Israel’s War Against Palestine: Documenting the Military Occupation of Palestinian and Arab Lands

Gideon Levy

In his op-ed in Haaretz on Sunday, columnist Gideon Levy openly endorses a boycott of Israel as the “Israeli patriot’s final refuge.” He argues that it is in fact those who fear for Israel’s future that should reach the conclusion that it must be economically boycotted. He says that it is the “least of all evils” and that there is no other alternative left.

Our beloved Tel Aviv, whose reputation for enlightenment and openness is world renowned, is built in part on ruined Palestinian villages – and refuses to acknowledge it.

We managed to delete Mount Hermon’s original, Syrian name as if it had never existed. Precious few Israelis have ever heard the name, or are aware of the 200 towns and villages that were obliterated in the Golan Heights. Most Israelis, we might assume, aren’t aware that they were ever there, since Israeli collective consciousness also erased the existence of their 120,000 residents – refugees that no one knows or cares about.

From Jenin to Hebron, we are in the West Bank above all because the majority of Israelis believe that it is not only the land of the patriarchs, but that this fact gives us a patrimonial right to sovereignty, to cruelty, to abuse and to occupation – and to hell with the position of the international community and the principles of international law, because, after all, we were chosen from among all other peoples.

IOA Editor: From “Chosen People” to the “Promised Land,” Zionism, and the occupation: it’s a hop, skip, and a jump. Indeed, the belief in the ‘promised land’ is a prerequisite for Zionism — yes, even secular Zionism. The ‘chosen people’ concept goes hand in hand with the ‘promised land.’

One day not long from now we will wake up to a different kind of country, the country that’s now in the making. It won’t look like the country we know, which already has its share of flaws, distortions and ills. And when we become aware of this, it will be too late. At that point, the old Israel will be described in glowing terms, a model of democracy and justice, compared to the new version that is taking shape as we close our eyes to it, day after day, new law after law.

A gang of thugs, the forum of eight senior [Israeli] ministers, decided on the steps to punish the man who dared to act contrary to the desires of the familia. They’re building another 2,000 housing units in the settlements, which are for the first time being characterized as punishment. And they’re stealing the Palestinians’ tax money and canceling some of their leaders’ VIP passes.

Reality Check: No celebrations were going on in the Jenin refugee camp this week, where families involved in the long struggle with Israel acknowledged that what concerns them now is economics – not empty declarations at the UN.

The truth is that the Palestinians have just three options: to surrender unconditionally and go on living under Israeli occupation; to launch a third intifada; or to mobilize the world on their behalf. They picked the third option, the lesser of all evils even from Israel’s perspective. What could Israel say about this – that it’s a unilateral step? But it didn’t agree to stop construction in the settlements, the mother of all unilateral steps. What did the Palestinians have left? The international arena. And if that won’t save them, then another popular uprising in the territories.

IOA Editor: Levy is the good, sensible and moral Israeli, addressing an Israeli audience. However, to state that for the Palestinians to mobilize the world on their behalf is “the lesser of all evils even from Israel’s perspective” is problematic, at best.

History shows that all Israeli governments — “Left” or “Right” alike — prefer violent Palestinian resistance to the Occupation over any non-violent protest because it provides Israel the best possible excuse to do what it knows and does best: attack and destroy Palestinian population centers, national infrastructure, agricultural and industrial employment centers — bring about as much destruction so as to crush Palestinian society, push back reconciliation and continue the land colonization process in order to make a Palestinian state physically and geographically impossible.

The experience of Gaza and the Second Intifada provide ample evidence to this assessment. One can only hope that the Third Intifada will be sophisticated enough, and very obviously non-violent, in order not to provide Israel with easy excuses.

This is also why Israel is at such a loss now on how to deal with the legitimate Palestinian demand for statehood, scrambling to deal with global pressure on the UN frontier: if it could only launch a missile-equipped drone to solve it all…

The rules of the game in the new Middle East changed… From now on, the people are speaking; they will not stand for violent or colonialist behavior toward Arabs, and their leaders will have to take this into consideration. The occupation, and Israel’s exaggerated shows of force in response to terror attacks, are now being put to the test of the peoples, not just their rulers.

The time has come to stick their hand in the fire and fight for all the issues they have steered clear of so far – the security budget, the settlements, the occupation, the breaches of democracy and the rule of capital, without which no real rectification can be made, not even in the cost of rent.

