This was published at Just Journalism
Today’s 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.’