It can’t be easy being one of the most hated men in Israel. But so long as people are angry—rather than apathetic—Gideon Levy will accept the title.
“After 42 years of this brutal occupation, you lose a little bit of your patience,” the Israeli journalist and author told the Straight by phone from Montreal.
Levy is in Canada for a cross-country tour, sponsored by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, to support his new book The Punishment of Gaza (Verso). He will speak on Sunday (September 26) at 7 p.m. at UBC’s Wesbrook Building.
Despite facing outrage from opponents and even death threats, Levy has been an adamant supporter of Palestine, writing for nearly three decades about the hardships that Palestinians face living in the West Bank and Gaza in the Israeli daily Haaretz.
“It’s about raising my voice wherever people are willing to listen to it,” he said.
According to Levy, it’s especially important in a country like Canada for people to know that friendship with Israel doesn’t have to mean “automatic and blind support” for the country’s policies.
“Genuine friendship means criticizing when it’s needed and above all raising a voice against the Israeli occupation,” Levy emphasized.
As one of a handful of prominent Israelis who speak out against the occupation, Levy explained that his goal is to show the world that Israelis aren’t all coming from the same place and don’t speak with one voice.
“We need any help from the outside, from all over the world, to try and save ourselves from our own hands,” he said.
One concern that he has is the Canadian government’s support of what he says are antidemocratic Israeli policies.
“To not criticize Israel for [Operation] Cast Lead, with all the brutal killings that took place there, to think that the Goldstone report was not a genuine one, and all those things that enable Israel to continue with its violent and brutal way and policy,” he said, “this is not friendship. This is really not friendship.”
When asked about the current peace talks taking place between Israel and Palestine, and why they have drawn such little attention, Levy responded with his own question.
“How can it be different?” he asked.
“It’s all about pleasing Washington, and this cannot be enough for really taking the enormous steps that should be taken and we’re so tired after so many years of talking, nothing should be discussed anymore,” Levy said. “Everything is very clear. There is no real intention to put an end to the occupation, and without this all the rest is really rubbish.”
Levy noted that small groups of young Israelis continue to be devoted to seeing an end to the occupation. But he added that their limited numbers and influence keeps them marginalized.
He asserted that the American government has failed the people of Palestine and called it one of the biggest collaborators of the occupation.
“The U.S. should do the one and only step that is required from the so-called leader of the free world and this is to put an end to the Israeli occupation,” Levy said. “This could’ve been achieved within months if there had been a devoted American president who wants it to happen.”
Levy’s outlook for the future of Palestine is bleak because he doesn’t see change coming from within Israeli society or the White House.
“He [Barack Obama] is not different than any other former American president, and this is a very big disappointment for people like me who had very high expectations from him,” he said.