“And so of course is Ari Shavit himself: ‘extremely complex, perhaps even tragic’. Maybe Ari Shavit is complexer than life like John Wayne was bigger than life. But Stockholm-syndrome or not, underneath Shavit’s dualistic word-diarrhea is one message: the Jews are guilty, Israel is guilty, Zionism is guilty and Shavit wants to take part in the guilt and he does not care whether his accusations play into the hands of Israel’s and Shavit’s own mortal ennemies, the representatives of the oldest manifestation of a nazi-mentality on earth: islam.”
“In short: the book is an incomprehensible mess. You might say: so is life and especially in Israel. Sure, but that is no reason to mess up your text too.”
1) The Hype around Shavit
The hype around Shavit’s “My Promised Land” started late 2013 in America, continued through 2014 and spread over Europe that last year. Amazon presents the book with these words:
“New York Times Bestseller, named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review and The Economist. Winner of the Natan Book Award, the National Jewish Book Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.”
And then the praising quotes from the reviews in the important papers follow.
Indeed, In the “mainstream” the reviewers praised Shavit’s book lavishly. Sol Stern was one of the exceptions in saying that this book is a betrayal of Israel, plays into the hands of the mortal ennemies of Israel and “is a gift box to Mahmoud Abbas and to haters of Israel, worldwide”. I agree with Stern.
A certain Rob Eshman “publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal” epitomized the idolatry that for the rest surrounded Shavit’s promotion-tour in America in early 2014:
“If you want to see what prophecy looks like among Jews in the early part of the 21st century, follow Ari Shavit around Los Angeles.”
I reviewed the book too. And I did it very, very extensively. It took me almost the whole year 2014 to write 17 (!) essays analysing the 17 chapters of “My Promised Land’. Although they deserve to, they won’t make me world-famous, because they are written in the Dutch language.
Still, working on my 17 essays in Dutch I promised myself that my name was going to stick for eternity to that of Shavit. But to do the sticking they will have to be translated from Dutch into English and be read by . . . . eh . . . . an international public. Now the question is: how to seduce this “international public” to actually read them all seventeen?
The least I can say is: the 17 articles to be published on this website comprise 100 pages but will give you a better idea of what Shavit’s book is about than reading the 475 pages of the book itself. Or, for that matter, one would gather from the exalting and idolizing reviews in the mainstream media. And of course a reader of my essays gets an idea of what the Israel-discussion is really about.
So let’s go and write the (relatively!) short essay that must wet your appetite for the other 17.
2) Shavit is a man of many perspectives, maybe too many
“The question cannot be answered with polemics. As complex as it is, it will not submit itself to arguments and counterarguments. The only way to wrestle with it is to tell the story. That is what I have tried to do in this book. In my own idiosyncratic way and through my own prism I have tried to address our existence as a whole, as I understand it. This book is the personal odyssey of one man who is bewildered by the historic drama. It is the journey in space and time of an individual exploring the wider narrative. Through family history, personal history, and in-depth interviews, I will try to tackle the larger story and the deeper question. What has happened for over a century that has brought us to where we are now? What was achieved here and what went wrong here, and where are we heading? Is my deep sense of anxiety well founded? Are we in real jeopardy? Are we caught in a hopeless tragedy, or might we yet revive ourselves and save ourselves and salvage everything we so love?”
As you can tell from the italics and quotation marks, the above is a quote. I’m not able to make much sense of this. Are you? Clear is only that we’ve got a man here in great distress and confusion who makes a very personal and heroic attempt to understand something very big and complex.
The quote is the very last paragraph from the “Introduction” of “My Promised Land” by Ari Shavit. I altered it, but only slightly, just removing a few words that make clear this is about Israel.
But even when you know it’s about Israel, you still know it’s gonna be very, very complicated. And when you read Shavit’s book, you will find that it’s even more complicated than Shavit promises, because he uses more than “family history, personal history, and in-depth interviews”, namely long drawn out and chaotic, essayistic, polemical and speculative passages. Oh, and Shavit travels a lot around Israel and writes that down too. Yes, it’s a confusing book. In short and put more bluntly: the book is a mess. You might say: so is life and especially in Israel. Sure, but that is no reason to mess up your text too.
