Gideon Levy (Hebrew: גדעון לוי; born 1953) is an Israeli journalist and author. Levy writes opinion pieces and a weekly column for the newspaper Haaretz that often focus on the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. Levy has won prizes for his articles on human rights in the Israeli occupied territories, and has been hailed as an "heroic journalist". His critics characterize him as left wing and accuse him of being a propagandist for Hamas.
Levy was born in 1953 in Tel Aviv.
Levy's father, Heinz (Zvi) Loewy, was born in the town of Saaz in the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia, and earned a law degree from the University of Prague. He fled the Nazis in 1939 on a flight organized by two Slovakian Jews, together with 800 others. He spent six months on an illegal immigrant boat, the Frossoula, registered under a Panamanian flag, which was denied entry into Turkey and Palestine, and was permitted only temporary anchorage at Tripoli. He was then imprisoned in a detention camp at Beirut for six weeks. The group was then allowed to leave. During its journey, the ship was strafed by Royal Air Force planes, killing two passengers, after which the group was transferred to another ship, the Tiger Hill, which reached Mandate Palestine, where it ran aground at Tel-Aviv's Frischman Beach. His mother, Thea, from Ostrava, Czechoslovakia  was brought to Palestine in a rescue operation for children in 1939, and was placed in a kibbutz. His father initially opened a bakery in Herzliya with his sister and worked as a newspaper deliveryman, but later found a job as an office clerk.
The family initially lived in poverty, but their lives became relatively comfortable when the German Holocaust reparations arrived. Levy attended Public School Alef. He and his younger brother Rafi would often sing together, notably songs composed by Haim Hefer. During the Six-Day War, the street adjacent to his home was hit by Arab artillery. Levy describes his political views as a teenager as typically mainstream. "I was a full member of the nationalistic religious orgy. We all were under the feeling that the whole project [of Israel] is in an existentialistic danger. We all felt that another holocaust is around the corner."
Levy resides in the Ramat Aviv neighborhood of Tel Aviv, on a site that was, before 1948, part of the Palestinian Arab village of Sheikh Munis. He is a divorced father of two. He says his sons do not share his politics and do not read anything he writes.
In 1974, Levy was drafted into the Israeli Defense Forces, where he served as a reporter for Israel Army Radio. From 1978 to 1982 he worked as an aide to Shimon Peres, then leader of the Israeli Labor Party. In 1982, he began to write for the Israeli daily Haaretz. In 1983–1987, he was an assistant to the editor-in-chief. Despite his coverage of the Israeli-Arab conflict, he speaks no Arabic. He has written a column called "Twilight Zone" about the hardships of the Palestinians since 1988. In 2004, Levy published a compilation of articles entitled Twilight Zone – Life and Death under the Israeli Occupation. With Haim Yavin, he co-edited Whispering Embers, a documentary series on Russian Jewry after the fall of communism. He hosted A Personal meeting with Gideon Levy, a weekly talk show that was broadcast on Israeli cable TV on channel 3, and has appeared periodically on other television talk shows.
Levy has said that his views on Israel's policies toward the Palestinians developed only after joining Haaretz. "When I first started covering the West Bank for Haaretz, I was young and brainwashed," he said in an interview. "I would see settlers cutting down olive trees and soldiers mistreating Palestinian women at the checkpoints, and I would think, 'These are exceptions, not part of government policy.' It took me a long time to see that these were not exceptions – they were the substance of government policy."
In an interview, he said he doubts that any other newspaper in Israel apart from Haaretz would give him the journalistic freedom to publish the kind of pieces he writes.
On the issue of copyright violations in journalism, Gideon Levy voiced support for Johann Hari of The Independent, who was accused of plagiarism, while confirming that Hari had lifted quotes from Levy's newspaper column.
Levy defines himself as a "patriotic Israeli". He criticizes what he sees as Israeli society's moral blindness to the effects of its acts of war and occupation. He has referred to the construction of settlements on private Palestinian land as "the most criminal enterprise in [Israel's] history". He opposed the 2006 Lebanon War, and the view that civilian casualties were inevitable. In 2007, he said that the plight of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, then under Israeli blockade, made him ashamed to be an Israeli. "My modest mission is to prevent a situation in which many Israelis will be able to say 'We didn't know'," said Levy in an interview.
Levy supports unilateral withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territories without concessions. "Israel is not being asked 'to give' anything to the Palestinians; it is only being asked to return – to return their stolen land and restore their trampled self-respect, along with their fundamental human rights and humanity."
Levy wrote that the 2008–09 Gaza War was a failed campaign and its objectives were not achieved. "The conclusion is that Israel is a violent and dangerous country, devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignoring the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot about international law", he wrote in an editorial.
In 2010, Levy described Hamas as a fundamentalist organization and holds it responsible for the Qassam rockets fired at Israeli cities: "Hamas is to be blamed for launching the Qassams. This is unbearable. No sovereign state would have tolerated it. Israel had the right to react."
Levy supports boycotting Israel, saying it is "the Israeli patriot's final refuge". Levy has said that economic boycott is more important, but that he also supports academic and cultural boycott.
He has been subject to death threats.
