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

Gideon Levy: Has anyone in Israel asked why the Swedes hate us

13 March 2009

By Gideon Levy, Haaretz – 13 March 2009

Gideon Levy

Gideon Levy

Was it a coincidence? The day after Israel’s Davis Cup tennis match in Sweden, played in a practically empty arena this week, a brief item appeared on the Haaretz Web site: Historians have discovered that Sweden, former tennis superpower, aided the Nazi war machine by extending credit to German industrial plants.

Coincidence or not, neutral in 1941 or not, 68 years later, public opinion in Sweden is definitely not neutral: Thousands demonstrated there against Israel, which was forced to wield its racket like a leper, with no audience in attendance. Did anyone in Israel even ask why it was considered a pariah in Sweden? No one dared question whether the war in the Gaza Strip was worth the price we’re paying now, from Ankara to Malmo. It’s enough to recall that the Swedes were always against us. The fact that there were times when they were awash in love for Israel was erased from our consciousness.

The world is always against us, period. But the world is not against us – to the contrary: The truth is that there is no other nation toward which the world is so forgiving, even today. Yes, today. Granted, world public opinion is very critical, sometimes in a way that’s unique to Israel, but most governments (except Venezuela and Turkey, but including Egypt and Sweden) are far from being in sync with the public opinion in their countries. The official world continues to be sympathetic to Israel, regardless of its actions. The rise of Hamas, the increase in hatred for Islam in the West, the American hegemony – all this helps in strengthening the support, and we know how to make the very most of it.

What’s the difference between national tennis player Andy Ram and national tennis player Thomas Johansson? Johansson and his angry fans saw real pictures from Gaza; Ram and his complacent fans never did. Had Ram seen them, maybe he, too, would demonstrate. But he, like most Israelis, was spared this discomfort, thanks to the gung-ho Israeli press. Can we and Ram really criticize those who were horrified by the pictures from the war? Can we reproach those who dare to protest against the people responsible for those scenes? Are we demanding that the world remain silent once again?

The demonstrators in Stockholm waved banners against violence and racism. It may be okay to ask why they waved them only against us, as there are some other racist and violent places in the world, but it is not okay to question the right to do so in general. Was there really no violence in Gaza, and is there no racism in Israel? If we were Swedes, wouldn’t we protest against the pointless killing and destruction wrought by Israel?

But we needn’t get too worked up over the fury of public opinion in Sweden; its right-wing government is much less agitated, like all the other European governments. One need only recall the surreal scene at the height of the brutal assault on Gaza, when the heads of the European Union came to Israel and dined with the prime minister in a show of unilateral support for the side wreaking the killing and destruction. They didn’t give a thought to visiting Gaza, and uttered nary a word of criticism against Israel. That is official Europe.

Now, as a new government is about to be formed, there is concern that Israel will pay a price in the international arena for its composition. Not to worry: Everything will be just dandy. The world will accept Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel’s No. 1 statesman, Avigdor Lieberman as its No. 1 diplomat and Moshe Ya’alon as its No. 1 soldier. Lieberman’s belligerent statements and the Israel Defense Forces’ violent actions in the territories under former chief of staff Ya’alon will not present any obstacles. The world will accept them, too.

Furthermore, the growing concern that the new U.S. administration may be about to change the rules of the game vis-a-vis Israel could also prove to be unfounded: Barack Obama’s new America has already pledged to clean up after Israel, as usual. The $900 million the administration has pledged to contribute to rebuild Gaza – without a word of criticism about who caused the destruction there, as if it were a natural disaster and not the work of an unrestrained army, particularly in light of America’s current economic state – is a bad sign for anyone hoping for change. Israel wrecked Gaza with U.S. weapons, and America and Europe step in to fix things, not for the first time or for the last.

As the saying goes around here, what was is what will be: Israel will continue to destroy, and America will continue to mop up after it, without a word. A bad sign? Yes, for anyone who thinks that change will only come from the outside or, in other words, only from America.

Note how the upcoming Durban II conference on racism is also being thwarted, because of the fear that it will harshly criticize Israel. Does anyone know of any other country that can win such sweeping international backing? But we always complain: The whole world is against us. It’s good for shoring up national unity and for squeezing out more and more support in the world.

The bleak prophecies about a change in America’s attitude toward Israel are as old as the country itself. Whenever there’s a change of administration in the U.S., anxiety spikes. But from president to president, our strength only grows: When George W. Bush was elected, we were told to be wary of the Texan, a friend of the Arabs and of oil. And what did we get? Never was there a president more “sympathetic to Israel,” who gave it such a blank check for all its settlements, targeted assassinations and occupation activities. Obama is scary, too: He’s already talking with Iran and with the Taliban. Most likely, fears surrounding this will also prove to be overblown, once he gets around to dealing with Israel.

International interest in Israel is completely disproportionate. Last week, every taxi driver in Bursa, Turkey could recite by heart the names of Lieberman, Tzipi Livni, Netanyahu – and also Avi Mizrahi, the major general who had criticized their country. Every little flutter of coalition action in Israel immediately makes headlines; the world does not focus as much attention on the internal politics of any other country. Only Israel. Whether it’s good or bad for the Jews, it’s hard to put one’s finger on the roots of this phenomenon.

For decades now, the world has been buying the Zionist narrative almost in full. The occupation and settlements have been going on for more than 40 years with no serious impediment. Except for some international grumblings and resolutions no one has any serious intention of implementing, Israel continues to belong to the camp of the “good guys”; the Arabs are the “bad guys.” The new atmosphere in the West against Islam is reinforcing this trend and Israel is benefiting yet again. Criticism of the media in the West from Israel’s supporters is also quite excessive.

A Swedish journalist was recently laid off from her newspaper because she sided with the Palestinian position in the conflict. It’s hard to imagine her editors acting the same way if it were a Jewish reporter who had written in support of Israel.

When I was interviewed once by a reporter from the France 1 channel, a commercial channel, at the doorway of a house in Gaza – where the army had killed the only daughter of a paralyzed mother – and I said that it was these sorts of moments that made me feel ashamed to be an Israeli, my words were not broadcast. The reporter phoned me the next day and told me his editors had decided not to include the quote, for fear of viewer response. When I once published an article in the German paper Die Welt, which is part of the publishing group of Axel Springer, where all writers had to sign a pledge that they would never cast doubt on the State of Israel’s right to exist, the editor told me: “If this critical article about the occupation had been written by a German journalist, we would not have published it.”

Despite mounting criticism of Israel, Europe is still very cautious. With Europe’s Holocaust guilt, its anxiety in the face of Islam and its readiness to blindly follow the United States anywhere, Israel still enjoys preferential status in the world. Very preferential.

But perhaps this will not always be the case. Perhaps the worse our actions become, the harsher the criticism will be. Meanwhile, two pointless wars in two years were not enough to achieve this. Maybe the time will indeed come when the world will get fed up with this aggression and violence of ours, which endanger world peace, and will say at long last: No more occupation, no more wars perpetrated by Israel for which the world has to pay. Perhaps when Israel’s dream team of Netanyahu-Lieberman-Ya’alon faces the American dream team of Obama-Clinton, conservatives versus liberals, warmongers versus seekers of negotiation – something will happen then.

In the meantime, let us remember: Israel beat Sweden 3-2 in tennis and justice prevailed once again.

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