Gideon Levy writes: The streets of Ashkelon were half empty when I arrived on a Monday afternoon. The latest war was under way, and Haaretz had just published a critical article I’d written about Israel’s air force pilots and the grave consequences of their bombardment of Gaza.
I came to this southern Israeli town, not far from Gaza, to chronicle the fear spreading throughout Israeli communities near the border. As a columnist for the country’s leading liberal newspaper, I am quite used to people being hostile towards my views, but this was something new.
As I arrived in the town center for a live interview with Channel 2, a crowd of people immediately swarmed around me, cursing me with an aggression that I’ve never seen before. The bullies encircled me, jumping in front of the camera in an attempt to prevent the interview from going on. The show’s host cut the broadcast off. The mob hurled insults at me, calling me “garbage” and a “traitor” and accused me of claiming that Israeli pilots were murderers — something I never said.
As the crowd’s anger grew, I rushed to my car and drove out of the town center, the men’s screams trailing off as I steered my way out of Ashkelon. But it wasn’t just the street mobs. Leading figures in Israel have publically called me a traitor. Yariv Levin, a senior member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, called on TV for me to be charged with treason during war time. Haaretz has hired a bodyguard to ensure my safety, and my life has been turned upside down by the incident.
They haven’t succeeded in silencing me. I will continue to write about the brutality of this war, about the atrocities, the mass killing of civilians and the horrifying destruction in Gaza.
But I am not the story. The real tale to be told is of the unprecedented cracks in Israeli democracy that have been revealed in just one month of conflict. Years of nationalistic incitement by the Israeli government, of expressions of racism, of anti-democratic legislation, of price-tag actions against Palestinians in the West Bank, without anyone being brought to justice — all of that intolerance has suddenly exploded in our faces. [Continue reading…]