It is necessary to know that there were 418 villages here that were wiped off the face of the earth, and it should be remembered that there were more than 600,000 natives of this land who fled or were expelled not to return to their homes, and that to this day most of them … and their offspring live in terrible conditions, carrying keys to their lost homes… We must know that under nearly every patch of Jewish National Fund forest rest the ruins that Israel was keen to erase, to ensure that they not serve as evidence of a different heritage. We can know that under our flourishing Canada Park hide the ruins of three villages which Israel razed after the Six Day War, putting its residents on a bus and expelling them.

While we are still desperately concealing, denying and repressing our major ethnic cleansing of 1948 – over 600,000 refugees, some who fled for fear of the Israel Defense Forces and its predecessors, some who were expelled by force – it turns out that 1948 never ended, that its spirit is still with us. Also with us is the goal of trying to cleanse this land of its Arab inhabitants as much as possible, and even a bit more.

IOA Editor: This is exactly what we’ve been saying all along, including on the very story Levy cites. It is good to see that Gideon Levy is now reaching the same conclusion. The IOA is far from alone in making these charges. Others include historians Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe. Most recently, American playwright Tony Kushner was rejected by the CUNY Board of Trustees from receiving an honorary doctorate on account of expressing such views. (A decision the Board quickly reversed in the face of mounting criticism.)

We say that most of us are in favor of the two-state solution, but we vote for parties that will do nothing to advance it. We vehemently oppose a one-state solution but we live, in fact for decades, in an apartheid state. We favor free access and worship at Joseph’s Tomb but not at Al Aqsa. We remember 1948 but without the Nakba. We oppose returning Palestinian property from before 1948 but we evict Palestinian inhabitants in Hebron and Sheikh Jarrah on the grounds that their homes were under Jewish ownership before 1948. We shoot passengers in Palestinian cars who refuse to stop at roadblocks, but when the Palestinian police do the same, we call it a “murderous terror attack.” We call the Israeli army Defense Forces, while most of its work is occupation.

IOA Editor: Brilliant!

The world knows that this is a battle between the Israeli Goliath and the Palestinian David, and its heart is with the underdog. The world heard Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak of a two-state solution and was filled with hope. But after two years of total deadlock, hollow talk, illusions, Israel’s unreasonable setting of conditions and the construction of more and more settlements, the world has condemned Israel. No hasbara can change that.

Anyone who honored the first Goldstone has to ask him: What exactly do you know today that you didn’t know then? Do you know today that criticizing Israel leads to a pressure-and-slander campaign that you can’t withstand, you ‘self-hating Jew’?

As on previous occasions, a “spy” from the Israeli Embassy was sent to [my lecture] … an Israeli student who was asked to write down what I said and convey it to the embassy. The embassy quickly dispatched a report to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, and the Foreign Ministry quickly leaked it to a well-known newspaper, which published only my harshest statements, without context – and there you have it: the indictment of a dissident.

Just as upon return from the state-sponsored trips to Auschwitz, Jewish students will come back from Hebron feeling more nationalist than ever before.

The stability in the region, something which Westerners and Israelis have come to yearn, merely means perpetuating the status quo. That situation might be good for Israel and the West, but it is very bad for the millions of people who have had to pay the price. Maintaining Mideast stability means perpetuating the intolerable situation by which some 2.5 million Palestinians exist without any rights under the heel of Israeli rule; and another few million Palestinian refugees from the war of 1948 are living in camps…

Instead of working toward revealing the truth behind the recent death of an anti-fence demonstrator the IDF is behaving like the propaganda ministry of an authoritarian regime.

It’s high time a legal ban on the Israeli left be instituted. Why do we continue beating around the bush? Why do we need such a taxing, exhaustive legislative process in enacting law after law? What’s the use of all these various proposals and amendments? In lieu of all the aforementioned, let’s just do one very simple thing: declare the left an illegal entity in the State of Israel. From then on, whoever thinks left, acts left, demonstrates left or tolerates left will belong in jail.

At midnight, when the French champagne is flowing like water, perhaps we will understand that next year will be the last year we can still save something, and be grateful the truth came out.

Israeli democracy at its best: The entire people will decide on the next peace arrangement, but not on the question of settlements and annexation, and not on the question of wars. Israeli trickery at its best: Legislators pass laws relating to the day an arrangement is forged whose point is to defer that day’s arrival for as long as possible. And Israeli morality at its best: A manifestly immoral question is formulated for a referendum, and insult is added to injury because only we Israelis, members of the chosen people, will decide on the fate of another people which has for generations lived under occupation, and we dare to call all this tomfoolery democracy. In fact, this is Israeli chutzpah at its worst.

A press that excels in many ways has shirked its task in covering the occupation; it’s the occupation’s greatest collaborator. It helps Israelis feel that there is no occupation. Without the dehumanization campaign in the press, Israelis would feel less self-satisfied, and perhaps more moral doubts would be raised about what we are doing.

