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MEE contributor Gideon Levy wins international human rights prize

Judges of the 2015 Swedish Olof Palme human rights prize awarded Levy for his 'fight against occupation and violence'
Israeli journalist Gideon Levy poses in his Tel Aviv home on 12 August, 2014 (AFP)

Israeli journalist Gideon Levy and Palestinian pastor Mitri Raheb have been awarded the 2015 Olof Palme human rights prize for their "fight against occupation and violence", the jury said on Thursday.

Levy is an author, Middle East Eye contributor and also journalist for Israeli daily Haaretz. Raheb meanwhile is a preacher and pastor in the Lutheran church in Bethlehem. The pair were honoured for their "courageous and indefatigable fight against occupation and violence, and for a future Middle East characterised by peaceful coexistence and equality for all," the Olof Palme Memorial Fund said in a statement.

"They both give a ray of hope to a conflict that has plagued and continues to plague millions of people and to endanger world peace," it said.

Levy's journalism career spans more than 25 years but is best known for his work covering the Israeli army's operations in Gaza in December 2008-January 2009 and in July-August 2014.

Originally from Tel Aviv, Levy has been shot at repeatedly by the Israeli army and been labelled a security risk by some Israeli ministers for his work in the Occupied West Bank where few Israelis tread.

His is a highly controversial figure for the Palestinian cause in his country, and has even been described as the most hated man in Israel.

“Israel’s democracy is a very feeble one, in any case – lacking appropriate protections, without the required checks and balances, a democracy mainly directed at the country’s Jewish citizens,” Gideon wrote in a recent column for MEE.

He has previously said that his “biggest struggle is to rehumanise the Palestinians” and try to break through the “machinery of brainwashing in Israel which really accompanies each of us from early childhood”.

“[We are taught] a few narratives that it’s very hard to break. That we Israelis are the ultimate and only victims. That the Palestinians are born to kill, and their hatred is irrational," he told the Independent in 2010. 

For more than 25 years he has written a column, entitled "Twilight Zone", on the hardships of life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Levy, who won the Euro-Med journalism prize in 2008, is a "true patriot (who) has made reconciliation with the Palestinian people the mission of his life," the jury said.

Raheb is a renowned theologian and author, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan who has worked to further inter-religious respect and understanding, particularly among youths.

The Olof Palme Prize is an annual prize worth $75,000 awarded by the Swedish labour movement.

It commemorates the memory of the Nordic country's Social Democratic prime minister Olof Palme, an outspoken international human rights advocate who was assassinated in the Swedish capital in 1986.

Since 1987 the award has honoured human rights defenders around the world including Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

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