Gideon Levy’s reductionist vision of Israel

This was published at Just Journalism

Today’interview with Gideon Levy by Johann Hari in The Independent is a perfect example of how criticism of Israel can be distorted abroad to fit the preconceptions of the foreign media. Levy’s narrow focus on the ills of his country matches perfectly with Hari’s blinkered perspective, and is therefore presented as the only valid viewpoint – the ‘truth’ about Israel.

Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?asks the headline of the interview. Over the course of the five and a half thousand word article, Hari argues that he is the former, stands a good chance of being the latter and, of course, that Levy’s supposed pariah status is the result of his staunch bravery in the face of adversity.

Gideon Levy is an editor and columnist at Ha’aretz, a liberal Israeli daily newspaper. According to Hari, Levy has done ‘something very simple, and something that almost no other Israeli has done. Nearly every week for three decades, he has travelled to the Occupied Territories and described what he sees, plainly and without propaganda.’ Taken literally, this is probably true – after all, only a very small percentage of Israelis at any one time are columnists at a national newspaper, and the amount of them that have been reporting for thirty years on the trot would be smaller still.

This, however, is not what Hari means. He seeks to suggest that Levy’s concern for Palestinians, and his objections to the occupation of their land, marks him out from his fellow Israelis, who are characterised as violent and racist. According to Hari, Levy ‘patiently [documents] his country’s crimes, and [tries] to call his people back to a righteous path.’ While Levy offers Palestinians empathy, ‘so many others offer only bullets and bombs.’

But it’s not just that Israeli’s don’t care about these issues – they are, in the myopic portrayal of Israel that is conjured up in the interview, actively trying to prevent Levy from speaking out as well. Many people, according to Hari, want Levy ‘silenced’, and if the ‘attempt to deride, suppress or deny his words’ is successful, then ‘Israel itself is lost.’

Read rest of the essay, here

6 replies »

  1. It’s a very exclusive club, isn’t it?

    One can only be ‘brave’ or ‘heroic’ if one holds a certain type of Guardian/Indy approved opinion.

    One’s freedom of speech is only worth a newspaper article if it is of the genre which has received the rubber stamp of consent from the great and the good.

    And then those people try to claim that Israel’s democracy is in danger.

    I wonder if they ever look at the democratic credentials of their own world.

  2. Exactly, Israeli Nurse.
    True bravery or heroism is in confronting the likes of Ahmadinejad, as the Iranian Green dissidents did in Teheran, with dire consequences, not slagging off the ME’s only true democracy. Unlike the martyrs of Teheran or Beijing, or the fellow-Palestinians ruthlessly killed by Hamas, Gideon Levy hasn’t got anything to worry about but the well-deserved scorn that comes his way.

  3. Ah, Johann Hari; he of the cottage cheese face. Duvidl reminds Cif Watchers of his song about Hari and his ilk of the foreign press from the archives:

    The Israel-Bashers’ Ball
    (To the tune of “Phil The Fluter’s Ball.” Hat tip: Percy French.)

    There are three gay-pay fluters,
    Drag Israel through the muck.
    Except, their flutes they don’t blow;
    Instead of that, they suck.
    Then Hari, Parris and Pierce have the chutzpah and gall,
    To plan with funding from Iran,
    An Israel-bashers’ ball.

    Bridge: From Saudi Arabia comes bloated old King Abdullah;
    He cannot get through the doors at all.
    Iran sends a bevy of every sheikh and mad mullah;
    Abu Dhabi emisseries too can’t squeeze into the hall.

    Chorus: With a suck on Johann’s flute,
    With Parris he has a fiddle-oh.
    Can’t see past his middle-oh;
    With Pierce he’ll fiddle-diddle-oh.
    Up-down hands around; ass against the wall.
    Oh hadn’t he the gaiety at the Israel-bashers’ ball.

    DS All Coda

  4. This is a useful observation:

    “He shifts in his seat. “But I do not boycott Israel. I could have done it, I could have left Israel. But I don’t intend to leave Israel. Never. I can’t call on others to do what I will not do… There is also the question of whether it will work. I am not sure Israelis would make the connection. Look at the terror that happened in 2002 and 2003: life in Israel was really horrifying, the exploding buses, the suicide-bombers. But no Israeli made the connection between the occupation and the terror. For them, the terror was just the ‘proof’ that the Palestinians are monsters, that they were born to kill, that they are not human beings and that’s it. And if you just dare to make the connection, people will tell you ‘you justify terror ’ and you are a traitor. I suspect it would be the same with sanctions. The condemnation after Cast Lead and the flotilla only made Israel more nationalistic. If [a boycott was] seen as the judgement of the world they would be effective. But Israelis are more likely to take them as ‘proof’ the world is anti-Semitic and will always hate us.””

  5. Picking up from Zharya’s quotation from Hari’s article
    !But no Israeli made the connection between the occupation and the terror. For them, the terror was just the ‘proof’ that the Palestinians are monsters, that they were born to kill, that they are not human beings and that’s it”

    Levy’s overweening pride makes him think that he is the only perceptive one, the only one who feels. Israelis did make the connection between the bombing and the ‘occupation’ . He noticed it for one. The ‘left’ noticed it very verbally. We all noticed that the Palestinians rejoiced in our sorrowing and our pain and in that they were monstrous! There was no reaching out from the other side and Levy himself fails to notice that. In that he proves himself less perceptive, less sensitive and less sympathetic than he flatters himself that he is.

  6. A small problem with being the most hated and/or most brave man.
    I have a bad feeling: 99.99% of the Israelis haven’t the slightest idea about who the heck is Gideon Levy. Being a very common name most of them would think about the local grocer or the unfriendly tax supervisor, maybe the neighbour’s second cousin from Nes Ziona.

    It seems to me modesty is not one of his forte…