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Ari Shavit is hardwired into the Israeli elite—but knows nothing about Palestinians

Israel/Palestine
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Ari Shavit. (Photo: Spiegel & Grau/NPR)

Ari Shavit. (Photo: Spiegel & Grau/NPR)

Ari Shavit wants to end the occupation. The Haaretz senior columnist and author of My Promised Land is a longstanding figure of the Israeli peace camp. He’s an archetype for what is referred to as “the Left,” a dwindling breed of earnest defectors from the occupation machine, an acknowledger of the crimes of 1948—what Shavit calls Israel’s “tragedy” in his book’s sub-heading.

Shavit’s take is a bit doom-laden for me. A few days ago +972 Magazine put together a damning list of Shavit excerpts from 2006 to 2012 where he anticipates Israel is on the brink of an End of Days battle with the Palestinians. It totals 31 entries . I could add one more to the list, his November 18th interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Shavit said if the current round of negotiations fails, it will end in an Intifada akin to the last set of talks.

‘So we have this repeating process where there are high expectations. The Palestinians and Israelis are singing the song. Nothing happens. Then there is a clash, then there is a crash, and then there is violence.’

In the end, it seems Shavit doesn’t know Palestinians. In 2011 in the lead up to the first and failed round of United Nations non-member observer status, Shavit thought statehood would lead to another clash on the ground with Israelis. But the statehood bid came and passed and when it resurfaced the following year, Palestinians did protest and shots were fired, but not at the Israelis as he predicted. Instead Palestinian refugees demanded subsidies from the Palestinian Authority (PA).  The UN statehood bid is the key to understanding the Palestinian political landscape today. It brought to gunfire a rift in Fatah, those who supported the bid from the upper class, and the refugees who were against it, and Shavit missed the story.

I’m not prepared to throw out Shavit’s analysis all together. Shavit may not know Palestinian politics, but he is tapped into the establishment Israeli left. He says Israel’s failure was producing a framework where negotiations could only solve the conflict through one photographed handshake, or keep the charade going indefinitely. While this totally unrealistic peace process never gave the left a real chance to solve the conflict, enormous political space was allotted to the extreme-right even though they only amount to 10% of Israel’s population. This radical voting bloc, whose leader open calls for ethnic cleansing, now has hold over the governing coalition.  Shavit sees this as Israel on the brink, or has already knee-deep in a settler takeover of mainstream Israeli politics.

On this line, Shavit is an expert offering expert analysis. He knows Israel. He understands the power players in Israel. He’s interviewed Benjamin Netanyahu, a rare feat among Israeli journalists, and he has a wealth of establishment left experience through his time at Haaretz and Peace Now. He’s well-positioned and influential. And besides, Shavit’s interest here isn’t to protect the rights of Palestinians. He desires to maintain this Israel. He is a proud Israeli who sees his future living alongside Palestinians under a secular state, Jewish only in character.

Shavit may be disconnected from Palestinian political aspirations but his Intifada woes are worth cataloging because they reflect the liberal Zionist anxiety over the occupation, and the guilt felt over Intifada-era policies. The West Bank wasn’t always on lockdown behind checkpoints the way it is today. Shavit understands the brutality of the occupation, and Wall serves as his Rorschach test to project his fears onto. There is no mass Palestinian uprising on the horizon, but Shavit fears one because he knows it would be justified.

Allison Deger
About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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20 Responses

  1. shalom
    shalom
    December 2, 2013, 3:52 pm

    A lot of people on both sides and here in America believe that the failure of the current peace talks will inspire serious violence AKA a Third Intifada. I’ve read it in the Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz, Ma’an, Al Jazeera and countless other news sources. Because it is one outcome doesn’t make Shavit right or wrong. I think the important thing is that he is still pursuing peace in spite of all the things that stand in the way.

    • Shingo
      Shingo
      December 2, 2013, 4:58 pm

      I think the important thing is that he is still pursuing peace in spite of all the things that stand in the way.

      He is not pursuing peace, he is pursuing a means to mail out Israel for it’s crimes.

  2. seafoid
    seafoid
    December 2, 2013, 5:15 pm

    “about Palestinians” was superfluous , really.

  3. seafoid
    seafoid
    December 2, 2013, 5:15 pm

    Shalom is such a meaningless word as well.

  4. Daniel Rich
    Daniel Rich
    December 2, 2013, 5:29 pm

    Is it because Ari reads the The New York Times?

  5. OlegR
    OlegR
    December 2, 2013, 5:54 pm

    Sort of off topic.

    This is a fascinating conversation between Benny Moris and Uri Avnery
    published in Odyssey magazine and today in Haaretz.

    http://www.haaretz.co.il/odyssey/1.2177791

    Hebrew only, so either use translate or maybe Shmuel would contribute of his time.
    If you want to talk war of ideas then this is it.

