How do you know the fix is in? Ari Shavit’s revivalist-Zionist book My Promised Land continues to get a ton of attention, even as the mainstream does its utmost to ignore Max Blumenthal’s very different description of Israel in Goliath. Shavit got a full-page ad in the New York Times last week, and at the same time he was interviewed by Sally Quinn in the Washington Post. Quinn clearly knows very little about the issue. She spells his name Savit three times.
I’ve been reading Shavit’s book and must praise it as an intimate portrait of Jewish Israel, with Shavit doing his utmost as a reporter to convey that world to us. But the book is very much Inside the Jewish paradigm, and suffers from the complacency and hermeticism of Tel Aviv. The book contains: endless celebrations of Jewish creativity and high-tech start-ups, the repeated claim that Israel prevented another “Holocaust” by bombing the Iraq reactor in 1981 and then the Syrian facility in 2007, the assertion that Iran is rushing to get its hands on a bomb…. Very inside Israel ideas.
Our narrator affects worldliness, but in fact he lacks the ability to step outside the bubble. And that’s the most telling thing about Shavit’s reception: while Max Blumenthal speaks in a leftwing American idiom we all recognize (of equality and anti-racism), Shavit speaks in an Israeli idiom he believes is sophisticated but isn’t. His writing is clueless when it comes to sex, it’s cringe-making 50-year-old guy stuff that went out in this country a few years ago (I should know).
Sally Quinn got some of this inside-Israel cluelessness in her story:
The result of living with this fear constantly, Shavit says, is “not despair, pessimism or passivity. It’s not whining. We are not addicted to victimhood. We didn’t turn it into our religion or identity.” Instead, he says, “you see creativity everywhere. There is an intensive cultural life in Israel, poetry, theater and intensive economic and scientific creativity as well.
“The quality of life, of human relationships is unique, sensual. Israel is very sexy. There is something in the air. The boys and girls are beautiful. You see it in our reproductivity — even among secular Israeli Jews it is off the charts.” He thinks it is perhaps no accident that they are that way.
P.S. It is a well-known fact (i.e., I believe this, but don’t have the time to document it now) that people in conflict zones have higher birth rates. Yasser Arafat once described the Palestinian womb as a weapon. It strikes me as naive not to factor this in when you are reporting how beautiful the boys and girls are.