The Israeli journalist Ari Shavit’s latest American bestselling book “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,” offers a disheartening outlook, a definite but skewed reality, and a detrimental PR for Israel.
The book is very well written (Ari Shavit must have had a brilliant editor); it’s an attention-grabbing page-turner, but at the same time, it reinforces the Arab agenda of delegitimizing the state of Israel. Lacking proper background knowledge or understanding of the particular history before reading the book, may serve to convince the ignorant reader that the Palestinians’ claims to Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, the Galilee, Lydda, etc. is absolutely justified. And the Jews, the Zionists, and the Israelis are the latest Crusaders whose time in the holy land is fleeting, as it will soon run out. The book lets the naïve reader be persuaded that the state of Israel will implode as the population time bomb continues its steady march toward doomsday, while the extreme right continues to tear down any chance for peace by colonizing the West Bank (a.k.a. Judea and Samaria), whereas the new materialistic and fun-seeking generation of young Israelis are completely disconnected from the ideals and the spirit of their forefathers—the Zionists founders of the Jewish state.
Ari Shavit believes that he is a Zionist. He makes sure that the reader knows that he is in love with Israel; that he admires the Israeli resourcefulness and innovative spirit, and that he approves of the original Zionists’ goal of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine, a goal, which according to Shavit, was accomplished via ethnic cleansing and a Palestinian Nakba. The goal justified the means, in Shavit’s opinion, because there was no other choice. But, although Ari Shavit rationalizes the 1948 Jewish cruelty toward the Palestinian Arabs, he has missed a couple of important points. The 1948 war was a war of survival for the Jews in Palestine. Eastern Jerusalem and the Etzion Bloc Jews suffered similar, if not worse fate at the hands of the Arabs. These two areas were cleansed of its surviving Jews—those who had not been killed or massacred during the Arab onslaught. And had the Jews lost the war—a scenario that seemed quite plausible during the earlier days—a new holocaust would have dawned on the Jewish community in Palestine. Ari Shavit failed to emphasize that the war was launched by the Arabs—not by the Jews. The Arabs’ intent was loud and clear—killing the Zionists and throwing them into the sea. But Ari Shavit makes it sound differently. He lets the reader perceive the Jews as the aggressors, the ethnic cleansers, the killers of innocents. He lets the reader perceive the Arabs as the innocent victims. And although he approves of the ugly measures taken by the Zionists in pursuing the founding of their state, he does not tell the whole truth; he does not convey the fact that it was those same Arabs who started the ugliness, the killings, the massacres; he does not make the reader understand that the Jews fought a defensive, desperate war of survival.
The second missed point is the fact that readers have selective memory. After reading the book, many will only hark back to the killing in Deir Yassin and the ethnic cleansing of Lydda and the Galilee; they won’t understand the reasons for it, nor will they know that these beastly actions were an integral component of a zero-sum-game that had taken place during the 1948 war of Jewish independence. Had these events not come to pass, Jewish Jerusalem would not have survived, the Jewish State would not have been viable, and Ari Shavit would not have had the good life he revels in today.
But the most disheartening aspect of the book is its implicit conclusions.
Ari Shavit makes sure that the reader understands and legitimizes the feelings harbored by Arabs toward the Jewish State. He makes it clear that what the Arabs refer to as “the Nakba”—the Arabs’ catastrophe, stemmed from the creation of the Jewish State—will always be the core of the Middle East conflict. In fact, Ari Shavit’s leftist ideology that strives for a peaceful co-existence with the Palestinian Arabs is also the one pointing to the only conclusion — that peace between Arabs and Jews is impossible as long as Israel exists. Shavit makes it clear that what the Arabs refer to as the occupied territory is not limited to the west bank; it includes the territory occupied in the 1948 war; it includes pre-1967 Israel.
And although Ari Shavit is adamantly opposed to the west bank settlements; although he sees those as the main obstacle to peaceful co-existence, he, at the same time, makes the case that there is no difference between colonizing the west bank and the colonization of pre-1948 Palestine. This contradiction is threading throughout the book, and it becomes one of its major takeaways.
I could not help but thinking of the damage done by Ari Shavit’s book to the Israeli struggle against Arabs’ attempts to delegitimize its existence. Ari Shavit told us the truth; he did not tell the whole truth, and he painted his version of the partial truth with colors he had viewed through his own left-minded kaleidoscope. I could not help but thinking that the Israeli Shavit is much like Edward Snowden, the American who exposed the NSA secret files, methods and extent of surveillance programs. Both believed that they acted out of patriotism; both brought to light part of the hidden truth they believed had to be exposed. Both failed to dilute the ugly part of the truth with the reason for its being or by countering it with the far greater beneficial part. Both impressed upon their audience that their part of the truth is the whole deal and that it is plain evil. Both failed to understand the damage they had done by aiding the enemies of their state, and by distancing its friends. And both became American celebrities through their actions.
Although I found the book interesting, captivating and extremely well written, I could not recommend it to others or rate it highly because I was distracted by its one-sidedness and unfair depiction of my own promised land—the land of Israel.
