Gideon Levy’s extremism is a disservice to peace

Dec 24, 2012 Published under Israel, Middle East, Palestine

I just got a chance to read a post by Ben-Dror Yemini refuting Gideon Levy’s spin of a poll as if it were confirming that Israelis support an apartheid state. Yemini is for the most part an excellent writer and moderate nuanced thinker, though some of his specific arguments and rebuttals in this case are a bit strained. The sad fact is that Israel, a country and people I deeply love and admire, does suffer from a tendency to discriminate, and this often regrettably borders on racism against Arabs and Muslims. But Yemini is correct in distinguishing that from the more extremist characterization of an Israeli majority as supporting apartheid, which may sell newspapers with its sensationalism but is plainly untrue. Israelis in the broad majority are proud of freedom and democracy and will defend it including through institutions like the Supreme Court, civil society, and old and new media – even if all those have come under attack from the current Israeli administration.

More broadly, as far as this issue of sad stereotypes and attitudes by Israeli Jews towards Arabs and Muslim is concerned, I try to understand the context, and I similarly do not judge or blame Palestinians for any corresponding attitudes, which I am certain are at least as intolerant in their disregard for Israelis and Jews.

Certainly tons of work needs to be done to overcome these tribal hatreds and mistrust borne of a deep conflict, an occupation, and ignorance by both sides about the other. But that is the point. Anyone who spends all their time passing judgement against one side or another should have a bit more humility to understand the context – and the other side. So long as the status quo continues, both peoples will understandably and tragically be diminished by their parochial generalized hatreds.

But the inability to contextualize and provide perspective is not what most bothers me about Gideon Levy. What bothers me is his cowardice and his bias and his abuse of his position as an Israeli ‘expert.’ As much as I disagree with him for his extremist stances, I actually respect and admire his courage to challenge Israelis, which is his democratic prerogative.

Alas, what most Israelis do not realize is that he takes his pony show to International fora managed by Palestinians (such as the UN Committee on the inalienable right of Palestinian people whose precise even longer name escapes me) and he poses as if he were a prototypical Israeli before these audiences – which often include international attendees who have never met any other Israeli – and proceeds to demonize all Israelis as a caricature of monstrosity, without once even pointing to the Israeli narrative and concerns about Palestinian missteps.

I saw this first hand, of all places, in China. And I didn’t see it over the last two years, where perhaps one could excuse some Israeli leftists from forcefully arguing purely against the Netanyahu administration’s gigantically disrespectful and abominable missteps not just against the Palestinian people, but just as much against Israelis and the world. Even then, though, if you are invited to represent your people’s viewpoint, you should have the courage to explain the prevailing perspective, even if uncomfortable. Or if you cannot, then you should not accept the role of representative of the Israeli viewpoint.

Some time in the early 2000s, Gideon Levy was invited and clearly billed as the Israeli representative to a meeting dominated by Palestinian, Perspectives. I was among only perhaps two out of 200 participants (and one out of some 20 speakers) who tried (quite imperfectly, I should acknowledge) to speak truth to both sides and share the vantage point of the other. Only this way do we have a chance of moving in a positive direction. Gideon Levy, the sole Israeli representative, did not have the courage to explain to Palestinians and international participants at the conference even the most basic Israeli perspective or vantage point. He lambasted Barak as well as Sharon and every other Israeli official and policy. That would maybe even be acceptable if he then would have gone on to also point out what Palestinians had done wrong from the Israeli perspective – not the least of which was launching the second intifadah and the Ramallah lynching as a response to the failed camp david negotiations of 2000. Palestinians and Israelis have totally different narratives most times. And Levy hurt the process by making it seem like there was no Israeli narrative to consider. The result is like totalitarian societies where freedom of speech is suppressed and underlying problems seethe and don’t get resolved.

I find it fascinating that Levy has the courage to say all Israelis are doing wrong (and particularly nowadays there is a ton to be said!) But he has neither courage nor intellect to constructively share with the world and the Palestinian community what they need to do, or to at least explain Valid Israeli concerns.

