WATCH UPDATE:

ISRAELI BIG BROTHER CONTESTANT SAAR SZEKELY TELLS AL JAZEERA ENGLISH THAT FRIENDSHIP WITH ARABS IN ISRAEL IS A “POLITICAL ACT”, WHILE FORMER ISRAELI NEGOTIATOR, DANIEL LEVY SAYS CURRENT ISRAELI POLICIES ARE A “BOOMERANG”, DO NOT “DELIVER SECURITY” 

In wide ranging discussion assessing the impact of Peter Beinart on the Israel debate within the US Jewish community, Daniel Levy, Co-Director of Middle East Task Force at New America Foundation says history of anti-Semitism, Holocaust cheapened by influential voices in American Jewish establishment

Israel’s Mako Channel 2 TV station ran a prominent story on their website today (April 8, 2012) covering the recent interview of Saar Szekely, the so-called “radical leftist” Big Brother contestant appearing on Al Jazeera’s “The Stream” program in English.  The interview has been widely reported by many of the major Israeli media outlets including NRG (Maariv newspaper online edition), Nana (Channel 10 TV), Walla and of course Mako-Keshet which produces the Big Brother show in Israel.

The mainstream Israeli media has all led as their main headline: “Szekely says that he would not enlist in the IDF today”.  Although they all mentioned Szekely’s comments on friendship with Arabs as a “political act”, the Israeli press tended to do so right at the end of their articles, as a relatively unimportant footnote.

Saar Szekely entering the Big Brother house

Saar Szekely entering the Big Brother house

This morning, the presenters of the channel 2 morning show, “Yom Hadash” (new day), Dahlia Mazor and Yoaz Limor, expressed disapproval of Szekely’s appearance on Al Jazeera saying that it was wrong for him to criticise Israel on “Arab media,” (even though Szekely actually appeared on the channel’s English version).  However, they agreed that prior to that it was legitimate for him to express his political views on Israeli primetime television.

Another major contributor taking part in “The Stream” program together with Szekely, and completely absent from any Israeli coverage was Daniel Levy, son of controversial member of the British House of Lords, Michael Levy, and in his own right a serious figure in numerous Israeli peace negotiating teams.  Levy was a member of Israeli delegations from Oslo 2 in 1995, to the Taba summit in 2001 and most recently was one of the lead drafters of the Geneva Accords.  Today Levy spends most of his time in Washington D.C. working for the think tank, the New America Foundation, as the co-director of their Middle East Task Force department.

During the course of the Al Jazeera show, Levy made a number of provocative comments challenging the American-Jewish establishment regarding the debate on Israel in the US.  First he said that the accusation of “anti-Semitism” and the use of the Holocaust is “hurled around” too often thus cheapening the term and the history of the Jewish people.  Levy also referenced the response of Atlantic journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg to Peter Beinart’s Zionist BDS arguments as an example of the kind of unhelpful knee-jerk reactions in the Jewish community to deep criticism of Israeli policy.

Daniel Levy, Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation

Daniel Levy, Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation

Later in the program, Levy also heavily criticised Israeli government and military favouring security at all costs while compromising international ethical and legal norms.  He stated that “we’re all better off” in a rule-based society and a world in which rules and rights are not abused.  He also argued that such abuse in the name of security will only, “engender hate, anger and frustration”.  This will result in a “boomerang” effect which will be self-defeating, only serving to undermine our security interests in the long-term, Levy added.


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