Colleague Takes Gideon Levy to Task

CAMERA frequently documents the outrageous and defamatory lies of anti-Israel activist/journalist Gideon Levy and has noted that the Israeli daily Ha’aretz is a platform to disseminate Levy’s distortions that encourage worldwide anti-Israel sentiment.

A fellow Israeli journalist, reaching the same conclusion, has now spoken out sharply against Levy. The straw that broke the camel’s back for Ben Dror Yemini, a columnist at Ma’ariv, a leading centrist newspaper in Israel, was Levy’s Sept. 24, 2010 interview in The Independent [London]. The interviewer was Johann Hari, a radical anti-Israel journalist who, like Levy, shows contempt for factual accuracy.

Predictably, Hari fawmed over Levy and rallied to his side, championing his attacks on Israel. Hari used the hackneyed “embattled hero” tactic to portray Levy as a courageous journalist who strives to expose Israel’s alleged misdeeds, while combatting Israeli “attempt(s) to deride, suppress or deny his words.”

“The story of Gideon Levy,” Hari sanctimoniously proclaims, “is the story of Israel distilled. If he loses, Israel itself is lost.” Were Hari at all interested in truth or introspection, he might have noted that “the story of Gideon Levy is the story of all unprincipled journalists who distort the facts. When truth wins, he and his cohorts who bear false witness against Israel are lost.” But Hari has no need to engage in soul searching when he can justify his own anti-Israel fabrications by pointing to Levy, an Israeli Jew, who leads the way. 

After Hari’s interview with Levy was published in the British newspaper, Yemini was moved to post a column refuting Levy’s claims. Even though, he clarified, it is both unnecessary and impossible it to react each time Israel is slandered, “every now and then, one discovers new lows of contempt toward and humilation of Israel. And this needs to be refuted.”

“Woe is to us,” he concluded, if Gideon Levy is denied the right to spread his slanderous attacks against Israel. The only appropriate way “to deal with his lies,” Yemini explained, is “to expose him and refute his lies.”

Read the translation of Ben-Dror Yemini’s Hebrew-language column, “Baron of the Falsehood Industry.”  

As it turns out, for all his vaunted courage in launching attacks against Israel, Gideon Levy is rather thin-skinned when confronted with his lies. He immediately shot back at Ben Dror Yemini with a column entitled “Baron of Manipulation.”  Levy, however, was unable to defend his lies. As Presspectiva’s Yishai Goldflam points out,  in trying to “return fire”, Levy actuall dug himself even deeper into the mire.

Abandoning all sense of reality, Levy defensively asserted:

 …I have always taken pride in the fact that after hundreds of reports from the field – this entire modest documentation enterprise – none of the facts have ever been refuted despite the efforts of many.

But saying it, does not make it so. Levy’s ridiculous assertion is belied not only by CAMERA and the new Hebrew-language Web site, Presspectiva, which have exposed so many of Gideon’s claims as complete fabrications, but by other Israeli journalists as well. For example:

Levy falsely claims that Palestinian children have nowhere to swim in the West Bank aside from a “naive and pathetic” water park on the northern outskirts of “dying Jericho.” CAMERA provided photographic evidence, drawn from major photo services, of numerous other pools and recreational sites open to Palestinian children – in Jenin, Ramallah, near Nablus, Jericho and Hebron. 

Levy sharply downplays the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians in the various years of the intifada. See here and here CAMERA called him out on this, and provided statistics refuting his claims.

At the same time, Levy drastically inflates the number of Palestinians killed whose homes were destroyed by Israel. Here CAMERA cited Palestinian statistics to expose Levy’s lies.

Levy falsely accused Israel of holding 15 Lebanese civilians prisoner. CAMERA supplied reports demonstrating that this was not the case.

And in June 2006, a veteran Israeli journalist and Ma’ariv editor, Amnon Dankner, exposed other falsehoods by Gideon Levy,  including, the “Donkey Procedure” myth which Levy had propagated several months earlier. In Levy’s tale, Israeli border police routinely brutalize Palestinians by tethering them to their donkeys and then spurring the animal to drag the victim over rough terrain. He cited two cases, one in which the alleged Palestinian victim died of his injuries and the second in which the Palestinian victim survived. Levy suggested that despite denials by Justice Ministry’s internal investigation department, Levy had evidence of wrongdoing by the border police in those cases.

