Tag Archives: panorama

Gideon Levy packs them in at Amnesty

Snow/Levy

Snow/Levy

I went to hear Gideon Levy talk at Amnesty in London last night. He’s in the UK to promote his book The Punishment of Gaza and last night he was in conversation with John Snow (Snow presents Channel 4’s Seven O’clock news and seems fond of chairing anti-Israel events).

It was nice to be actually let in unlike my last attempt. This event was co-presented by Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the latter organisation being more open to dialogue than some might give credit.

I hope being barred from a public debate on Israel/Palestine because people don’t like what I write won’t become de rigeur, but you never know.

Back to Levy. From what I had read about this tour I was expecting the devil incarnate to walk into the packed auditorium breathing fire from its nostrils. It didn’t happen.

Maybe in my old age I am becoming desensitised to the ubiquitous unsubstantiated accusations of racism and apartheid that are made, like they were last night, against Israel that they don’t anger me anymore.

Maybe I was softened up by Levy’s claim that he is an Israeli patriot: “All I do is care about Israel. I’ve used my journalistic career for a better Israel, not against Israel. I love Gaza but have not been alowed to go there since December 2006. I asked Ehud Barak why Israeli journalists are not allowed in Gaza and he said he didn’t know they weren’t allowed in.”

Levy saw Operation Cast Lead (OCL) not as a war but as a brutal operation against a civilian population.

He thinks OCL was the turning point of world public opinion which is now “less tolerant of Israeli violence and aggression. Look at the flotilla. We now do what we want wherever we want, for example in international waters, with force as the first option. The Israeli general in charge of the flotilla operation has said that next time we will use snipers.”

(Levy obviously hadn’t seen the BBC’s Death in the Med in which Jane Corbin concluded that that the Mavi Marmara’s bid to break the naval blockade wasn’t really about bringing aid to Gaza but it was a political move designed by the Islamist organisation IHH and others to put pressure on Israel and the international community. Corbin had just reported that two thirds of the medicines being transported to the people of Gaza by the flotilla were out of date and useless.)

He paid tribute to the fact that Israel was always the first on the scene to help in international crises like in Mexico, Turkey and Haiti.

“There have been worse occupations in history but not where the occupier felt so good about itself. We are the first occupiers in the world to say that we are the victim and Israelis believe the IDF is the most moral army in the world, ” he said.

He asked: “How can an occupation by a democratic society last for 42 years? How do Israelis live with it?”

He answered: “We were trained to think we are very moral but that Palestinians were not human beings like us. Dehumanisation is the only tool which enables us to maintain the occupation and feel good about ourselves. It is wall-to-wall now. Even the peaceniks don’t feel the Palestinians are human beings”.

He told us how two Israeli dogs being killed during OCL garnered more media coverage than the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians. The dogs’ funerals and interviews with the owners were all over the front pages while Palestinian deaths were only mentioned on pages 15 and 16: “In Israel two Israeli dogs are worth more than hundreds of Palestinians,” he concluded.

(Had Levy picked up a British newspaper recently or logged on to the internet he would see that while people are dying in Pakistan from the terrible floods we are obsessed by a woman who dumped a cat in a bin.)

Levy said that a crowd of the size at Amnesty to hear him would never turn out in Tel Aviv and that Haaretz, the newspaper he writes for, is an island with a small readership.

He spoke of the ever growing file labelled “Subscription cancellations due to Gideon Levy”: “I get full freedom to write for Haaretz but Haaretz is losing influence,” he said.

He recalled the 400,000 Israelis who protested after the 1982 Sabra and Shatilla massacres which, he said, were not even carried out by the Israelis but thought that that size protest would not occur now. He has been described as a “self-hating Jew” and “an enemy of Israel”.

(When Shlomo Sand came to the UK to promote his anti-Zionist polemic, The Invention of the Jewish People, he said it was top of the best-seller list in Israel.

As for Haaretz itself it is read nationally and internationally. It is published in English and Hebrew and is distributed along with the International Herald Tribune and has a daily circulation of 72,000 (100,000 at weekends). The Jerusalem Post’s circulation is 15,000 (40,000 at weekends).)

On the question of boycotting Israel Levy said that although he cannot call for a boycott himself, because he is Israeli, it is a legitimate weapon especially as Israeli uses it against Gaza, Hamas and Iran.

He was asked whether boycotts are racist because they target Jewish Israelis, even those opposed to the settlements. He failed to address this question properly but he did say that boycotters should read the label first and boycott only if a product is from the West Bank.

(Obviously, Levy fails to understand the racism inherent in the boycott Israel movement because first, boycotters don’t look at the label in such a discriminating manner. As long as the label says “Israel”, they will boycott (One member of the audience claimed that the only reason they boycott is because the Palestinians themselves are calling for it). And, second, the boycott includes Israeli academics.)

Levy’s main complaint is that he feels so alone in Israel. He feels the drama is all going on in Israel’s backyard and yet there is no one covering it. He said there is no censorship in Israel, only self-censorship by journalists.