When half way in “My Promised Land” I was still impressed and under the impression that Ari Shavit was a fabulous writer and “composer”. But reading further I became more and more revolted by his prose. Arrived at two-thirds his verbosity began to make me nauseous.
3) Shavit is a man of many dualisms
There is one other major factor – besides the many, many, many perspectives – responsible for the mess: it is the dualism that is the outstanding characteristic of this book. The dualism is even in the extended title: “My Promised Land: the Triumph and Tragedy of Israel”.
Triumph and tragedy. I’ve been tempted to catalogue every contradiction, antithesis, discrepancy, pair of anti-poles, ambiguity, dichotomy, ambivalence and other opposites this book contains but I’m not sure how much insight in the character of this book that would bring. Moreover, the problem is not in the dualism itself, contradictions are maybe the very essence of life, but the problem is in the fact that Shavit makes no attempt to resolve them. He just throws them on the page by buckets and barrels. Of course he warned us: “The Israel question cannot be answered with polemics. As complex as it is, it will not submit itself to arguments and counterarguments. The only way to wrestle with it is to tell the Israel story.” So that is what he does: “tell the story” and we have to make sense of it ourselves, as readers. Still, to me the ultimate sense is very clear: underneath the dualistic diarrhea the message is: the Jews, Israel and Zionism are guilty! I will return shortly to this problem of Shavit’s so called “dualism” which is really . . . . . . a Stockholm-dualism.
As I made headway in the book I found this dualism more and more disturbing: those meandering reasonings full of unresolved anti-theses in that seemingly never ending text, full of on-the-one-hand-and-on-the-other-hand, good and bad, positive and negative, crammed with social, moral and psychological duo-definitions. Shavit makes no attempts to resolve his abundance of unresolved anti-theses by reasoning, or at least bring them to a higher level, what would be the task of the dialectician, but he just throws his . . . . eh . . . . contrasting discrepancies with buckets full on the page. And says to the reader: you mop it up if you like.
The reader should be warned that there is also the possibility to see Shavit’s unresolved dualisms as very intelligent and deeply wise.
There is an early review of november 2013 by Earl Garner in the New York Times that reminds us that Saul Bellow liked most about Israel was “the gale of conversation” in that country. And Garner uses Bellow’s phrase in his praise for Shavit:
“( . . .) it is a gale of conversation, of feeling, of foreboding, of ratiocination. It takes a wide-angle and often personal view of Israel’s past and present, and frequently reads like a love story and a thriller at once. That it ultimately becomes a book of lamentation, a moral cri de coeur and a ghost story tightens its hold on your imagination.”
You see? If it’s all very interesting these non-worked out, these non-elaborated, these unresolved contradictions in Shavit’s book. I’m just a grumpy and negative old (1945) bore. But still I would value a book by Caroline Glick, “The Israeli Solution” infinitely higher because she does what Shavit emphatically refuses: resolve the contradictions, come to conclusions and face the consequences.
The above mentioned Eshman writes:
“Shavit, [TV producer/writer Howard] Gordon said in his introduction, is the epitome of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s maxim that ‘the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function’.”
In that case Shavit is a cosmic intelligence, for he holds not two opposed ideas in mind, but hundreds of pairs. Shavit’s dualism makes the text seem profound, subtle, thoughtful, doing justice to a complex reality, but conceals the basic assertion of the book: the Jews are guilty and the “Palestinians” are victims!
4) Shavit’s dualism is a Stockholm-dualism
A key word in my analysis of Shavit’s “My Promised Land” will be: Stockholm-syndrome.
“The term takes its name from a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in August 1973. The robber took four employees of the bank (three women and one man) into the vault with him and kept them hostage for 131 hours. After the employees were finally released, they appeared to have formed a paradoxical emotional bond with their captor; they told reporters that they saw the police as their enemy rather than the bank robber, and that they had positive feelings toward the criminal. Stockholm syndrome is considered a complex reaction to a frightening situation, and experts do not agree completely ( . . .). Many researchers believe that Stockholm syndrome helps to explain certain behaviors of survivors of World War II concentration camps; members of religious cults; battered wives; incest survivors; and physically or emotionally abused children as well as persons taken hostage by criminals or terrorists.”
