The horrific events of October 7 have thrust Eylon Levy into the spotlight as Israeli government spokesman. If you’re one of Levy’s many followers, you know that he explains to the world with conviction and clarity that Israel’s goals in this war are to destroy Hamas, bring back the hostages, and ensure that Gaza will never again be a threat to Israel.
You also know that he has quickly amassed a large social media audience through viral eyebrow-raising tweets, explaining Hamas terrorism via “Hamas chess” and “Hamas math” videos, and using words such as “poppycock” in his British accent during briefings.
Make no mistake about it though, Levy’s use of social media is merely a bonus. He is one of Israel’s smartest and savviest public defenders.
On February 1, Levy gave UJA-Federation of New York a briefing via Zoom, moderated by its Executive Vice President Mark Medin, on a host of issues ranging from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) to antisemitism in America.
Addressing the recent news regarding UNRWA, an entity that ostensibly provides social welfare services to civilians in Gaza, Levy stated that “at least 13 UNRWA staff members participated in the October 7th massacre, that according to our intelligence estimates, 10% of UNRWA staff members in Gaza are members—operatives—of Hamas or Islamic Jihad, [and] that half of them have a first-degree relation who is a Hamas member.”
Continued Levy: “UNRWA is an organization that is riddled with Hamas. It is not only complicit with Hamas, it has been hijacked.” UNRWA is not an aid agency, and “it is failing to distribute aid in Gaza and people are suffering as a result.”
Explaining that there are alternatives to UNRWA, Levy stated, “The U.N. has other agencies that have experience doing emergency relief in war zones and we think that they should be on the ground helping people in Gaza, not UNRWA.
“The U.N. has one refugee agency for everyone else and one just for the Palestinians. It makes absolutely no sense, and we’re glad that there is now growing international attention as to this problem and the way that it is fueling and financing and furthering this conflict.”
Regarding South Africa’s case against Israel in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the ruling recently issued, Levy said: “What South Africa asked the court to do is to force Israel to immediately suspend the war, withdraw its forces, abandon the hostages, and leave Hamas free to attack again and again. … And the court threw that out.”
Recognizing that the ICJ did not dismiss the case, Levy said that Israel has many criticisms concerning the ruling, and that its legal teams are studying the decision to determine next steps. “I think that it is encouraging that Germany, which knows a thing or two about genocide, has already said that if it comes to the merit stage it will intervene in person and represent Israel in court.”
As to the hostages still in captivity, “The prime minister has said we’re doing everything we can to bring the hostages back and apply unrelenting military pressure for a framework to get them out while insisting on certain red lines. We are not going to pull out; we’re not going to end the war; and we’re not going to release thousands of terrorists because that’s what Hamas wants in exchange.”
Levy emphasized that we must continue keeping the hostages in the forefront of everyone’s minds. We should wear the hostage dog tags and talk to people about what they mean. We should devote one minute a day to call our elected officials and demand the release of the hostages, demand that the Red Cross have access to the hostages, and demand that the Red Cross put pressure on Hamas to secure access to the hostages. (Go to www.oneminaday.com to find the contact information of your local representatives.)
Answering the question of who will run Gaza when the war is over, Levy stated: “It’s not going to be the PA because the PA still has a policy of paying terrorists in Israeli jails who have blood on their hands.
“Whoever governs Gaza the day after should be committed to building it peacefully and sustainably, and we’re looking at several options together with our international partners and with people on the ground. And we think that it’s right that it should be governed by Palestinians. We don’t want to govern it, they don’t want us to govern it, but it’s not going to be Hamas or the PA either.”
On the issue of a Palestinian state, Levy said, “This government’s policy is to oppose the creation of a Palestinian state. … It’s clear that whatever arrangement we have, however much autonomy the Palestinians have, Israel is going to have to retain security control.
“The prime minister’s position is that the Palestinians should have all the rights to govern themselves and none of the powers to threaten us, and none of the powers to commit an October 7th massacre.”
Regarding the Iranian threat, Levy pointed to the three American soldiers recently killed in Jordan by Kataib Hezbollah and noted that “Iran is trying to sow chaos in the Middle East through its proxy forces in order to advance its expansionist imperialist project, and it sees Israel as the main obstacle to that. And Iran hopes that if it can knock Israel out of action … there is nothing standing in its way of extending its control all over the Middle East.
“Remember that Iran has openly genocidal intentions towards us, and we have been clear in warning Hezbollah as northern Israel comes under rocket fire that if it drags Israel into a full-scale war which we don’t want [and] which we are hoping can be avoided through a diplomatic solution … Hezbollah will pay a price and so will the leaders of Iran.”
Addressing the rising antisemitism in the United States, Levy said: “It’s terrifying for us to see the protests that are taking place on university campuses on the streets of New York, clearly whatever strategy was in play for the last 20 years hasn’t worked when half of American youth now support Hamas. Not the Palestinians, Hamas.”
When “two-thirds, three-quarters, think that the Jews as a class are oppressors, there is a poisonous ideology that has taken hold that I think threatens your well-being and your security in the United States as well, and it’s important also to dedicate efforts and resources towards that and securing your rightful place within American society.”
Concluding on an optimistic note, Levy hoped that the Diaspora and Israeli Jewry could help each other with their respective and urgent challenges.
Judith Falk is the creator of the Upper West Side Shtetl Facebook Group. You can follow her on instagram @upperwestsideshtetl. She is a lawyer by day and a former legal reporter.