(But even if this were the case there are plenty of foreign journalists in Gaza, including from the BBC. But I can fully understand why Israeli journalists would be so banned; they would be an easy target for kidnapping by Hamas.)

Despite all the above Levy is not actually an anti-Zionist.

He called for the return of Palestinians to a Palestinian state and a limited return of some 500,000 to Israel including an admission of liability from Israel for what happened in 1948 and compensation for the non-returning refugees.

“What happened in 1948 is an historic injustice but it happens in wars. Israel is a fait accomplit so let’s move to a new chapter. The Jews had a right to settle in Palestine but the Palestinian rejection of the partition plan should not have led to the expulsion of 650,000 from their villages,” he said.

Levy claims that no one in Israel cares about the Palestinians and he cites Tel Aviv as the best example of this. But then again he would hear the same complaints from the residents of Sderot who also think that the rest of Israel doesn’t care about the bombs that are regularly fired at them from Gaza.

I had a couple of nice chats afterwards and one with someone in charge of the Northern Section of the TUC who said that a full TUC boycott of Israel is coming.

I asked whether the TUC had ever considered a boycott of Britain or America due to NATO forces occupying Afghanistan.

He said it was impossible to boycott Britain but there is every possibility of a boycott of America being passed. I’d like to see them try!

Keep an eye on the TUC Conference, 13th-16th September.

pro-Palestine campaign complains to BBC

Auntie Beeb

I have never really found the BBC overtly anti-Israel. Having attended many a pro-Palestinian meeting I always hear them moan about how anti-Palestinian Auntie is.

And despite the recent Panorama with Jane Corbin the BBC has given Israel’s relief team to Haiti incredible coverage, as have Sky and CNN. No one has quite believed how Israel got to the disaster zone of Haiti so quickly and set up a field hospital so efficiently and before anyone else, including the Americans.

And then there was the recent Newsnight with Tim Collins taking a walk through Sderot and Gaza in order to give his own experienced military perspective on how certain disputed deaths might have been caused and mosques destroyed. He totally found in Israel’s favour.

Colonel Tim Collins (militaryprofs)

I just received a copy of this complaint below to Auntie from the pro-Palestine campaign (some might even call it a “lobby”). It is a fascinating read. The most fascinating part is the letter’s allusion to Micky Rosenfeld, Israel’s police spokesman (aka Mickey Roosevelt apparently) as being “‘from North London'”.

Whatever could they mean by repeating such a meaningless fact? Answers on a postcard please.

But at least the BBC tries its very best to aggravate both sides equally:  

Newsnight Tuesday 19th January 2010 complaint to BBCShare

I was repelled by the ‘Newsnight” segment featuring Colonel Tim Collins on
Tuesday night. He was on an obvious mission to justify the Israeli massacre in
Gaza that occurred a year ago.

Given the BBC’s callous refusal to publicise The
DEC appeal that followed this inhuman and, universally acknowledged,
disproportionate attack, it is astonishing that you would follow this up with a
downright justification of Israel’s horrific war crimes.

The BBC’S claim to impartiality has been completely discredited by this sequence of events.
Colonel Collins, who has been compared to a character out of ‘Apocalypse Now,’
made no effort to make sense of the numbers of deaths involved: 13 Israelis
(four of those were ‘friendly fire’, 1,400 Palestinians, involving hundreds of
civilians, including women and children.

Instead, he seemed unmoved by the evidence in front of him and chose only to see Hamas posters and interview the
usual suspects in their ‘lair’ with an arsenal consisting of homemade rockets.
At Sderot, his guide was Mickey Roosevelt, ‘from North London’ who showed
Colonel Collins the rockets collected since 2000 which have caused so little
damage.

Micky "Roosevelt" Rosenfeld (flickr.com/rinatush)

He was not taken to review Israel’s arsenal of F16s, nuclear weapons,
phosphorous bombs and all the other paraphanalia of the world’s fourth largest
army. It was as if Israel was the unarmed victim, living in fear of having homes
demolished, schools flattened and hundreds of civilians slaughtered.

The programme presented a complete distortion of the facts and made no attempt
to inform, provide context, or even the slightest attempt at impartiality.
Colonel Collins is well-known for his gung-ho speeches (‘show them no mercy’,
‘we are their nemesis’) and boasts of his war record in the most brutal military
interventions of the past decades. ‘Not as bad as Faluja,’ he commented, eyeing
a flattened mosque.

He claimed to have found proof of weapons having been stored
in the crypt of this building, but there was no evidence shown on camera.
As he toured the region in an Israeli-piloted helicopter, he flew over Qalqilya,
one of the Palestinian towns most grievously affected by Israel’s apartheid
wall. ‘It’s to protect the main road,’ said the pilot, speaking of an
Israeli-only road built on stolen Palestinian land.

Given the BBC’s complete blanking of the recent VivaPalestina Convoy, the Gaza
Freedom March, and other efforts by civil society humanitarian activists from
around the world, the programme takes on a special meaning.

The depth of the BBC’s bias is demonstrated across the entire output of your programming and not
only by the skewed nature of this particular item on ‘Newsnight.’