Levy's writing has earned him numerous awards, including the Emil Grunzweig Human Rights Award in 1996 by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Anna Lindh Foundation Journalism Award in 2008 for an article he wrote about Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces, and the Peace Through Media Award in 2012. He has been described as "a powerful liberal voice" by The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and praised by Johann Hari of The Independent as "the heroic Israeli journalist". Journalist and literary critic Nicholas Lezard in his review of Levy's book The Punishment of Gaza described him as "an Israeli dedicated to saving his country's honour," although "there is much of the story he leaves out." He has been profiled in Le Monde and Der Spiegel. "He has a global name. He may be [one of] the most famous and the most invited journalists in Israel", wrote Israeli journalist Ben-Dror Yemini.
On the other hand, he has been criticized for being anti-Israeli and supporting Palestinian radicalism. "Is it wrong to ask of reporters in a country that is in the midst of a difficult war to show a little more empathy for their people and their country?" asked Amnon Dankner of the Maariv newspaper. Ben-Dror Yemini, the editor of the opinion page of Maariv, called Levy one of the "propagandists for the Hamas". Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, wrote "[One of] the current Israeli heroes [of the Hamas], from whom the Palestinians garner support for their ways, [is] Gideon Levy...." In 2008, Arutz Sheva reported that Levy's article about the Jerusalem bulldozer attack was translated into Arabic for a Hamas website. In 2006, Gideon Ezra, Israel's former deputy Minister of Internal Security, suggested that the General Security Services should monitor Levy as a borderline security risk.
Israeli novelist Irit Linur set off a wave of subscription cancellations to Haaretz in 2002, when she wrote an open letter to the paper cancelling her own subscription. "It is a person's right to be a radical leftist, and publish a newspaper in accordance with his world view... However Haaretz has reached the point where its anti-Zionism has become stupid and evil", she wrote. She also accused Levy of amateurism because he does not speak Arabic.
Other public figures also cancelled their subscriptions, including Roni Daniel, the military and security correspondent for Israeli Channel 2. Levy himself joked that there is a thick file of anti-Levy cancellations in the Haaretz newsroom.
In 2013 Levy published an article about what he views as a disgraceful attitude towards African asylum seekers in Israel. In considering the reasons for this attitude he wrote "This time the issue is not security, Israel’s state religion. Nor are still talking about a flood of refugees, because the border with Egypt has been closed. So the only explanation for this disgraceful treatment lies in the national psyche. The migrants’ color is the problem. A million immigrants from Russia, a third of them non-Jews, some of whom were also found to have a degree of alcohol and crime in their blood, were not a problem. Tens of thousands of Africans are the ultimate threat." Levy's remarks about Russians produced accusations of racism from such as Eddie Zhensker, executive director of the Russian advocacy NGO Morashtenu, who accused Levy of "brute and coarse prejudices". Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver demanded that Levy be placed on trial. Levy later apologised to those who were offended, but claimed that the real problem was that he had called Russian "immigrants" instead of "olim" and compared them to Africans.
In February 2016, after Levy criticized Israel Labor Party its Secretary General, Yehiel Bar, wrote in Haaretz that Levy is a Trojan horse. Bar wrote "Sad, that Levy who used to be a moral compass, became a broken compass: at all time, with no connection to circumstances or reality, Levy's compass points negative, points despair, points irrelevant" and added that Levy regards Palestinians as uneducated children who are exempted of any responsibility to their actions.
רק כך אפשר להסביר את השתלחותו חסרת הרסן בעיתונאי השמאל, הח"מ ביניהם ("העין השביעית", גיליון מס' 29). לברנע קשה כנראה לכתוב בלי השקפת עולם וקשה לו שבעתיים להכיר בקיומם של עמיתים למקצוע שהשקפת עולמם היא נר לעבודתם.
Somewhere, perhaps in a refugee camp in terrible poverty, lives the family of the farmer who plowed the land where my house now stands."
זכותו של אדם להיות שמאלני-רדיקלי, ולהוציא עיתון בהתאם להשקפת עולמו... אבל "הארץ" הגיע לשלב בו האנטי-ציונות שלו הופכת לעתים קרובות מדי לעיתונות מטופשת ומרושעת.[b]Translation: When Gideon Levy accuses Israel of turning Marwan Barghouti from a peace seeker to an impresario of suicide bombings, it is as logical an interpretation, just as the claim that the wave of attacks on 11 September were a plot by Mossad. In a private conversation with him, he told me one time that he would not travel a hundred meters to save the life of a settler, and it seems to me that his loves and hates have been long tainting his heart-rending reports from the occupied Palestinian territories. Original:
כשגדעון לוי מאשים את ישראל בהפיכתו של מרואן ברגותי משוחר שלום לאמרגן פיגועי התאבדות, זו פרשנות הגיונית, ממש כמו הטענה שגל הפיגועים ב-11 בספטמבר הוא מזימה של המוסד. בשיחה פרטית איתו, אמר לי פעם שהוא לא היה נוסע מאה מטר כדי להציל את חייו של מתנחל, ונראה לי שאהבותיו ושנאותיו מכתימות כבר מזמן את דיווחיו הנוגעים ללב מהשטחים הפלשתינים הכבושים.
כמו כן, ואולי גם את זה לא צריך לציין, כל הקריירה שלו נגועה בחלטוריזם, מכיוון שהוא אחד הכתבים היחידים בעולם לעניינים ערביים, שלא יודע ערבית, לא מבין ערבית ולא קורא ערבית. מתרגמים לו סימולטנית, וזה מספיק. לטעמי, זו עיתונות חובבנית.