The reasons ADL survey underestimated European and American anti-Semitism By AVI PERRY
02/06/2014 Jerusalem Post
Israel-bashing and boycotting has not yet been established as an acknowledged form of anti-Semitism. On May 13, 2014 the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) published results of its world-wide survey on the extent of global anti-Semitism. The survey found that in the majority of English-speaking countries, the percentage of those embracing anti-Semitic attitudes was 13 percent, far lower than the overall average, whereas, Western and Eastern Europe as a whole exhibited 24% and 34% respectively. At the same time, the survey exposed a ubiquitous spread of anti-Semitism in the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa where 90% of the population (93% in the West Bank and Gaza) harbors profound prejudicial frame of mind pertaining to Jews in general, not limited to Israel or Israelis in particular.
The survey comprised 11 questions. Respondents acted on these by either agreeing or disagreeing to the following list of statements alluding to typical, old-school anti-Semitic myths:
1 Jews are more loyal to Israel than to [this country/the countries they live in]
2 Jews have too much power in international financial markets
3 Jews have too much control over global affairs
4 Jews think they are better than other people
5 Jews have too much control over the global media
6 Jews are responsible for most of the world's wars
7 Jews have too much power in the business world
8 Jews don't care what happens to anyone but their own kind
9 People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave
10 Jews have too much control over the United States government
11 Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust
Responding affirmatively to six or more out of the 11 statements was “qualified” as an indication of anti-Semitic attitude. Responding affirmatively to 2-5 or 0-1 statements was interpreted as either impartial to or free of anti-Semitic mindset respectively.
Interestingly, the survey missed on one recent, however momentous, unconventional form of anti-Semitic attitude, one that is prevalent in Western Europe and in the English speaking countries where the survey found a relatively low percentage of what it defined as anti-Semites.
That specific form of anti-Semitism, the one exhibited by the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, cultural boycotts of Israeli artists, academic boycott of Israeli scientists is, just as well, founded on myths and untruths dispersed by Arab propaganda, while it spills over and taints Jews everywhere since they “represent” the “ugly Zionists”.
The first myth accusing Israel of apartheid and ethnic cleansing is so outrageous that it actually distorts the meaning of apartheid. Israeli Arabs enjoy more freedom of speech, of movement, of participation in the Israeli economy, of legal justice then any of their brethren in the surrounding vast ocean of Arab and Muslim countries. Arabs serve as doctors in Israeli hospitals, as managers in Israeli corporations, having Jewish employees report to them. One of Israel’s Supreme Court judges is a Palestinian Arab. Arabs who declare their hostility to the Jewish State serve as members of Parliament (MKs), spilling their venom from its pulpit fearlessly and in front of all other MKs and national TV. Could anyone find that level of liberty and economic freedom in the apartheid state of South Africa where blacks are a majority rather than a hostile minority? Of course, Israeli Arabs are treated with a certain level of suspicion, because, after all, many of them view the State of Israel as being occupied unjustly by Jews who do not belong there, and in 1947-48 these Arabs fought the Jews in the hope of throwing them into the sea. But labeling treatment of Israeli Arabs as apartheid amounts to either downplaying the true meaning of apartheid or a contemptible and deceptive way of describing the present conditions of Israeli Arabs.
Charges of ethnic cleansing including false reports of Israeli soldiers intentionally killing Arab children, outrageous stories about harvesting the organs of dead Arabs (the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet in 2009), spreading rumors concerning Mossad-trained sharks attacking Egyptians in the Red Sea, and communicating exaggerated, false stories about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, are all serving as “moral” justification for treating Israel as a pariah state. The latest Newsweek depiction of Israeli spying in the US and its traditional anti-Semitic claim about Jewish control and influence that impede and compress any counter-measures designed to eliminate and prosecute that behavior, is one more scam intended to conceal anti-Semitic tendencies under the guise of Israel-bashing.
It is evident that the BDS movement is about dismantling Israel, not the result of the 1967 Occupation. And denying the Jews’ right to self-determination is distinctly anti-Semitic.
Unfortunately, the Israel-bashing and boycotting aspect concerning 50% of the world Jewish population, which lives in Israel, was not present in the ADL survey. It has not been tested because it is relatively new and has not yet been established as an acknowledged form of anti-Semitism. In fact, being critical of the Jewish state in Israel is a legitimate act when it is justified. It is not anti-Semitic as long as this criticism is founded on facts, verifiable evidence, historical truths and legal grounds. But, when Israel-bashing is based upon falsehoods, distortion of facts, edited and staged video recordings, blood libels, or comparisons to the Nazi or to the apartheid regimes, then it is motivated by anti-Semitic intentions. There is no other way about it.
Unfortunately, the ADL survey failed to take this aspect into account in their questionnaire. Had they included this category in their survey, they might have found out that anti-Semitism in Western Europe and in the US was much more widespread than what was unearthed through the 11 questions the ADL drew upon.
Dr. Avi Perry, a talk show host at Paltalk News Network (PNN), is the author of "Fundamentals of Voice Quality Engineering in Wireless Networks," and more recently, "72 Virgins," a thriller about the covert war on Islamic terror. He was Vice President at NMS Communications, a Bell Laboratories - distinguished staff member and manager, as well as a delegate of the US and Lucent Technologies to the ITU—the UN International Standards body in Geneva, a professor at Northwestern University and an Intelligence expert for the Israeli Government. He may be reached through his web site www.aviperry.org