Friday, September 24, 2010

Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic - The Independent

A snippet of Johann Hari’s interview with Gideon Levy

Johan Hari of the UK’s Independent’s interview with Gideon Levy which was recently published tells a different story. It is hardly a different story if you’ve been living outside of Israel or the US – but a different story coming from an Israeli.

Levy is a patriotic Israeli, who loves his country. But he feels deep empathy for the Palestinian. Levy is an Israeli journalist who covers the occupied territory and reports things as he sees it. I highly recommend everyone to read this article. Given the Independent’s stance on the Israel-Palestine issue, one might think their reporting is biased. But this one comes from an Israeli who has not only witnessed justice being undone, but has himself experienced the brutality of such injustice.

Below are excerpts of the article –

He related several stories, true stories, to which he witnessed himself:

“As twenty little children pulled up in their school bus at the Indira Gandhi kindergarten, their 20 year-old teacher, Najawa Khalif, waved to them – and an Israel shell hit her and she was blasted to pieces in front of them. He arrived a day later, to find the shaking children drawing pictures of the chunks of her corpse.”

The writer also related one article which Levy wrote entitled “The last meal of the Wahbas family” which goes:

“They’d all sat down to have lunch at home: the mother Fatma, three months pregnant; her daughter Farah, two; her son Khaled, one; Fatma’s brother, Dr Zakariya Ahmed; his daughter in law Shayma, nine months pregnant; and the seventy-eight year old grandmother. A Wahba family gathering in Khan Yunis in honour of Dr Ahmed, who’d arrived home six days earlier from Saudi Arabia. A big boom is heard outside. Fatma hurriedly scoops up the littlest one and tries to escape to an inner room, but another boom follows immediately. This time is a direct hit.”

He also described how the people of Israel have been brainwashed to believing that Palestinians are monster and whatever is done by the Israeli army is legit.

“The brainwashing machinery is so efficient that trying [to undo it is] almost like trying to turn an omelette back to an egg. It makes people so full of ignorance and cruelty.” He gives an example. During Operation Cast Lead, the Israel bombing of blockaded Gaza in 2008-9, “a dog – an Israeli dog – was killed by a Qassam rocket and it on the front page of the most popular newspaper in Israel. On the very same day, there were tens of Palestinians killed, they were on page 16, in two lines.”

In one incident he was shot by the army who had no idea he was an Israeli!

“At a certain stage the army stopped us and asked what we were doing there. We showed them our papers, which were all in order. They sent us up a road – and when we went onto this road, they shot us. They directed their fire to the centre of the front window. Straight at the head. No shooting in the air, no megaphone calling to stop, no shooting at the wheels. Shoot to kill immediately. If it hadn’t been bullet-proof, I wouldn’t be here now...They were trigger-happy, as they always are. It was like having a cigarette. They didn’t shoot just one bullet. The whole car was full of bullets...”

“They shoot at the Palestinians like this on a daily basis. You have only heard about this because, for once, they shot at an Israeli.” He added.

Levy did describe his past. He was from Germany. His father, a PhD holder, was a lawyer. But they later became refugees (Nazi). He ended up in Palestine.

“We were so proud going to see Rachel’s Tomb [in Hebron] and we just didn’t see the Palestinians. We looked right through them, like they were invisible,” he says. “It had always been like that. We were passing as children so many ruins [of Palestinian villages that had been ethnically cleansed in 1948]. We never asked: ‘Who lived in this house? Where is he now? He must be alive. He must be somewhere.’ It was part of the landscape, like a tree, like a river.”

He went on to say.

“The swimming pool where I swim every morning was the irrigation grove they used to water the village’s groves. My house stands on one of the groves. The land was ‘redeemed’ by force, its 2,230 inhabitants were surrounded and threatened. They fled, never to return. Somewhere, perhaps in a refugee camp in terrible poverty, lives the family of the farmer who plowed the land where my house now stands.”

