Apartheid for the papparazzi

Conjure if you will, a Greek who sets out to make his reputation by defaming the Greek people. If that’s worth only a chuckle, what to make of the Gideon Levy’s of Israel?

Levy, you may recall, is the journalist for Ha’aretz who took the results of a poll and contorted them into the libel that most Israeli Jews would support an apartheid system. Now if you want to rubbish a country and its people apartheid would be the ultimate mud to sling at them. Only look at ingredients listed on the Statute of the ICC:   

“Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation or forcible transfer of population; imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty; torture, rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy and sterilization; persecution of a group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious grounds; disappearance of people in the context of a regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.”

One way or another slinging apartheid mud involves mucky work. With repercussions. The Gideon Levy’s of Israel are not our nominal Greek, only good for a chuckle. They stir up intra-Jewish warfare; they empower would-be exterminators of their compatriot Jews. Remember, the boycott and sanctions crowd invariably makes the point that if Israelis condemn their own country for apartheid why should they hold back from doing that.  

To contemplate the Israeli defamation artist is thus not to fritter away precious time. What lessons do the Gideon Levy’s hold?  To what ends do they leverage the apartheid smear? 

If honest they would tell you that international exposure – fame at best – was on their mind. Professor Robert Wistrich, the eminent political scientist, well grasped this when he wrote: “Israel-bashing is the contemporary key to acceptance.” Even a humble saxophone player may aspire to overnight celebrity status. “It is Gilad Atzmon’s blunt anti-Zionism rather than his music that has given him an international profile,” explained the Guardian.

So look at market conditions before anything to explain why the defamer of Israel is different from our theoretical Greek. There are no market-takers for defamatory stories on Greeks; there are for defamation by Israelis about Israelis. It’s a product for which international demand is guaranteed, so much so that the apartheid smear commands a premium, with claims of Israeli brutality coming in a distant second.

Hence the motive of the Gideon Levy type: self-promotion.

All of which leaves the more troubling vitals – those that cannot be seen. What inner force compels an Israeli into defaming his country, not in some idle moment, but with regularity and method?  And what makes his activism so boundless and bitter? These are not easy questions. Contradictions must be resolved and the psyche exposed. It took a French philosopher– playwright who never met an Israeli to succeed in doing both.

 “The Jew,’ wrote Jean-Paul Sartre before Israel was a country, “has allowed himself to be poisoned by the stereotype of Jews, and lives in fear that his acts will correspond to this stereotype. So he over-adjusts, to be distinguished radically from acts catalogued as Jewish. If he does not do more than everybody else – much more – he is guilty, a dirty Jew.”

 Insert ‘Israeli’ for Jew, and you have the Gideon Levy type. Plagued by guilt he over-compensates. When international norms call for Israel to be demonized he feels compelled to trump that to the point of playing dishonest cards. Only then can he feel truly absolved of guilt from the original sin of being a wicked Israeli.

 But there’s more than guilt on his wracked mind. There’s the fear factor common to a people under siege. Explains Dr Kenneth Levin from the Psychiatry Department at Harvard: “Elements of besieged groups…take to heart the indictments and calumnies of the attackers, however bigoted or absurd. They hope that by doing so, and either distancing themselves from (Israel) or seeking to reform it in conformance with the attacks against Israel they will appease the besiegers and win relief.”

The Gideon Levy’s of Israel, embracing the indictments of the enemy, can never admit to shameful appeasement; so they promote their stance in moral and ethical terms. They join ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ and the boycott movement; they peddle the line that Zionists stole the land from Palestinians; they bow to the faith that Jewish nationalism is uniquely wicked.   

The historical facts of Israel are the mumbling thoughts of a shabby little world – so at least think the Gideon Levy’s, offended. The facts give them no guidance.  There is too much difference between their world and reality. 

About the Author
The writer is a prolific author of novels and non-fiction, essayist and commentator on ‘Enemies of Zion’ which happens also to be the title of his latest book. His works are The Paymaster, 1998; Hadrian’s Echo, 2012; Contributor to ‘War by other means: Israel and its detractors’, 2012; Enemies of Zion, (for publication 2017); and Balaam’s curse ( a novel in progress)