Ari Shavit is a well-known and acclaimed Israeli journalist, who is now touring the United States promoting his new book, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. He is being portrayed by the Israel-friendly U.S. press as a sensitive liberal who is brilliant, fair-minded and a seeker of peace. We have covered the Shavit phenomenon here and here, and noted that Shavit is probably perceived by Thomas Friedman, Terry Gross, David Remnick and Jeffrey Goldberg, all Shavit cheerleaders, as an effective antidote to the recent critical commentary in Max Blumenthal’s book and Ian Lustick’s New York Times op-ed.
The irony is that Shavit is not a liberal Zionist, even by the admittedly low Israeli standard. A sense of this can be gleaned from reading his hectoring and war- threatening op-ed in the New York Times, The Bomb and the Bomber, from May 2012. His disturbing outlook in support of the aggressive Iran policy of his self-proclaimed friend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was again featured on the Times editorial page two days ago.
If you want a glimpse of what Shavit thinks of the Palestinians, view his remarkably insensitive and inflammatory directive to them (begin at minute 6:42) to forget the expulsion of 25 – 35 thousand Arab residents of Lydda in 1948 because their sense of victimhood is an impediment to the current peace process!
Shavit, of course, knows that his “liberal and sensitive side” are what many of his American connections are selling and he does a reasonable, although far from impeccable, job of supplying that in interviews and appearances. But in Israel he is not thusly constrained.
What follows is a video and transcript of a 2009 Israeli television appearance where Shavit’s not-so-liberal ideas and the not-so-reasonable side of his personality are on full display. Gideon Levy (wearing the red shirt) is one of the most outspoken and eloquent voices for Palestinian rights and against the occupation, in Israeli journalism. Despite the fact that both Shavit and Levy work for the same newspaper, Ha’aretz, Shavit (wearing the black shirt) assaults Levy with a tirade of hyperbolic and outrageous insults.
What did Levy say that triggered Shavit’s extreme ire? First he asked the question, “Would you allow the Palestinians of Nablus to live in Tel Aviv?” Then Levy made the statement that the Jews came to a land occupied by another people.
Look at Shavit’s eyes and his gestures. Is this the man of peace and reason that is being sold in the U.S. market?
Dan Margalit (host): If two peoples seriously intend to live in peace, the Palestinians shouldn’t have a problem with Ofra or Ariel staying where they are. Let’s say that we stole the land. Let’s say that we’ll pay for the land. We’re a people that pays for land – ever since the days of the Cave of Machpelah [i.e. the time of Abraham -trans.]…. That’s not the point. The point is your rejection of the very idea – not yours, maybe, Abu Mazen’s, Yasser Arafat’s – of the very idea that a Jewish community [Heb. “yishuv”] can exist in the heart of Palestine.
Gideon Levy: Why? Would you allow the Arabs of Nablus to live in Tel Aviv?
Margalit: What’s the connection?
Levy: Ah, suddenly. What’s the connection?
Shavit: You’re a total demagogue. They don’t recognise the state of the Jewish people. They don’t recognize the Jewish people and its right. That’s the issue. That’s what you’re ignoring. You always take this extreme part.
Levy: You are the extreme right. I have nothing to discuss with you. You are a spokesman of the extreme right, masquerading.
Shavit: Gideon, You want a secular, democratic state. You’re worse than the extremists among the Palestinians.
Levy: Terrific. OK. Perfect. Anti-Semite.
Shavit: And this is a kind of anti-Semitism, an unwillingness to recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.
Levy: [Just] say Nazi.
Shavit: No, this is an extreme anti-Israeli approach that you spread like poison around the world. And then you call it demagoguery. This is demagoguery of the worst kind, your demagoguery.
Levy: I’m a little tired of Ari Shavit. Who tries to have it all. It is … I want to refresh people’s memory, once and for all. We came to a country inhabited by another people.
Margalit: Oh, delegitimizing of Israel. We understand.
Shavit: Then let’s leave. That’s why you’re not worried about Iran, because you agree with Ahmedinejad. You think we should go back to Austria. That’s what you’re saying.
Levy: [Just say] Adolf Hitler.
Shavit: When you talk like this, when you don’t recognize the right of the Jewish people, when you don’t want a national home for the Jewish people, you are a partner of the enemies of Israel [also “the Jewish people” – trans.].
Thanks to Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel for providing this translation.