Levy apparently did not anticipate that the Ma’ariv editor would bother to investigate his bogus claims. But Dankner did just that. He turned to the investigating lawyer – well known for his investigations and convictions in cases of police abuse – to get the facts. Indeed, the lawyer had thoroughly investigated the death of the first Palestinian and found no evidence at all for any police abuse. On the contrary. Testimony from the Palestinian ambulance driver who had brought the victim to the hospital indicated that the local villagers had attributed the fatal dragging to the misjudgement of the victim in purchasing a wild mule. Their theory was that the victim had tied his arm to the mule to restrain it but was nevertheless kicked, hit his head and was dragged for a distance while unconscious.

Regarding the second case, Levy was the only one to mention it to the Justice ministry’s investigation bureau, yet stubbornly refused to provide con
tact information for the alleged victim. He did, however, write a column alleging that in a routine procedure, Israel’s border police had tied the victim to the donkey’s reins, forced him to lie down and placed a stone block on his back. According to Levy’s account, the police unsuccessfully whipped the donkey to urge it forward, and eventually resorted to beating the Palestinian victim and leaving him with facial scars, before letting him go.

With the name and village of the alleged victim publicized in Levy’s column, the investigative bureau attempted to verify the allegations, contacting the Palestinian Authority, Levy’s Palestinian stringer who had supplied Levy with the story, and even B’tselem, a pro-Palestinian Israeli group whose mission is to document and publicize Palestinian complaints against Israel. But neither the Palestinian Authority nor B’tselem had any records of this alleged “incident” or anything similar. And while Levy’s stringer promised to get back to the investigating officers after speaking to the victim, he never did. The investigators did manage to finally contact the mother of the alleged donkey victim, but she had no knowledge of the described incident. Both cases were finally closed for lack of any supporting evidence, without anyone appealing their closure, as is often the case. Meanwhile Levy’s unsubstantiated allegation were touted as absolute truth by Ha’aretz columnists and in an accusatory editorial by that newspaper.

Levy presents himself as a courageous hero, beleaguered by those who try to muzzle him. His modus operandi is to deny his lies and play the offense, turning the tables to attack the whistle-blowers. He assailed CAMERA for exposing his lies, calling it “a McCarthyist group that persecutes journalists.” And he told Moshe Yaalon who, as General of Central Command,  provided evidence refuting yet another false Levy tale  that “the details don’t matter. The problem is the occupation.”

Having made clear that “the details” are not important to him,  Levy  occasionally acknowledges having made an inconsequential error of detail, but  he never admits to any errors or misstatements of substance.  Thus, regarding Mr. Yemini’s critique, he admitted only to an error in date: “The dog: Oops. I misstated the date of publication of the page-one pictures” but suggested that the substance of his argument remained the same.

Indeed, Levy’s so-called “misstatement” completely belied his entire argument, namely, that during Operation Cast Lead, front page pictures of a dog killed by Qassam rockets took precedence over the “tens of thousands of Palestinians” killed “on the same day” and whose story was relegated to page 16. In fact, the date of publication of the dog photo was several years earlier than the date on which the Palestinians were killed, rendering Levy’s claim completely moot.

Yemini’s other points were met with yet more lies by Gideon Levy. For example, although Yemini clearly refuted Levy’s contention that there is a brainwashing mechanism in Israeli society to dehumanize Palestinians, Levy denied that Yemini had ever made any attempt to refute this claim. A close reading of Levy’s response reveals a series of empty parries, never addressing Yemini’s actual critique, just denials or misrepresentations and deflection of the focus from Levy’s own lies.

While devoting his life’s work to the invention of misdeeds that he attributes to other Israelis, it is unlikely that Levy will ever admit to his own misdeeds. After all, it is his modus operandi to insist he is always right, embattled by those who try to muzzle him.  And he will continue to be admired and lauded by those who agree with him that truth can be sacrificed in the service of delegitimizing the Jewish state. But for everyone else, it is crucial to continue to expose Gideon Levy and his lies for what they are.

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