So, in short a Stockholm syndrome, is a form of bonding between a captive and captor in which the captive begins to identify with the captor.
And then there is this characteristic that is also said to be a part of the Stockholm syndrome: the captors develop positive feelings toward the hostages. But in the case of Israel, held hostage by the islamic world, the first signals of that last mentioned sympathy have not yet appeared.
Shavit’s Stockholm-dualism is easiest to detect in his just five-page and little over 2000 words “Introduction”, titled “Question Marks”. Yes, we notice: question marks, so no anwers to the loads of dualisms. Like all introductions this one of course was also written after the book was completed and the dualism – or may be better: the schizofrenia – of it appears even to difficult for the author himself to organize chronologically-thematically in just five pages.
Shavit’s “Introduction” – that is, his very, very short history of Israel that nevertheless comes in two dualistic parts from two perspectives – opens with capitals:
“FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER, I REMEMBER FEAR. EXISTENTIAL FEAR. The Israel I grew up in—the Israel of the mid-1960s—was energetic, exuberant, and hopeful. But I always felt that beyond the well-to-do houses and upper-middle-class lawns of my hometown lay a dark ocean. One day, I dreaded, that dark ocean would rise and drown us all. A mythological tsunami would strike our shores and sweep my Israel away. It would become another Atlantis, lost in the depths of the sea.
One morning in June 1967, when I was nine years old, I came upon my father shaving in the bathroom. I asked him if the Arabs were going to win. Would the Arabs conquer our Israel? Would they really throw us all into the sea? A few days later the Six Day War began.”[my bold]
This first part, from the perspective of fear, is only one-and-a-half pages long. Then follows a three-and-a-half pages long part from the perspective of “the occupation”. Strange: capitals for the fear and no more than one-and-halve page. No capitals for the “occupation”, but still more pages, three-and-a-halve. I mean: does the difference in length prove that Shavit deems the part on Angst and bad Arabs less important than the part on “occupation” and bad Israeli’s?
“For as long as I can remember, I remember occupation. Only a week after I asked my father whether the Arab nations were going to conquer Israel, Israel conquered the Arab-populated regions of the West Bank and Gaza. A month later, my parents, my brother, and I embarked on a first family tour of the occupied cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Hebron. Wherever we went, there were remains of burned Jordanian jeeps, trucks, and military vehicles. White flags of surrender hung over most houses. Some streets were blocked with the mangled, blackened carcasses of fancy Mercedes automobiles that had been run over by the treads of Israeli tanks. Palestinian children my age and younger had fear in their eyes. Their parents appeared devastated and humiliated. Within a few weeks the mighty Arabs were transformed into victims, while the endangered Israelis became conquerors. The Jewish state was now triumphant and proud and drunk with a heady sense of power.” [my bold]
The bold words give a foretaste of Shavit’s suggestive and biased wording. He is always trying to make Israel and Zionism evil-looking. For good measure . . . . sorry . . . . . for no good measure and balance Shavit throws in the “fancy Mercedes automobiles”. Undoubtedly to suggest that these Palestinans were not as poor as one might have thought. At least not their leaders. But the Mercedeses are not enough as a “counterweight” to the Israel-bashing in the above quotation. Shavit, better than suggesting arrogance on the part of the Israeli’s, might have asked why it was that the Israeli’s in the summer of 1967 immediately offered a generous peace, while the vanquished Arabs refused even to negotiate. Abba Eban wryly remarked that the war of 1967 was the first in which the losers demanded the unconditional surrender of the winners. Arrogance?
Shavit goes on by saying:
“When I was a teenager, everything was still fine. The common wisdom was that ours was a benevolent military occupation. Modern Israel brought progress and prosperity to the Palestinian regions. Now our backward neighbors had the electricity and running water and health care they never had before. They had to realize that they had never had it so good. They were surely grateful for all that we bestowed upon them. And when peace came, we would hand back most of the occupied territories. But for the time being, all was well in the Land of Israel. Arab and Jew coexisted throughout the country, enjoying calm and plenty.”
