Israel's star English-language spokesman is suspended

 

March 29, 2024



(JTA) — Eylon Levy, the English-language spokesman for Israel widely praised for defending the beleaguered country in English-language media, has been suspended and is unlikely to return to his role, Israeli media is reporting.

According to the Israeli media reports, Levy was suspended over his response on X, formerly Twitter, to Britain’s top diplomat, who had called for more aid to be allowed into Gaza, where Israel is waging war against Hamas. Levy’s response, which has since been deleted, rejected the idea that Israel was preventing aid from entering and challenged the official, David Cameron, to send 100 trucks of aid to test Israel’s ability to deliver it. Israel’s Channel 12 reported that the British government, an ally of Israel, sought to clarify whether Levy’s comments represented the official position of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It was a rare misstep for Levy, a 33-year-old Brit who has gained a wide audience for his aggressive yet erudite defense of Israel on TV news and social media since being appointed shortly after the war’s onset on Oct. 7. “He’s a very smart guy and well-spoken and it was something that was incredibly lacking in the beginning of the war,” Israeli policy analyst and pro-Israel influencer Eli Kowaz told JTA in January.

Netanyahu’s office confirmed the suspension to the Jerusalem Post. Levy did not respond to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency request for comment on Tuesday.

The shakeup comes as Israel faces steep criticism internationally over its prosecution of the war, including about its delivery of aid to Palestinians. Netanyahu reportedly complained in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday that a challenge facing Israel’s public diplomacy, known in Hebrew as hasbara, is that there are too many people “who can’t put two words together” in English arguing for his government’s policies.

Netanyahu’s wife, Sara Netanyahu, was reported in January to be seeking Levy’s ouster because the spokesman had been critical of her husband last year before the war, when hundreds of thousands of Israelis protested his government’s proposed judicial reforms.

Levy’s bio on his social media channels still identities him as the “Israeli Government Spokesman in the October 7 War.” Throughout the last week, during his reported suspension, Levy maintained a steady stream of tweets of the sort that gained him more than 150,000 followers since the outbreak of the war. (His follower count has grown even more on Instagram.) On Wednesday, he began his day with a tweet that followed his routine — “Day 166 [yellow ribbon and heart emojis],” he wrote, referring to the number of days since the Oct. 7 attack — but did not immediately follow it with the stream of content that he typically posts throughout the day.

Levy’s fans in the pro-Israel sphere of social media have been protesting his ouster. “We support you @eylonalevy, thank you for all of your hard work,” posted A Jewish Resistance, an account with more than 50,000 Instagram followers, in one representative instance.

A petition calling for Levy’s reinstatement was quickly gaining momentum on Wednesday, with more than 1,800 people signing on in a matter of hours.

“At a time when public opinion is increasingly influenced by misinformation and Hamas propaganda, Eylon Levy’s role in disseminating factual, clear, and concise information is indispensable,” said the petition, by a social account called We Are Tov! “His suspension not only hinders the effective communication of Israel’s policies and actions but also limits the global understanding of the challenges and complexities faced by all parties involved in this conflict.”

 

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