Gideon Levy: the "most hated man in Israel"
by Michael R. Burch,
an editor of Holocaust and Nakba poetry
Gideon Levy has been called "the most hated man in Israel," because he speaks
truth to power. Levy was born in 1953 in Tel Aviv. His father was a
German Jewish lawyer who fled the Nazi Holocaust. Levy describes his early political
views as typically mainstream. "I was a full member of the nationalistic
religious orgy. We all were under the feeling that the whole project [of
creating a Jewish state in Palestine]
is in an existentialistic danger. We all felt that another holocaust is around
In 1974, Levy was drafted into the Israeli Defense Forces, where he served as a
reporter for Israel Army Radio. From 1978 to 1982 he worked as an aide to Shimon
Peres, then leader of the Israeli Labor Party. In 1982, he began to write for
the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. In 2004, Levy published a compilation of articles
entitled Twilight Zone—Life and Death under the Israeli Occupation.
Levy’s views changed after he joined Haaretz. "When I first started covering
the West Bank for Haaretz, I was young and brainwashed," he said in an
interview. "I would see settlers cutting down olive trees and soldiers
mistreating Palestinian women at the checkpoints, and I would think, 'These are
exceptions, not part of government policy.' It took me a long time to see that
these were not exceptions—they were the substance of government policy."
Levy defines himself as a "patriotic Israeli" but he criticizes what he
calls Israeli society's "moral blindness" to the effects of its acts of war and
occupation. In 2007, he said that the plight of Palestinians in the Gaza
Strip, then under Israeli blockade, made him ashamed to be an Israeli. "My
modest mission is to prevent a situation in which many Israelis will be able to
say 'We didn't know'," Levy said in an interview.
Levy supports unilateral withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territories
without concessions. "Israel is not being asked to 'give' anything to the
Palestinians; it is only being asked to return—to return their stolen land and
restore their trampled self-respect, along with their fundamental human rights
and humanity." Levy also says that the Gaza War was a failed campaign and its objectives were
not achieved. "The conclusion is that Israel is a violent and dangerous country,
devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignoring the resolutions of the United
Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot about international law," he
wrote in an editorial.
In 2006, Gideon Ezra, Israel's former deputy Minister of Internal Security,
suggested that the General Security Services should monitor Levy as a security
risk. Levy has joked that there is a thick file of anti-Levy cancellations in the
Haaretz newsroom. In 2008, the Anna Lindh foundation, which describes its goal as
people together "from across the Mediterranean to improve mutual respect between
cultures," awarded Levy the Anna Lindh journalism prize for an article he wrote
about Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces. The Association for Civil
Rights in Israel awarded him the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award in 1996 for
promoting human rights, and he has won numerous other awards for his writing.
Survey: Most Israeli Jews would support apartheid regime in Israel
by Gideon Levy in HAARETZ, Oct.23, 2012
Most of the Jewish public in Israel supports the establishment of an
apartheid regime in Israel if it formally annexes the West Bank.
A majority also explicitly favors discrimination against the state's Arab
citizens, a survey shows.
The survey, conducted by Dialog on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, exposes
anti-Arab, ultra-nationalist views espoused by a majority of Israeli Jews. The
survey was commissioned by the Yisraela Goldblum Fund and is based on a sample
of 503 interviewees.
The questions were written by a group of academia-based peace and civil
rights activists. Dialog is headed by Tel Aviv University Prof. Camil Fuchs.
The majority of the Jewish public, 59 percent, wants preference for Jews over
Arabs in admission to jobs in government ministries. Almost half the Jews, 49
percent, want the state to treat Jewish citizens better than Arab ones; 42
percent don't want to live in the same building with Arabs and 42 percent don't
want their children in the same class with Arab children.
A third of the Jewish public wants a law barring Israeli Arabs from voting
for the Knesset and a large majority of 69 percent objects to giving 2.5 million
Palestinians the right to vote if Israel annexes the West Bank.
A sweeping 74 percent majority is in favor of separate
[racially segregated] roads for Israelis and
Palestinians in the West Bank. A quarter—24 percent—believe separate roads
are "a good situation" and 50 percent believe they are "a necessary situation."
