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  March 7, 2018

Netanyahu or Not, Israel is Corrupted (2/2)

In part two of our interview, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy says that blind US support has corrupted Israel and that a movement for a democratic state where all Israelis and Palestinians are equal offers the best path to justice
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Gideon Levy is a columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz, which he joined in 1982. He spent four years as the newspaper’s deputy editor and is currently a member of its editorial board. He is widely considered the “dean” of Israeli journalism—as well as “the most hated man in Israel.” As Levy has written, “Treating the Palestinians as victims and the crimes perpetrated against them as crimes is considered treasonous.”
Levy writes the weekly Twilight Zone feature, which covers the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza over the last 30 years, as well as political editorials for the newspaper. His columns about politics, money, how Israel's military occupation is changing Israeli society and about U.S.-Israel relations are widely read and discussed around the world.


AARON MATÉ: It's The Real News. I'm Aaron Maté, continuing with Part Two of my conversation with Gideon Levy, veteran Israeli journalist for the newspaper Haaretz. Gideon, we're in Washington at this conference, the Israel Lobby in American Policy, and it's being held on the eve of the annual summit of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In your keynote speech today at this conference, at this sort of counter-summit to the AIPAC Summit, you said that the Israel Lobby in Washington is the Israeli people's biggest enemy. Why?

GIDEON LEVY: I say it's the biggest enemy of Israel in the United States, because they corrupt Israel, because they work for an automatic and blind support for Israel no matter what Israel is doing. This is corrupting Israel, because they supply Israel, who is totally occupation addicted, with more drugs, and more money to buy the drugs. This is not friendship. This is corrupting a society and corrupting a state. If it wouldn't be the Jewish Lobby, maybe America's policy in the Middle East would be real, more just, and more even-handed. Israel, justice, Palestinians, everyone would have gain out of it, but as long as the United States are so one-sided for the occupier, and as long as the Jewish Lobby has an influence on this, this, in my eyes, is really corrupting Israel.

AARON MATÉ: Let me ask you, do you think sometimes, some critics of the Israel Lobby go a little bit too far? So, for example, some argue that the Israel Lobby played a big role in the invasion of Iraq, and I think they also forget that on key issues, where the U.S. government wants to go a certain way, and the Israel Lobby doesn't, that the Israel Lobby is told to fall in line. Like, for example, they opposed the Iran nuclear deal, but they lost that. So, is there a risk of not dismissing its importance, but is there a risk of maybe inflating just how influential it really is?

GIDEON LEVY: Exaggeration is always an enemy of truth. Those who blame Israel, or the Israeli army as a Nazi army, are just counterproductive, because by the end of the day Israeli army is committing crimes, but it's not comparable to the Nazi army. So, therefore, you miss the point. Same for all kind of conspiracy theories, about the role of the Jews, or the role of the Jewish Lobby. You know, you didn't mention 9/11. There are also those who believe that the Jews are behind 9/11. What Israel is doing is bad enough without exaggerating. What the Lobby is doing for occupying Israel, for Israel as an occupier, is bad enough, and you don't need to exaggerate. But still, by the end of the day, the Jewish Lobby, together with the Evangelist Lobby--don't forget the Christian Zionists who are no less powerful than the Jews, and maybe even more.

But they, together, create an unbelievable situation in which, in many cases, one should ask himself, between the United States and Israel, who is the real superpower? And who is in the pocket of whom? For many years, this was an open question.

AARON MATÉ: Well, famously Bill Clinton asked that question after meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu. He said, "Who does he think the superpower is around here?"

GIDEON LEVY: Absolutely, and in a very unbelievable, or ironic way, the eight years of Barack Obama made this question even more an actual question.


GIDEON LEVY: I think that under the eight years of Barack Obama, Israel went wild, like never before. Benjamin Netanyahu started his term, was really being afraid of Barack Obama, realized that this man, in terms of the Middle East, was a paper tiger. And he realized he could do whatever he wants, he's not going to pay any price, and therefore he went wild, and he really ignored Barack Obama.

