Last night the Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy gave a thrilling speech describing the brutal tyranny of the occupation, the inevitability of the one-state solution, and the necessity of boycott and sanctions to cause Israel to change its conduct at the Greenburgh Town Hall in Westchester County, N.Y.. Levy was the guest of Jewish Voice for Peace and Wespac. Suhail Khalilieh of the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem also spoke on the settlements; I will get to his speech in the next day or so.
Levy’s speech was frequently disrupted by pro-Israel activists. The police refused to remove the hecklers on free-speech grounds, and the crowd was too left-wing to do much beyond singing We Shall Overcome and standing in front of the hecklers in an effort to maintain order. But the hecklers added value, I believe: Levy often used the hecklers against themselves. He addressed them at the very beginning of his speech, part 1 below– on my tape, you can briefly see Lauri Regan holding up a LEVY = HATE sign that Levy embraced — and many times after.
Below is part 2 of the speech, in which Levy states that the conflict is a simple one. “When someone steals your car… you have to get back your stolen car… The Palestinian car was stolen by Israel and it must be returned, without any conditions.”
“They have no legal political or historical rights!” hecklers shout.
Levy says that Jewish Israelis have been able to live happily with occupation because of three deep-rooted beliefs/blindnesses: One, we are the chosen people, we can do anything we want, and international law doesn’t apply to us. Two, we the Jews are the biggest victim in history and the only victim in history. Golda Meir said after the Holocaust Jews have the right to do whatever we want. And third, that Palestinians are not exactly human beings. “Killing Palestinians is not really a violation of human rights.”
Now even Israeli Jewish society is threatened by “one lynch after another, day after day.” Scenes that he had never thought even imaginable are occurring.
He says emphatically that Israel is practicing apartheid in its occupied territories:
If two peoples share one piece of land and one people gets all the rights in the world, and the other people don’t get any rights, this is apartheid. No other way to call it. No other way to call it!
A lot of heckling after that, at 10:00.
And for all you believers in the Israel lobby – Levy says that Israel appears to dictate foreign policy to the United States, against the U.S. “national interest.”
“The two state solution is in my view dead. The settlers won.” And there is only one alternative: the one-state solution. It’s not easy. I have no illusions. “But it is the only game that is in town… Therefore the struggle the discourse must be from now on I think a very simple one. Equal rights. That’s all.”
A lot of heckling over that. Great response by Levy at 15:14. “They will kill us! Holocaust! Holocaust.”
Below is part three, which follows another disruption. Levy says that only an international intervention will save Israel’s “moral profile.”
Life in Israel is too good, Israel is too strong, and brainwashing is much too efficient to expect a change from within the Israeli society.
No country in the world remains powerful when it lives only on its sword….
The world must bring pressure on Israel so that it will consider whether it “is worth it” to continue the criminal occupation.
At 5:40 you can see Levy’s great answer to a heckler who asks why Israel shouldn’t be compared to Syria. He says, Because the U.S. finances Israel and Israel wants to be considered part of the liberal, western world. At 9:20, my favorite interchange: Levy reminds the audience that Jews used terrorism to fight the British occupation. He speaks of the destruction of the south wing of the King David Hotel in 1946. A heckler says that was a British headquarters! Levy promptly explains that 61 of the 91 victims were civilians.
And here is the optimistic ending of the speech:
The apartheid system, Soviet Russia and the Berlin wall all fell within months, Levy said, and anyone who had predicted those events would have been judged insane. “Many times in history things happen in the most unexpected way in the unexpected timing.” He then analogized Israel to a huge tree that mysteriously falls and is found to be “totally rotten on the inside.”