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192 of 217 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyrically Written and Deeply Reported
This book is a beautifully written and deeply reported attempt to explain Israel to Israelis and to the world.

The author is candid about his own perspective -- a "left-wing journalist," an "anti-occupation peacenik," yet nonetheless one genuinely aspiring to be balanced and fair. His great grandfather Herbert Bentwich arrived in Israel in 1897, and at the...
Published 19 months ago by Ira E. Stoll

296 of 378 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Good, The Bad, And The Morally Bankrupt
I'm afraid I can't share the enthusiasm that most reviewers have for this book. The author is a terribly conflicted individual (with which I sympathize) and this book is just all over the map. It's hard to know where to begin with my review, but I'm going to break it down into three parts.

1. The Good:

I have to give Mr. Shavit credit where credit...
Published 11 months ago by K. Thurm

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192 of 217 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lyrically Written and Deeply Reported, May 2, 2013
This review is from: My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (Hardcover)
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This book is a beautifully written and deeply reported attempt to explain Israel to Israelis and to the world.

The author is candid about his own perspective -- a "left-wing journalist," an "anti-occupation peacenik," yet nonetheless one genuinely aspiring to be balanced and fair. His great grandfather Herbert Bentwich arrived in Israel in 1897, and at the beginning and end of the book the author retraces Bentwich's steps.

Pro-Israel American Jews such as myself will find this book troubling. It argues that the crux of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not the 1967 Six-Day War and the occupation that resulted, but rather the events of 1948. It recounts (though without footnotes, and in a chapter that may well be challenged by other historians) an episode in 1948 in which, the author says, David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin ordered the expulsion of 35,000 Palestinian Arabs from the city of Lydda.

For all his directness about what he calls "the tragedy of 1948," Shalit is proud of what he calls the "miracle" of Zionism, He writes about Israel's orange groves, its wineries, its high-tech industry, its absorption of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust and from North Africa, Yemen, and Iraq, its music scene. He is critical of the Israeli peace movement for imagining that the threat to Israel's existence can be solved and peace achieved by withdrawing from the West bank and Gaza, and he is clear-eyed in describing the threats Israel faces from a nuclear-armed Iran and from the surrounding Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinian Arabs.

When prominent Saudi Arabian, Egyptian, Syrian, Iranian and Palestinian Arab journalists write books this critical about their own societies, and those books are published and sold freely in those societies, that will be a day when Israelis and their friends will know that peace is on the way. In the meantime, we can read Ari Shavit, and hope that the discomfort he sometimes makes us feel is not a sign of the confusion or weakness of which he warns, but rather the irreverence and freedom he celebrates and documents.
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296 of 378 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Good, The Bad, And The Morally Bankrupt, December 20, 2013
This review is from: My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (Hardcover)
I'm afraid I can't share the enthusiasm that most reviewers have for this book. The author is a terribly conflicted individual (with which I sympathize) and this book is just all over the map. It's hard to know where to begin with my review, but I'm going to break it down into three parts.

1. The Good:

I have to give Mr. Shavit credit where credit is due. He goes way out on a limb with his very descriptive tale of what happened to one Palestinian town in 1948. This isn't easy for any Jew or Israeli to do. Most Jewish authors will shy away from this subject. It's almost totally taboo to acknowledge such things. Authors such as Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe have been severely ostracized for writing very detailed accounts of this sordid side of Israeli history. Also, I believe that most Jews (at least American Jews) are terribly ignorant about this topic. This chapter will probably be read by many Jews and I do think that knowledge is the beginning of progress.

Shavit also shares some of his experiences in Gaza while he was in the IDF. I must admit that I was pretty shocked by the daily torture events that took place there. My own ignorance on this particular topic became very obvious to me. Many young stone throwers were undoubtedly turned into real terrorists after being subjected to the Israeli torture tactics. It isn't a pretty story, but it is an important story and I thank Shavit for sharing what he heard and saw while serving in the military.

2. The Bad:

I am not a big fan of Shavit's style of writing. There are endless stories about Jews coming to Israel and planting oranges, olives, pomegranates or whatever. This tale doesn't need to be told 29 times in order to make his point. Less would have been a lot more. Perhaps the editor is also at fault here, but these almost never-ending romantic stories were just too much for me. You'll have to take this criticism with a grain of salt, because most reviewers have said that they loved Shavit's writing style. That leaves me scratching my head, but to each his own.

At one point in his book, Shavit talks about how fast the Jewish growth rate was in Palestine after 1935. His numbers are grossly exaggerated. For you purists, this might be enough to make you not want to read this book. I think that would be a mistake. I would guess that Shavit just assumed his numbers to be correct and that he wasn't really trying to mislead anybody. Perhaps he learned these statistics in school and just assumed them to be correct. In any case, I think it's an unfortunate but relatively innocuous error.

I do have an issue with a serious omission from the book. I'll give Shavit credit for reporting what Ben Gurion said about the necessity of removing Arabs from Palestine, but he did not include the total Ben Gurion statement. Not only did Ben Gurion talk about having to remove the Arabs, but he said that this should be done "by coercion or force." I believe that's an important point which Shavit probably left out on purpose. Just as Americans look up to George Washington, Ben Gurion is a much revered figure among Israeli Jews. The fact that Ben Gurion would say such a thing and then say that he had no moral concerns about it is an important piece of this difficult Middle East puzzle.

