On March 29, the CBC Radio program “Sunday Edition” interviewed Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, now on a cross-Canada tour, where he and anchor Michael Enright talked about the recent Israeli elections and the now moribund Middle East peace process.
Levy was the winner of HonestReporting.com’s 2012 Dishonest Reporting Award for having regularly demonized the Jewish state to foreign audiences and in his own Haaretz newspaper columns. Levy regularly goes beyond legitimate criticism of Israel, crossing red lines and allying himself with those who refer to Israel as a racist “apartheid state”, who promote boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and who wish to see the very destruction of Israel.
The feature-length 28-minute interview (listen in full by clicking here or on the image at right) saw Enright refer to Levy as having been “described as a propagandist for Hamas, and the most hated man in Israel…” Enright said Levy is a “polarizing” figure who has “won the enmity of the settler movement and the (Israeli) right wing” and has been called a “traitor” and a “demagogue”.
People familiar with Levy’s antics were probably not surprised to hear him allege that Israel is becoming “racist”. Levy also charged that Benjamin Netanyahu, nor any Israeli Prime Minister before him, ever did anything to implement the two-state solution despite the Oslo process, and subsequent peace negotiations, unilateral Israeli withdrawals, educating for peace, moratoriums on settlement building, prisoner releases, checkpoint removals, economic peace initiatives, institution building, security cooperation, etc.
On Israel’s security concerns, Michael Enright noted that once Israel left the Gaza Strip by evacuating its settlements and removing its soldiers, it led to an increase in rocket fire on Israeli communities. Levy’s retort was a disgraceful justification of Palestinian terror when he stated: “Why do they launch rockets? Palestinians live in the biggest jail on earth and they use one of the most primitive weapons on earth.” Levy later excused Palestinian terror when saying “The only way to struggle for their liberty for their rights is through what we call terror organizations, what other option did we leave them?”
On the issue of Israel’s settlements, Michael Enright said it’s essentially a “misnomer” to refer to places like Ariel as a settlement. Enright said “It’s a small city, and some Arabs live around it peacefully, that’s not going to go away, these places aren’t going to be torn down.”
Levy’s jaundiced retort saw him assert that the land was “taken by force” and that “international law does not allow to move population from occupier to occupied land”. This claim, of course, does not hold up to scrutiny. UN Security Council Resolution 242 authorizes Israel, having conquered the land in a defensive war, to remain in possession of the territories. According to Resolution 242, when “a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” is achieved, Israel can withdraw to ‘secure and recognized boundaries'”. The Fourth Geneva Convention, does not apply to the territories according to international law. The Convention prohibits the forcible transfer of people of one state to the territory of another state that it has occupied as a result of a war. Jews were never forced to live in the West Bank; theirs was a voluntary return to the land from which they or their ancestors were uprooted, for example, the Hebron massacre in 1922.
On Palestinian incitement, a topic brought up by the CBC’s anchor, Michael Enright pointed out that “Palestinian school children were learning that Israelis were the devil, that Israel itself should be destroyed, there are various charters that call for the destruction of the state, that to me does not suggest Palestinians are willing and capable of living peacefully alongside the Israelis.” Enright later asked Levy the following question: “The bombs on the buses in downtown Jerusalem, the antisemitic rhetoric… how do ordinary Israelis respond to that… why listen to someone who wants to destroy you?”
On antisemitism and Israel’s existential concerns, Enright commendably noted the following:
- Enright: “There are an awful lot of people who hate Jews… are you playing into their hands?”
- Enright: Israel is “surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who want to destroy it.”
- Enright: “Hamas has said it wants the land between the river and the sea… it wants it Judenfrei, it doesn’t want any Jews in it.”
- Enright: “Do you ever think… that you might be wrong in all of this, there are genuine fears, genuine concerns and genuine hatreds on the other side of the green line, that there are people in madrassas and people around the Middle East who want to destroy you and all of your kind?”
On the boycott Israel movement, Enright challenged the effort:
- Enright: “Democratic states don’t usually boycott each other, how does beggaring the State of Israel lead to peace?… Canada led the boycott against South Africa with Brian Mulroney, but that’s where you had a criminal regime keeping down the majority population of the country, it’s different in Israel, is it not?”
- Enright: “To my reading, a lot of people calling for a boycott of Israel underneath that is a scane of antisemitism, that they simply do not like Jews and they do not like Jews in a state of their own, do you agree with that?” Levy replied by saying “Absolutely” and Enright added “So you’re in pretty bad company aren’t you?” which led Levy to concede that “some antisemitic elements are using and misusing this cause.”
Aside from Michael Enright’s having erroneously claimed that “the ultra orthodox, the Haredim, don’t believe in the State of Israel” (only a small segment of the Orthodox Jewish population holds this belief) this CBC interview properly questioned Levy’s anti-Israel credentials and advocacy efforts and exposed him as a gadfly whose views are not representative of the Israeli mainstream and who himself stands on the fringes of society.