Gideon Levy is a bit of a philosopher king although, sitting in his postage stamp garden in a suburb of Tel Aviv, straw hat shading mischievous dark eyes, there’s a touch of a Graham Greene character about Haaretz’s most provocative and infamous writer. Brave, subversive, sorrowful – in a harsh, uncompromising way – he’s the kind of journalist you either worship or loathe. Philosopher kings of the Plato kind are necessary for our moral health, perhaps, but not good for our blood pressure. So Levy’s life has been threatened by his fellow Israelis for telling the truth; and that’s the best journalism award one can get.
He loves journalism but is appalled by its decline. His English is flawless but it sometimes breaks up in fury. Here’s an angry Levy on the effect of newspaper stories: “In the year of ’86, I wrote about a Palestinian Bedouin woman who lost her baby after giving birth at a checkpoint. She tried at three different [Israeli] checkpoints, she couldn’t make it and she gave birth in the car. They [the Israelis] didn’t let her bring the baby to the hospital. She carried him by foot two kilometres to the Augusta Victoria [Hospital in east Jerusalem]. The baby died. When I published this story – I don’t want to say that Israel ‘held its breath’, but it was a huge scandal, the cabinet was dealing with it, two officers were brought to court…”