The Palestinian Car Was Stolen by Israel, and It Must Be Returned

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Protesting settlements in the West Bank. Photo by Mussa Issa Qawasma/Reuters

Here's a chance to hear the great Gideon Levy, Israeli-born-and-bred writer for Haaretz and indefatigable critic of Zionism, who spoke this week in Westchester, N.Y. A guest of Jewish Voice For Peace and Wespac, Levy faced down several  obstreperous hecklers by turning their strident claims - "Terrorist! Levy=Hate" - back on them, charging them with the same blind ignorance practised by too many Israelis,  and insisting on a concise defense of Palestinian rights: "When someone steals your car, you have to get (it) back. The Palestinian car was stolen by Israel, and it must be returned, without any conditions." 

A longtime anti-Zionist who has been called "the most hated man in Israel," Levy has described growing up "totally blind to the occupation - it was a word I didn’t dare to pronounce." His political evolution began with writing stories from the Occupied Territories - "I was attracted gradually like a butterfly to a fire or to a light" - and realizing "there was no one to tell (the story of the Occupation) to the Israelis. Today he regularly blasts "the brutality and cruelty" of his country, a place that represents "Democracy (for) Jews, discrimination for Israeli Arabs, and apartheid for Palestinians."

Speaking last night at the Greenburgh town hall, Levy outlined the three deeply flawed beliefs that rule Israel's increasingly extremist politics: As Jews, we are the chosen people and can do whatever we want; the Holocaust renders us the biggest and only victims in history - “The only occupation in history where the occupier presents itself as the victim” - and because Palestinians aren't really human, killing them isn't really a violation of human rights. In response to this criminal mindset, Levy counters with the blunt reality of his country: "If two peoples share one piece of land, and one people gets all the rights in the world, and the other people don't get any rights, this is apartheid. There is no other way to call it." In the end, he insists, "The struggle, the discourse is simple - equal rights for all."

Because Israelis are too blind and brainwashed to change from within, Levy called for international pressure, intervention and boycott to force them to respond. Even amidst ongoing violence, he offered hopeful models from the past: the end of apartheid in South Africa, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the "many times in history things happen in the most unexpected way." Israel too can fall, he suggested, like a big tree that one day mysteriously crashes down, because "it turns out to be totally rotten from the inside." Many thanks to Mondoweiss for this video.

Palestinian kids go to school. ActiveStills photo

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