Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hawara Checkpoint Abandoned; Gideon Levy Can't Give Up

Gideon Levy may be the most prominent of Israel's radical lefties, because he's a regular columnist at Haaretz, which gives him a wide and international audience. He's also so antagonistic to his country that even most left-leaning Israelis wouldn't get anywhere near him.

Among other things, he writes a weekly column called "The Twilight Zone", in which he wanders around the Palestinian territories and repeats the stories he hears through translators (he doesn't speak Arabic). His trustworthiness is mooted: he claims no-one has ever refuted any of his facts, but there actually have been quite a number of such refutations; in a spat with Ben Dror Yemini last year, Yemini posted a list of alleged untruths Levy had published.

This week's Twilight Zone column told of the IDF checkpoints around Nablus, which have been fully open since 2009, and now are being dismantled. In the days when these checkpoints were operative, however, they saved many lives, including of course Palestinians lives. As recently as October 2008 the soldiers manning the checkpoint apprehended a teenager carrying a bomb. Back in 2004 a number of Palestinian teenagers were apprehended at the checkpoint wearing suicide bombs; one was shot. Here's a CBS report, and here are some YouTube videos:

Notice this isn't the first case, according to the report. Here's the second event of the same month, which ended without anyone getting killed:

So although the checkpoint was never a nice place, and there may have been unfortunate things that happened there, it was put there for a reason, and the reason was justified.

It was always Gideon Levy's right to choose to tell the story only from the perspective of the Palestinians who suffered at the checkpoint, just as it's our right not to take him seriously for doing so. It is however a wee bit strange that this week, when the only event happening at the long-defunct checkpoint is that Israel is dismantling it, he writes an entire column about all the evils the IDF committed there, never mentions the lives saved because of its existence, and also manages not to mention that only new part of the story, which is that it's being dismantled. This does take the art of propagandist writing to a new height.


NormanF said...

Good point about Gideon Levy not speaking Arabic.

He's as good an authority on the Arabs as Thomas Friedman, who I bet doesn't speak a word of Arabic either.

Arab discourse is fairly radical and the English-speaking Arabs trotted out to the Western media are in fact atypical of Arabs in general - you'd expect those with some acquaintance with the West to say things that sound pleasing to Western ears.

That is not how most Arabs think. And the Angry Arab blogger in Egypt did a good job of tearing down Friedman and I would hazard a guess he'd say Levy doesn't understand the Arab psyche as well.

Its a valid point.

Anonymous said...

There is a strange illness that afflicts Levy, Amira Hass, and the cadre of young diaspora Jews who flock to Israel laptop in hand to write their lies and spew their hatred.

They cannot seem to leave the place that fuels their hatred. Probably because unlike in other places, they are simply left alone to keep on writing their ghastly reports.

Barry said...

just as it's our right not to take him seriously for doing so.

And for those from near and far who don't know anything about him, how are they to discern what to believe and not to believe?

Bryan said...


Not to rain on your parade, but given your broad statements about "how most Arabs think:" do you speak Arabic?

I don't speak it, so I don't presume to know what Arabs think (I will settle for looking at their actions), but I do find it grating when Israel's defenders accuse those who wantonly slander Israel of hypocrisy while doing exactly the same thing.

Silke said...

if I follow you then the translations of Memri aren't trustworthy?

as an outsider I form my OWN opinion on people like Levy by concentrating on things they say I happen to know a bit about.

I've read exactly one of his columns and that was the one where he posed as an expert on Brecht and specifically a play (scheduled to be performed in Ariel) I happen to have seen. He had no idea what he was talking about. So at best he is an impostor and a braggart trying to pass himself off as a cultured man who has read his classics or something like that. Will I trust somebody like that to give me trustworthy facts on other subjects? I go with once a liar likely to be one elsewhere also.

I apply this method to ALL the people I read, it sometimes take time, but the wrong ones let slip eventually either in the field of hypocrisy or posing at what they aren't.

Barry Meislin said...

You forget, however, that at this stage of the game, Gideon Levy (TM) does not have to be accurate.

Such is the nature of the status he has achieved.

Bryan said...

Silke: I wasn't clear, I guess. Because I don't speak Arabic, I don't know how good MEMRI's translations are, but I certainly trust them myself. However, the videos that MEMRI translates no more represent all Arabs than the speeches by "good Arabs" like that Google fellow in Egypt that are read in translation by people like Gideon Levy and Thomas Friedman.

Without being able to speak a society's language, it's really not possible to engage it in any meaningful way.

Barry said...


If you lived in Israel and watched the news channels you would get what the Arabs think straight from their mouths and as more than half of Israel speaks Arabic it is highly unlikely there would be wanton slander.
And for those who have worked with Arabs in factories and commerce for many years and have come to experience their thinking, there is no need for a verbal version.

By the way how good is your Arabic, or Hebrew for that matter, that you can claim slander?

Bryan said...

As I said, I don't speak Arabic beyond "salaam alaikum" or "ana m'amrika." On the other hand, my Hebrew's not bad. Certainly good enough to read Ha'aretz in the original with a dictionary to catch the words I don't know.

As for "slander," I was talking about people like the Mondoweiss crowd who (as far as I know) don't speak Hebrew and yet claim to know what Israel (or the Tanakh, when they decide it suits them) is all about. Similarly, the non-Arabic-speaking American journalists galavanting about Cairo pretending to know what Egyptians think.

NormanF said...

I don't speak Arabic either. It should be noted that Amira Hass, despite decades of living among the Arabs doesn't know their language.

And if the MEMRI broadcasts are anything to go by, Arab discourse is extreme and both the print and electronic media are filled with a relentless demonization and hatred of the Jews and Israel.

This by the way reflects popular feeling, its not manufactured by Arab dictatorships and it reflects their one concession on a subject where they identify with the Street in their countries.

This deep-rooted popular anti-Semitism is why we not going to see peace emerge between Israel and its Arab neighbors in our lifetime. Peace cannot be built on bigotry, intolerance and lies.

And the world's refusal to acknowledge reality and its conviction Israel is the side that refuses to make peace in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, won't change the above picture.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, I am pretty sure Amira Haas does speak arabic. Also not sure you can any more generalised about "Arabs" than you can Israelis, especially there are hundreds of millions of them from places as diverse as the gulf, Lebanon and north africa.

Secondly if you speak arabic then most of the conversations have nothing to do with politics.

I remember being told a story about an american in Tehran during a "Death to America" march. He was obviously scared but was welcomed by the local iranians who cheerfully informed him these marches were one of the few places they could hang out with the opposite sex.

I suspect with the likes of Levy, it is not so much he doesn't speak arabic rather that he will actively filter what he hears.


Yaacov said...


For what it's worth, Levy certainly doesn't speak Arabic, and Haas probably doesn't either, certainly not with comfort.

The story about Teheran may well be true. But try and tell it to the many Jews who have been accidentally caught up over the centuries in local anti-Jewish demonstrations. Not all of them lived to tell the tale, and many hardly did. Black bystanders swept up by rampaging lynch mods didn't always fare well, either - and it's easy to think of other examples. Mobs chanting hatred are ugly, dangerous things.

Matt said...

I definitely read the title of this article as "Gideon Levy Can't Get It Up".

Sorry to lower the level of intellectual discourse on this blog.

Barry Meislin said...

No, actually, you've raised it.