This is a great and very touching documentary of Gideon Levy, who is one of the few Israeli journalists who cover and report from the occupied Palestinian territories. The details are below. At one point in the documentary Levy, a columnist for Haaretz, is sitting near a Tel Aviv beach and quite a large group of Israelis harangue him for “supporting the Arabs” and worse. But since Levy is a mild mannered man who is not confrontational, he sits quietly and listens to the people around him and chuckles occasionally. Though by looking at his face one can see that he is deeply affected by such talk. He says that at times he feels like he is “writing for the archives”, that maybe one day in the future people will look back at the public spectrum of views in Israeli society and find voices like his and realise that there indeed were different voices to the orthodoxy. Levy talks a bit about the price he has had and continues to pay for publishing the facts as he sees them in the occupied territories. And whilst the price is not insignificant, it is nothing like what a dissident or radical journalist would be subject to in totalitarian regimes. And so the question arises as to why there are not more people like Gideon Levy, or Amira Hass, or Uri Avneri, and the like. They are brave men and women, and when their bravery is looked at in detail and one considers the price they are paying for speaking out, it becomes clear that it is not too big of a sacrifice. It is not an easy ride, of course, but nor is it impossible.
Gideon Levy has two books in English. Twilight Zone – Life and Death under the Israeli Occupation (1988–2003), published in 2004. And The Punishment of Gaza, published in 2010.
Here are the details of the documentary.
Gideon Levy is someone who evokes strong emotions from fellow Israelis.
The writer and journalist has made weekly visits, over the past three decades, to the occupied Palestinian territories, describing what he sees – plainly and without propaganda.
For some Israelis, he is seen as a brave disseminator of the truth. But many others condemn him as a propagandist for Hamas. And his columns for the Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper have made him, arguably, one of the most hated men in Israel.
“When I joined Haaretz newspaper, I started to visit the occupied territories,” Levy says. “I immediately realised this was what I wanted to do; to understand the brutality and inhumanity of the Israeli occupation.”
“I figured out three things. First, this was the biggest drama facing the state of Israel. Second, this story was not being covered by the Israeli media. And third, this was going to be my life mission – to report about the Israeli occupation to Israeli readers who did not want to know what was really happening there.”
Over the years, Levy’s stories have shed light on the realities Palestinians face on a daily basis.
One of his earlier reports, ‘Death of a baby’ in 1996, told of an incident involving the Abu Dahouk family. They were stopped at a checkpoint on their way to a hospital. Israeli soldiers delayed the family including a heavily pregnant Fayzeh Abu Dahouk, who ended up delivering her baby in the backseat of the car.
The baby, who she hoped to name Yousef, died a couple of days later.
Levy wrote at the time: “Who the hell are they? Who are those soldiers who saw Fayzeh Abu Dahouk in pain as she delivered her baby in her brother-in-law’s car. Who are those soldiers who didn’t let her pass to reach the hospital?”
“Who are those soldiers who made Fayzeh have to wrap her baby in her clothes and walk two kilometres to reach the hospital?”
Levy’s reports have told of young Palestinians gunned down by Israeli soldiers after being accused of throwing stones; the lack of retribution against soldiers who kill Palestinians in cold blood; and the plight of Palestinian farmers, who make their livelihoods from olive trees, but who have had them burned and destroyed by settlers time and time again.
Many in Israel have criticised Levy’s reporting, saying that he and his colleagues are responsible for reinforcing anti-Semitism around the world.
But others see Levy as an individual who is courageously going against the common views of the society in which he lives.
“History has witnessed worse and more brutal occupiers than the Israelis. But I’ve never heard about an occupation that believes it is the victim. And the only victim,” he says.
“I sometimes feel ashamed of what is being done on our behalf. I feel really guilty towards the Palestinians. I think we are doing terrible things to them.”
Going Against the Grain follows Gideon Levy on one of his assignments in Hebron, and meets some of the ordinary Palestinians whose lives he has described in his regular column for Haaretz.