I would say: nothing wrong with Israel’s common wisdom in those early years, except for one fundamental thing: the common wisdom did not realize that Israel was dealing with islam and that islam is an ideology that shares every essential tenet, every “holy article of faith” with nazism and that islam is an unamendable totalitairianism, especially unamendable in its Jew-hatred and expansionist war-addiction including Blut-und-Boden (land that once land has been islamic can never be returned). And so the islamic World, the Arabs and the in 1967 newly invented people “the Palestinians”, never had any intention to make peace with Israel, from the days of the Moefti, that is to say from 1920 on untill these days of Abbas and Hamas.
But that is emphatically not what Shavit is saying. On the contrary! In the next alinea he starts demonizing Israel:
“Only when I was a soldier did I grasp that something was wrong. Six months after joining the elite paratrooper brigade of the IDF, I was posted in the ( . . .) occupied cities ( . . .). Now I was assigned to do the dirty work: checkpoint duties, house arrests, violent dispersal of demonstrations. What traumatized me most was breaking into homes and taking young men from their warm beds to midnight interrogations. What the hell was going on, I asked myself. Why was I defending my homeland by tyrannizing civilians who were deprived of their rights and freedom? Why was my Israel occupying and oppressing another people?” [my bold]
This is nothing short of idiotic. What “the hell” was going on, was this: the Israeli’s were attacked for the second time with genocidal purposes – the first time was 1948 – and in the summer of 1967 the islamic countries assembled in Khartoum refused to even negotiate and forced Israel to take up the government of Samaria-Judea, the region the Palmaffia-propganda learnt us to call “the Westbank”. The “tyrannizing” was because safety-measures had to be very stringent and it was against “civilians” because terrorists don’t wear uniforms.
Furthermore: there is no “occupation”. THERE IS NO OCCUPATION!!! To me it is enigma why Shavit is claptrapping this crap. He must know better. Yet he gives no sign of it, not in this Introduction, here under review, and not in this whole book.
I’ll explain why there is no occupation. An again: the following is common knowledge.
It begins with the historic and moral rights of the Jews to live there. Historic rights: they have the oldest proven historic presence in the land. Moral rights: Palestine, including Samaria-Judea with Jerusalem, has always been part of the “self-definition” of Jews around the world. “Next year in Jerusalem!” Moral rights: when the Zionists started “aliyah” in 1880 they brought a way of living that was vastly more humane than the existing cruel and backward islamic feudal system. Moral rights: they brought prosperity, better health care, in short: a beter life in every way for the Arabic inhabitants. Moral rights: with an act of decolonization they ended a period of colonialist occupation and oppression of 1300 years that began with the conquest of Palestine around 635 by the Arabic-islamic armies.
Samaria-Judea (“the Westbank”) is part of the area that by the treaty of San Remo in 1920 was assigned to the Jews as a an area of settlement along with the Arabs that lived allready there. This treaty of San Remo is still fully valid in international law. The moral and historic rights of the Jews plus the legal rights of the Jews in Palestine, including Samaria-Judea, were reinforced by three defensive wars (1948, 1967, 1973) in which they were attacked with genocidal purposes, and in two of which they were attacked exactly via Samaria-Judea.
That’s it. All there is to it. Historic rights. Moral rights. Rights by international law. And those historic, moral and legal rights three times reinforced by the rights and laws of war.
“( . . .) the West Bank is still occupied. As malignant as it is, occupation has become an integral part of the Jewish state’s being. It has also become an integral part of my life as an Israeli. Although I oppose occupation, I am responsible for occupation. I cannot deny the fact or escape the fact that my nation has become an occupying nation.
Only a few years ago did it suddenly dawn on me that my existential fear regarding my nation’s future and my moral outrage regarding my nation’s occupation policy are not unconnected. On the one hand, Israel is the only nation in the West that is occupying another people. On the other hand, Israel is the only nation in the West that is existentially threatened. Both occupation and intimidation make the Israeli condition unique. Intimidation and occupation have become the two pillars of our condition.” [my bold]
“West Bank” he calls Samaria-Judea. Besides the parroting of the Palmaffiose propaganda-term: who ever saw a river-bank of 40 kilometers width? I hope I don’t have to repeat why this “occupation”-jabber is perverted crap. Still Shavit gives an impression of evenhandedness by inserting one of his dualisms – occupation and intimidation – but note there is not the slightest effort to resolve this contradiction nor even to eleborate on it. One is tempted to remark: how could he, because he seems not to have any idea of the essential facts regarding “occupation”.