We do a huge disservice to both sides when we lack the courage to say what needs to be said. At its most basic essence it is this: Israelis, you need to come to terms that you ARE occupying another nation, and you need to end the OCCUPATION, including giving Palestinians reign over Arab areas of East Jerusalem. Palestinians, you need to come to terms that you have to coexist with Israel and will not achieve a better future for your future generations if you are unwilling to PUBLICLY END ALL CLAIMS, give up fantasies for a phased approach to a Greater Palestine, and acknowledge Jews’ right to a homeland alongside yours, as part of a comprehensive final solution.

Haaretz, Gideon Levy, and the Israel apartheid canard

October 26, 2012, 2:23 am

Survey: Most Israeli Jews would support apartheid regime,” the headline in Haaretz screamed earlier this week. If that were true, it indeed would have been a worrying development. But the information below will demonstrate that the article contains some of the most blatant anti-Israel lies published in recent years. And Gideon Levy, the one and only – who is read more in English than in Hebrew — was awarded the task of explaining the survey to the whole wide world.

The result? Israel is apparently not merely on the way to becoming South Africa. It has already turned into South Africa. The lie has been making waves the world over, spreading like wildfire. The goal has been achieved.

It’s not easy to chase down a lie that has already gained traction worldwide. But it seems there is no escaping the attempt, at least. So we’ll bring the facts — just the facts — and let them speak for themselves. Hopefully, someone is listening.

Gideon A and Gideon B

Gideon Levy’s name graces the byline of the main article, which included the survey results. The same Gideon Levy also wrote the accompanying commentary article. But Levy was probably so elated, that he did not even notice that he implicates himself in lies.

According to the survey, 53 percent of Israelis are not opposed to having an Arab neighbor. That much is clear. But when Gideon Levy passes from reporting to overt incitement masquerading as “interpretation,” he writes that “the majority doesn’t want… Arab neighbors.” Could it be that the second Gideon Levy didn’t properly read what was written by the first Gideon Levy?

Moving on: According to the survey, 33% of Israelis support revoking the voting rights of Israeli Arabs. That’s a grave figure in and of itself. But when it comes to the “interpretation,” Levy writes that “the majority doesn’t want Arabs to vote for the Knesset.” Again, Levy the interpreter seems not to have read Levy the reporter. Is he capable of formulating a sentence that includes only the truth? And where in the hell is his editor? Was there not a single editor who could properly parse the results of the survey?

But then again, the lies were designed to lend Levy the justification for his political conclusion; namely, that the possibility of a Jewish and democratic state of Israel has expired. In the past, I wrote that Gideon Levy is “Baron of the Falsehood Industry.” Levy insists on providing more and more evidence to this effect.

Extraordinary deductive logic

According to the survey, 69% of Israelis oppose the granting of voting rights to Palestinian Arabs if the territories are annexed.

Sounds scary.

The real reason that most Israelis oppose the annexation of the territories, however, is, most likely, that they would like to avoid a bi-national state or the risk of an apartheid one. But Haaretz pulled off an extraordinary feat of deductive logic, stating that most Israelis support apartheid. It’s like a survey indicating that most Israelis are opposed to violence — but that if they were to be attacked by a mugger, they would react violently – breeding a report with the title “Most Israelis support violence.” This is the story of the Haaretz headline. It’s based on a purely hypothetical, or, more precisely, manipulative situation.

Meanwhile, CAMERA has published the full survey, and it turns out that the famed reporter and commentator may have committed full-fledged fraud. For instance, on the issue of separate roads for Israelis in the West Bank, 50% of respondents answered that having separate roads is “not a good situation but there is no alternative,” while another 17% said it was just “not good.” What appears in Levy’s version? Only “no alternative.” The “not good” response was simply omitted. And there are other examples there.

Baron of the Falsehood Industry indeed.

