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Middle East Issues





Gideon Levy's Distorted Discourse


In a June 30 Ha'aretz Op-Ed entitled "Israel's violent discourse" (the online version is called "Israel has become a society of force and violence"), Gideon Levy's distorted discourse is once again on display. Revisiting his earlier untenable argument that Israel is determined to attack the peaceful flotilla participants, he resorts to falsehoods and misinformation.

No Exports?

First, he claims: "But no, Gaza is still not free -- far from it. It has no outlet to the sea or air, there are no exports." (Emphasis added.) His misleading assertion that there are "no exports" is typical Levy manipulation. According to data provided by Mohammed Skaik, the Trade Policy Specialist with PalTrade, who is responsible for all technical issues surrounding Gaza imports and export,

During the last export season (28 Nov 10till 15 May 2011), a total of 290 truckloads including 210 truckloads (397 tonnes) of strawberry, 74 truckloads (10,668,520 stems) of cut-flower, 03 truckloads (06 tones) of sweet pepper and 03 truckload of cherry tomato (6.7 tonnes) were exported via Kerem Shalom. ("Weekly Analysis-Gaza Crossing Data from 19-25 June 2011")

While those figures are much lower than earlier years before the Gaza blockade, they nevertheless amount to more than 400 tons in less than six months. Why did the export of peppers, strawberries, carnations, and cherry tomatoes come to a halt last month, May 12? Is it because Israel has forbidden the ongoing export of these goods, as Gisha, an Israeli NGO, implies in a Jerusalem Post article today? In fact, the export of these cash crops ground to a halt because the season ended last month -- a fact confirmed in phone conversations both with Skaik as well as with Maj. Guy Inbar, the spokesman for Israel's COGAT. Furthermore, both men confirmed that plans are underway to enable the export of potatoes and regular tomatoes in the coming weeks. The Post article mentions that the plan would allow for the export of these crops directly to Jordan. Surely Levy, who travels to Stockholm where he documented flotilla preparations, can lift up the phone and speak with the Israeli and Palestinian officials dealing with Gaza. Of course he can, but that's really not the issue.

No Sophisticated Iranian Weaponry? No Booby Traps?

Like Gaza exports, the smuggling in of advanced Iranian weaponry and booby-traps in Gaza don't square with Levy's narrative of Palestinian victimhood and Israeli belligerence, so he wishes them away. Rewriting history, he states:

This is a recurring pattern [on Israel's part]: first demonization, then legitimization (to act violently). Remember the tall tales about sophisticated Iranian weaponry coming through arms-smuggling tunnels in Gaza, or those about how the Strip was booby-trapped? Then Operation Cast Lead came along and the soldiers hardly encountered anything like that.

While Israeli soldiers fighting in the close quarters of the Gaza Strip obviously didn't encounter the long-range rockets and Grad missiles shipped from Iran, Israel's civilians sure did. Civilians from Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beer Sheva and other Israeli communities within a 40 kilometer range had the unfortunate distinction of "encountering" Iranian weaponry both during Cast Lead and since (see here and here). While Israeli soldiers did not encounter sophisticated Iranian weaponry, Israeli Arab construction worker Hani al-Mahdi, 27, did. He was killed Dec. 29, 2008 by a Grad-type missile fired from the Gaza Strip as he worked in Ashkelon. Likewise, "the tall tale about sophisticated Iranian weaponry" was the cause of death for Irit Sheetrit, 39, whose fatal "encounter" took place on Dec. 29, 2008.

As for his allegation that soldiers "hardly encountered" booby-traps in the Gaza Strip during Cast Lead, one wonders if he even reads his own newspaper. His colleague, Amos Harel, reported Jan. 7, 2009:

From the field, officers are reporting that Hamas is preparing for a long-term struggle. In one area, soldiers spent the night in a building only to find the next day that an explosive device had been laid in the structure next door, designed to be set off by the troops tripping a wire.

In another case, soldiers found explosive devices hidden behind a piano, while in other instances, troops shot and killed would-be suicide bombers - whose corpses were laden with explosives.

Also, Ha'aretz posted IDF footage showing a booby-trapped school and zoo. As reported by Steven Erlanger in the New York Times, Jan. 11, 2009 ("A Gaza War Full of Traps and Trickery"):

Hamas, with training from Iran and Hezbollah, has used the last two years to turn Gaza into a deadly maze of tunnels, booby traps and sophisticated roadside bombs. Weapons are hidden in mosques, schoolyards and civilian houses, and the leadership's war room is a bunker beneath Gaza's largest hospital, Israeli intelligence officials say. . . .

In one apartment building in Zeitoun, in northern Gaza, Hamas set an inventive, deadly trap. According to an Israeli journalist embedded with Israeli troops, the militants placed a mannequin in a hallway off the building's min entrance. They hoped to draw fire from Israeli soldiers who might, through the blur of night vision goggles and split-second decisions, mistake the figure for a fighter. The mannequin was rigged to explode and bring down the building.

In an interview, the reporter, Ron Ben-Yishai, a senior military correspondent for the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, said soldiers also found a pile of weapons with a grenade launcher on top. When they moved the launcher, ''they saw a detonator light up, but somehow it didn't go off.'

For a video showing a Hamas terrorist planting an IED (improvised explosive device), and then seeking escape by joining a group of civilians waving a white flag, see here. Ynet reported the finding of a Hamas map laying out booby traps in the al-Atatra neighborhood ("IDF discovers Hamas booby-trap map," Jan. 8, 2009.) According to Ynet, the map, pictured below,

consists of precise drawings of all homes in the neighborhood as well as a color-coded key drawn in the top left-hand corner, which describes the type of explosive device planted at each site. Sharpshooters' stations were also marked.

 

'Only by force'?

From Cast Lead to the flotilla, Levy's refusal to grasp reality is evident, and yet he projects his delusions on the rest of Israel, writing:

Are we listening to ourselves? Are we still aware of the awful noise coming from here? Have we noticed how the discourse is becoming more and more violent and how the language of force has just about become Israel's only official language? . . .

The only unavoidable conclusion is that there is only one way to act against he passengers aboard the flotilla: by force and only by force, as with every security threat. . .

For what will Israelis think about when they are spoon-fed scary storiest about the flotilla, if not about the use of force?

Levy's colleague Amira Hass often rivals him in her vicious, falacious accounts regarding Israel. Yet, even her piece which appeared on the very same day as Levy's "Israel's violent discourse" contradicts Levy's "only by force" falsehood. Reporting from "somewhere in Greece," where she is covering flotilla preparations, Hass recounts that the "war of attrition for which participants have no doubt that Israel is to blame" has employed "bureaucratic and technical obstacles" to keep the boats from departing from Gaza. Buraucratic and technical obstacles, not violence or force.
 
Indeed, British journalist Melanie Phillips details the legal means undertaken by Israeli lawyers to thwart the flotilla. If the lawyers have their way, lawfare, not warfare, will rule the day. As for Gideon Levy, the only unavoidable conclusion is that for him there is only one way to write against Israel: by falsehood and only by falsehood.

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