Sorry to Bore You Isaac 'Rambo' Herzog, but I Won't Shut Up About Occupation

Fortunately the Israeli press is full of writers who never mention the occupation. These people, like the opposition leader, know that the Israelis are always right.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Israeli soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda battalion detain a Palestinian protester during clashes following a protest against settlements, in the Jalazun refugee camp near Ramallah
Israeli soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda battalion detain a Palestinian protester during clashes following a protest against settlements, in the Jalazun refugee camp near RamallahCredit: Reuters
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog has been complaining about my repertoire. For years I’ve been playing the same tune. Sure enough, you could say I’m a one-trick pony, as Herzog does.

The penetrating diagnosis by the Zionist Union leader is that I have been “publishing the same article and the same text, twice and sometimes three times a week: ‘Occupation, occupation, occupation and once again occupation; only the Jews are to blame and only the Palestinians are right.’” That’s what he wrote in Haaretz last week.

Herzog was responding to my criticism of a boast he made after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. Herzog said he would be more extreme in fighting terror than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

I’m sorry I’ve been boring Rambo Herzog, the fighter of terror. Fortunately the Israeli press is full of writers who never mention the occupation, which in no way interests them. These people know that the Israelis are always right, always the victim, always the hero.

The Palestinians, meanwhile, just want to throw us into the sea. These journalists sing the repertoire that Israeli propaganda has fed them; people who devotedly buy all its lies, whose consciences are always clean. They say “the picture is complicated” and know how to make readers feel good, as Herzog does.

That’s most Israeli journalists. Herzog should limit his reading to them — I should have stopped pestering him long ago with this occupation stuff of mine. A groundbreaking statesman like Herzog, a leader with courageous ideas that break with convention, has no energy for trivial matters. I should have respected that.

Still, just for the sake of unimportant factual accuracy, I should mention that unlike Herzog, I have also sifted through my share of ideas. We started together in the Labor Party, now Zionist Union’s senior partner. I arrived a few years before he did, when I still bought concepts such as “the Jordanian option,” “territorial compromise” and “functional compromise” — among the best sleight of hand of the generation of Herzog’s father, designed to solidify the occupation’s hold. (Sorry, that word slipped out).

Then I favored the Oslo Accords, then the two-state solution. Then I thought the chance had been missed. I too didn’t believe in a boycott. Now I think it should be equal rights for everyone in a single democratic state, and there is no alternative — yes to a boycott. The short version.

During this whole period, Herzog and his Labor Party have remained stuck, only changing their excuses. They want a “process.” Before this year’s election, Herzog talked about a five-year (!) process. After the election, it was at least two years. What will it be in the end?

Now he has a new groundbreaking idea: The days are over in which you can go into a room with the Palestinians and come out hugging one another after signing a peace agreement. Is he hinting that peace was possible and his party missed the chance?

As Herzog wrote, now that the Palestinians have dug tunnels “under dining rooms on kibbutzim” (where?), we need “a trailblazing diplomatic move, supported by the moderate countries in the region.”

That’s Herzog and his party at their best: First we’ll make peace with the Sultanate of Oman and then with the Palestinians. But it will always be the other way around — if we end the occupation, the whole Persian Gulf will follow.

And I really do write about the occupation all the time. I’ve been trying to report on its crimes for 30 years or so. It’s an obsession of sorts: A person is convinced that his country has a malignant disease and that no issue is more crucial.

I’m sorry if that bores Herzog, but it’s a cruel reality for millions of people. It’s the reality that hasn’t changed, not the person writing about it. The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza (and a handful of Israelis of conscience) are a lot more fed up with the occupation than Herzog is in his posh Tel Aviv neighborhood. Yes, he leads a huge political camp, as he took pains to mention twice, people who may not have voted for him but surely agree with him on one point: Enough with the nagging (about the occupation).

So to the head of the Israeli left, I say thank you for bringing this to my attention. But I won’t stop.

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