University News

Israeli author defends Zionism, discusses security challenges

During stop on book tour, Shavit reflects on moving forward after recent violence in Gaza

By
Staff Writer
Thursday, November 6, 2014

Addressing unrest in the Middle East, Israeli journalist and author Ari Shavit argued for demilitarizing Gaza and for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation on reducing violence. “I am an optimist and believe that peace will come soon,” Shavit said, adding that it is important for Israel to partner with “stabilizing forces” to defeat the security threat from the Islamic State.

Ari Shavit, senior correspondent for the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz and author of the 2013 book “My Promised Land,” spoke to an overflowing Wilson 102 Wednesday night about Israel’s past, present and future. His wide-ranging lecture touched on Zionism, his personal experiences living in Israel, modern anti-Semitism and prospects for peace in the Middle East.

The audience comprised mostly undergrads and Providence community members. All students in attendance received a free copy of Shavit’s book.

In his opening statement, Shavit said the events in Gaza this summer raise many fundamental questions about Israel: What is Israel? Why does it exist? What is its future? He answered these questions through a combination of historical analysis and personal experiences.

Shavit traced the story of his great-grandfather, who was part of the early Zionist movement in Britain in the 19th century. “To challenge extinction, early Zionists like my great-grandfather transferred a people from one continent to another,” he said.

Shavit expressed disappointment in individuals who claim that Zionism is equivalent to colonialism. “We were not agents of empire, but rather went back to our ancient homeland because we faced death in Europe,” he said. But the one sin of Zionism is that it came a couple decades too late, he said, noting that if a Jewish state had existed in the 1920s, millions of lives would have been saved during the Holocaust.

In discussing Israel’s security, Shavit described how his two sons heard the howling sirens warning of a rocket attack for the first time this summer. “My sons are just like any typical American boys, but there is a challenge that they face that no children in any other democracy face,” he said.

Shavit commended the engineers of the Iron Dome, an Israeli air defense system, as the heroes of this summer’s Israel-Gaza conflict. The Iron Dome’s construction prevented both Israeli and Palestinian deaths during the outbreak of violence in the region this summer, he said.

The hour-long lecture was followed by a question-and-answer session in which several students took the opportunity to ask about internal and external issues that Israel faces.

In response to a student’s question about the relationship between Judaism and Jewish identity, Shavit said Zionism allows people who are not religious to be Jewish. “We need a place that will be a powerhouse for Jewish identity. We need an Israel that we can all be proud of.”

Addressing another student’s question about whether the Islamic State poses a threat to Israel, Shavit responded that it is not an immediate threat, but the right course of action is to “ally with the moderate players and stabilizing forces in the Middle East.”

Shavit stressed the importance of working to achieve a gradual peace. “We must not only demilitarize Gaza, but also be generous by giving the Palestinian people the resources and the opportunities for life.”

Shavit ended his talk on a positive note. “I am an optimist and believe that peace will come soon,” he said.

Shavit’s lecture at the University was part of a larger tour of American campuses organized by Hillel International that included a stop at Yale on Monday. Prior to the lecture on campus Wednesday evening, Shavit spent the day engaged in a series of workshops with students who were interested in journalism, students who read “My Promised Land” as part of a book group held by Brown/RISD Hillel and members of the groups Brown Students for Israel and J Street U Brown.

“The students that I have met today at Brown and … at Yale were full of great values,” Shavit said. “My dialogue with them has really inspired me.”

Sam Dunietz ’18 said he enjoyed the lecture, adding that Shavit recognized the complex nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by acknowledging how “the narrative of Israelis still carries the heavy weight of the Holocaust.”

22 Comments

  1. Defends “Zionism” lol — like the right of Jews to have a country needs to be defended, but the right of everyone else should be taken for granted.

    • actually Palestinians did need to defend their rights on the news if you’ve been watching this past summer of 2014. It’s disappointing that you’d make such an assumption that “the right of everyone else should be taken for granted. [sic]”

  2. “Ancient Homeland” – Your religion Mr Shavitz do not supersede my rights. And Mr Shavitz you now want to pretend that the settlements are not a colonial enterprise. Give us a break.

    Any speech (or one sided propaganda with no real challenge) sponsored by the Hillel that masks the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and pretend that somehow its acceptable.

    • What rights do you personally have in Israel/Palestine exactly?

      By the way, if you read his book, you would know that Shavitz does specifically refer to settlements as being a colonial enterprise. But that would require your reading the book rather than shooting your mouth off from a keyboard… with parts and applications designed you know where.

      • In this article Mr Shavitz does not distinguish between Zionism in Israel proper and in the settlements. However i would grant him more honesty points than the Hillel. It never criticizes the land theft in re settlements and lets its minions, like you, to howl “anti-semitism”at anyone who questions Israeli ethnic cleansing .

        • Where did I call you anti-semitic? Lazy and uniformed maybe, but not anti-semitic.

          And I have no connection to Hillel nor am I Jewish. So I am hardly a “minion”. Anyone who disagrees with you must be, well, I am not sure what you are saying actually.

          Nice try amigo.

          • “anti-you-choose-what-to-call-it-but-it-smells-like-anti-Jewish radar of yours?”

            Read your own crap and insinuations before you babble. And read my posts carefully next time. I was responding to Ari’s positions in this article. Can’t you read English ?