AARON MATÉ: Right, it got to the point where even during the Israeli invasion of Gaza in summer of 2014, Obama even helped re-arm Israel after it ran out of ammunition, after firing so much on the Gaza strip.

GIDEON LEVY: Say no more. Say no more. Barack Obama, whose heart was really in the right place, who knew one or two things about human rights, about the Palestinians, who compared once the Palestinian destiny to the black slavery in this country, he was a full collaborator with the Israeli occupation.

AARON MATÉ: And this is a theme that runs throughout your work, for many years, where you've pointed out that some of the most dangerous people on the ground, in the occupied territories, are people with soaring rhetoric who sound nice, who sound like they care about Palestinian rights, like Shimon Peres, and even Yitzhak Rabin, who is known as a peacemaker.

GIDEON LEVY: Yeah. I'd rather have the extreme right wingers than the hypocrites. I think that with the right wingers, at least you know where you stand. I mean, what you see is what you get.

AARON MATÉ: So, on that front, we have Trump now in office, and he is moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, fulfilling an extreme right wing, wish, but also a wish of many prominent Democrats, too, in the Washington, like Chuck Schumer. Is it better to have someone in, like Trump, who can at least more honestly show the face of U.S. policy?

GIDEON LEVY: Absolutely, yes. Donald Trump put an end to the masquerade. He declared officially that the United States is one-sided. He put an end to this masquerade in which the United States presented itself as an even-handed mediator, which it was never. But now it's very clear, it's on the table. We are only with the occupier, we are only with Israel. We ignore, totally, the Palestinians. They are worth nothing for us, and, by the way, he also declared the official death of the two-state solution. Because if Jerusalem is only the capital of Israel, it's very clear that there will never be a Palestinian state. Any by this I am very grateful to Donald Trump. He at least called the bluff.

AARON MATÉ: But when you say that this certifies the death of the two-state solution, why grant them that right? Insofar as Palestinians have a right to a capital in East Jerusalem, they have a right to a state in the West Bank, Israel has no claim to any territory that it illegally occupies. Why let Donald Trump decide that the two-state solution is dead?

GIDEON LEVY: No, he didn't decide it. He just declared it. The two-state solution died a long time ago, and I may say even more than this. The two-state solution was never born, because there was never an Israeli Prime Minister who ever really meant to put an end, a total end, to the Israeli occupation, and the best proof is that they never stopped building settlements, and as long as you build settlements, you have no intention whatsoever to put an end to the occupation. He just declared the truth, but the truth was there a long time ago, because once you have over 700,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, nobody's going to evacuate this number. And therefore, reality on the ground is irreversible for a long time now. Donald Trump just declared the ceremony.

AARON MATÉ: Why cede them that right? What if world opinion could put enough pressure on Israel to withdraw from all the territories, and the U.S. policy could be changed so that it no longer covered Israel at the UN, and no longer gave it billions of dollars in aid. Would the Israeli settlers stay in their settlements if they no longer had the Israeli military to protect them? I'm thinking very, very long term, hypothetical here.

GIDEON LEVY: First of all, it didn't happen for 50 years, Aaron. And not by chance. The world did nothing to put an end to the occupation except hollow lip service. Both the EU, the UN, and the United States did nothing to put an end to the occupation. When Russia invaded Ukraine, within weeks the EU put big Russia, within weeks, the EU put sanctions on Russia. Now, after 50 years, nobody speaks seriously about any kind of sanctions on Israel, so why would this happen in the coming 50 years? By the end of the day, we have to realize that the world is supporting Israel, almost blindly, and automatically. And I don't see a way to change it, but through civil societies, not by governments. Governments will not change.

AARON MATÉ: Towards what goal, then? Just a Democratic state for everyone in that land?