  6. Krauss
    Krauss
    December 2, 2013, 6:20 pm

    a dwindling breed of earnest defectors from the occupation machine

    Allison, what are you talking about?

    Shavit ranted against Gideon Levy in a TV debate that he(Levy) is “worse than the extremist Palestinains! You want secular democracy!”.

    I mean, if this is a “dwindling breed of earnest defectors” from the occupation machine/the Apartheid status quo, then what is a rightist? A pro-genocide advocate?

    Shavit’s book is mostly PR and/or antidepressants for an anxious liberal Jewish elite who try to hold the line, impossibly, on Zionism in American life. And not just American life, but increasingly inside Jewish American life.

  7. OlegR
    OlegR
    December 2, 2013, 6:52 pm

    /“worse than the extremist Palestinains! You want secular democracy!”./
    No actually what he said (and btw if you copy a translation of Shmuel at least do it right you flipped the order of the sentences)

    And this is my interpretation of that exchange as someone who also speaks Hebrew .
    “Gideon you want secular democracy. (Full stop new sentence) But (it’s not said but this is my understanding) you act as the worse of the extremist Palestinains.”

    Check with Shmuel if he thinks that i am wrong and actually Ari Shavit opposes secular democracy.

    Btw i don’t really like Ari Shavit specifically because of his many apocalyptic predictions that don’t come true though he does hold a lot of the right opinions.

    • Shmuel
      Shmuel
      December 3, 2013, 2:47 am

      And this is my interpretation of that exchange as someone who also speaks Hebrew . “Gideon you want secular democracy. (Full stop new sentence) But (it’s not said but this is my understanding) you act as the worse of the extremist Palestinains.”

      Check with Shmuel if he thinks that i am wrong and actually Ari Shavit opposes secular democracy.

      By “secular, democratic state”, Shavit clearly means ‘not a Jewish state’. He goes on to describe advocating such a state (“secular, democratic”) as “a kind of anti-Semitism, an unwillingness to recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.” The comparison to Palestinian extremists is thus in agreement — not contrast — with Levy’s desire for a secular, democratic state.

      Shavit clearly supports the idea of a “Jewish and democratic” state, but opposes a “secular, democratic” (i.e. not Jewish) state. BTW, Israeli one-staters also use the expression “secular, democratic” to describe the non-ethnic, non-religious state they envisage in all of Israel/Palestine (not that Shavit was implying that Levy is a one-stater, of course).

      • OlegR
        OlegR
        December 3, 2013, 4:21 am

        I disagree.
        Shavit is a secular leftist so when he says Jewish and Democratic .
        The Jewish component is not a religious (not predominantly) but a cultural one.I have never seen Shavit argue in favor of a religious component of the Jewish state (don’t remember the opposite either).
        But given his general views and background i believe that you are wrong.
        I think that in the heat of the argument with Levy who can annoy the hell out of anybody (and does so with pleasure on occasion) Shavit
        used these two phrases in a way that he did not intend and you cherrypicked as if he is against a secular democracy in general.

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        December 3, 2013, 5:03 am

        Cherrypicking? Come on, Oleg. We both know (more or less) what Shavit thinks (centre-left, secular-Zionist mainstream), but not only are you ignoring the general meaning of מדינה חילונית דמוקרטית (“secular, democratic state”), which no one uses to refer to a “Jewish and democratic state” — even one without “religious coercion” — but you are ignoring Shavit’s own use of the expression, in which he clearly juxtaposes “secular” and “Jewish” (in an ethnic/national sense, naturally):

        Gideon, You want a secular, democratic state. You’re worse than the extremists among the Palestinians. [Levy interrupts, Shavit continues] And this is a kind of anti-Semitism, an unwillingness to recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.

        As for my own opinions, I do happen to think that Shavit (like centre-left Zionists in general) is against democracy, secular or otherwise, because he advocates a form of ethnocracy or ethnic privilege that is inconsistent with liberal democracy. I am fully aware, however, of the fact that Shavit does not see it that way.

        No one was suggesting – least of all Shavit himself – that he would like to see a rabbinic theocracy in Israel. You are quibbling.

      • OlegR
        OlegR
        December 3, 2013, 7:10 am

        MW just ate my last comment so i’ll leave ari shavit for now to much bother writing it all over.
        Did you get to read the discussion between Uri Avnery and Benny Morris
        and what did you think of it ?

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        December 3, 2013, 7:30 am

        Oleg

        I think Morris is insane . Same as the American soi disant Friends of Israel

        http://aforam.org/get-involved/

        “In the face of possible war, Rambam Health Care Campus has built the world’s largest fortified underground emergency hospital in the world
        Help us equip it with 2,000 medical beds!”

        That untreated Shoah trauma is the source of most of Israel’s problems.

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        December 3, 2013, 7:39 am

        MW just ate my last comment so i’ll leave ari shavit for now to much bother writing it all over.

        Just as well.

