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Spasiba, Gideon Levy!
By: Shmuel Amir
Hagada Hasmalit
24 September 2013

(Original Hebrew:

The Israeli press hit bottom with its coverage of events in Syria. After the speeches of Obama and Kerry, when war appeared to be around the corner, its joy knew no bounds: at last America has come to its senses, become serious and is scorning the UN inspectors in Syria and at the UN. And what a war it will be! Safe, comfortable, “unbelievably small” (Kerry), with “no boots on the ground” (Obama).

Kerry was understood to be promising an attack within a few days. He used the word “know” dozens of times. He knows that Assad has murdered his citizens with gas. He knows that Assad made the decision to do it. He knows that it was not the “rebels”.

He backed down a little when Putin requested that he show proof and called him a liar. But in a document he submitted to the US public it was suddenly revealed that the signature of James Clapper, head of the Central Intelligence, was missing. The reason was evidently that the information was of the type that had been given to Colin Powell before the Iraq War. The data were doubtful and hard facts were lacking. A small example: Kerry spoke of 1,429 people whose deaths had been “confirmed” in a gas attack in the suburbs of Damascus, but the French intelligence agency spoke of 281, and Doctors Without Borders, 355. Other “facts” in that document were refuted in less than a week. The only “hard” fact was one recording of a Syrian commander that had been transmitted to US intelligence by ... Israeli intelligence! All I am drawing all these facts from an article by David Bromwich, a professor at Yale University, in the respected liberal weekly London Review of Books (September 2013). [1]

Most of the world saw Kerry’s speech as nothing but warmongering. But not the US democracy, there Kerry’s prestige increased after his warlike speeches, and now he is being spoken of as a presidential candidate in the next election. And this too gave our media much satisfaction. Remember, this Kerry is Kerry is the person responsible for the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations!

In our media they “knew” right away that Assad had massacred his own people with gas. Indeed, we have always cared deeply about the lives of civilians, especially Syrian children. Everybody knows that the People of Israel are a compassionate people above all else. We care about the children of Arabs and Palestinians wherever we find them, especially in the Occupied Territories. Who remembers the hundreds of children we have killed in our military operations?

The media hardly mention the fact there is apparently poison gas and more than a few biological weapons in our arsenals. Far be it from us to mention our use of white phosphorus in Operation Cast Lead. Nor does the press trouble its readers with the fact that Israel refuses to sign the international nuclear non-proliferation treaty (we are even forbidden to mention that it exists). We will pass over all that; what that we will remember and never forget are Obama’s red lines that require him to attack immediately. Of course Obama’s previous demand to stop the settlements is no red line!

Our media also fulminated against the European countries that did not want to get involved in the US war. The presenter of the show “Yoman” on Channel One, Ayala Hasson, nearly exploded with rage. Those Europeans, she thundered, have lost all moral standing, so they can stop preaching morality to us! They followed her example on Channel Two. A commentator there, Nadav Eyal, who nearly jumped out of his skin from joy that France, alone among all the countries of Europe, was willing to join in the US military campaign (Meanwhile the warlike French President Hollande has cooled down a little). The French President, Eyal explained to us, is even a socialist! I must say that this correspondent’s knowledge about France is not particularly impressive. Since Jean Jaurès, who was murdered for his opposition to the First World War, and Leon Blum who joined the popular front with the Communists against the mounting Nazi threat in 1936, the French Socialists have been among the worst of them all – always willing to support any aggressive war. Thus only a few years after the end of the Second World War, when the former colonial peoples had begun to breathe the air of independence, did the “Socialist” prime minister Guy Mollet join up with the UK and Israel in attacking Egypt in order to thwart the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Gamal Abd al-Nasser and restore British and French hegemony in the region.

