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A rebuttal to Ari Shavit’s book “My Promised Land”

my promised land book coverWhen I opened David Hornik’s  FrontPage Magazine article, “Ari Shavit’s ‘Doomed’ Israel”, I felt compelled to answer him, as he had not read Shavit’s New York Times “best seller”, My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.   Shavit’s book is the Winner of the Natan Book Award. On the reverse of the jacket are blurbs extolling his personalized view of Israel by the likes of Franklin Foer, Editor of The New Republic, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, Rabbi Daniel Gordis author and Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem college in Jerusalem, former Newsweek editor and author, Jon Meacham and author Daphne Merkin.  They extol it as “beautifully written”, “full of moral complexity”, “powerful book about the making of Modern Israel”, “passionate and fair minded”.  In the course of his polemic against Shavit’s theme of ‘gloom and doom’ for Israel, Hornik quotes a review by Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse:

However, a review by another of my esteemed authors and commentators, Ruth Wisse, makes me all the more leery of putting any time into the book.

“[E]verywhere in My Promised Land,” Wisse writes, “the techniques of literary foreshadowing are deployed to telegraph impending doom.” And yet, “according to Shavit himself, his fears arise less from what Arab and Muslim leaders intend to do to Israel than from what Israel has done to them.”

Israel, in other words, as a doomed country—as comeuppance for its own sins. Sounds all too familiar.

David Hornik may not have read Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land. I have. I found it morally flawed and in many cases redolent of the peace at all costs mentality of the marginalized left in Israel and their supporters here in the West.  Here is an Israeli leftist intellectual who engages in secular ‘yahrzeit’ memorializing all of the disappeared Arab villages and towns whose residents fled the UN partitioned areas at the behest of the Arab Higher Council warning Arabs to flee to let five invading armies crush the embryonic Jewish nation, the State of Israel.  Nowhere in Shavit’s book does he recognize the enormous toll of Jewish lives in the War for Independence, 6,000 or 1% of the 600,000 Jews.  As one graphic example he does not mention the massacre of  79 Jewish doctors, nurses and others in the April 1948 Mt. Scopus Hospital medical convoy.  His heart bleeds for  the ”massacre” of Lydda when the embryonic IDF was allegedly ordered by Ben Gurion in July 1948 to sweep out the Arab fifth columnists and Jordanian Legionnaires  from Lydda and Ramle after the Arab notables had agreed to surrender.

“Lydda 1948”, a chapter in his book,  becomes an iconic theme that Israel haters in the US and elsewhere used to promote Shavit’s book.  Note  Shavit’s article on “Lydda 1948”  that is published by the New Yorker in the October 21, 2013 issue.  Middle East media watchdog  CAMERA unloaded on Shavit five days later with a broadside of facts about what occurred in the battles for Lydda and who triggered it.   Witness the Margaret Warner interview with him on Friday, December 20, 2013, on the PBS New Hour in the venue of the historic Washington synagogue, at Sixth and I Streets, see here.  All Shavit talks about are the two pillars of ‘intimidation’ and ‘occupation’, that Israel is led by an unworthy government continuing the mantra of ‘woe is me’ Israel is doomed.

One of the more  revealing chapters in Shavit’s book is “Up the Galilee, 2003”, that recounts his journey with Palestinian–Israeli attorney Mohammed Dahla, his co-chair of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel  to visit Sheikh Raed Salah of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in the village of Umm el-Fahem. What I have taken to call Hamas in Israel. Then they visit Azmi Bishara, the traitorous former Knesset member of  the Arab List Balad party at his office Nazareth. Both Bishara and Salah are fervent Islamist enemies of Israel and the West.  Shavit says he “loves” his friend Dahla, a leader of “Israel’s Palestinian Community”.  Shavit concludes:

He is as Israeli as any Israeli I know. He is one of the sharpest friends I have. We share a city, a state, a homeland.  We hold common values and beliefs. And yet there is a terrible schism between us. What will become of us, Mohammed?  I wonder in the dark. What will become of my daughter Tamara, your son Omar?  What will happen to my Land, your land?

Perhaps fellow Israelis, including Hornik may have answered Shavit.  They are no longer buying Ha’aretz, what some have mockingly called  the New York Times of Israel.  Shavit’s colleague at Ha’aretz, Amira  Hass has been the center of controversy with her biased Pro-Palestinian coverage and allegations of radicalization of the newspaper.  Arnold Shocken publisher of Ha’aretz  has been forced to lay off staff for this newspaper of record in Israel because of its biased coverage and other competition. This is perhaps reflection of the free Hebrew version of Israel HaYom backed  by American magnate Sheldon Adelson that  has clobbered  the circulation of Ha’aretz, forced Ma’ariv to lay off its print staff  and threatened  many other Israeli dailies.

Most Israelis don’t harbor for one moment  the gloom and doom theme of Shavit and his book.  They are reinventing our world with their impressive high tech developments backed by savvy venture capitalists from around the globe.  They are producing oil and gas off and on-shore to achieve energy independence  generating royalty revenues and wealth to ensure a future.  Moreover, Israelis are committed to an active national defense of that future despite the existential threats of Iran’s nuclear project.  Why? Because their Jewish faith invented a future. A future embedded in the national anthem of the State of Israel,  Hatikvah,  “the Hope”.  That Promised Land is not Shavit’s promised land of gloom and doom.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.