By Ira Glunts
Ha’aretz diplomatic correspondent and gourmand, Barak Ravid, recently tweeted a picture of “a likeable wine from the Livni vineyard in Kiryat Arba.” “Surprisingly good,” he concludes.
The reason that the quality of the wine, produced in the darkest heart of the Israeli-occupied territory, is surprising, I would guess, is that Ravid believes that an admitted, convicted and unrepentant terrorist is unlikely to also become a successful vintner. But in Israel all is possible, at least for Jews.
יין חביב של יקב לבני מקרית-ארבע. הפתיע לטובה pic.twitter.com/VDDfrwn6y0
— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) March 20, 2016
The producer of this delightful Cabernet Sauvignon is none other than Menachem Livni. Decades before he founded the Livni Winery (Hebrew only) in 2003, he was one of two masterminds of the Jewish Underground of the late 70s and early 80s. The other is Yehuda Etzion who was recently adoringly interviewed for the New York Times by an apparently very gullible Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner. Livni directed the 1983 attack on the Islamic College in Hebron, during which three students were murdered and 33 were wounded. The following year, he also planned and supervised the planting of five large bombs under five Palestinian buses in East Jerusalem that were timed to explode when the maximum death and injury to passengers would occur. Fortunately, the authorities discovered the plot and dismantled the explosives, which led to the arrest of Livni and 26 other co-conspirators in 1984. Menachem Livni, an engineer by training, who studied at the Technion in Haifa, directed most of the bombings against the Palestinians carried out by the Jewish Underground, and built many of the bombs used in these attacks. (See Wikipedia entry for Livni, Hebrew only.)
The owner of the Livni Winery was sentenced to life imprisonment (Israel does not have the death penalty), but served fewer than seven years under less than harsh conditions. He and two others who participated in the Islamic College attack, were the last members of the Underground to be released. Livni’s sentence was reduced on four separate occasions, partly due to intense political pressure and popular support for his actions. When Livni left prison in 1990, he was treated as a hero by many Jewish-Israelis including members of the press. In opposition to those celebrating his release, an AP story in the New York Times reported that about a dozen demonstrators protested.
The apparent indifference of Barak Ravid to Livni’s murderous past is not an exceptional attitude among Jewish-Israelis, who mostly tend to objectify all Palestinians as the enemy. As I pointed out previously at this site, on his twitter feed Ravid has displayed a special affection for another Jewish terrorist, the journalist, Haggai Segal, and for his son, the baby-faced TV journalist, Amit Segal, who is an apologist for his father. Apparently, like many Israelis, Barak Ravid is willing to overlook the killing and maiming of Palestinians when choosing acquaintances.
But also like many Israelis, especially those in public life, Ravid probably believes that it is better to keep some of his views from the outside world. Despite his habit of posting the same tweet in both Hebrew and English, Ravid’s recommendation of the Livni Cabernet Sauvignon only appeared in Hebrew. I am not the only one who noticed the Hebrew only for his tweet praising the wine. In response to Ravid , @Nehemia_G from Tel Aviv, wrote “You should have tweeted this in English.”
The diplomatic correspondent’s attitude toward people like Livni and Haggai Segal is very similar to the outlook that Amit Segal expressed when the young journalist was asked about his father’s bombs blowing off the leg of the mayor of Ramallah and permanently blinding a Druze policeman who attempted to defuse another of the explosives Haggai Segal had planted, this one intended for the mayor of al-Bireh. Belittling the seriousness and horror of what his father had done, a laughing Amit Segal said, “It is not as if my father was in prison for embezzling money.” The unstated implication is that embezzling (from Jews) would have been a real crime, maiming or killing Palestinians is no big deal.
The normal Israeli callousness concerning those they identify as “minorities” is currently on display each time an Israeli soldier or policeman shoots and kills a Palestinian kid who is throwing a stone, wielding a knife or just carrying one. (See this video from Hebron on Thursday which came online while I was editing this post who allegedly stabbed a soldier. The Israeli government now acknowledges that an IDF soldier executed an unconscious Palestinian.) The Israeli indifference to Palestinian life was also apparent when Naftali Bennett, the Education Minister, matter-of-factly said in a speech at a conference, “I have killed many Arabs in my life and there is no problem with that.”
It would have been difficult for Rudoren and Kershner to portray Livni as they mistakenly wrote about Yehuda Etzion, as the chastened and mellowed settler. Ravid’s vintner/settler/terrorist/bombmaker was, as recently as 2003, convicted of reckless endangerment for shooting at a Palestinian truck driver whom he incorrectly perceived as a threat. Livni received a suspended prison sentence for the shooting. The truck driver sued Livni in civil court claiming emotional distress as a result of the attack. Eleven years after the incident, in 2014, the boutique winemaker agreed to pay 15,000 shekels in an out-of-court settlement (Hebrew.). Although, the compensation was small, this was an unusual court victory for a Palestinian plaintiff in an Israeli court.
In December 2015, Ha’aretz published an investigative article (close login window and x out promo, then article will appear) by Uri Blau which claimed that the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund “transferred $5.7 million dollars to the Jewish settlement in Hebron from 2009-2014.” During that time period the fund paid Menachem Livni a monthly stipend which, when totaled, came to hundreds of thousands of shekels for two years of work heading an organization run by the fund. Presumably, Livni worked for the Hebron Fund in his down-time at the winery. When Ha’aretz attempted to query the director of the Hebron fund about the beneficiaries of his organization’s largesse, he refused to answer any questions.
The opinions of Barak Ravid are undoubtedly formed by his Zionism and the political culture of Israel. If he were a non-Jew raised in a society with a humanist tradition, I imagine the Livni Cabernet Sauvignon would not have delighted his palette, but rather would have assaulted it, as if the wine had turned to vinegar.
– Ira Glunts is a retired college librarian who lives in Madison, NY. He contributed this article with PalestineChronicle.com. Follow his on twitter @abushalom. (This article was originally published in Mondoweiss.)