The willingness to admit mistakes is almost a lost art in Israel’s media. In most cases, Israeli opinion makers, when proven wrong, prefer to ignore the whole thing and just move on, nothing to see here, folks. One exception to the rule is Gideon Levy, Haa’retz’s leading anti-Zionist columnist, who used an embarrassing error he had made in his column last week to blithely move the debate’s goalposts to an entirely different part of the field, and ram a new ball through. As victories go, this one required double the lying power and did little to promote dialogue inside Israel’s society. Of course, Gideon Levy to Israeli dialogue is what Sweeney Todd is to haircuts.
Writing about Gush Etzion junction, one of the bloodiest locations of the wave of terror of the past six months, Levy asked himself, “What do the settlers who pass here each day think? Are they also afraid? Do they admit it? Do they contemplate the depressing thoughts that should be inevitable — what are they doing there? Is it all worth it? Do they really wish to live like this?” at which point he listed all the despicable things settlers do, most poignantly, “Is it moral on their part to demand that IDF soldiers stand here day and night, in every kind of weather, only to protect their beliefs and their lust for real estate?”
Readers who have not been exposed to this kind of manipulative trash since 1967 might shudder at the nastiness oozing from Levy’s prose; but to most Israelis, who have read so much of it over the years, it just becomes part of the ongoing leftist buzz they’ve learned to tune out ages ago. Why Levy even bothers any more is baffling — but our sages have already said that everything a person does to earn a living is honorable, even skinning mules, so the sun rises and sets, the wind blows, and Gideon Levy collects his paychecks writing settler porn.
Except that in this episode of his Hebrew Der Stürmer editorial, Gideon Levy screwed up. He concluded the piece with, still berating his “favorite” Jews: “Do they imagine that the Palestinians would ever give up this junction which was built on their land, against their will, like the rest of the giant settlements all around?”
Philosopher and linguist Professor Asa Kasher of Tel Aviv University, an ethicist who authored the IDF Code of Conduct, posted on his Facebook page that the “Palestinian land” Gideon Levy described, that very Gush Etzion junction, was purchased by his grandfather, talmudist Menachem Mendel Kasher, who in 1926 paid ten Arab land owners good cash for the land right there, where the Gush Etzion junction today stands.
In fact, very much in contradiction of the fake Palestinian narrative Levy promotes three times a week, every week, in Ha’aretz, and many more times on television and in well paid lectures, that land, which became the Jewish community of Migdal Eder, was destroyed by Arab pogromists in 1929, same year that the Hebron Jewish community was massacred.
The Gush Etzion settlement efforts continued in the years before the establishment of the Jewish State, and in the 1940s four Jewish communities (Kfar Etzion, Ein Tzurim, Massu’ot Yitzhak, and Revadim) became permanent, thriving villages. But all four were destroyed by the Jordanian legion in 1948, their civilians who remained alive were taken captive, and the entire area came under Jordanian rule. From 1948 to 1967, that loss of the four Jewish communities of Gush Etzion—together with the destroyed Jewish communities of the Gaza Strip—remained a painful note in the Israeli nation’s collective memory. Which is why no mainstream Israeli politician dreams of handing the Gush Etzion block of towns back to the Arabs, not even the Labor party.
So that when Gideon Levy makes such a nasty statement about Jewish settlements and is proven wrong when he says they rightfully belong to the Arabs, his normative response should have been to 1. hide face in shame, or, 2. apologize profusely, or, 3. do Both.
But you already knew he didn’t. What Levy did instead was turn the whole thing on its face: yes, he declared, the settlers do own the junction, and whatever other piece of land Jews have purchased in Judea and Samaria since the early 20th century — and so do the Arabs own all the land which they had fled from in “green line” Israel, back in 1948.
It’s a seductive argument. Since Asa Kasher says he owns the Gush Etzion area because it belonged to his grandfather, therefore he believes in the right of ownership and the right of return to the land by everyone, therefore Asa Kasher should support returning, say, the lands of the Arab village of Sheikh Munis, where the campus of Tel Aviv University stands today. Levy added an enormous bunch of superlatives and adjectives about Israeli cruelty and sulfur bombs and dead Arab babies, but the gist was the Arabs’ right to much of 1948 Israel.
Prof. Kasher responded on Sunday morning, again on his Facebook page, saying he did not claim he owned the rights to Gush Etzion junction, only that his grandfather did. And he also argued he had said nothing about the proper status of lands that had been purchased by Jews and abandoned because of Arab pogroms.
“I only said that Gideon Levy is lying when he says that Gush Etzion junction used to belong to Arabs and was taken away from them by force.”
It’s on that point, for that specific lie, that Gideon Levy should apologize. He made a mistake, he stepped with great pomp and pomp and circumstance on a painful wound in Israeli history, and for that he should be sorry. If shame is in the range of emotions which Ha’aretz pundits are capable of feeling.