Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Haaretz Journalist Discusses Israel’s Past

Israeli author and journalist Ari Shavit discussed his new book, “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,” on Tuesday in Copley Formal Lounge as part of the Georgetown University Program for Jewish Civilization’s spring lecture series.

Shavit is a senior correspondent and member of the editorial board at Haaretz, a leading Israeli newspaper. He has served as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Force and is a commentator on Israeli public television.

Shavit spoke about why he wrote “My Promised Land” and about modern Israel’s perceived challenges. Some of Shavit’s ancestors were early Zionists, a fact which led him to admit he initially wrote the book for personal reasons.

“Almost since I remember myself, definitely since I turned into a young adult, I had the feeling that I was born into a unique nation, that I was born into a unique historical event, and I felt that there is a need for me … to ask myself what is it all about, what is happening that I am taking part of,” Shavit said.

Shavit saw this work, based on his personal experience living in Israel, as filling a niche in the literary world.

“I did not see a book that tries to capture the overall Israel narrative in a personal way, definitely not in the last decades. And as I looked at the shelf again with so many great books there, I came to the conclusion that this is no accident that the reason there is no such book is that we have lost our narrative,” Shavit said. “This is especially troubling in the case of Israel because we were a narrative before we were a nation.”

After discussing his inspiration for the book, Shavit then discussed some contentious issues facing modern Israel. He defended the Zionists but recognized the gravity of Israel’s tensions with its neighbors.

“What you have there in the very beginning are the two elements in my mind that define Israel and the Israeli condition to this day. On the one hand you have the triumph, the most daring, impressive and just project one can imagine, and on the other hand you have the tragic flaw,” Shavit said. “There was nothing evil about it, there was no racism there but there was a tragic flaw built into this project. We went into a country that had other people and we went into a region that is probably the most brutal region on the face of the earth.”

Shavit’s speech was followed by a response from Daniel Schueftan, an Israeli and the director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa. Shueftan spoke in support of Shavit’s chapter, in which he defends some of Israel’s actions in during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

In particular, Shavit defended the expulsion of 50,000-70,000 Palestinians from the cities of Lydda and Ramle by Israeli troops.

“Lydda was a tragedy for the Palestinians, [but] Lydda could not have happened had the Arabs taken other choices, and I don’t see this as the dark side of Israel,” Schueftan said. “I see it as something that I would have been delighted had it not happened. I would have been delighted if we could have come into existence without creating a tragedy for the other people, but here I agree that it is historically inevitable if you bring into your historical analysis the attitude of the Arabs.”

After Schueftan’s comments, the event transitioned to a question-and-answer session. Shavit answered queries concerning the trend of falling support for Israel among American college students.

“I take Iran very seriously and I take the occupation [in the West Bank] seriously, [but] I think this issue of building back Israel’s legitimacy [is vital]. … We really have to open peoples’ hearts. This is a world of soft power and it is as if our leaders have not heard about it and we must take action quickly and dramatically to reposition ourselves,” Shavit said.

Many members of the audience had brought their copies of “My Promised Land” to be signed.

“What he was saying was all the stuff that I believed already but not in as clear a way and not in a way that I could have presented nearly as well,” said Tom Goldring, a mathematician for the Department of Defense. He found out about the speaker through Washington Jewish Week.

Throughout the lecture, Shavit emphasized the importance of understanding Israel’s past in context of the region and Jewish history.

“The secret aim was actually to enable people to love Israel again, but in a critical way, in a realistic way, while being aware of Israel’s flaws, Israel’s wrinkles and Israel’s dark sides,” Shavit said.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Hoya Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *