Gideon Levy: ‘What’s a nice Jewish boy doing in a state like this?’ *

gideon levy haaretz journalist

‘The most hated man in Israel?’

I was hoping to move away from the ongoing Israel-Gaza tragedy, but chance intervened today, in the form of an extended interview by Johann Hari with the renowned  award-winning Jewish journalist at Haaretz, Gideon Levy. (* It’s his own quote, above, by the way.)

The son of a WWII refugee from Sudetenland, Levy admits he grew up as an Israeli nationalist, not questing the general, majority dismissal of, and contempt – or worse – towards, Palestinians.

His attitude changed when he started reporting for Haaretz[2] from the West Bank and Gaza, and in the intervening 30 years, he has become a rare voice speaking up for peace, tolerance and  understanding.

In so doing, he has enraged majority Israeli opinion, regularly receives hate mail, has been physically threatened many times, been deliberately shot at by the Israeli army, and was even the target of a legal amendment that now precludes him from setting foot in Gaza. He’s also regarded as a “security risk”.

A few quotes from the interview

“My biggest struggle,” he says, “is to rehumanize the Palestinians. There’s a whole machinery of brainwashing in Israel which really accompanies each of us from early childhood, and I’m a product of this machinery as much as anyone else. [We are taught] a few narratives that it’s very hard to break. That we Israelis are the ultimate and only victims. That the Palestinians are born to kill, and their hatred is irrational. That the Palestinians are not human beings like us… So you get a society without any moral doubts, without any questions marks, with hardly public debate. To raise your voice against all this is very hard.”

On the episode when Israeli forces targeted him

“In the summer of 2003, he was travelling in a clearly marked Israeli taxi on the West Bank. He explains: “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. I don’t think they knew who we were. They shot us like they would shoot anyone else. 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. Do they know who they are going to kill? No. They don’t know and don’t care. 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.”

On living in the Israeli village of Sheikh Munis

“It is built on the wreckage of “one of the 416 Palestinian villages Israel wiped off the face of the earth in 1948,” he says. “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.”

On Israel as a democracy

 “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?”

I could go on, extensively. My recommendation is that you follow the link below[1] for a thought-provoking encounter with a courageous, committed man.


Blogger “bimo”[3] has some balanced observations to make on the subject. One of his recent Palestine items has useful links to two condemnations of biased reporting of the current conflict by western media – one of which is an open letter signed by, among others, Naom Chomsky. So, if you’re interested… yet another coincidence today.

[1]: The Independent

[2]: Haaretz

[3]: bimo

Image: Anja Meulenbelt


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