Opinion |

A Trip Advisor to the Real Israel

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Palestinian girl walks by a house following a late night Israeli missile strike in town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, May 6, 2019.
Palestinian girl walks by a house following a late night Israeli missile strike in town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, May 6, 2019. Credit: Hatem Moussa/AP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

So you’ve decided to come, despite Roger Waters and everything. Welcome to Israel. You’re here and everything is wonderful: sunshine, alcohol, rock and roll, nice people, a terrific production, a big party. I suggest you also dedicate one day to reality. See the Israel that the video postcards shown before each song will never show you – the Israel that’s hidden from view, the dark side of the moon on which you’re now dancing.

It’s immoral to ignore it. Dare to dream? Dream on if you like, but sometimes the party is over. It’s lights out. Forget TripAdvisor for the moment, let me be your personal trip advisor for another type of visit.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 27

>> Read more: The heaven and hell that aren’t Israel | Opinion

When you leave Expo Tel Aviv, walk west for a few minutes. You’ll see a huge complex of buildings. This is a security compound, and the people who work there are responsible for many of the crimes and injustices you’ll see throughout the day. From here, for example, they dispatched the agents who instructed female soldiers to conduct a rectal and vaginal search of a Palestinian woman in her home.

This is the headquarters for the abuse of the Palestinian people in the name of security. In the parking lot you’ll see a fence, and behind it some abandoned graves. This is the cemetery of the Palestinian village that stood there before 1948. Israel wiped off the face of the earth more than 400 such towns and villages, kindly leaving just the graves. You can meet the descendants of the inhabitants, children of refugees who either fled or were expelled, when Eurovision is held in Lebanon, Syria or Jordan sometime. Oops, they’re not in Europe, but then again neither is Israel. Or you can meet them later on in our tour, in the refugee camps.

Southward to Gaza. An hour’s drive from the Expo and you’re at the Erez crossing, the entry to the world’s largest cage. Want to see what human experiments look like? What happens to people when you coop them up for 13 years and bomb them every now and then? Only the journalists among you, with a pass from the Government Press Office – yes there is such a thing in the only democracy in the Middle East – may enter. The rest of you are barred from entering this prison.

It will be pretty deserted at Erez. The entry gate for the 2.5 million prisoners is always deserted. Except for a few foreign journalists, merchants and terminally ill patients, some of whom are blackmailed by the Shin Bet security service to obtain medical care, no one goes in and out. Think about a city of 2.5 million back where you come from and about the roads that go to and from it, and imagine that only a few dozen people are authorized to drive on them each day.

You’ve never seen anything like it. Just one hour from the exuberant Expo. It’s a place the United Nations says won’t be fit for human habitation by next year. The year 2020 will be the end for life in Gaza and no one cares. Now, with Qatari money, they’re handing out thin soup there, and the lines are getting longer. On Wednesday tens of thousands massed by the fence to mark Nakba Day, and soldiers fired at them.

From here we’ll head east to the West Bank. Occupied territory. No country on earth recognizes the occupation. Two peoples live here – Jewish settlers, who have invaded in the last few decades and possess all the rights and resources, and the Palestinian natives who have been living here for centuries and are devoid of rights. Most of their land has already been stolen, plundered by the settlements, sometimes by force, and always under the state’s sponsorship. This is apartheid. This is what it looks like. This is how it behaves.

Then South Mount Hebron, where Israel is even dispossessing the cave dwellers. Let’s visit the H2 section of Hebron. A ghost town. Thousands of the Palestinians who lived here have fled because of the settlers. There are roads there for Jews only, imagine that. To the north and south are the Al-Fawwar, Al-Arroub and Deheisheh refugee camps. Third World sights. During Passover, the residents were kept out by checkpoints and armed troops so the Jews could celebrate their holiday. You can see similar sights throughout the West Bank, what’s left of the Palestinians’ land.

And here we are back at the Eurovision compound where it’s all partying and fun. Let’s raise a toast to Israel, the fantastic host country.

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