In an article titled, “Arrest Gideon Levy and Haneen Zoabi,” Matti Golan, a columnist for the Israeli business daily Globes, has called for the establishment of camps modeled after the internment camps the United States established in World War II.
Golan wrote that Levy, a dissident Israeli journalist who writes for Haaretz; Palestinian member of the Knesset Zoabi and Amira Hass, Haaretz’s other dissenting journalist; should all be rounded up since they are “agitators.”
The article is not available on the Globes English website but I have translated it in full below. It was published on 20 July, two days after Zoabi was arrested at a Haifa protest against the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip. Soon after, she was suspended from the Knesset.
Golan positively portrays the United States’ internment camps for people of Japanese descent living on the West Coast, as well as some Italians and Germans affiliated with fascist movements during World War II. However, after campaigns led by Japanese Americans, nearly fifty years later the US government paid reparations to camp survivors in recognition of their suffering.
Golan’s column doesn’t appear to have a lot of traction but is part of a rising tide of extreme right-wing Israeli discourse. This trend has called for everything from returning Israeli soldiers and settlers to Gaza to outright genocide.
Before dismissing Golan’s view as peripheral, it is worth remembering the context: tens of thousands of Palestinians are already imprisoned in Israeli jails for political activity over the last few decades, and many African migrants and refugees are in concentration camps at this very moment.
Arrest Gideon Levy and Haneen Zoabi
In and outside the halls of Knesset the main topic of conversation these days is the handcuffing of Haneen Zoabi after her arrest on suspicion of routine involvement in riots, incitement, assault and related acts.
The debate in the Knesset and on the street is of course a matter of democracy. Is it okay, illegal, immoral, to arrest and handcuff a Knesset member and a journalist for expressing their opinion?
But I have another question: If it’s ok with Zoabi, then why not Gideon Levy, for example (and Amira Hass and others)? Is it because one is Arab and the other Jewish? Is it because one is amongst the elected officials while the other is a journalist?
That Levy is Jewish gives much greater weight to his incitement. Yet certainly Zoabi’s words don’t carry any less weight as she is a member of the Israeli Knesset. Her case is just the same.
Both of these inciters achieve the same effect on Jews and the Palestinians. Levy’s Jewishness allows those who want to, say, “Look, it’s not just Palestinians, but a top Jewish journalist who writes for thoughtful Jews, i.e., a person worth relating to.” In Zoabi’s case, one can say she was elected to the Knesset in Israel, by Israeli voters, meaning that her words carry weight.
What the reporter is allowed to say
I’m really not happy to write these things. Democracy is for me what the Bible is to the Ultra-Orthodox or the Quran to the Muslim, and I recoil from altering it, or certainly damaging it. But what happens to us, especially in times of war, it is not a matter of democracy, but of geography.
Hindering journalists is very extreme step. But the law recognizes that there are limits to what a journalist is allowed to do and say. For example, they are forbidden to slander, and when they do, they are punished. They are not allowed to invade the privacy of citizens and the law provides for other restrictions. All of this stems from the understanding that words can hurt, and sometimes hurt hard. Therefore, the it is in the public interest to be protected from them.
On the verge of treason
The actions of Levy, Zoabi, and those like them are on the verge of wartime treason. Granting them permission to roam free and spread poisonous teachings has nothing to do with democracy, and it causes a lot of damage to the country.
During World War II the United States and other Western countries established detention centers, and incarcerated people to protect the country from the harm they could cause. The place of people like Zoabi and Levy is in such detention centers where they will stay till the end of the war, after which it will be decided whether or not to put them on trial. But to leave them free as they are today, is a sin by the leadership against a public entitled to protection.