Israeli Ambassador Slams Gideon Levy

Earlier this month, Ilan Baruch, a veteran Israeli diplomat resigned from the Foreign Ministry, and publicly stated that he could no longer represent Israel abroad. As Ynet reported:

Ilan Baruch says he quit because “Israel’s foreign policy is wrong,” pointing to the Palestinian issue.

Should this trend continue, he warned, Israel will turn into a pariah state and face growing de-legitimization.

Baruch told Israel TV Wednesday that Israel’s standing was in danger because of its policies, which he said were “difficult to explain.”

Shortly after, Ha’aretz‘s Gideon Levy published an Op-Ed commending Baruch, and berating most of the diplomatic corps as “spineless propagandists void of values or a conscience” (“Israel’s diplomats are spineless propagandists,” March 6, 2011). Ambassador Rafi Shotz, Israel’s ambassador to Spain, responds to Levy, calling him out for hypocrisy. Below is CAMERA’s translation of Ambassador Shotz’s open letter to Levy.

Dear Mr. Levy:

Not long ago, during the tenure of the current government, Ilan Baruch presented his candidacy for the position of ambassador to Egypt. Only after another candidate was chosen over him, only after he understood that in the few remaining years until he reaches retirement he is stuck in a professional dead end, only after he completed negotiations over the terms of his retirement, only after all these things, was Baruch suddenly overcome by audacity and ideological heroism.

These facts were known to all those interested in truth as opposed to propaganda. Nevertheless, from the moment Baruch’s resignation letter was published, it was clear to me that in short order it would become a goldmine in the hands of anti-Israel propagandists both in Israel and abroad. I am convinced that Baruch also knew this. He knew that despite the fact that he explicitly said that Israel is not an apartheid state, that his letter would nevertheless be exploited by those who poison the atmosphere by smearing Israel as an apartheid state. But Baruch is not the subject of this letter. He will have to do his own personal reckoning.

Indeed I was not surprised. Pavlov would have enjoyed seeing how his theory works. Baruch’s fingertips were barely off the “enter” key when your article appeared, describing him as a patriot, brave and honest. If only you could have been satisfied with words of praise, I would have chuckled and moved on, but of course you did not stop there. In order to magnify and heap onto what Baruch did, you had to smear me.

In your fraudulent writing you call me a spineless propagandist void of values or a conscience, swollen with self-importance and other disgraceful names. All this, without even knowing me. I checked, and my chances of winning in a libel suit against you are negligible. Israeli democracy, which you vilify, grants you with a thick protective blanket of freedom of expression. My trampled personal and professional honor is secondary to your right to smear me. Looking objectively , in order to protect the supreme value of the freedom of expression, it must be this way, but it pains me that in the name of this lofty value I need to absorb the garbage that you manufacture and all that I can do is vent my anger and pain.

You also reveal a basic lack of understanding or ignorance concerning the way in which I am to work: if I have criticism of a government policy, and sometimes I most certainly do, I need to make it heard by those who sent me. If I don’t do this I am betraying my position. If I do this in public, and not through the proper private work channels, then I am also betraying my position. Without any substantiation, you quickly conclude that I am silent.

Your hateful column was translated (of course) into Spanish and published (no surpise) in Publico, a newspaper which is the definition of anti-Israel. Spain, which knows how to protect its democracy, outlawed all parties which maintain any ties to the Basque underground ETA and banned their participation in elections. But when we request to distance from our Knesset those who openly identify with Hamas, the criticism against us rages. One of the stable arguments of these critics in this context, as well as others, is “but Gideon Levy of Ha’aretz also wrote it.”

For some time, you, Mr. Levy, have been an asset and useful tool in the hands of those who are not satisfied with legitimate criticism of government position and activities, but rather object to the existence of Israel as a nation of the Jewish people. You also make a nice living from this. They translate you, invite you to lecture, knowing full well that you’ll supply the goods, you and a few other Israeli “stars,” whose names I shall not mention. You all spread your venom around the world and became the darlings of the BDS campaign,

It is especially galling that you call yourself a dissident, a word that generally is associated with detention camps, torture, and excommunication. In contrast, you are a sought after guest in Western sitting rooms and among the knights of a particular political agenda  – dissident in the first degree, with traveling reimbursements and expenses – and yet you dare to write that I am inflated with self-importance. You are a shining example of projection.

Because you smeared my name in the newspaper I do not intend to keep this letter between us, but rather I plan to disseminate it as much as possible. For whatever its worth, among those who buy your propaganda, this will only increase your stock. I wish you well.

Rafi Shotz

Israeli Ambassador to Spain

Madrid March 30, 2011

Opulent Residences, Fancy Cars or Low Income, One Pension?

Shotz mentioned Levy’s ignorance concerning the process that diplomats pursue to voice disapproval of government policy, but there is another glaring basic factual error in Levy’s column. Speaking of the diplomats’ alleged “self-importance,” Levy then refers to “power, prestige, fancy cars, opule nt residences and other relics from the days of great empires,” fruits which he believes Israeli diplomats enjoy. Apparently, Levy does not keep up with the news pages of his own newspaper, which recently reported about a strike by Foreign Ministry diplomats due to poor working conditions. As Ha’aretz reporter Barak Ravid reported Dec. 27, 2010 (“Israeli diplomats protest low wages, poor working conditions“), protesting workers demonstrated at a conference wearing t-shirts reading “I am a poor diplomat.” Yaakov Livne, of the Foreign Ministry’s Eurasia department, wrote on Ynet,

An employee with a Master’s degree who joins the Foreign Ministry through the cadets’ course receives minimum wage for the first five years on the job. After 20 years in the Foreign Service, this employee turns into the family’s sole breadwinner; as result of the overseas missions the spouse is left without a career or an income. Even at that point, the salary only reaches half of what it is at the Defense Ministry, IDF, Mossad, or the Prosecutor’s Office.

Foreign Ministry officials also do not enjoy a worthy early retirement option. After finally retiring, following 35 years of service, such officials would only be left with one pension for them and their spouse.

And yet, Levy, freshly back from a recent jaunt to Ireland where he appeared as keynote speaker for Israeli Apartheid Week in front of a university audience, self-righteously pontificates, “It’s not easy to stand in judgment of others, and demand that they relinquish their careers and their ephemeral glory.” Shotz was right on the money. Projection, indeed.

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