False Dichotomies

LITERATURE HIP-HOP ISRAEL INDIA LOVE MISCELLANY

Us & Him

As an Israeli, Gideon Levy is the ultimate useful idiot for those whose life mission is the destruction of the mighty Zionist enterprise. In his weekly ‘Twilight Zone’ article, he reports on a different aspect of the occupation’s evils. Although he’s often lax with his journalistic standards in these pieces, I do think they do a service in highlighting the consequences of continued Israeli rule in the West Bank, and I’d agree with him that most Israelis are apathetic about the occupation. Giving him a weekly column, though, is a step too far.

What most winds me up about Levy is the consistency with which he speaks of ‘we’ and ‘us’ to talk of Israelis, when it’s clear that he doesn’t include himself in that particular collective, at least not when he’s about to launch yet another onslaught against it. This week, he’s banging on about Israelis abroad. “You might expect such a tourism-loving people to open its eyes and ears to what can be seen and heard around the globe; instead, we keep walling ourselves in against what the world thinks and feels…20,000 will come from the Sinai without seeing Egypt, thousands of students come home every year without exchanging a word with a Pole [he's referring to the March of the Living], and tens of thousands come back from Goa or the Tierra del Fuego without listening to what the Indians of South America or the Indians of India have to say. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have “done” America and Europe, east and west, and they will come home as oblivious and closed in as they were when they left.” As opposed to the other nations of the world, who are famous for travelling to beach resorts and isolated islands in order to find out as much as they can about local culture.

He then attacks the Israeli tendency to issue travel warnings in advance of major holidays, intimating that they have a detrimental effect on Israel’s view of the wider world. How does this square with his assertion that “No one seems to travel as much as the wandering Israeli”? And what is wrong with sometimes erring on the side of caution? Off the top of my head, Israelis and Jews have been targeted by terror attacks in Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Kenya, and Mumbai. Attempting to warn people in advance of potential attacks is simply the intelligence services doing their job. It’s not a hard science. They should not be criticised because they are not always able to predict the future.

Next, we have pure invention: “Alongside the threats of the Counterterrorism Bureau comes the usual threat about the whole world being against us. The Poles are anti-Semites, hardly anything needs to be said about the Turks and Germans, the Swedes all hate us and so do the French. Nearly every young person will come back with some fabricated story about some appalling anti-Semitic incident.” For what it’s worth, and leaving aside the fact that Levy’s powers of omniscience are not yet sufficient to know whether somebody’s story of an anti-Semitic incident is true or false, this has not been my experience of Israelis returning from foreign shores. And if he is right, why are Israelis such big travellers?

Ah, it’s because they travel together. “Between the Chabad House in Nepal and Moshe’s hummus place in Thailand, Israelis come in tight bunches − Israelis with Israelis, no foreigners allowed. They eat shawarma and shakshuka, schnitzel in a pita and pizza on a plate just like back home, including croutons and cornflakes from Israel. That’s why they went all that way − to be Israelis at home and Israelis abroad. Even when in Rome they don’t do as the Romans do.” Where does one start with this evil little paragraph? Firstly, restaurants in popular tourist centres always cater to their major clientele. It’s true that a McLeod Ganj rooftop cafe will have an Israeli page on the menu. But it will also have an Italian page, a French page, and a Korean page. It’s called good business. Not wanting to eat Indian food all the time in India does not make one beyond the pale. It’s true that Israelis flock together in a particularly noticeable way, but it’s an exaggeration to say that they are despised for it. Whenever I’ve travelled I have seen non-Israelis getting on perfectly well with Israelis, banter included. I’ve sometimes even been put out that Israelis have been more interested in the non-Israelis than me. And even if he were right, would this trait be that worthy of condemnation? Birds of a feather flock together – what of it? Would he say the same of the Japanese?

The problem is that Israelis know nothing about other cultures:  ”The Americans are square, the Indians are primitive, the South Americans are backward, the Turks are Muslim, the Brits are old-fashioned, the Scandinavians are naive and the Italians are ridiculous. Israelis are the chosen people. We’ll teach them all a lesson in improvisation, resourcefulness and trickery.” Wow – national stereotyping! An Israeli invention? Truly we are all-powerful. And where does he get these particular stereotypes from? What does ridiculous mean in this context (admitedly at this point I should check the Hebrew original, but I can’t be bothered)? Do Israelis really think Americans are square? Or could it be that Pesach is a slow news week and Levy had to create a fiction in shorter time than usual?

For only he can get away with writing stuff like this. It’s false, self-righteous, nasty, and juvenile. The aim is to make Israel out to be as bad as possible, and for Levy to be good as possible. It’s how he makes a living, and it’s how he’s achieved his (minor) fame. If somebody had written this article about another nation, Levy would be calling them a racist. It is libel on a national scale.

5 comments

5 Comments so far

  1. Michael W. April 25th, 2011 4:09 pm

    That’s Gideon Levy as usual. Many in the Radical Left think like him.

  2. Eamonn April 25th, 2011 4:46 pm

    In large parts of Latin America you’d have your work cut out for you finding an “Indian” due to the fact that they were victims of genocide and there are hardly any of them left.

  3. Avram April 25th, 2011 5:33 pm

    Well written Alex

  4. Zkharya April 25th, 2011 7:00 pm

    Here Levy does sound like a budding Gilad Atzmon:

    ”The Americans are square, the Indians are primitive, the South Americans are backward, the Turks are Muslim, the Brits are old-fashioned, the Scandinavians are naive and the Italians are ridiculous. Israelis are the chosen people. We’ll teach them all a lesson in improvisation, resourcefulness and trickery.”

  5. Jonathan Levy April 26th, 2011 1:59 pm

    I remember the article which made me stop reading Gideon Levy. It was after an eight-year-old Israeli boy lost a leg to a Kassam rocket, and the papers made a big fuss over it, including international newspapers.

    Gideon Levy’s reaction? It’s unseemly to present a suffering face to the world, instead we should be presenting our proud achievements.

    This from a man who never stops trumpeting Palestinian suffering, and whose columns have never mentioned a single Israeli virtue.

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