          • You typed “It never criticizes the land theft in re settlements and lets its
            minions, like you, to howl “anti-semitism”at anyone who questions
            Israeli ethnic cleansing ” right below my reply to your post. Therefore you clearly looked like your “minion” comment was directed towards me.

            Can’t you read English? Can you now read your own crap before posting next time?

            I do not know about you, but I am having fun with this.

          • Yes. It was and still this. The moment you start your “anti-you-choose-what-to-call-it-but-it-smells-like-anti-Jewish radar of yours?” nonsense you loose any credibility.

            Glad you get the feels on your own nonsense.

          • Guest (One last time) says:

            Hey, I apologized for that accusation. It was the wrong thing to do and I indicated so. That stated, you seem very quick to accuse others of being shills, minions, Jews, etc as if anyone who disagrees with you is somehow evil or a lacky which definitely is not true. I believe you should know this. So we both should learn something about communication.

            You believe Israel is ethnic cleansing. I believe Israel is too in some locations of the West Bank and Israel proper (if I can use that term). But I also believe this is not a black or white issue, and I do not equate Zionism with racism though yes, some zionist are racists. We can disagree on these points so let’s do so.

          • Comes with the territory. Good luck.

  3. Sam Dunietz ’18 – “the narrative of Israelis still carries the heavy weight of the Holocaust.”

    Earth to Sam Dunietz, the Holocaust happened in Germany.

    • Smarter Guest says:

      Earth to Guest — the Holocaust was supported by the Grand Imam from Jerusalem. And the Holocaust happened in Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Austria, the USSR, the Netherlands, and so on.

  4. Israeli leaders like Naftali Bennett have openly called for apartheid. While the Hillel and its propagandists like Mr Shavitz gives us false mumbo like two-state solution.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/06/opinion/naftali-bennett-for-israel-two-state-is-no-solution.html?_r=1

    As Peter Beinart has stated, these persons and organizations like the Hillel are participating in an openly deceptive policy. There is no land left for a two state settlements, and the Hillel has never condemned settlements.

    Why does the Hillel lie so blatantly. And why does Brown University pretend that the Hillel is some kind of a non partisan religious organization ?

    • Wow, it took you two days to respond to an article or column with “Israel” in it. what happened to that anti-you-choose-what-to-call-it-but-it-smells-like-anti-Jewish radar of yours?

      • Cause its me alone against the Hillel sock puppets ! Nice try of “anti-semitic” baiting though !!!

        • Fair point. I should not have done the anti-whatever comment. But your posts do seem to drift between Israel and Jewish organizations. If you do not have an automatic offense against organizations simply because they are Jewish, or are not hating persons simply because they actually think Israel has some right to exist, then I apologize. I really do.

          Then again – you called me a Hillel Sock Puppet. As I typed below, I have no connection to Hillel nor am I Jewish. So where exactly do you get off making such a comment?

          So there.

          • My positions on right wing pro Israeli organizations are exactly the same as Peter Beinart. You may want to read up on him and how he calls out their deception. You can subscribe to Haaretz. And before you call him anti-semitic, Haaretz is an Israeli newspaper !!!

            “where exactly do you get off making such a comment?” – This coming from a person who types nonsense like “anti-you-choose-what-to-call-it-but-it-smells-like-anti-Jewish radar of yours?”

            Gosh, i wonder what your reaction Ari or Arafat would be. Oh wait, Ari is pro ethnic cleansing in Israel, so all is good for you.

          • Hi again. Three questions/comments:

            1. I know who Peter Beinart is. And I do know Haaretz. And I would not call either anti-anything so watch your pseudo-accusation towards me.

            2. Are you calling me Ari or Arafat? I hope not. I am not the poster Arafat (as you can tell from my style) and I do not know who Ari is.

            3. I actually apologized to you for calling you anti-XXX. You did read that I assume. If you did and you still make the comment above, then you may not be anti-XXX. But you are an arse.

          • 1. Care to compare my positions on this board with Beinarts. And compare them with the spiel of the Hillel ?

            2. My post should’ve read “what your reaction to Ari or Arafat”.

            3. You retracted and immediately progressed on a new set of insinuations. As if anyone who questions the ethnic cleansing in the settlements should write an entire thesis on that distinction. Meanwhile pro-Israeli shills like Arafat can post any racisit nonsense

          • Guest (One last time) says:

            Hey, I apologized for that accusation. It was the wrong thing to do and
            I indicated so. That stated, you seem very quick to accuse others of
            being shills, minions, Jews, etc as if anyone who disagrees with you is
            somehow evil or a lacky which definitely is not true. I believe you
            should know this. So we both should learn something about
            communication.

            You believe Israel is ethnic cleansing. I believe
            Israel is too in some locations of the West Bank and Israel proper (if I
            can use that term). But I also believe this is not a black or white
            issue, and I do not equate Zionism with racism though yes, some zionists are racists. We can disagree on these points so let’s do so.

          • Again, read comments from pro-Israeli shills on this board, and you’ll see who throws out the most racist crap. Comes with the territory. And once you post (though you took it back) crap, i will label you.

            It is a black and white issue in re settlements. People can have all your Zionism inside Israel proper. Nothing wrong with that, But when people steal land based on religion and have organizations like the Hillel provide the mumbo to cover for it, then lets call it for what it is.

            Thanks for the clarifications.

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