GIDEON LEVY: What else is left? If the two-state solution is dead, as I think, we are facing only a one-state. Now, one state we have now for 50 years. It's not a new invasion now. Now we have one state. The only problem is, is that it has nothing to do with democracy, because as long as you govern another people in such a brutal way, through a military occupying force, you have nothing to do with democracy. Even if it's only in your backyard. But it is there. It is in our backyard. Even if in the front Israel is this lovely darling of the West, with its lovely charming, liberal democracy for its Jews, in their backyard there is this one of the most brutal tyrannies on Earth. So, this cannot be perceived as democracy. The struggle must be, from now on, to change this reality.

In other words, to change the regime between the river and the Mediterranean. Changing the regimes means to go for real democracy. Who is against democracy again? I would like to know, in this country, in my country, who is opposing democracy?

AARON MATÉ: Well, the problem in Israel is that it's the majority of Israelis who are opposed to real democracy.

GIDEON LEVY: So, let's call them by their name. So, they are racist. So, it's an apartheid state.

AARON MATÉ: No argument there, but the question is, is it realistic enough to believe that, that can be overcome? That, that can be changed? Especially when they have the vital support of the U.S.? That's why I'm asking, what is more likely to be attained? This unjust two-state solution, or something that no Israeli, at least right now, would agree to?

GIDEON LEVY: Look, the Israelis don't agree to both. The Israelis want to have it all. They want to be Jewish and Democratic and occupying. If it goes according to what the Israelis are ready to do, it means continuing the status quo forever. Let me be doubtful that this is possible, because no colonial force lasted forever. And no empire, even, lasted forever. When it is so rotten from inside, rotten morally, it cannot last forever. So, now you ask, what will happen before what? I don't see anyone evacuating the settlers. You mentioned before, and I didn't answer you, about the possibility they will stay there. This is no solution, because you're not just dealing with human beings. You are dealing with people who went there in order to prevent any kind of chance of a Palestinian state.

They are not innocent settlers. They have a very clear agenda, which is a racist, nationalistic agenda. If they stay there, there is no viable Palestinian state. There is no peace, there is no justice, there is nothing. So, we are left with the one state, and now let's struggle over its regime, over its nature. Let's change the discourse and speak about equal rights. About one person, one vote. What is more just than this? Even if right now it looks like a utopia, I can't see anything else but this. I don't see any other solution.

AARON MATÉ: Regardless of what eventual outcome there is, let's talk about, as we wrap, the U.S. role. How much of a difference could it make on the ground, if there was a fundamental shift in U.S. policy? If enough people in the U.S. got behind Palestinian rights to compel Congress, to compel the White House to make serious changes, to stop supporting the occupation?

GIDEON LEVY: You can't exaggerate about it. It will be dramatic. It will be critical. The Israeli occupation, or the two-state solution, or the one-state solution. Israel was never so dependent on the United States, politically, militarily, economically. Israel is totally isolated in the world without the United States. Everything, all the international assets of Israel, are due to the fact that they have this open door in the White House. This automatic, blind support in whatever they do. The day that this will change will be the day of a new era in the Middle East, no doubt about it. The only problem is that, why would it happen? I don't see any signs that it's going to happen, if it didn't happen even under someone like Barack Obama, who was really a hell of a promise for people like me. If it didn't happen under Obama, I am very skeptical.

AARON MATÉ: But that's the trap that people like Obama lay, is that people like us think that they're going to do it for us, but unless they're compelled to do it by popular mobilization, they certainly don't.

GIDEON LEVY: You see polls in the United States which are promising. I mean, support in Israel is in a constant decrease, and that's good news, but you don't see any shift in the policy until now. Even not a hint, for sure not under Donald Trump. But, I don't think that Hilary Clinton, for example, would be any better, in terms of the Middle East. So, it's still long way to over bridge. By the way, this is true also, in Europe. Between the civil societies, who are more and more critical about Israel and their governments, and this over-bridging will take some more time.

AARON MATÉ: We'll leave it there. Gideon Levy, thank you.

GIDEON LEVY: Thank you very much Aaron.

AARON MATÉ: And thank you for joining us on the Real News.


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