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Thanking Wieseltier, Shavit wants to save young American Jews who’ve been ‘exposed to anti-Israel propaganda’

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

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

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.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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21 Responses

  1. Kathleen on February 28, 2014, 10:45 am

    Phil just got in a comment about Aipac on the Diane Rehm show during the domestic hour. Asking will the Rehm show mention or talk about this conference. Also posted that they were unwilling to give journalist credentials for getting in.

    Remember millions of people listen to this program. Live from D.c. You would get through their lines (someone else could do it since I just got through) during the next 15 minutes or doing the international hour…to bring up the conference and what attendees will be lobbying for

    Join the show:

    [email protected]
    Find us on Facebook
    Follow us on Twitter

  2. Krauss on February 28, 2014, 10:49 am

    Aside from old, white American Jewish men, does Shavit have an audience, among younger American Jews?

    He is doing well with the people who he doens’t need to do well with; the Jewish establishment. Older, whiter, male. The people who run our institutions.

    But they have done a great job on issues like assimilation or Jewish identity thus far, have they? Or support for an ideology which asks young Jews to make one giant exception to our liberal values, because the oppressors are of our own race.

    It’s a losing proposition.

  3. pabelmont on February 28, 2014, 11:05 am

    If USA’s Jews “dry up” as support for Israel, USA will continue to support Israel if (the BIG IF) USA’s military-foreign-intelligence policy (which normally supports dictators etc.) sees that as best. But drying up Jewish support (and all other principled support) for Israel in the USa is our best bet.

    Trying to talk the GoUSA out of the “War on Terror”, the massive-uncontrolled-all-accelerator-but-no-brakes “intelligence” programs, support for Israel, etc., etc., etc. (I give you 3 “etc” because the horrors are so numerous) war-on-all-fronts-EXCEPT-Climate-Change — trying to talk the GoUSA out of these bad habits is not going to depend on a Jewish opinion.

  4. bilal a on February 28, 2014, 11:44 am

    The problem with White priviledge , or Jewish priviledge, is that it allocates rewards and influence based upon membership in by necessity an exclusive club, exclusive in that it excludes the other, in this case, Gentiles. ( Remnick, Goldberg, Wieseltier, Friedman were not elected by some broader community, but appointed ,by funding publishers , ie One Dollar, One Vote democracy)

    Ethnic networking in opposition to the Other invites self organization and resistance, which is beginning in the Progressive Christian community, and now in Catholicism:

    “Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, for example, has championed what he calls an “ecumenical jihad” against secularism, while Catholics as diverse as Dinesh D’Souza, E. Michael Jones, and Timothy Cardinal Dolan have emphasized the common moral ground shared by Catholics and Muslims.

    The most recent addition to the list is Princeton professor Robert George. In a piece for First Things entitled “Muslims, Our Natural Allies,” he argues that Muslims are our natural confederates because most of them believe in “modesty, chastity, and piety.””

    The Neocon Islamopaths are irate, see Spencer, Front page mag.

    • ritzl on February 28, 2014, 1:10 pm

      Hmm. Interesting. Catholicism is top-down isn’t it? Bibi is kinda the opposite of modest, chaste, and pious. I wonder if his recent suggestions on how to behave, in gift book form, didn’t just rub “somebody” the wrong way.

      Probably a 2+2=17 thing, but it’s interesting to contmplate whether Popes get testy just like the rest of us.

