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Where is the freedom to think differently in Israel today?

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May 15, 2011 by IJV

Taken from the conclusion of the lecture by Jacqueline Rose at LSE on 6th May 2011: “‘Freedom is always freedom for the one who thinks differently’ – Rosa Luxemburg for our times”

In an article from January this year by Gideon Levy, who has been chronicling the abject lives of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz for more than twenty years. The article in question is exceptional among his writings for turning its attention to inside Israel, not to a Palestinian Israeli, but to an Israeli Jew, a soldier, Khalil Givati-Rapp, who committed suicide last year (his father sought out Levy as the only Israeli he would be willing to talk to).  When he joined the army, Khalil felt he had a covenant with the state – he had been deeply affected at the failure to release soldier, Gilad Shalit, whose kidnap had sparked the second invasion of Lebanon in 2006. His life in the army left him profoundly demoralised. `This world is filled with evil, exploitation, injustice and pain,’ he wrote in the letter he left after he died. `All my life I was between doing something to correct it (even though most of what I did was also meaningless) and observing from the side. From the moment I was drafted I moved to being part of the side that creates this situation, and I could not cope with that.’  On the day he died, he had attended a Holocaust Remembrance Day service with his fellow soldiers. Afterwards, he quoted from a poem read aloud during the service: `Whoever pulls the trigger/ stains his heart with blood./In wars for justice/children die too.’ He then asked the other members of his unit, `What do you think that says about us?’  When no one responded, he went to the bathroom and shot himself. 

`He saw the immorality of the army and he asked himself: What can I do?’ his mother says to Levy. `In our country that is not a legitimate question.’ `There is no deep discussion,’ she continues, `and anyone who thinks differently is de-legitimised.’  She then repeats, `There is a great deal of deep contempt for anyone who thinks differently.’  `Freedom,’ wrote Rosa Luxemburg, `is always freedom for the one who thinks differently.’ To say that the struggle is not over is an understatement.

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