Almost half—47 percent—want part of Israel's Arab population to be
transferred [ethnic cleansing] to the Palestinian Authority and 36 percent support transferring
some of the Arab towns from Israel to the PA, in exchange for keeping some of
the West Bank settlements.
Although the territories have not been annexed, most of the Jewish public (58
percent) already believes Israel practices apartheid against Arabs. Only 31
percent think such a system is not in force here. Over a third (38 percent ) of
the Jewish public wants Israel to annex the territories with settlements on
them, while 48 percent object.
The survey distinguishes among the various communities in Israeli society—secular, observant, religious, ultra-Orthodox and former Soviet immigrants. The
ultra-Orthodox, in contrast to those who described themselves as religious or
observant, hold the most extreme positions against the Palestinians. An
overwhelming majority (83 percent) of Haredim are in favor of segregated roads
and 71 percent are in favor of transfer.
The ultra-Orthodox are also the most anti-Arab group—70 percent of them
support legally barring Israeli Arabs from voting, 82 percent support
preferential treatment from the state toward Jews, and 95 percent
are in favor of discrimination against Arabs in admission to workplaces ...
The survey indicates that a third to half of Jewish Israelis want to live in
a state that practices formal, open discrimination against its Arab citizens. An
even larger majority wants to live in an apartheid state if Israel annexes the
The survey conductors say perhaps the term "apartheid" was not clear enough
to some interviewees. However, the interviewees did not object strongly to
describing Israel's character as "apartheid" already today, without annexing the
territories. Only 31 percent objected to calling Israel an "apartheid state" and
said "there's no apartheid at all."
In contrast, 39 percent believe apartheid is practiced "in a few fields"; 19
percent believe "there's apartheid in many fields" and 11 percent do not know.
Excerpts from a PBS interview:
Q: How does it feel to be shot at by your own [Levy is an ex-soldier in the
"This is dilemma which [I’ve been] in for many years now. Just yesterday
morning I wrote an editorial supporting the initiative to appeal to the
international court against war crimes by the Israeli army. It's a very complex
feeling because, you see, my children are here and my children are going to be
soldiers and the children of my friends are soldiers and I was a soldier. I'm an
Israeli, and I feel so Israeli. But I would like to see a different army. It's
not the army that I dreamt about, and it's not the state I dreamt about.
Therefore I think that it is very legitimate to do anything against this
occupation regime. I feel bizarre when many times I was standing among the
Palestinian demonstrators, my back to the Palestinians, my face to the Israeli
soldiers, (and) they were shooting in our direction. They are my people, and
they are my army. The people I'm standing among are supposed to be the enemy.
It's all mixed up ... I tried to deliver the message [to Israeli soldiers] that
Palestinians are also human beings, which is not a message they know because
that's not the way they treat them."
Q: That feeling within the army that the Palestinians are not human—where
does it come from?
"Once we are the occupier, it cannot be that we are equal. The idea was to
prove to the Palestinians by force that we are the real landlords of this land,
that there are no two landlords, there is only one landlord, the Jewish people.
And having said this, you develop a whole dictionary, a whole body language, a
whole concept of we the occupiers, the superiors, and they [are] something else.
Indifference to Gaza's children: children of war (published in Ha'aretz,
September 2, 2007):
Again children. Five children killed in Gaza in eight days. The public
indifference to their killing—the last three, for example, were accorded only
a short item on the margins of page 11 in Yedioth Ahronoth, a sickening matter
in itself—cannot blur the fact that the IDF is waging a war against children.
A year ago, a fifth of those killed in the "Summer Rain" operation in Gaza were
children; during the past two weeks, they comprised a quarter of the 21 killed.
