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Media Analyses





Ha'aretz Radical Mainstreamed in LAT


In his December 22 article about an important debate concerning Israel's response to the Palestinian rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, the Los Angeles Times' Ashraf Khalil gives a fringe Israeli journalist/activist undue prominence ("For Israel, the Gaza question resurfaces as hostilities resume"). Khalil devotes a full four paragraphs to the views of Gideon Levy, an extremist writer for Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper:

In the face of such a dilemma, one prominent Israeli is proposing what most Israelis would consider a truly radical option: direct negotiations.

"Most level-headed politicians know the truth: There is no military solution," wrote Gideon Levy in the Haaretz daily paper Sunday, in an article headlined, “Talk to Hamas." "Still, no one dares ask why, for heaven's sake, not try to talk directly with Hamas."

Levy declared that Israel's refusal to negotiate with Hamas until it formally recognizes the Jewish state's right to exist was a political smoke screen. He advocated an immediate lifting of the blockade, an opening of Gaza's borders and an invitation to senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh for direct talks on a common future.

"There's no chance that Hamas will change its stripes entirely, but direct talks may be more pragmatic than they seem," Levy argued. "It has some reasonable leaders who value life and want to improve the wretched situation of their nation. They too realize the current situation is a dead-end for both us and them."

(CAMERA's blog Snapshots yesterday flagged Levy's Op-Ed "Talk to Hamas," in particular pointing out a factual misrepresentation.) While Khalil does note that most Israelis would consider this viewpoint "a truly radical option," his makeover of Levy -- an extreme advocate against Israel -- as simply "one prominent Israeli" is highly deceptive and objectionable.
 
Gideon Levy himself makes no secret that he’s a voice of radical advocacy against Israel. His columns overflow with lurid – and frequently false – charges claiming his countrymen commit every sort of torment and abuse of the Palestinians. Both in print and in public appearances he levels distorted attacks, while casting himself as “struggling for truth and justice,” as he put it on receiving the 2007 Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Journalism Prize for Cultural Dialogue.

Urging global punishment of the Jewish state for its supposed wrongdoing, Levy welcomes, for example, the waves of boycott campaigns that have erupted, especially in the United Kingdom by academic groups. He wrote in a June 2006 column:

When an association of British university lecturers boycotts Israeli colleagues who are not prepared to at least declare their opposition to the occupation, we should appreciate it. Each group in its field, and perhaps this will someday also include tourism officials, business people, artists and athletes. If all these boycott Israel, perhaps Israelis will begin to understand, albeit the hard way, that there is a price to pay for the occupation – a price in their pockets and in their status.

But Levy only wants the intervention of certain outsiders. Europeans working to isolate, humiliate and harm Israel are one thing; American Jewish involvement in the life of the nation is something else. On May 12, 2008 he wrote:

It is time to say to the American Jews directly, as is customary among relatives: Leave us alone. Take your hands off Israel. Stop using your money to buy influence in Israel. Stop “contributing” to advance your interests and views, some of which are at times delusionary and extremely dangerous to the future of the country you’re supposedly trying to protect.

Levy is particularly irate at CAMERA’s persistent calls for Ha’aretz to correct the many factual errors in his columns, resorting to slurs that underscore his lack of understanding of basic systems of accountability. He wrote:

Camera, a McCarthyist group that persecutes journalists in the United States, is directing its absurd persecution and slander campaigns against the Israeli media as well.

That is also part of the distorted relationship.

Levy regularly goes abroad to interject his views at gatherings skewed against his own nation. He's participated in numerous one-sided, anti-Israel United Nations meetings, including in Copenhagen, Beijing, Moscow and Pretoria. As an Israeli leveling charges of Jewish oppression of the Palestinians, his denunciations are particularly welcomed by those eager to include a Jewish voice ostensibly validating Arab charges of Jewish malfeasance.

