Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has been termed one of the most hated men in his homeland today. The 62-year-old columnist for Haaretz newspaper writes regularly about the atrocities committed by Israeli troops in occupied Palestine. Levy’s aim, behind exposing human rights abuses committed by the army, is to turn the conscience of his compatriots towards a peaceful settlement with Palestinians. He supports Israel and Palestine coming together as a single country where both Israelis and Palestinians can live with full human rights and dignity. This aim, he acknowledges, remains far beyond reach. Israelis have reacted radically to Levy’s writings: he is an isolated man, who in July 2014 was under armed guard- and not for the first time- for having received death threats from Israelis unwilling to confront the situation in their own backyard. Levy, who participated in a discussion at the Zee Jaipur Literature Festival 2015, spoke to dna’s Suhit Kelkar about his chosen cause.

You are a very radical commentator on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. In the Seventies, however, your views were completely nationalistic, were they not?A. Yes, I believed that Jews are right, Palestinians are wrong. They want to kill us and throw us into the ocean. That was partly but not fully true. Most Israelis still believe that to be true. What led you to change your beliefs?A. A friend took me around the Occupied (Palestinian) Territories and I saw the dark backyard of Israel. The brutal tyranny of the military regime which governs people who have no civil rights at all, they have no citizenship, they don’t have a state. In Gaza they are living under siege. Would you kindly give us an instance of the brutality that you have witnessed?A. Among the first stories that I did was about a (Palestinian) woman who was about to give birth. This was near Jerusalem. The woman was trying to get to hospital in a car with her husband and her brother-in-law. At three checkpoints she was refused entry (by Israeli soldiers). Finally she gave birth in her car. Then she appealed to the Israeli soldiers to take her baby to hospital, which they refused to do. So she walked 2.5 km with her baby in pouring rain in the night, and the baby died. This story was a big scandal in Israel. There are many such stories. Nowadays, Israelis have become used to it. Because you wrote about such things, you became unpopular in Israel, did you not?A. Yes, the more I saw, the more radical I became. But most Israelis don’t want to know about the occupation, don’t want to know about crimes that are committed on their behalf. Did this not lead to a very risk-laden life?A. In 2003, the second uprising, my car was shot at by Israeli soldiers near Turkarem, a Palestinian town in the West Bank. The soldier didn’t know who was in the car. Luckily, it was a bullet-proof car, otherwise we would not be here speaking today. You have received death threats too…A. Many. It is almost routine. Recently someone spit on my Swedish girlfriend and me in Tel Aviv, where I live. My newspaper gave me a bodyguard in July. Did your writings result in a loss of friends?A. My friend circle reduced in a way. It’s not about politics. It’s about morality. I cannot be a friend of someone who doesn’t share my values. Someone who can’t perceive the Palestinians as human beings cannot be my friend. What about your two sons? What do they think about your beliefs?A. They don’t share my views. They love and respect me, and in a way they are proud of me. Are you censored by the Israeli government or have you ever faced threats from the Israeli army? Why not?A. Because Israel ,not the backyard of Israel, is a liberal democracy and freedom of speech is a value and freedom of journalism is a value. What is the situation like in occupied Palestine right now?A. The West Bank is on the eve of an uprising. There are little acts, but no feeling of organized uprising right now. It might get out of control. But I am not sure because Palestinians are still bleeding from the second Uprising. It is like a volcano. The Israeli elections are coming up. What do you think might happen?A. Very soon… the 17th of March. It might be that (prime minister Binyamin) Netanyahu might not be re-elected. Labour (party) will take over. Is there a politician in Israel who can make a change in Israeli-Palestinian relations?A. The Labour party is moderate. Racialism and nationalism will be reduced under Labour. But they will not put an end to occupation. They were in power for so many years and they did not do so. Given that India and Israel are coming closer and increasing military cooperation, what is your message to the Indian government?A. Friendship with Israel does not mean accepting the occupation (of Palestine). The occupation is criminal, and is not recognized by any country in the world, and the world has to do something about it.

Original link: 

Zee Jaipur Literature Festival: Israel on the brink of change: Gideon Levy