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Truth telling Israeli journalists, activists ignored by leaders true to Zionist mission

Feb 01,2023 - Last updated at Feb 01,2023

Last Sunday, the BBC interviewed dissident Israeli journalist Gideon Levy on the Israeli attack on the West Bank city of Jenin, which killed nine Palestinians, and the Palestinian shooting deaths of seven Israeli settlers outside a synagogue. Levy repeatedly said that the measures the government under Benjamin Netanyahu is taking amount to "collective punishment", which is a violation of international law. In an article in liberal daily Haaretz, Levy also blamed Palestinian attack on the Israeli military's 2022 operations, which killed 146 Palestinians in the West Bank.

As Levy's honesty is a reproach to mainstream Western media, which normally tap less controversial figures, he is rarely asked to comment. He is wholeheartedly against Israel's occupation but admits the "two-state solution is dead" due to Israel's planting of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

By contrast, former US State Department regional analyst and negotiator Aaron David Miller is continually called upon to comment on regional affairs as his views are less challenging than those of Levy. When commenting on the current rise in tensions for US Public Radio, Miller did not tackle Israel over 10 months of nightly raids into Palestinian towns and villages or Israel's use of "collective punishments". Instead, Miller said the Biden administration "has made a decision to embrace" Netanyahu's hard-right religious and chauvinist government in order to prevent another May 2021 explosion of violence, which prompted Hamas in Gaza, West Bank Palestinians, and Palestinian citizens of Israel to attack Israel and Israelis. Miller admitted that the administration would not engage in peacemaking as this would necessitate "some very awkward, unpleasant conversations, primarily with the Israelis." This is the last thing the Biden administration wants to risk ahead of the 2024 presidential and Congressional elections.

Miller is an influential US figure who lives far from the battlefield, while Levy, 69, is an Israeli who was born and raised and served in the country's army. Levy's parents fled Czechoslovakia for Palestine in 1939 as the Nazis swept across Europe. His grandparents were murdered in the Holocaust.

Levy told Australian radio in 2007 in a programme marking the 40th anniversary of the 1967 war, "I was a full member of the nationalistic religious orgy. We all were under the feeling that the whole [Israeli] project is in an existentialistic danger. We all felt that another Holocaust is around the corner." He joined the Israeli military in 1974, serving as a reporter for the army's radio. He became a member of the Labour Party and worked for Shimon Peres. In 1982 made the shift to Haaretz. While serving in the military, he was upset by the harsh treatment by Israeli troops of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank but believed, along with the majority, that soldiers who misbehaved were "bad apples". After carrying out investigations for Haaretz, he realised brutalising Palestinians is government policy.

While Levy regards himself to be a "patriotic Israeli", he is critical of Israelis' refusal to recognise the occupation as oppression. He supports total Israeli withdrawal from the 1967 territories. On November 25, 2007, he wrote in Haaretz, "Israel is not being asked 'to give' anything to the Palestinians; it is only being asked to return — to return their stolen land and restore their trampled self-respect, along with their fundamental human rights and humanity." 

He has given up on the "two-state solution" and favours a "one-state solution", which grants ful rights to Palestinians, who are the majority between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. This, of course, is unacceptable to Israel as this would make Israel a bi-national Palestinian-Israeli state rather than a Jewish state. Palestinians seek a state where they have national self-determination and would not be relegated to fifth class citizens, as Israel's Palestinian citizens have been treated since 1948.

When asked if his reporting had changed Israeli treatment of Palestinians, he replied, "Not at all." Instead, he feels that his influence has diminished over the years. Nevertheless, he keeps writing and evolving. In his latest column for Middle East Eye, he warned that massive demonstrations in Tel Aviv against the new government's plan to reduce the authority of the judiciary in order to concentrate power in the executive (prime minister) and legislature were not traditional protests against war and occupation but events for "Zionists only" who are not primarily motivated by the occupation.

Levy has won several awards for his reporting and commentaries. The Association of Civil Israel first honoured him with the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award, named for an Israeli soldier killed by a grenade thrown by an extremist Israeli during a Peace Now protest against the 1982 Lebanon war. Other recipients include Yehuda Litani, who reported for Haaretz about the lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories and Colonel Dov Yermiya who exposed Israeli army treatment of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians during the invasion of Lebanon. Among the organisations receiving the award were Machsom Watch, a group of women who monitor Israeli checkpoints for Israeli army abuses, and Breaking the Silence, which collects testimonies from serving soldiers on the abuses perpetrated by the Israeli army in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

While Levy, other journalists reporting on the occupation, and Israeli civil and human rights groups have fought hard for major changes in Israel's behaviour, they are up against the Zionist enterprise launched at the end of the nineteenth century, which has dictated Israeli attitudes and policies since then. The Zionist project was based on colonisation of Palestine, theft of its land and resources, and the subjugation, exclusion and cleansing of the Palestinian population. Truth telling Israeli journalists and campaigning human rights bodies are simply ignored by leaders who remain true to the Zionist mission and regard Palestinian as obstacles to Greater Israel.

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