Shavit’s moral indignation supposes guilt for the Jews. Consequently Shavit’s book is full of accusations towards Israel that is of course also partly self-accusation, because Shavit contends that he fully identifies with Israel. It is not for nothing that Shavit’s book is called “MY promised Land”. The crimes of which Shavit accuses Israel are called: colonialism, ethnic cleansing, occupation and . . . . . . mass murder.
It is all lies. And I hope that Shavit really is sincere about his fear and guilt-feelings and about the occupation. That would make him just a psychiatric patient and not a traitor. But it is hard to believe that his hooking up with the Palmaffiose propaganda is only the result of his trauma’s. In all those 475 pages of his book he gives no signs that he has read the literature that denounces and crushes the islamic and Palmaffiose propaganda. As an adult Haaretz-journalist he at least should have learned something from scribblings in the Jerusalem Post. Those by Caroline Glick for instance. There is no sign in Shavit’s book he took notice of “right wing” opinions and analyses. If Shavit is not plain stupid, and he almost cannot be, he ought to see a few shrinks.
His fear, of course, is very sensible, wise and sane. Islam has been hate all 1400 years of its existence. The Koran is a book of hate. The mythical Mohammed is the prophet of hate. Wafa Sultans book is titled “A God who hates” and Brigitte Gabriels “Because they hate”. MEMRI shows how in the entire Middel East the dictators keep the Jew hatred alive and Palwatch shows how the Palmaffia’s drench their people in Jew hatred, day in and day out. And Shavit has at least one experience that must have been so traumatic that it could just by itself account for his Stockholm syndrome:
“In March 2002, a wave of terror rattled Israel. Hundreds died as Palestinian suicide bombers attacked buses, nightclubs, and shopping malls. As I was writing in my Jerusalem study one night, I heard a loud boom. It had to be our neighborhood pub, I realized. I grabbed my writing pad and ran up the street. Three handsome young men were sitting at the bar in front of their half-full beer mugs—dead. A petite young woman was lying in a corner—lifeless. Those who were only wounded were screaming and crying. As I looked at the hell around me in the glowing lights of the blown-up pub, the journalist I now was asked, What will be? How long can we sustain this lunacy? Will there come a time when the vitality we Israelis are known for will surrender to the forces of death attempting to annihilate us?”
5) The more aggressive the Palestinians, the more guilty Israel
Shavit may also be suffering from a milder variant of the outright Stockholm syndrome and it migt be called “Palestinianism” and this is again a variant of Marxism. Let me explain. People tend to look for explanations when confronted with evil. It is comforting when evil people just became evil out of some frustration and deprivation and poverty. You explain away the “naked” evil. In the case of “the Palestinians” this frustration-deprivation-poverty-argument is also invoked, despite the fact that Gaza and “the Westbank” are the haviest subsidized places in the world and a lot of luxury can be found there. But in the case of the “Palestinians” there is still another factor at work: to explain away the terrorism of “the Palestinians” – rampant since the 1920’s – people say: when these Palestinians keep using violence the Israeli’s must be doing something terrible to them. So the more violent the “Palestinians”, the more guilty the Israeli’s. Could it be that Shavit, as an Israeli Jew, not only slanders and smears his home-country out of fear, but also as an average Western hedonistic-narcistic left winger incapable of looking naked evil in the eye? And that he explains evil away by ascribing terrible deeds to the Israeli’s?
For Shavit is indeed charging “Zionism”, that is “Israel”, with horrible war-crimes. The one single most important and explosive chapter in Shavit’s book is chapter five, titled “LYDDA – 1948”. It had a pre-publication in the New Yorker. Shavit’s allegation in this chapter is that in the town of Lydda a massacre was comitted by the Jews and that the measures that were taken to cover up the crime in itself constituted a war crime. But that is not true. Shavit, in his longing and need to feel guilty and to make the Jews and Zionism guilty, tells a very biased story and one can only hope and assume he was not aware of the outright lies in his story.
