‘Israel did not start this war’
Eylon Levy on the never-ending demonisation of Israel.
The allegations against Israel get more lurid by the day. Ever since 1,200 Israelis were murdered by Hamas on 7 October, Israel’s attempts to defend itself have been portrayed as genocidal. It stands accused of targeting civilian children, of trying to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians. These malicious claims have been repeated in the Western media, promoted by international NGOs and even considered in the international courts. At the same time, the well-documented and depraved crimes of Hamas have been downplayed, ignored and outright denied. How can we explain this extraordinary double standard?
Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy joined The Brendan O’Neill Show to discuss the global vilification of the Jewish State. What follows is an edited extract from his conversation with Brendan. Listen to the full thing here.
Brendan O’Neill: How big is the disconnect between the pro-Palestine media and the reality of Israel’s war with Hamas?
Eylon Levy: Talking to the Western media is definitely an enormous challenge. It’s obvious to everyone in Israel that we are fighting a just war and a defensive war. I can go blue in the face saying that this is not a war that we started. It’s not a war we wanted. It’s not even a war we expected. It’s a war that was declared on us. And that’s why we have to win.
The problem is that we are coming up against a very large, anti-Israel machine. Not just Hamas, but also the UN agencies like UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) that have been complicit with Hamas and that have adopted the pro-Palestine narrative. The whole so-called human-rights industry has decided to throw its lot in with Hamas and the Palestinian cause and is trying to force Israel to stop this war. But how can we stop when there are still hostages in Gaza and Hamas is still in power?
When you look at things like the International Court of Justice case against Israel, it’s like we’re living in a parallel universe. South Africa is accusing us of genocide, when on 7 October we were the victims of a massacre. Hamas is a terrorist organisation with genocidal intentions that perpetrated the bloodiest slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. That’s what we’re fighting against. And South Africa made this spurious lawsuit, exploiting the Genocide Convention and pointing the finger at the actual victims of a pogrom.
Here in Israel it’s difficult to believe we’re facing such a well-oiled machinery of hatred and propaganda. These people will stop at nothing to try to force us to stop defending ourselves. It’s hard to even respond to these allegations without giving them any sort of legitimacy or credit. I don’t even like repeating a lot of these claims, because they’re just so outrageous. We’re fighting a war of information, in which nothing Israel does will ever be good enough.
They say that Israel shouldn’t attack Hamas because civilians might get caught up in the fighting. So Israel asks civilians to evacuate the area. And then Israel is accused of ‘forced displacement’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’.
They tell Israel that it shouldn’t use airstrikes and that its attacks should be more targeted. So Israeli forces go into a hospital, to target the terrorists hiding in the basement. And then Israel is vilified for daring to attack a hospital. The goalposts keep moving. Nothing will ever convince these people that Israel has the right to defend itself.
O’Neill: Do you find yourself getting frustrated with all the naive justifications for Hamas among the Western left?
Levy: It’s not naive. It’s vindictive. We have a situation now where, according to polls, nearly half of Americans between 18 and 24 years old sympathise with Hamas. Not with the Palestinians, but specifically Hamas. Two-thirds say that the Jews as a class are oppressors. This is a serious anti-Semitism problem.
A whole section of the world has taken the Palestinian side in this fight. Many subscribe to an ideology where the victim is always right and where the world is divided into oppressors and the oppressed. According to this worldview, if you are oppressed there is no limit on what you can do in order to achieve liberation – even if it’s raping and beheading innocent people.
Unfortunately, the Hamas narrative is also given a veneer of legitimacy by organisations like the UN. Agencies such as UNRWA have been weaponised by Hamas in its war against Israel. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said he was horrified by the allegations last month that UNRWA staff participated in the 7 October massacre. We don’t believe him. The UN has been repeatedly confronted with evidence that the UNRWA is riddled with Hamas. It hires Hamas members on a massive scale. It allows Hamas to operate out of its infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals. And it lauds Hamas’s talking points.
Despite this, one of the biggest challenges Israel faces is that, simply by having ‘UN’ on the letterhead, UNRWA statements immediately have greater credibility than those made by the Israeli government. We can present all the facts and evidence, but UN agencies are perceived as having greater moral authority. People are far more willing to go along with whatever an organisation like UNRWA might say.
In Israel, we hope that the West will soon understand how much they are being let down by the agencies supposedly doing vital humanitarian work. The World Health Organisation, for example, is supposed to ‘promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable’. And yet it can’t bring itself to condemn Hamas for waging war out of hospitals.
It could reasonably be argued that these human-rights organisations have picked a side in this war. And it’s not the side of the 1,200 victims of the 7 October massacre.
Eylon Levy was talking to Brendan O’Neill on The Brendan O’Neill Show. Listen to the full conversation here:
Picture by: Getty.
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