Journalist Gideon Levy is arguably the most hated man in Israel for his reports on the occupied Palestinian territories.
Filmmaker: Bilal Yousef
Gideon Levy is someone who evokes strong emotions from fellow Israelis.
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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?”
I don't change any of what I see on the ground. If the truth is radical then my writings will be radical as well.
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.