I quote from chapter five, “LYDDA – 1948”:
“In thirty minutes, at high noon, more than two hundred civilians are killed. Zionism carries out a massacre in the city of Lydda.”
“Bulldozer [nickname of one Israeli soldier] doesn’t remember ( . . .) because he was injured when shooting the antitank PIAT shell at the small mosque; he lost consciousness and was taken to the hospital. But when he awoke several days later, his comrades came to visit and told him that he’d done good, he’d killed seventy Arabs. They told him that because of the rage they felt at seeing him bleed, they had walked into the small mosque and sprayed the surviving wounded with automatic fire. Then they walked into the nearby houses and gunned down anyone they found. At night, when they were ordered to clean the small mosque and carry out the seventy corpses and bury them, they took eight other Arabs to do the digging of the burial site and afterward shot them, too, and buried the eight with the seventy.”
These ar lies. And in my analysis of chapter five I will proof so, not on my own, but with a lot of help from some Jewish historians, for instance Martin Kramer and Efraim Karsh.
There are a few passages in the book that seems to belie my thesis that Shavit suffers form a Stockholm syndrome. I quote Shavit:
“One thing is clear to me: the brigade commander and the military governor were right to get angry at the bleeding-heart Israeli liberals of later years who condemn what they did in Lydda but enjoy the fruits of their deed. I condemn Bulldozer. I reject the sniper. But I will not damn the brigade commander and the military governor and the training group boys. On the contrary. If need be, I’ll stand by the damned. Because I know that if it wasn’t for them, the State of Israel would not have been born. If it wasn’t for them, I would not have been born. They did the dirty, filthy work that enables my people, myself, my daughter, and my sons to live.”
“Lydda is an integral and essential part of our story. And when I try to be honest about it, I see that the choice is stark: either reject Zionism because of Lydda, or accept Zionism along with Lydda.” [my bold]
So Shavit wants to be anything but a Stockholm-syndromatic patient, he wants to be a mature and even tough guy, who is aware of the facts of life. And of war. He is no bleeding-heart Israeli liberal. He is more complex than that. Like he says in his “Introduction”:
“And as a columnist, I challenge both right-wing and left-wing dogmas. I have learned that there are no simple answers in the Middle East and no quick-fix solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have realized that the Israeli condition is extremely complex, perhaps even tragic.”
And so of course is Ari Shavit himself: “extremely complex, perhaps even tragic”. Maybe Ari Shavit is complexer than life like John Wayne was bigger than life. But Stockholm-syndrome or not, underneath Shavit’s dualistic word-diarrhea is one message: the Jews are guilty, Israel is guilty, Zionism is guilty and Shavit wants to take part in the guilt and he does not care whether his accusations play into the hands of Israel’s and Shavit’s own mortal ennemies, the representatives of the oldest manifestation of a nazi-mentality on earth: islam.
Of course the Jews are the most heroic, tortured en highly-gifted people in the World, but Shavit’s constanly inflating of those characteristics into mythical proportions began to irritate. The more because by doing so Shavit was also in the bussines of what I call self-manifestation. Like he is saying: look at me, the immensely gifted, tormented and tragic Jew. And there was also that typical leftish variant of self-manifestation: namely showing, like a Gutmensch should, much understanding for the “Palestinians”, which makes him of course a so much better man than those right-wing “Likudniks”. Self-manifestation, self-exaltation-neurosis, better-than-thou-ism: the book is full of that typical leftish narcistic-hedonistic vanity.
Confession: In a discussion in June 2015, in a debate with Ari Shavit, Caroline Glick, who passes for a “right winger” and “Likudnik”, said Shavit belongs to the best we have got on the left. She meant: morally and intellectualy. I wrote about this discussion (in Dutch) and for just a moment I believed Glick – I think just because I like her so much – and I said so. Now, after re-reading my own analyses I come back to my first impression: this book is a betrayal of Israel.