Revolting Lies and the Truth about Gideon Levy
About a year ago I saw a movie at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque. It was a documentary called (in Hebrew) “The Flat”. (Not be confused with the 1960s Hollywood Jack Lemmon / Shirley MacLaine classic, “The Apartment”.) In “The Flat”, a true story, the protagonist helps his mother close down her mother’s (his grandmother’s) flat after she passes away at age 98. “I used to cross Tel Aviv once a week to visit my grandmother in Berlin”, he says (as a child), referring to her past and the fact that she still lived in the German style she’d brought with her to then-Palestine. But her secret past, together with her late husband – and the apparent close links to a Nazi couple – turn closing down the flat into a series of never-to-be-resolved mysteries. Secrets that probably should have remained forever untold.
A few days ago “Haaretz” newspaper journalist Gideon Levy published a heart-breaking essay in that newspaper, decrying the fact that an Israeli website, and subsequently also Wikipedia, had published the “revolting lie” that his late father had collaborated with the Nazis. Levy, known for his violently anti-Israel articles and often referred to as a guilt-ridden self-hating Jew, decried the often irresponsible reporting on the world wide web, referring time and again to how a net of lies could spread so easily by electronic media, while safe, responsible print journalists (like himself) would surely have first checked the facts before rushing into print.
“Never believe anything until it is publicly denied” is the oft-quoted advice on how we cannot trust the media for reliable information. And yet, in spite of Gideon Levy’s absolute and unconditional denial about his father’s past, I have no doubt whatsoever that the “revolting lie” was in fact just that - a lie. And still, the documentary at the Cinemateque flashed before me as I read Levy’s cry for truth, justice and sanity.
Gideon Levy is a fastidious journalist, one, I do believe, who would never knowingly publish an untruth. And yet, again, I have to quote the old “People in glass houses ….” cliché. For while Levy scrupulously seeks the truth, it is almost never the whole truth. In his inexplicable and anguished race to write and print anything that will show Israel in a bad light, Levy usually manages to leave out of his stories the redeeming features that might throw a different light on Israel. We want the truth, the WHOLE truth … . And there Levy has failed us, time and time again.
Gideon Levy has suffered grievously as a result of the rumor concerning his father. Nobody deserves that. I hope he takes the lessons of media responsibility to heart in his own future writing about Israel. His brave reporting is a symbol of the freedom of the press in Israel. A freedom that should not be abused by the electronic media, nor, indeed, by print media such as Haaretz.
Jonathan Danilowitz is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist living in Israel.