Gideon Levy spoke at Columbia on September 28 about his new book, Punishment in Gaza, and his speech was broadcast this weekend on CSPAN Book TV. He was handsome, courtly, charismatic, and spoke excellent English with only a slight accent. He attacked Israel quietly, rationally, although certainly with an underlying passion and perhaps above all, resentment.
Why don’t Israelis listen to me? he seems to wonder. Why am I a lonely Jewish voice in a sea of willing Zionist occupiers? A voice crying in the wilderness? Why don’t they understand me? But he wasn’t whining in front of his Columbia University audience; he had them in the palm of his hand.
He could describe the Second Lebanon War as a destruction of that country, neglecting to say that Hezbollah, the trained and equipped long arm of Iran, kidnapped and killed Israeli soldiers on the Israeli side of the border, simultaneously firing rockets at northern Israel, attacking and provoking their powerful neighbor while thoroughly undermining their own country and people.
He could describe the more recent Gaza War as a one-sided perpetration of atrocities by Israel, never mentioning the ten thousand or more Kassam rockets that Hamas terrorists shot at Israeli citizens in Sderot and other Negev towns, or the fact that Hamas “soldiers” hid behind women and children, or the IDF’s unprecedented campaign of warning Palestinians of impending attacks through phone calls and text messages, saving thousands of civilians while making Israel’s army more vulnerable.
(Colonel Richard Kemp, a British officer highly experienced in counter-terrorism, said during the war, “ I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more effort to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.”)
And Gideon Levy could describe the Mavi Marmara ship-boarding incident as another instance of Israeli brutality against “activists” with no weapons, forgetting entirely that naval commandos who boarded after warning they would do so were met by strong, trained men swinging heavy metal pipes down on their heads until they had to defend themselves. And that previous, very similar ships had brought tons of advanced weapons from Iran toward Gaza.
Levy could do all this because his listeners, typical of university audiences, already knew the mantra and fully accepted it: Israel is the evil in the world. But why can’t he get it across to his own fellow countrymen? He has an answer:
They are in a kind of coma (somehow compatible with paranoia) that cannot be penetrated by his brilliant insights telling them the right and rational thing to do–which of all Israelis he knows best. But at least he can take comfort in the fact that the people in the safe confines of Columbia University agree with him.
Soon enough–just last Thursday–Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (“I’m a Dinner-Jacket”) circled the town of Bint Jbail in southern Lebanon with his helicopters and touched down to speak to at least 15,000 followers. A few miles from the Israeli border, this relentless Shoah-denier and would-be annihilator of Israel spoke inspiringly of the rebuilding of Bint Jbail–with Iranian money–after Israel’s bombed it in 2006 in an attempt to root out rocketers and other Hezbollah operatives.
In his tirade he called, as he has done so often before, for “the Zionists to be wiped out” and he held Hezbollah up as a model for the world. Meanwhile a young man on horseback, one of a group chanting slogans of loyalty to Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah said, “It’s a historic day. We have Ahmadinejad on the border of Palestine. Yes, this is Palestine, not Israel, and God willing, Israel will soon vanish with the help of this man.” It had been rumored that he was planning to go right up to the border and throw stones at Israel, but in the end even he was not crazy (or courageous) enough to do that.
Israel’s minister of national infrastructure said “the lesson we should learn from Ahmadinejad’s visit is that Iran is on the northern border of Israel.” Fortunately, though, we know from Gideon Levy that this was just a paranoid, comatose fantasy. Reports by The New York Times, Reuters, and countless other news sources with journalists in Bint Jabail were just seeing things.
Israelis across the border from the Iranian nut-job released a barrage of helium-filled blue and white balloons, blaring the kachol v’lavan of the flag of the Jewish state high over both sides of the fence. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was speaking in Independence Hall, where in May 1948 David Ben-Gurion announced the birth of the country, the official return from exile, the attainment of bimillennial Jewish dreams.
“We heard the blasphemous curses from the Lebanese border today” Netanyahu said. “The best answer to these swears was given here 62 years ago: The state and all that was built and created since then.” Ahmadinejad and his Hezbollah puppets pose a real threat that will surely be taken seriously–to their lasting detriment and pain. As for Gideon Levy, he can continue to make a good living bashing the Jewish state in Israel and around the world. It’s a free country–unlike the ones that want to destroy it.