On September 22, 300 UTM students gathered to hear Gideon Levy, an award-winning Israeli journalist, speak about his new book The Punishment of Gaza and his thoughts on how the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will play out in the future.
Writing for the Iraeli newspaper Haaretz since 1982, Levy coupled his critique of Israel’s conduct towards the Palestinians with a pessimistic vision of the future. Having been on the receiving end of constant hate mail from fellow Israelis for his consistent critique of Israeli policies, Levy stated, “There has never been an occupation where the occupier felt so good about himself, and there has never been an occupation where the occupied presented himself as a victim.”
Levy called Israel’s occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories the “real drama of Israel in its dark backyard,” and went on to condemn the peace process as a sham. He criticized Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not doing the “minimum of the minimum” for peace.
Regarding the United States’ long-time patronage of Israel, Levy expressed “disappointment” with the policies of president Barack Obama, which he said do not deviate much from previous administrations.
Levy stated that any successful, realistic, and meaningful negotiations would have to include the choice party of the Palestinians.
Such views have made Gideon Levy a deeply unpopular figure in most of Israel, a country which he describes as fiercely nationalistic. He himself served in the Israel Defense Forces in his youth, and it was not until the late 1980s that Levy started travelling into the OPT, something that most Israelis never do. His visits to the OPT showed him the brutality of Israel’s occupation. Levy believes that it is necessary to tell the story of those who live under Israeli occupation.
“Writing is all I know in this life,” Levy stated in a post-event interview, “and we all must do what we feel is right and just.”
Levy did not seem completely hopeless, pointing to the disbanding of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of South African apartheid as positive examples. He expressed genuine surprise and joy at what he described as “high enthusiasm” among Canadians in support of justice for the Palestinians.
The lecture was organized by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, and was partially funded by the UTM students’ union.