Good neighbors

Let’s remain briefly with the issue of neighbors. Many surveys in Western countries show that white indigenous people are not enthusiastic about foreigner neighbors. Forty-two percent of the French, according to one survey, think of the Muslim presence as a “threat,” 68% think Muslims do not integrate, and 61% blame the Muslims themselves for their supposed failure to integrate. Similar results were observed in each and every country where this kind of survey was carried out.

That does not make all Europeans racists. It indicates that there are concerns, even if they aren’t always justified. The difference between Israel and other Western countries is that Israel is in the throes of a conflict. Jewish Israelis are faced with a barrage of Islamic incitement; and yet, most are not opposed to having an Arab neighbor, and support the political rights of the Arabs, even according to the results of this distorted survey.

This is actually a badge of honor for the average Israeli.

Michael Ben-Ari — average Israeli?

According to the survey, 47% of Israelis support a population transfer of Israeli Arabs. That’s interesting. Historically, Israel has had only one party that supported a population transfer, and even then only on the condition that it would be consensual. That party won only three seats in the Knesset.

How could the hand of Levy’s editor not tremble? Wasn’t he aware of the facts?

Currently, there isn’t a single political party in Israel that supports apartheid. One right-wing party, which won three seats, has a member who succeeded to be elected despite the fact that his ideology is reminiscent of Kahanism. He is the only current Knesset member of whom it might be said that he supports a population transfer. One of 120.

According to Haaretz, any party to run on a platform of population transfer and apartheid would win an automatic majority of seats in Knesset.

In view of the circumstances, wherein Hamas is the largest party in the territories, and types like Azmi Bishara, Raed Salah and Haneen Zoabi are the loudest speakers for the Palestinian Arabs, the Jewish population has also produced some radical, fringe elements. We must oppose them. But most Israelis reveal an amazing maturity, and consistently vote for parties that support equal rights for Israeli Arabs.

Bothered by inequality

A survey conducted by the “SIKUY” association, which no one can accuse of harboring any right-wing inclinations, found that “60% of [Israeli] Jews believe that promoting the equality of Arab citizens is in the interest of the state.” Sixty percent! In addition, the survey found that “53% of the Jewish population in Israel is bothered by the inequality of Israeli Arabs,” and that “40% of Jews are willing to pay a personal price in order to achieve the goal of civil equality in Israel.” Indeed, a personal price for equality, for a sense of partnership.

This survey was more comprehensive and thorough than the survey ordered by a political organization that probably marked its goal on advance.

The other leftists

A survey conducted by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies just last year found that 48% of the Jews in Israel support (vs. 43% who oppose) a “package deal,” including a mobilization of citizenry and government, to improve the situation of the Israeli Arabs within the framework of “inclusive citizenship.” But this survey received no front-page headlines.

The survey was much more serious and far more thoughtful, and its academic staff comprised mostly leftists. Not the kind of leftists that characterize Haaretz, but the kind that want to investigate, to know, to propose a framework to improve the current situation, which indeed merits improvement.

Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy (photo credit: Flash90)Haaretz journalist Gideon Levy (photo credit: Flash90)

Intifada and equality

A multi-year survey reveals a link between the political situation and support for equality; in 1985, only 44% supported equality; in 1999, 73% supported equality; in 2003, only 47% supported equality; and in 2007, 55% supported equality. That is, since 1985, only once, at the height of the intifada in 2003, were supporters of equality not in the majority.

The survey also indicates that if you take away the hostility stemming from the conflict, the citizens of Israel are characterized by support for civil equality far more than they can be characterized as apartheid supporters.

Refuting reality

The Arabs of Israel, according to all sane and sensible measures, enjoy greater civil rights — far greater — than the population of any other country in the Middle East.

Just recently, a leading Arab website, Arab News, published an article by Abdoltif Al-Milham showing that reality. This important article, which attempted, among other things, to counter anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic falsehoods about Israel as an apartheid state, also received prominent billing in the second-largest Arab channel, Al Arabiya. But not to worry: Even if the world occasionally receives glimmers of the truth, Haaretz takes care to return the lies to center-stage. It will readily refute the reality with the help of a dubious survey that the paper fell on like a trophy.