      • bilal a on March 4, 2014, 9:19 am

        Catholic-Jewish dialog has proven to be a one way street, with Rabbis claming the right to edit Christian theological dogma. Case in point is the new ‘Son of God’ film, preapproved by Abe Foxman at the ADL, so millions of American Christians will watch a Jewish santized version of the New testament, which seeks to reverse the damage of the Gibson film, in viewing Jesus as basically a Jewish reformer of the oral traidtion (Talmudists) killed by his co-religionists, not Rome:

        Son of God’: Jewish Leader Hopes Bible Film Will Be ‘Antidote’ to ‘Passion of the Christ’
        “Gibson bloodied the Jews by portraying them as such villains,” said Foxman. He was among the Jewish leaders who a decade ago spoke out bitterly against Gibson’s brutal recounting of Christ’s crucifixion, saying its depiction of sadistic Pharisees and stereotypical characters fanned the flames of hatred against Jews

  5. William Burns on February 28, 2014, 11:48 am

    If those are four leading American Jewish intellectuals, the Jews are in more trouble than I thought. . .

  6. seafoid on February 28, 2014, 2:35 pm

    “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.”

    Reminds me of the wisdom of Bashir Gemayel (died 1982). Older readers will remember Bashir as an Israeli puppet. He also ran into trouble over the Palestinians.

    “The minute that we start to think that this is not possible, it will become our first defeat.
    The ruler needs someone to tell him the truth.
    There is no place for defeat in our hearts.
    Things from now on need to have a meaning”

    Anyone can talk wishy washy hopey feeley military/peaceloving crap

    It comes down to power, foresight, planning and who gets shafted.
    Nokia couldn’t MAKE anyone buy its phones. Israel can’t MAKE anyone love it.
    Not even Phil’s mother.

  7. James North on February 28, 2014, 2:39 pm

    If Ari Shavit truly wants “a fresh, new debate,” he will contact Max Blumenthal immediately. Then he will call the 92nd Street Y. Or maybe, on second thought, call Cooper Union, to accommodate the overflow crowd.

  8. Mayhem on February 28, 2014, 7:44 pm

    But I don’t think I need Israel to be Jewish!

    Why didn’t Philip say this more affirmatively “I don’t need Israel to be Jewish!”?
    Is he hedging his bets?
    If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. (Psalm 137:5)

  9. Talkback on March 1, 2014, 4:25 am

    From my understanding, he doesn’t need anonymous Zionist poetry either.

  10. wondering jew on March 1, 2014, 5:33 am

    Phil writes: You Americans need Israel to be Jewish, so support apartheid. But I don’t think I need Israel to be Jewish!

    Well, Phil, you and your tribe of anti Zionists have nothing to propose regarding the continuity of the Jewish people. Some of you like Magnes Zionist have Jewish content besides your anti Zionism and I accept that you have rejected tribalism and apartheid and do not accept them as part of you. But what is Jewish that you have and that you present to the future. Accepting Hillel’s dictum (the rabbi not the college organization) of “don’t do unto others what you hate being done unto you” is a great dictum and if the world follows its ways, we’ll be in a better place 100 years from now than we are today. but face it, you have accepted the disappearance of the jewish culture as barely evoking a shrug and in fact your Christmas wreath and ignorance of Hebrew and Yiddish and Talmud and Tanach in the original kind of ensure that in 100 years if left up to you, the Jewish people will no longer exist. So you don’t need israel to be Jewish. In fact being Jewish is worthy of a shrug and is condemned to disappear, so what do you mean when you don’t need Israel to be jewish when what you really mean is that you don’t need to be jewish to be human. Fair enough. but aside from speaking truth to power, you should speak truth for truth.

    • seafoid on March 1, 2014, 5:46 am

      “Well, Phil, you and your tribe of anti Zionists have nothing to propose regarding the continuity of the Jewish people”

      Take out Israel, put back God as the focus


      • puppies on March 1, 2014, 8:27 am

        @Seafoid – Great. From the frying pan into the fire. Or vice versa. All we needed at this point was US-style religion. Who the hell needs to “continue” anything “Jewish”?

