By Gideon Levy
Tags: Israel news Gaza flotilla
Dear Bernard-Henri Levy, unfortunately we don’t know each other. We met for a moment in Gori’s smoking rubble in the midst of the war in Georgia. You came on a brief visit and as usual attracted attention, as you did in other conflict zones you visited.
I deeply admire prominent intellectuals like yourself, who make a point of visiting the killing fields and speaking out. Your attempt to protect Israel, as demonstrated by your article in Haaretz on Tuesday (“It’s time to stop demonizing Israel”), pleased many Israelis, who were yearning for a good word about their country, a very rare commodity these days.
I won’t spoil their pleasure. But in the name of your call to end the disinformation, I wish to draw your attention to information that may have slipped your memory.
One may hazard a guess that in your younger days you would have joined the flotilla. A blockade of more than four years on 1.5 million people in those days would awakened a moral urge driving you to join the protest. But today, as far as you and most Israelis are concerned, there is no blockade on Gaza.
Talking about it in your view is “disinformation.”
By the way, since you were here already, why didn’t you pop into Gaza, as your friend Mario Vargas Llosa did, to see with your own eyes whether there’s a blockade? The doctors in Shifa Hospital, for example, would have told you about their dead due to the non-blockade.
True, nobody is dying of hunger. Yet the Gisha organization for freedom of movement released a report this week saying Israel today allows 97 items to be brought into Gaza, compared to 4,000 before the siege. Is that not a blockade?
A large Israeli supermarket holds 10,000-15,000 items; in Paris there are surely more. Yet Gaza is allowed 97. One would expect greater understanding for gastronomic needs from a refined bon vivant such as yourself, of all people.
You mention, as though you were the IDF spokesman, that Israel permits 100-125 trucks into Gaza a day. A hundred trucks for 1.5 million people ¬ is that not a “merciless siege” as the Liberation newspaper you castigated called it?
Eighty percent of Gaza’s residents subsist on aid; 90 percent of its factories are shut down or runing below capacity. Really, Bernard-Henri, isn’t that a blockade? Shouldn’t a great intellectual like you, of all people, be expected to know that people, including Gazans, need more than bread and water?
Let’s leave statistics alone, after all, philosophers don’t deal with numbers.
You write that Israel has been named as responsible for the blockade “ad
nauseum” and that this is a blockade ¬ suddenly even you call it a blockade imposed by both Israel and Egypt.
Correct. Egypt’s participation is indeed outrageous and inexplicable, but
Egypt and Israel should not be judged in the same way. The occupation in Gaza is not over, it has merely moved, to the occupier’s convenience, but Israel is still responsible.
The legal currency in Gaza is the shekel, the population registration is carried out by Israel, which also monitors anyone entering the strip. Decades
of occupation have made Gaza dependent on Israel and Israel cannot shake it off merely by “disengaging.”
But let’s put the blockade aside, whether you deny or justify it. How can you ignore the context? There have been 43 years of occupation and despair for millions of people, some of whom may wish to become Bernard-Henri Levy, and not just pass their lives in a battle for survival.
What are the chances a young Palestinian will achieve something in his life?
Look at the pictures of the Gazans crowding the Rafah border pass yesterday and see their expressions.
Surely you’ve heard of freedom. You cannot blame the occupation on anyone but us, the Israelis. There are many excuses for it, but they don’t change the ultimate fact ¬ Israel is an occupier. This is the root of all evil and this is what you have concealed. Not a word about it.
Israel may have the right to prevent arms supplies from entering Gaza, but you don’t have the right to ignore what has turned Gaza into a desperate refugee region.
True, Bernard-Henri, the world demands more of Israel than of dictatorships. This is not the “confusion of an era,” as you put it, but a new (and just) era, in which the world demands Israel pay a price for its conduct as a democracy.
Demonization? Perhaps, but the way to fight that is by imposing a siege on its arsenal. Were it not for the blockade on Gaza, were it not for the occupation, there would be no cause for demonization. Was it too much to expect of you, once the voice of conscience, to understand that?