The Israeli journalist Gideon Levy is sometimes described by those in the know as an internationally famous reporter and commentator — which is to say, most people in the world have probably never heard of him.
That might change this Southern Hemisphere spring, when Levy, a self-described “Israeli patriot,” arrives Down Under to deliver the annual Edward Said Memorial Lecture for the Australian Friends of Palestine Association.
True, the address will be given in the relative obscurity of Adelaide — the proverbial one-horse Aussie town where somebody shot the horse — but the likely theme of his planned address will almost certainly obtain brisk media coverage.
Levy, in the words of the advance publicity, used to support the two-state solution. He has since had second thoughts. He argues that it has become untenable, “and he now supports one-state solution. He supports boycotting Israel, saying it is ‘the Israeli patriot’s final refuge.’ Levy has said that economic boycott is more important, but that he also supports academic and cultural boycott.”
Aside from the clunky use of Dr Johnson’s famous phrase, which used in full would have the writer going on to describe himself as a “scoundrel,” which is presumably not what he means, the blurb is deeply problematic on at least a couple of fronts.
As Norman Finkelstein has put it, dismissively, the major goal of the official BDS “movement” is the elimination of Israel, a sovereign state established and recognized under international law. When it comes to the Palestinian cause, the ultra-left wing Finkelstein has long enjoyed rock star status — as opposed to Levy’s ukulele-player billing — so he’s worth listening to on this subject. To declare oneself as both patriotically Israeli and a one-stater is really about as logical as talking about boiling ice.
But to be any kind of Israeli at all — patriotic or no — while also a committed BDS advocate represents another immediate problem.
A cultural boycott is a cultural boycott is a cultural boycott. And that necessarily includes Israeli journalists traveling the world to give reverentially received lectures and hawk their own particular work.
Levy may see himself as part of the solution rather than the problem. But you can’t have it both ways. As a living product of the culture he wants to see shunned, he should at least have the decency to lead the way by falling on his own sword.
He could even use the time at home to read The Two-State Delusion, a relatively recent, thoughtful work by the American scholar Padraig O’Malley, who starts out from the premise indicated in the title but comes to the conclusion that a one-state arrangement is basically unworkable, too.
O’Malley would probably also give a more valuable lecture in Oz, too, come to think of it.