Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic has lately tried to destroy his colleague John Judis’s book, Genesis, which is critical of Israel’s foundations.
But Wieseltier played a different role with a pro-Israel book a few months back, Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. From Hadassah Magazine‘s interview of Shavit, by Stewart Kampel:
A. What happened during the first week of my book’s publication went beyond anyone’s expectations, beyond my dreams. Four leading American Jewish intellectuals—David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker; Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for The Atlantic; Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic; and Tom Friedman—praised the book with generosity and enthusiasm, even love. It is a remarkable phenomenon. They are menschen, and I am deeply grateful.
Q. And what of the substance of the book?
A. For such a long time, the conversation about Israel has been
corrupted by elements of tribalism…
So Shavit was brought to public attention by a host of powerful menschen but regards the conversation about Israel as too tribal. (P.S. I’m Jewish and not a supporter of Israel, and my tribe is a diverse one that also has cultural power, but we couldn’t get Max Blumenthal arrested on 7th Avenue even as Shavit was the toast of the town).
Shavit says that Americans want to love Israel but they don’t know how, and that’s how his book serves.
What I do in the book is to bring back a deep love of Israel in a realistic way.
Shavit’s goal is reaching American Jews. As it must be. If you can’t keep American Jews, you can’t keep apartheid humming along in the face of BDS. That’s the mission:
Because I’m such a committed Zionist, I’m very secure in my loyalty and commitment that I have no problem discussing Israel’s flaws. Zionism tried to create a nation as legitimate as any other nation. I see this as a mission. I want the book to be a launching pad to reach out to the American Jewish community. I want a fresh, new debate.
Here’s the part that gets under my skin: Shavit takes credit for Jewish life in the United States. It’s a miracle right alongside Israel’s miracle.
… in North America we created the perfect diaspora. The Jews of the 21st century have today what their great-grandparents could only dream of: equality, freedom, prosperity, dignity.
Q. Will this last?
A. In the 21st century these two miracles are in danger—and we must work together and stay committed to helping reach out to keep our children and grandchildren Jewish. One reason I want members of Hadassah to read this book is to spread its message around. I hope it will spark more discussion among your sons, daughters and grandchildren. My real hope is that it will give youngsters the feeling about Israel that has been lost. …If we don’t understand the history and the context, Israel won’t be able to have an alliance with American Jewry. We are opening the hearts of young Americans, so we are one, brother and sister.
As I have pointed out before, this is Shavit’s blackmail: You Americans need Israel to be Jewish, so support apartheid. But I don’t think I need Israel to be Jewish!
This part is more tribal drumming:
[Today] kids in the U.S. and Israel are so similar, yet are drifting away. It is possible to bring them back from clichés. For too long, young Jews in the United States have been exposed to anti-Israel propaganda. I’m trying to bring back an energetic and authentic discussion that we’ve lost. Israelis must face the problems with Iran, but just as important is building love between the U.S. and Israel. We should all mobilize to get back to basics.
It’s out of touch. Shavit hasn’t been to the Open Hillels in the U.S. He hasn’t seen Ali Kriegsman and Jana Kozlowski’s documentary trailer about Jews being brainwashed by Jewish day schools to ignorance about Israel. He can’t go those places, because he needs us in his army:
Q. What are your hopes for the future?
A. If Israel is to succeed, it needs the help of young American Jews. My fear is of Jewish isolation. I want a Jewish peace corps for schools, camps, etc. There is an amazing energy and vitality if we move out of the political sphere. I want a fresh discussion with American Jews. Israelis have lost our narrative.
True. In fairness, Shavit is an excellent writer, and compelling storyteller; and that was the poetry of his appearances. Israel has lost its narrative. He needs to sit down in the spiritual truth of that and end the propaganda.