Well known Israeli journalist Gideon Levy was in Ottawa on March 23rd, part of a Canada-wide tour organized by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). “Life is too good in Israel,” he said. “Israelis have no reason to change their ways. Change will have to be imposed by the democratic world.” Learn more about the event and watch my 4 minute exclusive interview with Levy.
A pessimistic Gideon Levy spoke to a large crowd at First Baptist Church in Ottawa on Monday, March 23rd. Alternately droll and self deprecating, Levy painted a very dark portrait of Israel, a country he says he still loves.
Just prior to the event, I had the opportunity to have a private chat with Levy, and wanted to quiz him specifically about the “Apartheid” label which is being used more and more frequently these days with respect to Israel. See my interview here.
After brief introductory remarks by Tyler Levitan of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) and Janan Arafa of the Association of Palestinian Arab Canadians (APAC), Levy launched into his sobering hour long presentation. Here are some of the themes that struck me most forcefully.
1. Fundamentally, Israeli Jews do not view Palestinians as equal human beings. This is what allows them to humiliate the Palestinians on a daily basis and yet believe at the same time that the IDF is the “most moral army in the world.” The racist comments by Netanyahu at the end of the campaign actually reflect what most Israelis think. The racism in Israel is very deep and very widespread.
2. Israelis have been taught, and mostly believe that they are a “chosen people” and at the same time history’s special victims. This serves as a justification for doing anything they want, breaking any rule. He quoted Golda Meir as saying “after the holocaust, we can do anything we want.”
3. Israel is not a “democracy” as we understand it in the west. It actually operates 3 regimes simultaneously. There is a liberal democracy for Jews in Israel. There is a different kind of regime for Arab Israelis who are citizens of Israel but who suffer discrimination in many, many ways, and there is “apartheid’ in the West Bank and Gaza. This kind of state can not be called a democracy.
4. Levy feels that in a sense, the Netanyahu election makes things clearer. Had Mr. Herzog, his main opponent, won the election, Levy thinks he would have proposed another 5 years of “fruitless’ negociations.
5. Change will not come from inside Israel. It will not come from convincing Israelis to change. It will come when the outside world stops supporting Israel. “All the US has to do is stop exporting one tiny screw that Israel needs for its jet planes, and everything would change”, commented Levy.
Levy’s cross Canada tour continues for the rest of this week. If you are in Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria or Vancouver go see him.