A general myth has been created around France that has no basis in reality (like many other myths about the West). During the Second World War there was indeed cause to cultivate the myth about the French Resistance, which really did fight valiantly against the Nazis, but most of the French population accepted the pro-Nazi government of Maréchal Pétain and did not support De Gaulle until 1944, when the defeat of Germany was already visible on the horizon. Few people know that in the Second World War France was second only to Germany itself in the German war effort against the USSR. Under Nazi occupation French industry was mobilized for the German war effort. Thus, for example, most of the trains that served the Germans were made in France.

And moreover, no sooner was the Second World War over and France liberated from German occupation than what did it do? It immediately mobilized itself to restore its old empire. It set out on a desperate war against the independence of Algeria, and France’s cruelty in that war is known worldwide (and the served as basis for the anti-Arab alliance with Israel). And in Vietnam they tried with all their might to continue to enslave that country, until they were forced to transfer that role to the US. In recent years France has settled for only a few military campaigns in Africa (Mali, the Ivory Coast…).

The murder of the French Jews of course cannot go unmentioned. During the Second World War the French Police gathered the Jews in centre of Paris to send to the death camps. But why should the honourable correspondent from Channel Two care about all that? The important thing is that France is in favour of war in Syria.

And now Israelis console themselves by saying that Kerry and Obama are declaring that the military option remains on the tale, if not exactly in Syria, then at least there is hope that the US will get tough with Iran. A still-hopeful Netanyahu keeps uttering veiled threats: “We hope that the understandings that have been between the US and Russia regarding the Syrian chemical weapons will have consequences, and indeed we that those agreements will be judged by the outcome: the destruction of complete destruction of the entire chemical weapons arsenal.” And what about our chemical weapons? Our nuclear weapons? Amir Peretz (he too a “socialist”) answered that question already, when he was asked on Israel Radio if the ban on chemical weapons would have implications too for those in our possession. He provided a governmental answer fitting for a member of the present coalition and a former defence minister: he is in favour of conserving the “status quo” (that is, our weapons will remain in our arsenals). For “after all, we are a democratic and peace-loving country”, he says. “Such weapons must not come into the hands of extremist states”.

Against that grim background the journalist Gideon Levy stands in sharp contrast for not joining in the war games of his colleagues. In two articles in Haaretz, “Iraq 2” and “Spasiba, Moscow”, he came out courageously against war. In his articles he thanked Putin for having opposed war and the US attack. He out spoke out strongly about the US record on world peace. He wrote: “Mother Russia has saved the world from an unnecessary war. If not for her intervention, the Tomahawks would already be flying. More blood would have been spilt in vain, another bombardment that would have contributed nothing to anyone.” And he continued: “the world in which the United States can do whatever it wants, where it can wage a pointless war against Iraq and a futile war against Afghanistan is coming to an end”. Gideon Levy also raises another media taboo: “We have always been told that ‘the Russian bear’, as they liked to call it, was the ultimate source of all the wrongs in the Middle East. That the Soviet Union was instigating war and the US was seeking peace.” And he concludes with a sentence that I think is perhaps the most important one for Israeli peace-lovers: “America has not done a thing to really advance peace in the region. If it had wanted to, it would already be here. If it had wanted to, the Israeli Occupation would already have ended.”

In his article “Iraq 2”, he also writes also about the nature of the US superpower: “nor can anyone seriously think that the US is a ‘moral power’, as Ari Shavit (Haaretz, 29 August 2013) called it here in Israel. The state that is responsible for the shedding of the most blood since the Second World War – up to eight million people have died at its hands in southeast Asia, in Latin America, Afghanistan and Iraq – cannot be considered a “moral power. Nor can the state that holds a quarter of the world’s prisoners, with an incarceration-rate higher than that of China and Russia, and where 1,342 people have been executed since 1976.”

Nothing remains to add to these true, hard-hitting and courageous words: spasiba, Gideon Levy!


1. David Bromwich, London Review of Books, 26 September 2013. `Diary: Putin to the Rescue`.

2. `Spasiba` is `thank you` in Russian (trans.).

Translated from Hebrew by George Malent

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