What’s apartheid?

The word “apartheid” has a meaning in international law. Its definition appears in Section 7 of the Statue of the International Criminal Court:

Murder; extermination; enslavement; deportation or forcible transfer of population; imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; torture; rape; sexual slavery; enforced prostitution; forced pregnancy; enforced sterilization, or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity; persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender…; enforced disappearance of persons…. in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.

Such crimes were never carried out in Israel, and Gideon Levy knows it. In a country where Arabs serve as doctors, professors, judges — in a country where they vote and are elected to the legislature – there is no apartheid. There are instances of discrimination, and one should fight against these, as in any other democratic country. Most people who answered the survey questions are not familiar with the definition of apartheid. Gideon Levy and Haaretz are supposed to know that. But they chose to cast Israel as an apartheid state.

A landmark work of incitement

These are the facts. You can add more surveys and other studies. Indeed, there are manifestations of discrimination; there are expressions of racism – as in all Western countries. And that’s a shame. If Haaretz had published true findings, it wouldn’t be worth a single word of criticism.

But Haaretz published this week one of the biggest manipulations in the history of incitement against Israel.

There is a solid Jewish majority that supports civil equality for Arabs. Just as important, there are polls showing that a majority of Israeli Arabs support Arab integration in the State of Israel — even when it is defined as a Jewish and democratic state. But these facts do not confuse those among us who breed hate. Far-right activist Baruch Marzel and Gideon Levy are not opponents. They are two sides of the same coin. One tries to create the impression that the Israeli Arabs are a fifth column; the second cultivates the canard that Israelis are racist supporters of apartheid.

Both are stirring anti-Israel discord and animosity among the nations.

In his commentary piece, Levy writes:

Let the right prove that this is not the way we are, that most Israelis want to live with Arabs. That most of them see Arabs as people like themselves, their equals in rights and opportunities.

There’s no need to be a rightist to read what it really says in the survey from which Levy is quoting. One need only know how to read. Here is what the survey says: 53% do not object to an Arab neighbor. Only a minority opposes the granting of rights. What exactly passed through this man’s mind to render him unable to read the survey he is reporting about?

There is more bad news for Levy: This year’s Democracy Index, which is put out by the Israel Democracy Institute, reveals that most Arabs do complain of discrimination. But they also think Israel is democratic enough; too democratic, even. Since this man appears to suffer from severe difficulties in reading comprehension, we’ll tell him this statistic appears on page 217. Here, Israeli Arabs can understand that discrimination is not apartheid, and that Israel is a democracy. But Gideon Levy? He is unable.

This revulsion against Israel is not a matter of a single piece or a single writer. This is the general line.

In a different article published this week, another major writer was furious about Romney and Obama’s avowal of support for Israel during the third presidential debate. He claimed that the US was a “crazy state” and compared the American administration to the most retrograde regimes in the world. According to that writer, the two candidates should actually have competed over who hated Israel more. His hand did not shake when he wrote words of incitement worthy of a Hamas newspaper — because this is Haaretz.

Haaretz is not representative of the left. Because there are two lefts: There’s a left that seeks peace, human rights and a democratic Jewish state; and there’s a left that embraces demonization. Haaretz occupies a place of honor in this second left. Out of 10 studies on Jewish attitudes toward Arab rights, Haaretz selected the most negligible, the most outlandish, and made a headline out of it. And as if that were not enough, Haaretz also distorted the results.

Today, we can look back and see how the image of the demonic Jew came into being: it took a systematic campaign of lies and brainwashing. One day the minister of history will deal with the same question: How was the image of a demonic Israel created? But there’s no need to wait for the far future. What was once done by the anti-Semitic right to the Jews is now being done by the anti-Zionist left to Israel. The difference between them, if it was not clear, is fading away.

Haaretz will of course argue that Levy’s is a legitimate “analysis.” The real question is whether such propaganda can be termed “journalism.”

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