Blog post

Gideon Levy on Israeli dissidents, and a podcast of his interview with Johann Hari

Tamar Shlaim31 March 2011

Gideon Levy writes in Ha'aretz on the role of Israeli dissidents and his recent appearance at Jewish Book Week 2011: 

About two weeks ago, I was invited to the Jewish Book Week in London, following the publication in English of my book "The Punishment of Gaza." The Jewish establishment in Britain threatened to boycott the event, the organizers considered hiring security guards, and roughly 500 people, mainly middle-of-the-road Jews, filled the hall, asked questions and mainly, in their modest way, expressed great sympathy. I spoke, as I always do, against the occupation, the injustices and the damage it does to Israel and to the Palestinians, against the attacks on Israeli democracy as I have written in the hundreds of articles that have been published in Haaretz in Hebrew and in English, and as I did at the London School of Economics and Trinity University in Dublin.

As on previous occasions, a "spy" from the Israeli Embassy was sent to Trinity - this one, an Israeli student who was asked to write down what I said and convey it to the embassy. The embassy quickly dispatched a report to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, and the Foreign Ministry quickly leaked it to a well-known newspaper, which published only my harshest statements, without context - and there you have it: the indictment of a dissident.

Visit Ha'aretz to read the full article. The Yedioth Ahronoth article on Gideon Levy's talks can be read here. When Gideon Levy visited London last year, the Israeli Embassy emailed British Jews telling them about the event then, when they were criticised in the Jerusalem Post, said it was to inform "Jewish activists...about an anti-Israel event". 

Levy was in conversation with Johann Hari at the Jewish Book Week event, and a podcast of their remarkable interview is now available online. Despite (or because of?) threats of a boycott by the Zionist Federation, the event was sold out. 

The podcast has been tweeted by Stephen Fry and blogged by Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic. 

Visit the Independent to stream the podcast, or download it free from iTunes.

Hari also profiled Gideon Levy last year for the Independent:

The long history of the Jewish people has a recurring beat - every few centuries, a brave Jewish figure stands up to warn his people they are have ended up on an immoral or foolish path that can only end in catastrophe, and implores them to change course. The first prophet, Amos, warned that the Kingdom of Israel would be destroyed because the Jewish people had forgotten the need for justice and generosity - and he was shunned for it. Baruch Spinoza saw beyond the Jewish fundamentalism of his day to a materialist universe that could be explained scientifically - and he was excommunicated, even as he cleared the path for the great Jewish geniuses to come. Could Levy, in time, be seen as a Jewish prophet in the unlikely wilderness of a Jewish state, calling his people back to a moral path?

Visit the Independent to read the full profile.