“The smokescreen called a medical school obscures an evil scheme: to establish a refugee camp for psychotic, sadistic and debased Arabs, whose deceptiveness is, and always has been, aimed at tempting [Jewish women] and cruelly abusing them. On orders of the great rabbis of Safed, may they be blessed with a long life, we declare our protest and vehement resistance, and reiterate that it is forbidden under the law of the Torah to offer these people apartments for sale, rent, work or any form of entry. Our city will not succumb to wanton behavior – go back to your own locales and do not defile our camp.”

My nearly 25 years of covering the Israeli occupation and expressing my controversial opinions have indeed stirred up wrath in some circles. But I have always taken pride in the fact that after hundreds of reports from the field – this entire modest documentation enterprise – none of the facts have ever been refuted despite the efforts of many.

“My biggest struggle,” he says, “is to rehumanize the Palestinians. There’s a whole machinery of brainwashing in Israel which really accompanies each of us from early childhood, and I’m a product of this machinery as much as anyone else. [We are taught] a few narratives that it’s very hard to break. That we Israelis are the ultimate and only victims. That the Palestinians are born to kill, and their hatred is irrational. That the Palestinians are not human beings like us? So you get a society without any moral doubts, without any questions marks, with hardly public debate. To raise your voice against all this is very hard.”

Underneath everything is hatred – hatred and contempt for Arabs … Manifestations of hatred are received with sympathy or indifference, even by those who should be standing in the breach: the opposition, the media and the education and judicial systems.

From now on, we will be living in a new, officially approved, ethnocratic, theocratic, nationalistic and racist country. Anyone who thinks it doesn’t affect him is mistaken. There is a silent majority that is accepting this with worrying apathy, as if to say: “I don’t care what country I live in.”

Israel, like North Korea, must have something to hide about its occupation regime and this is why it prevents people of conscience from entering and report about it to the world. Israel, like North Korea, is afraid of anyone who tries to protest against it or criticize its regime. No terrorists will enter here, but neither will anyone who opposes terror yet dares to criticize the occupation. For safety’s sake,let’s call them “terrorists” too, as we falsely called the Turkish activists. It will make it easier for us to deal with them. Yes, we prefer terror, because we know well how to handle it.

IOA Editor: Israel prefers terror because terror helps Israel: it justifies Israel’s false “security” claims and makes it easier for it to get away with crimes on a grand scale (e.g., the Gaza attack). Terror helps Israel mask its colonial practices behind the “right to defend itself” – a key element of Israel’s long-term strategy of crushing the Palestinian people.

Israeli commandos have boarded and seized a Gaza-bound aid ship of Jewish activists just miles off the Gaza coast. The activists were attempting to deliver a symbolic load of medicine, a water-purifying kit and other humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The Jewish Boat to Gaza was the latest attempt to break the blockade since Israel’s deadly attack on an aid flotilla in May. In the West Bank, Jewish settlers resumed building settlements on Monday one day after Israel refused to extend its partial freeze on settlement expansion.

Zionism in its present meaning, in its common meaning, is contradictory to human rights, to equality, to democracy, and [Zionist leftists] don’t recognise it. It’s too hard for them to recognise it, to realise it. And therefore their position is an impossible position, because they want everything: they want Zionism, they want democracy, they want a Jewish state, but they want also rights for the Palestinians… it’s very nice to want everything, but you have to make your choice and they are not courageous enough to make the choice.

The occupation did not turn us into lawless criminals, you write with a pure heart. Really? You handcuffed thousands of people for no reason, without trial, in humiliating conditions, causing them pain that made them scream, according to your testimony. Is this not a loss of humanity?

MORE by Gideon Levy

Puppet theater
“Arabs, get out”
Missing the forest

We will know the answer in the coming weeks: Is there genuine theater in Israel, or is it just puppet theater? Are our theater artists really actors, playwrights and directors, or are they marionettes? Israeli theater presents “Moral Blindness” – a play with infinite acts.

The fact that [Israeli Arabs] have yet to choose to boycott the state and its institutions and to stop participating in the game of democracy, which is corrupt to begin with, as far as they are concerned – a game from which they are almost completely excluded – is nothing short of amazing.

Henning Mankell, aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla: “We have been attacked while in international waters. That means the Israelis have behaved like pirates … The moment they start to steer this ship towards Israel, we have also been kidnapped. The whole action is illegal.”

Defining Israel as a Jewish state condemns us to living in a racist state… Were we to not expel the migrant workers’ children but continue to raze Bedouin villages we would not solve a thing. We will continue to move from one injustice to another until we recognize the racist nature of the state.

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