If, heaven forbid, children are hurt in Sderot, we will have to remember this
before we begin raising hell. The IDF explains that the Palestinians make a
practice of sending children to collect the Qassam launchers. However, in this
case, the children killed were not collecting launchers. The first two were
killed while collecting carob fruit and the next three—according to the IDF's
own investigation—were playing tag. But even if we accept the IDF's claim that
there is a general trend of sending children to collect launchers (which has not
been proven), that should have brought about an immediate halt to firing at
launcher collectors. But the IDF does not care whether its victims are liable to
be children. The fact is that it shoots at figures it considers suspicious, with
full knowledge—according to its own contention—that they are liable to be
children. Therefore, an IDF that fires at launcher collectors is an army that
kills children, without any intention of preventing this. This then is not a
series of unfortunate mistakes, as it is being portrayed, but rather reflects
the army's contempt for the lives of Palestinian children and its terrifying
indifference to their fate ... The liquidations, the shelling and the killing of
children will work in exactly the opposite direction of what is intended. In the
meantime, look what is happening to us and to our army.
Child buried twice in 'Operation Locked Kindergarten': The boy who was buried
twice (Published in Ha'aretz, September 9, 2006):
Saja'iya, Gaza City—Abdullah a-Zakh identified his son's body by the belt.
The shoes and socks also looked familiar, irrefutable proof that he had lost his
son. In the morgue of Shifa Hospital, after hours of searching, he found the
bottom part of the boy's body. The next day, when Operation "Gan Na'ul"—"Locked Kindergarten"—ended and the Israel Defense Forces exited the Saja'iya
neighborhood of Gaza, leaving behind 22 dead and large-scale destruction, the
other body parts were found. Mohammed was buried twice. He was 14 years old at
the time of his death. He was killed last week, three days before the start of
the new school year, so he never got to enter ninth grade. Did the planners of
the operation give thought to the children who would be killed before giving it
the satanic name "Locked Kindergarten"? Did the IDF computer that comes up with
the names know that there would be five children and adolescents among the dead?
Did they think about the popular song that the operation's name evokes? It was
unpleasant, very unpleasant (in the words of the song) this week to see the
results of Locked Kindergarten in the Saja'iya neighborhood in the eastern
section of Gaza City. This sprawling, overcrowded residential neighborhood was
occupied for almost a week by the IDF. The army wreaked destruction in it. A
monstrous bulldozer maliciously potholed a few roads, scarring the asphalt with
gaping wounds, for no apparent reason. Houses were hit, street tiling was
uprooted, electricity poles were cut down, cars were crushed, dozens of trees
were destroyed and 22 residents were killed. For almost a week the tens of
thousands of residents lived in terror, some of them unable to leave their
homes. The IDF Spokesperson's Office explained this week: "The IDF operated in
Saja'iya as part of the overall activity to create the conditions for the return
of Gilad Shalit ...[In other words, the Israeli army placed the freedom of one
captured Israeli soldier above the lives of Palestinian kindergartners.]
There is no hunger is Gaza (Published in Ha'aretz, April 9, 2006):
For the information of all the anxious: There is no hunger in the
territories. No baby has died of malnutrition; no child is walking around with a
swollen belly. There is no lack of flour, and from Rafah to Jenin rice is
available. Let the tongue-cluckers relax: The talk about a "humanitarian
disaster" is exaggerated. The international relief and aid organizations are
trying in despair to cry "wolf," to alert the Israelis and the world and enlist
them in the cause to save the Palestinian people, knowing that only exaggerated
talk might move anyone. They might be right, but their calls are coming too
soon, and also much too late. The use of the term "humanitarian disaster" is
actually proof of the dehumanization of the Palestinians. There's no flour?
"Humanitarian disaster." There is flour? Then there's no disaster. There's an
assumption that all the Palestinians need is a daily serving of food so they
won't be considered disaster victims. It's enough that they have water and food
in their troughs to conclude that their situation is fine. But human beings,
including the Palestinians, have a few other basic needs as well. The real
humanitarian disaster in the territories began a long time ago, and it is not
hunger. Those who regard the neighboring people as human beings know this very
well. It is true that the dimensions of the disaster are worsening, but that's
been taking place over years, and the food index is not the only measure. The
cessation of the flow of funding since the rise of Hamas might threaten to
depress the economic situation even further, but the thought that if they only
have enough food, their needs will be satisfied and our conscience can be clear,
is outrageous. There's no need to waste words on the scope of poverty in the
territories. Sixty-five percent of Gazans and 48 percent of the West Bankers now
live under the poverty line, according to a UN report from last December, issued
before the decision was made to freeze the transfer of their tax money to them.