      • MHughes976 on March 1, 2014, 9:31 am

        What are the reasons for ‘cultural continuity’? There are the distinct but related questions of past achievements which a) result of a particular culture b) were due to people who were of that culture c) were due to people who lived in the midst that culture . English Protestant culture (a) produced the King James Bible and (b) from that culture came Newton, Locke, Milton and (c) we also have people who were possibly outsiders, like the putatively Catholic Shakespeare, but who definitely contributed both to EP culture and to the world. You could provide similar examples for Jewish culture over the centuries. Most cultures also have, in addition to their good elements, both definitely and arguably bad ones.
        We want more of the good and less of the bad. How to get that result? Presumably through letting the culture or tradition in question have free expression over time, be modified as the progress of the arts and sciences continues, and win such new adherents as it can by what it can offer by way of good example. Judaism and Anglicanism as religions, and Jewish and English culture in the wider, more amorphous sense, should continue as far as they are able by this means. Artificial means, like censoring critical voices or insisting that education be used as indoctrination, are not particularly admirable and so there cannot be any right to make use of them. If a religion disappears because it can longer command assent or if a culture disappears because it can no longer command sympathy that is not necessarily a bad thing to be avoided at great cost. If a religion continues because force or ‘moral police’ is used against dissenters or a culture continues because its members are too frightened to face any alternative that is not good.

      • puppies on March 1, 2014, 11:45 pm

        @MHughes – All nice and good, but show me just one element of “Jewish culture” that is not liturgical/religious and not strictly regional as in Ashkenaze, Ethiopian, etc. Not buying before that.

      • seafoid on March 1, 2014, 10:07 am

        I’m sure a lot of Jews feel the culture is worthwhile and that they can retrieve something post the Zionist car crash.

    • seafoid on March 1, 2014, 6:02 am

      @ Yonah
      “the Western Wall, the last remnant of the ancient Temple, which the Talmud teaches was destroyed by sinat hinam, the baseless hatred of Jews for other Jews.”

      Do you buy that explanation or do you think it had more to do with geopolitics at the time ?

      Do American Jews need that wall ?

      • wondering jew on March 1, 2014, 6:32 am

        seafoid= The destruction of the temple had a lot to do with Jews versus Jews, thus the geopolitical met the personal. I am not that close to that period of time to imagine an alternate history of how the Jews could have avoided the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem.

        Do American Jews need the wall? no. certainly if they are american jews of a certain ilk who feel that (exaggerating the results of the pew poll) a christmas tree and believing in Jesus are not problematic to their Jewish identity and sense of humor and ethics is central to their Jewish identity. Jews who feel that Torah is essential to their Jewish identity might learn to adjust to the new situation where the wall and the temple mount are off limits to Jews.

        I do know that the wall or the area near the wall is one of the spots on the planet where my thoughts receive a shot of adrenaline (physiological analogy to the switching on of the god chip that I have ascribed to that spot on the planet before.)

        I have visions of the wall under control of some nonIsraeli troops that tolerate Jewish visitors to the wall. And the alternate feasible future history of the spot need not be the precise duplicate of today’s political reality.

        Some Jews do not even bother to say “next year in jerusalem” at their seder and when they hear that it is actually part of the liturgy on Yom Kippur it hits them as a surprise. Judaism has tried to deracinate itself and degeography itself so that jerusalem means no more than Mount Everest to the Jews. Such attempts have resulted in disappearance of wide swaths of jewish populations, to many Christmas wreaths and “Silent Nights” and not many “Lecha Dodi’s”. (A friday night prayer familiar to Jews familiar with Jewish tradition, not familiar to Jews who only discover their Judaism in time for the purpose, to criticize the Jews.)

      • seafoid on March 1, 2014, 10:09 am

        “Such attempts have resulted in disappearance of wide swaths of jewish populations”

        How many of them have been put off by Messianism ?
        Can you be Jewish without Israel ?

    • Sibiriak on March 1, 2014, 10:43 am

      yonah fredman:

      continuity of the Jewish people

      You refer to “the Jewish people”–but what, then, are you proposing as the common denominator that supposedly links all Jews into a single people ?

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