-mouthed politicians including Kadima head Tzipi Livni who have elections in mind, most level-headed politicians know the truth: There is no military solution. No wide-scale or small operation; no targeted killing or bombing will help, nor is there a military solution for the situation of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.
So what’s left to do but shrug? Gaza is banished and impoverished, Sderot is threatened and despaired and no one dares try to break the vicious cycle.5
Levy complains that Qassam rockets are making life in southern Israeli communities intolerable while acknowledging that the entirety of 1.5 million Gazan are under siege — collective punishment, a contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The long victimized and suffering Gazans (as Levy has chronicled) are striking back.
So what’s left to do!? Plenty, as pro-Palestinian activist Angie Tibbs pointed out in a letter to Levy:
Perhaps if the Israeli government/military removed itself from the Gaza Strip, allowed its people to live in peace, allowed its elected (democratically) government to govern, allowed Gazans the God given right to travel from A to B, to grow their crops, fish their sea, live in a secure environment, there would be no need for any kind of retaliation. Because, of course, that’s what it is, retaliation…
The people of Gaza cannot live free in any environment, and placing the blame on homemade rockets, the only form of weapon the resistance fighters in Gaza have, is totally unacceptable. You, like the government/military of Israel, are trying to equate the death and destruction that continues unabated in Gaza to rockets that land harmlessly in Israeli border towns.
There is the appearance of something untoward in a journalist making a living by writing about the atrocities perpetrated by his state and simultaneously seeking to exculpate it by focusing on the state’s designated enemies.
However, after over four decades of forcing Palestinians to live under a deadly occupation, Levy futilely shrugs and suggests that Israel pursue the already tried and failed route of direct talks – this time with Hamas.
Levy is unflattering to Hamas. He finesses the language to describe Hamas as having “seized power democratically …” rather than “won power democratically.” Yet he allows that Israel and much of the world failed in their “diabolical scheme” to undermine Palestinian democracy. (Levy does not hold the Jewish state solely responsible for its crimes, and he has a point in that the much of the rest of the world is guilty of bystanding and in some cases complicity, but what Levy elides is that if Israel was not inflicting violence on Gaza, the violence would cease). The scheme included a “two-year siege and boycott that included starvation, blackouts and bombardments …” Included? Past tense? Is this journalist following the news? The starvation,6 blackouts,7 and bombardments8 are present continuous. Yet, Levy attempts to conjure a scenario where it appears as if there is some legitimacy with overthrowing Hamas.
Writes Levy, “There’s no chance that Hamas will change its stripes entirely, but direct talks may be more pragmatic than they seem. It has some reasonable leaders who value life and want to improve the wretched situation of their nation.” It is mighty gracious of Levy to allow that there are “some reasonable leaders” in Hamas who value life — the obvious implication being that many leaders in Hamas are unreasonable and do not value life. This demonizes Hamas, the representative of the Palestinians. It harkens to what what he said in an interview to Le Devoir: “There has been a process of dehumanization and demonization of the Palestinians.”1 Evidently, Levy is a part of this dehumanization and demonization.
Levy’s lens points outward. Some questions for the glasshouse-domiciled Levy: Which Israeli leader is not a war criminal? When will Israeli leaders change their stripes? And how reasonable is that?
Levy recommends, “Israel should offer to lift the siege and boycott in return for a long-term calm.” This lacks courage and vision. Zionist aims are served: the Israeli Jews can live in peace in the stolen country. The Palestinians can live in peace in the bantustans of the Occupied Territories. This might be peace, but what about justice?
Levy urges the breaking of a taboo and meeting with Hamas. However, calling for talks is the imperialist-Zionist canard. It has been done many times. In the 1990s, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres broke the taboo and talked with the PLO leader Yasser Arafat. And today the Palestinians are still dispossessed, occupied, being jailed, tortured, killed, and humiliated.
If Levy is truly interested in justice and human rights, then call unequivocally and immediately for good faith measures: an internationally monitored cease-fire and peace, for Israel to be a single state with equal human rights for all its citizens, acceptance of the right of return, elimination of all racist laws, full reparations, and a sincere apology to the Palestinian people.
After all, peace demands that justice and human rights be respected for all human beings.
- Claude Lévesque, “Gideon Levy, the voice of Palestinians in Israel,” Le Devoir, 6 March 2006. Available in translation on the peacepalestine website. [↩] [↩]
- Jonathan Cook, “Divide and Rule, Israeli-Style,” Dissident Voice, 27 June 2007. [↩]
- Kim Petersen, “Subtle Loyalties to Zionism,” Dissident Voice, 4 July 2006. [↩]
- James Brooks, “On Boycotts, Activism and Moral Standards,” Electronic Intifada, 16 June 2006. [↩]
- Gideon Levy, “Talk with Hamas,” Haaretz, 21 December 2008. [↩]
- Marwan Bishara, “Hurtling towards a showdown in Gaza,” Al Jazeera, 19 December 2008. Starvation or near starvation, Israel is cutting off food supplies — a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. [↩]
- Widespread blackouts after Israel blocks food, fuel shipments to Gaza for third day,” Ma’an News, 14 December 2008. [↩]
- “Palestinian killed after rocket fire raises concern over Gaza truce,” AFP, 17 December 2008. [↩]