        Did you get to read the discussion between Uri Avnery and Benny Morris and what did you think of it ?

        Open in a browser tab. Will read this eve. I’m not crazy about either, but both often have interesting things to say.

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        December 4, 2013, 5:12 am

        Did you get to read the discussion between Uri Avnery and Benny Morris and what did you think of it ?

        OK, I’ve read it. It’s more of an interview (Morris interviewing Avnery) than a discussion, but that may have to do with the fact that Morris was the one who transcribed it. I must say that I found the whole thing rather tedious. Morris comes off as a shallow, rigid (and racist) ideologue, but he does ask Avnery some good questions. Avnery, on the other hand, appears inconsistent (not in a good way) and, frankly, ignorant (when Morris catches him up a couple of times on the facts, he fumbles pathetically).

  8. talknic
    talknic
    December 3, 2013, 1:34 am

    Speculation by anyone of what might happen is fantasy, not fact

    The facts are:
    1) Whether a state is secular or not is entirely up to the majority of its citizens

    2) The Question of Palestine involves
    A) The State of Israel whose sovereign extent was proclaimed ” as an independent republic within frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947 , and that a provisional government has been charged to assume the rights and duties of government for preserving law and order within the boundaries of Israel, for defending the state against external aggression, and for discharging the obligations of Israel to the other nations of the world in accordance with international law . “ The State of Israel’s borders have not legally changed since being recognized and; since being admitted to the UN
    B) What remained of Palestine after Israel was proclaimed

    2) All law exists as a means by which to:
    A) prevent people’s rights being trampled on and;
    B) determine who is responsible and must act accordingly to resolve matters when the parties concerned have not or cannot negotiate a peaceful outcome
    C) Speculation / Left / Right are irrelevant to the law
    D) The law only comes into effect after it has been broken

    3) The I/P issue has not been resolved and; the State of Israel has been reminded on hundreds of occasions of its obligations “to the other nations of the world in accordance with international law”. I.e., it has broken the law

    4) The US veto vote in the UNSC prevents the law from being given effect

    The answer is obvious. The influences that motivate the US to maintain the UNSC veto vote must be removed

  9. Citizen
    Citizen
    December 3, 2013, 6:04 am

    It’s also obvious that Israel could care less about international law and or the UN even though Israel is only recognized as a state as other states in the world solely through the UN, international law. This despite the fact Israel has never completed the conditions subsequent to its official recognition and validity by both the US and other international law. The problem is the USA is the enabler of this deep injustice, flouting of international law, this so harmful and keen hypocrisy. The USA has traded its moral superiority for AIPAC dollars. Worse, although it remains the only superpower, both via military and economy, there’s no sign it will change, only signs it will continue to weaken in every way. Neither Americans nor the World can afford what is happening to the USA under AIPAC.

  10. eGuard
    eGuard
    December 3, 2013, 6:55 am

    Ari Shavit. Another “left” “liberal” Zionist. Another Peter Beinart. Another Barenboim. Another occupier. Why are we spending so much time on these faux intellectuals?

    Thanks, Allison Deger. One fine description that makes reading NYT unneeded.

    Now I will go to the 972+ link to see what he wrote about the Israeli attack on Gaza 2008/2009. I predict he says: “stop killing after one week”. After all, he’s a liberal.

  11. James Canning
    James Canning
    December 3, 2013, 2:16 pm

    I too see low probability of a Palestinian uprising in the West Bank. I think the Palestinians need to go about their lives as best they can, despite the oppression of the occupation, and do their best to defend the Green Line as border of their state.

  12. Mayhem
    Mayhem
    December 4, 2013, 9:12 pm

    Ari Shavit no doubt is too ‘Zionist’ for MW sensibilities, but I would
    contend that Allison is too tough on him. You can’t expect him to
    be right all the time and I would suggest on fundamentals that Shavit absolutely knows precisely what he is talking about. In his recent book launch I quote an excerpt from the 15:53 mark of his talk that is part of a section that goes from 12:45 – 17:01. Refer
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tv8nr7m25nY
    “Because from the moment they (the Zionist settlers) set foot in that
    country and they did not see the others and the others did not accept them, conflict was inherent.
    I’m an adamant anti-settlement guy and we’ll get into that. I’m an adamant anti-occupation guy, but anyone telling you that the conflict
    is about the settlements or occupation, forgive me the rough language, does not have a clue what he is talking about. The conflict is about the fact the Jews came to a land that was Moslem. The conflict is about the fact that we built Jewish sovereignty, Jewish democratic sovereignty, which is a new concept we introduced to the region. We’ve created that among Arab nations that do not have tolerance for non-Arabs. The conflict is about that the Palestinians do not to this day, do not forgive us for coming there and they have their reasons and I understand their reasons, but this is what the conflict is about and if one wants to address the problem of the settlements and the occupation one has to be put this in context.”

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