There is no need to be an expert in economics to understand that if 37 percent
of Gazans with jobs—more than 73,000 people—were employed by the Palestinian
Authority and now their livelihoods are threatened due to a lack of money to pay
their wages, the situation will only get worse. Palestinian society, which has a
very high level of solidarity, will know how to deal with that disaster. Because
of the food handed out by UNRWA and the other organizations, there won't be
hunger any time soon in Gaza, even if the number of those suffering from
malnutrition does increase. But even if they have bags of flour and rice, the
living conditions of the Palestinians are chilling. They live in prison. Their
daily routine includes humiliation that is no less terrible than malnutrition.
Anyone who has to beg for permission to leave his village, to spend hours
crowded in line at a checkpoint just to reach his destination, anyone whose
bedroom is brutally invaded in the middle of the night by the occupation army,
whose time and life is considered valueless, and whose basic human dignity has
been trampled into dust, cannot find any consolation in the fact that flour and
rice is available. Those who think that all it takes is providing a quota of
flour to be free of any responsibility for the fate of the people they occupy,
are suffering from a serious case of moral blindness. Does the fact that a
Palestinian youth is not hungry in any way blunt the fact that he cannot dream,
cannot aspire to a career, an orderly education, a vacation or simple pleasures
of life? Does the fact that his belly is not completely empty cover up for the
miserable present and the hopeless future?
Netanyahu's speech to Congress shows America will buy
It was an address with no destination, filled with lies
on top of lies and illusions heaped on illusions. Only rarely is a foreign head
of state invited to speak before Congress. It's unlikely that any other has
attempted to sell them such a pile of propaganda and prevarication, such
hypocrisy and sanctimony as Benjamin Netanyahu did yesterday.
The fact that the Congress rose to its feet multiple
times to applaud him says more about the ignorance of its members than the
quality of their guest's speech. An Israeli presence on the Jordan River—cheering. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel—applause. Did
American's elected representatives know that they were cheering for the death of
possibility? If America loved it, we're in big trouble.
The fact that the only truth spoken in the Capitol was
that of a former Israeli shouting "equal rights for Palestinians" is a badge of
honor for us and a mark of shame for America. Netanyahu's "speech of his life"
was the speech of the death of peace.
It was a 1970s show. Maybe back then people still bought
the piles of pretty, wise words shoveled by a peace-loving Israeli prime
minister. How can an Israeli prime minister dare to say his country "fully
supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely" without
spitting out the entire bitter truth—as long as they aren't Palestinian.
Suddenly Netanyahu marvels at the Arab Spring, but where was he when it began?
He was on his standard scare campaign, warning of the dangers of an extremist
Islamic regime and rushing to build a fence along our border with Egypt. And
yesterday, suddenly, it's "the promise of a new dawn." Apparently there is no
end to hypocrisy.
And how could he rain praise on Israeli democracy when
his government has done more than its predecessors to deal the mortal blow to
that democracy, to pass completely anti-democratic laws? How can he boast of the
status of Israel's Arab citizens, while his right-wing, nationalistic coalition
is passing racist laws against them? Saying that Israel's Arabs have more
freedom in Israel than in any Arab state is like saying that blacks in American
have more rights than those in Africa. So what? Does that mean that
African-Americans had equal rights for generations, that they didn't have to
fight for their rights?
And how dare he speak about freedom of worship in
Jerusalem at a time when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been denied
that freedom for years. Freedom of worship in Jerusalem is for Palestinians aged
35 and up, sometimes 45 and up; sometimes even 65 isn't old enough. And for the
2 million people of the Gaza Strip, there is no such freedom at all.
How can Netanyahu praise the peace with Egypt, when it's
easy to guess he would have voted against it? The man who explicitly said he
would do his level best to destroy the Oslo Accords suddenly says he's in favor
of peace with the Palestinians.
Last night we saw that the Americans will buy anything,
or at least their applauding legislators will.