Gideon Levy, single-minded
Gideon Levy has long cut a melancholic figure within Israeli journalism, as if he is carrying the burden of all Israel’s indiscretions upon his shoulders. His work covering the indignities of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank for Ha’aretz has been admirable, and for it, Levy has become foreign media’s go-to guy for grim, matter-of-fact quotes about the state of the State, giving out bleak pronouncements on matters ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the position of Tel Aviv within Israel as a bubble, separated from the main.
As a loyal reader of Ha’aretz, I adopted the same deference, and continued to read his columns even as the tone grew darker, the voice more monotonous, the claims bolder. Perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps I should have stopped after October 23, 2012, when Ha’aretz published a frontpage splash of Levy’s under the headline, “Most Israelis Support Apartheid Regime in Israel,” even though as it transpired the polling data didn’t even back-up Levy’s premise. As Erez Tadmor covers in his essay in The Tower, Ha’aretz was compelled to issue the following retraction:
The wording of the main headline, “Most Israelis Support Apartheid Regime in Israel” (Haaretz, Oct. 23), did not precisely reflect the findings of the Dialog poll. The question to which a majority of respondents answered in the negative did not relate to any current state of affairs, but to a hypothetical future one: “If Israel were to annex the territories of Judea and Samaria [i.e., the West Bank], would you support granting 2.5 million Palestinians the right to vote in Knesset elections?”
“What else should they call it? Forced Passover vacation for Arabs?”
Foreign Policy has a profile of Israeli Arab novelist and screenwriter Sayed Kashua that it worth your attention:
The show was commissioned to do a second season and then a third, when it really took off. Viewership in the third season jumped 40 percent over the previous run. Seventy-two percent of Jewish Israeli households tuned in at least once, and according to Keshet, Avoda Aravit’s average share of viewers in its time slot was 40 percent. At the annual Israeli Academy of Film and Television awards in January, its third season picked up five trophies: best comedy, best lead actor in a comedy, best lead actress in a comedy, best director, and best screenplay. Kashua quipped at the fete, “We get about 20 percent of the prizes, just like our percentage of the population.”
He was referring, of course, to the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who define themselves as Palestinian. The vast majority of this community lives in Israel’s Galilee region and in an area known as the Triangle, a swath of clustered towns and villages in the eastern Plain of Sharon, straddling the Green Line that separates Israel proper from the Palestinian territories.
It was here, in the Triangle city of Tira, that Kashua grew up. In 1990, when Kashua was 15, he was accepted into the Israel Arts and Science Academy (IASA), a Jerusalem boarding school for highly gifted teens. Pushed by his parents, he left the Triangle and plunged into the heart of Jewish Israeli society, creating the existential paradox that confounds him to this day. He realized quickly that his very presence aroused suspicion.
“I hated the city as soon as I entered it.” Kashua wrote of moving to Jerusalem. “On my first bus ride, a soldier got on and immediately pegged me as an Arab: a boy leaving his village for the first time, with an Arab’s clothes, an Arab’s thin moustache, and most tellingly, the frightened look of an Arab. That was the first time I was taken off the bus and searched. It took me a while to blur my external identity.”
In Israel, How to End an Occupation
How does one solve a problem like a messy occupation of two and a half million people that threatens to make invalid a state’s Jewish and democratic character? Or, to put it another way, when is an occupation not an occupation? Apparently, when you appoint a committee to declare it so — that, in fact, because “Judea and Samaria have been under Israeli control for decades, and it is impossible to foresee a time when Israel will relinquish these territories, if ever”.
A report by a committee formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to examine the legal aspects of West Bank land ownership rejects the claim that Israel’s presence in the territory is that of an occupying force and asserts that its settlements and settlement outposts there are legal.
The Levy Committee, headed by former Supreme Court vice president Edmond Levy, recommends a fundamental change in the legal regime in the West Bank, including the annulment of a long list of laws, High Court of Justice Rulings and procedures in order to permit Jews to settle in all of Judea and Samaria.
The committee also propagated the following: the legalisation all the outposts even without a retroactive government decision; the cancellation of the order that allows the head of the Civil Administration to force settler-farmers off ostensibly Palestinian land, even if there is no Palestinian complainant; and the annulment the High Court of Justice decision of 1979 that forbids the expropriation of land for “military needs” when the intent is to build settlements.
In other words, the Israeli government becomes master of the land — to hell with the people who live there. The corrupting impact of the lengthy and unwanted occupation is evident in such beggared and bankrupt thinking.
Diplomatically, it is almost impossible for Benjamin Netanyahu to accept and ratify the findings of the very committee he appointed, for it would unleash a torrent of condemnation and divestment which would result in the near-total isolation of his state. Should he reject the panel’s recommendation, then once more he would have ended up satisfying all sides without doing anything to actually advance the cause of peace: the settlers will have their document, their pamphlet, their justification; the peace movement will be content that their notions never became law.