He also denied that Israel is “democratic”.

“Today we have three kinds of people living under Israeli rule,” he explains. “We have Jewish Israelis, who have full democracy and have full civil rights. We have the Israeli Arabs, who have Israeli citizenship but are severely discriminated against. And we have the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, who live without any civil rights, and without any human rights. Is that a democracy?”

“How can you say it is a democracy when, in sixty two years, there was not one single Arab village established? I don’t have to tell you how many Jewish towns and villages were established. Not one Arab village. How can you say it’s a democracy when research has shown repeatedly that Jews and Arabs get different punishments for the same crime? How can you say it’s a democracy when a Palestinian student can hardly rent an apartment in Tel Aviv, because when they hear his accent or his name almost nobody will rent to him? How can you say Israel is a democracy when? Jerusalem invests 577 shekels a year in a pupil in [Palestinian] East Jerusalem and 2372 shekels a year in a pupil from [Jewish] West Jerusalem. Four times less, only because of the child’s ethnicity!.. Every part of our society is racist.”

He defended Palestinians actions – saying that it is a reaction to years of injustice rather than a terror act.

“What would happen if the Palestinians had not fired Qassams [the rockets shot at Southern Israel, including civilian towns]? Would Israel have lifted the economic siege? Nonsense. If the Gazans were sitting quietly, as Israel expects them to do, their case would disappear from the agenda. Nobody would give any thought to the fate of the people of Gaza if they had not behaved violently.”

The people who defend Israel’s current course are “betraying the country” by encouraging it on “the path to disaster. A child who has seen his house destroyed, his brother killed, and his father humiliated will not easily forgive.”

Israeli-Palestinian peace talk? Nothing but a scam. They are continuously occupying Palestinian territory. According to Levy, they are just entertaining the US to get their backing to bomb Iran. He feels that Israel needs to told.

“The facts are clear. Israel has no real intention of quitting the territories or allowing the Palestinian people to exercise their rights. No change will come to pass in the complacent, belligerent, and condescending Israel of today. This is the time to come up with a rehabilitation programme for Israel.”

He also feels Israel is highly hypocritical for opposing a boycott on them. Well, this one I think no one can actually deny much – they put blockade on poor Palestine!

“Firstly, the Israeli opposition to the boycott is incredibly hypocritical. Israel itself is one of the world’s most prolific boycotters. Not only does it boycott, it preaches to others, at times even forces others, to follow in tow. Israel has imposed a cultural, academic, political, economic and military boycott on the territories. The most brutal, naked boycott is, of course, the siege on Gaza and the boycott of Hamas. At Israel's behest, nearly all Western countries signed onto the boycott with inexplicable alacrity. This is not just a siege that has left Gaza in a state of shortage for three years. It's a series of cultural, academic, humanitarian and economic boycotts. Israel is also urging the world to boycott Iran. So Israelis cannot complain if this is used against them.”

He also has hopes – which I share.

"I am very pessimistic, sure. Outside pressure can be effective if it’s an American one but I don’t see it happening. Other pressure from other parts of the world might be not effective. The Israeli society will not change on its own, and the Palestinians are too weak to change it. But having said this, I must say, if we had been sitting here in the late 1980s and you had told me that the Berlin wall will fall within months, that the Soviet Union will fall within months, that parts of the regime in South Africa will fall within months, I would have laughed at you. Perhaps the only hope I have is that this occupation regime hopefully is already so rotten that maybe it will fall by itself one day. You have to be realistic enough to believe in miracles.”

Sufficed to say, Israeli treatment of Palestine is well documented and well known. This man has been campaigning against it for three decades and nothing has changed. What is really needed is a concertive effort to educate the public and condemn Israel. If this man, a man who loves his country to death dare do it in such open manner – subjecting him to hostility, condemnation, a beating and many other things by his own country - I think we should at least try to do something.

These are just excerpts, do go to the website to read more:

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