Gideon Levy / An open response to A.B. Yehoshua
'As an Israeli, I cannot admonish Hamas' leaders while our hands are covered in blood.'
Thank you for your frank letter and kind words. You wrote it was written from a "position of respect," and I, too, deeply respect your wonderful literary works. But, unfortunately, I have a lot less respect for your current political position. It is as if the mighty, including you, have succumbed to a great and terrible conflagration that has consumed any remnant of a moral backbone.
You, too, esteemed author, have fallen prey to the wretched wave that has inundated, stupefied, blinded and brainwashed us. You're actually justifying the most brutal war Israel has ever fought and in so doing are complacent in the fraud that the "occupation of Gaza is over" and justifying mass killings by evoking the alibi that Hamas "deliberately mingles between its fighters and the civilian population." You are judging a helpless people denied a government and army - which includes a fundamentalist movement using improper means to fight for a just cause, namely the end of the occupation - in the same way you judge a regional power, which considers itself humanitarian and democratic but which has shown itself to be a brutal and cruel conqueror. As an Israeli, I cannot admonish their leaders while our hands are covered in blood, nor do I want to judge Israel and the Palestinians the same way you have.
The residents of Gaza have never had ownership of "their own piece of land," as you have claimed. We left Gaza because of our own interests and needs, and then we imprisoned them. We cut the territory off from the rest of the world and the occupied West Bank, and did not permit them to construct an air or sea port. We control their population registrar and their currency - and having their own military is out of the question - and then you argue that the occupation is over? We have crushed their livelihood, besieged them for two years, and you claim they "have expelled the Israeli occupation"? The occupation of Gaza has simply taken on a new form: a fence instead of settlements. The jailers stand guard on the outside instead of the inside.
And no, I do not know "very well," as you wrote, that we don't mean to kill children. When one employs tanks, artillery and planes in such a densely populated place one cannot avoid killing children. I understand that Israeli propaganda has cleared your conscience, but it has not cleared mine or that of most of the world. Outcomes, not intentions, are what count - and those have been horrendous. "If you were truly concerned about the death of our children and theirs," you wrote, "you would understand the present war." Even in the worst of your literary passages, and there have been few of those, you could not conjure up a more crooked moral argument: that the criminal killing of children is done out of concern for their fates. "There he goes again, writing about children," you must have told yourself this weekend when I again wrote about the killing of children. Yes, it must be written. It must be shouted out. It is done for both our sakes.
This war is in your opinion "the only way to induce Hamas to understand." Even if we ignore the condescending tone of your remark, I would have expected more of a writer. I would have expected a renowned writer to be familiar with the history of national uprisings: They cannot be put down forcibly. Despite all the destructive force we used in this war, I still can't see how the Palestinians have been influenced; Qassams are still being launched into Israel. They and the world have clearly taken away something else from the last few weeks - that Israel is a dangerous and violent country that lacks scruples. Do you wish to live in a country with such a reputation? A country that proudly announces it has gone "crazy," as some Israeli ministers have said in regard to the army's operation in Gaza? I don't.
You wrote you have always been worried for me because I travel to "such hostile places." These places are less hostile than you think if one goes there armed with nothing but the will to listen. I did not go there to "tell the story of the afflictions of the other side," but to report on our own doings. This has always been the very Israeli basis for my work.
Finally, you ask me to preserve my "moral validity." It isn't my image I wish to protect but that of the country, which is equally dear to us both.
In friendship, despite everything,
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