In U.N. discussions, Levy assails the role of the Israeli media for not joining him in sufficiently excoriating government policy and alleged military excess, and he claims the Israeli people are hopelessly callous and indifferent to the supposed cruelty they inflict in their occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

As in his writing for Ha’aretz, he displays total indifference to Arab aggression, terrorism and irredentism in regard to Israelis. Indeed, he seems to consider any media coverage of Palestinian attacks on Israeli men, women and children provocative and a form of demonizing Palestinians.

In a 2004 Beijing session, for example, devoted to the media’s role in the quest for peace, he charged the Israeli media with an “irresponsible, if not criminal, role” in failing to adequately expose the “cruel, brutal occupation.” Ostensibly Israeli journalists had conveyed to their public a negative image of Palestinians (as they covered the unprecedented terrorist war on the Jewish state launched just a few years earlier). In later discussion by the panel, a fellow speaker from South Africa said Levy’s comments had greatly moved her, because they echoed the circumstances of the Holocaust when bystanders said they knew little about what was happening – but were, in fact, aware.

Levy’s extreme remarks had likened the Israeli public, its media and the treatment of Palestinians to Germany in the Nazi era.

In Moscow in June 2006, at another international U.N. seminar, he repeated the same message, blasting the Israeli media for the “dehumanization of the Palestinians” and for failing to mobilize Israelis against the “occupation.” (Needless to say, Levy made no mention of Israel’s pulling out of Gaza and evacuating every Jew from that territory in 2005 – and the subsequent rise of Hamas in early 2006.) Among a group of panelists that included journalists from Egypt’s Al-Ahram newspaper, the Palestinians’ Al-Ayam and Qatar’s Al-Jazeera network, Levy actually outdid his fellow panelists in assaulting Israel.

In 2007 in Pretoria, South Africa, Levy joined an entirely one-sided assault on Israel that included so-called human rights advocates and Arab officials from Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya and the Palestinian territories. The Syrian speaker was representative of the extreme attacks, charging the Jewish state with an “unprecedented campaign of destruction” and “barbaric practices.”

For his part, Levy said it was “very unpleasant to sit and hear accusations against one’s country, but it was much more unpleasant to sit and listen to such accusations knowing that they were justified.” In the same vein as all his commentary that ignores the role and responsibility of the Arabs in the ongoing conflict, he charged that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had “spread the lie” that there was “no partner for peace” among the Palestinians.

In other public venues, as in a lecture in Sweden in July 2008, he reiterated his stump speech calling Israelis “totally ignorant” and “totally brainwashed” in a society whose soldiers are educated to believe Palestinians are “not human.” Indeed, Levy claimed all Israelis are taught to think Palestinians are “not normal human beings.”

Revealing a reckless disregard for accuracy long fostered by Ha’aretz’s indulgence of his chronic factual errors, Levy repeated a falsehood about Golda Meir. He claimed she declared that after the Holocaust “we can do whatever we want.” CAMERA had challenged this claim in 2004 and Levy conceded he had no source for it, but the paper refused to issue a correction and their columnist goes on spreading the baseless claim.

Web Sites and Extremists

Equally toxic is the spread of his distorted message across the Web where the power of the Internet exponentially expands his reach. A Google search reveals his popularity on extremist sites, including the Holocaust revisionist Institute for Historical Review. There one finds an unsavory list of offerings including Levy’s July 2008 Ha’aretz column entitled “Israeli Occupation ‘Worse Than Apartheid,’ Say South Africans.”

His commentary is linked to and cited on innumerable anti-Israel sites, such as Electronicintifada, From Occupied Palestine, Radio Islam, Palestine Monitor, If Americans Knew, Counterpunch, Islamic Awakening. A UTube video posted by The Struggle includes him repeating the familiar charges of grossly callous conduct by Israeli soldiers.
 
Finally, Levy's utility as a rhetorical club to batter the Jewish state has been used regularly by the most virulent anti-Israel voices in America. For instance, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, authors of the notorious The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, not only cite Levy in numerous footnotes but mention him by name in lectures promoting their work as proof of the merit of their charges.
 
With Ashraf Khalil's Los Angeles Times story deceptively according Levy "prominent Israeli" status, the Ha'aretz writer's fringe views inch closer to the mainstream, but they remain as far from fact, fairness and reality as ever.

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