Op-Ed: A One-Sided Depiction of Israel
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 contains much 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. It may serve to convince the ignorant reader, lacking proper background knowledge or understanding of the particular history before reading the book that the Palestinian Arab 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 Zionist 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 what is to him 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 a terrible fate at the hands of the Arabs. These two areas were cleansed of their surviving Jews—those who had not been killed or massacred during the Arab onslaught.
Ari Shavit failed to emphasize that the war was launched by the Arabs—not by the Jews. The Arab intent was loud and clear—killing the Zionists and throwing them into the sea.
And had the Jews lost the war—a scenario that seemed quite plausible during the earlier days of battle—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 Arab intent was loud and clear—killing the Zionists and throwing them into the sea. They repeated it over and over. But Ari Shavit makes it sound different. He leads the reader to 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 what he describes as the ugly measures taken by the Zionists in pursuing the founding of their state, he does not tell the whole truth; he does not even convey the fact that it was those same Arabs who started the killings, the massacres when the Jews bought the land they tilled and tried to live in peace with the Arabs; 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 - the real story of which is still not agreed upon - and the ethnic cleansing of Lydda and part of the Galilee; they won’t understand the reasons, the desperation, the lack of arms, the threats of another Holocaust, nor will they know that these 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 empathizes with and legitimizes the feelings harbored by Arabs toward the Jewish State. He makes his point 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" Jewish communities; 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 woven throughout the book, and it becomes one of its major takeaways.
I could not help but think of the damage done by Ari Shavit’s book to Israel's struggle against Arab attempts to delegitimize its existence. Ari Shavit told us truth; but 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 existence 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.