I didn't need an entire chapter about the liberal nightlife in Israel. Yes, Israel is a pretty liberal society when it comes to heterosexual and homosexual attitudes. Reading stories about people having sex in nightclub bathrooms was an unnecessary chapter in this book. I sort of get why Shavit included this chapter since these liberal attitudes would not be found in any Arab country, but I still don't think it was particularly relevant or necessary information.

If the author was going to spend an entire chapter on Israel's nightlife, then he should have spent significantly more time going over the problems and discrimination faced by Palestinian Arabs who are Israeli citizens. Shavit could have spent an entire chapter going over the discriminatory land laws in Israel and the underfunding of the Arab public schools. Sadly, there is quite a lot of relevant information on this topic that was totally ignored by the author. As such, this book is terribly incomplete.

Speaking of incomplete, this book is NOT a history book. To be fair, Shavit doesn't claim it is. However, too many reviewers have reviewed this book as if they now understand the complete history of Israel. That is absurd. If you want to read the history of Israel, then pick up one Benny Morris' books. This is the "Cliff Notes" version, at best.

3. The Morally Bankrupt:

And here is where Shavit completely frightens me. When going over the story about what Jews did to one Arab town in 1948, Shavit says some incredibly disgusting and disgraceful things. He doesn't want to stand with those "bleeding-heart Israelis" on this subject. He stands with the perpetrators because without their actions, there would probably be no Israel. Without their actions, he might not have even been born! I am terribly saddened by Shavit's comments. Is this what passes for liberalism in Israel? I was getting nauseous while reading his words. Why is his life more important than some Palestinian Arab's life? Does the end really justify the means? Are we really that callous? When did Shavit lose his moral compass? Did he ever have a moral compass?

As an American, I know that without slavery, my country would have never economically advanced so quickly. Perhaps we wouldn't have become the world's greatest superpower. Does that mean I should stand with the slaveowners? Should I look down my nose at those bleeding-heart liberal Americans who look at that element of our own history with shame? Should I stand with those who slaughtered Native Americans? Can't I love my country and still recognize that some incredibly terrible things were done by my ancestors?

In conclusion, I think this book does have something to offer. I believe that some of the information is powerful and relevant. It can be an important piece of one's education, but please don't let this be the book that shapes all your opinions on this topic.
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71 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Candid and Evocative, August 13, 2013
This review is from: My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (Hardcover)
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What are readers to make of Ari Shavit's beautifully rendered and often profound (and often profoundly depressing) new book? It isn't exactly a history, though it considers a number of key moments in the history of Israel. Nor is it memoir, though Shavit folds his and his family's experience seamlessly into the broader narrative. Creative non-fiction? That feels like a copout. Labels might not matter to some, but I settled in the end on a creative analytical meditation on the miraculous rise, strengths, and challenges of modern Israel. One thing is certain: hate it or love it, no reader will likely finish Shavit's discussion without substantial food for thought.

Writing on a topic that often breeds over simplification and over-confident statements made with excessive surety, Shavit stands out for a refreshing willingness to admit to complexity. He begins by honestly stating his own positions as an "anti-occupation peacenik" and a "left wing journalist." At the same time he eschews, indeed castigates, the current fashion of imagining Israel as the source of all the Middle East's (and even all the world's!) ills. Instead he writes with honest admiration about the miracle of Israel's birth, survival, and success. And as he points out, miracle is very much the right word. Against overwhelming odds, a people dispersed for 2000 years did reunite in their ancient homeland and create a vibrant democracy. Yet no state is perfect. Shavit remains cognoscente of Israel's weaknesses and what it took for the state to survive.

For Shavit, Israel's birth in warfare required hard choices, not the least of which was the uprooting of hostile Arab populations. Nation building is never a clean business. Nation building in wartime is still more so. The 20th Century can be written as a history of "population exchanges" as nation states cemented their authority. Nor does he mince words:

"One thing is clear to me: the brigade commander and military governor were right to get angry at the bleeding-heart Israeli liberals of later years who condemn what they did in Lydda [an Arab town that sat on the crucial Tel Aviv- Jerusalem highway and the source of attacks on that arterial road, and the population of which was expelled] but condemn the fruit of their deeds. I condemn Bulldozer. I reject the sniper [sadistic individuals who behaved unethically]. On the contrary, if need be, I'll stand by the damned. Because I know that if it weren't for them the State of Israel would never have been born. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have been born. They did the dirty work that enables my people, myself, my daughter and my sons to live."

The same story might likewise be told across the world. It is the nation state's dirty secret. Yet no one argues for turning back the clock, at least not anywhere else but Israel (and in Israel, only for one side). No one argues for the non-natives of North America to decamp. And, if that sounds too much like a story from the murky distant past, consider Europe. Tens and tens of millions of Greeks, Turks, Germans, Hungarians, Poles, Ukrainians and others dispelled across national boundaries over the last century as these states rose. Yes, these were tragic tales, but the world marched on.

In the case of the refugees created by 1948, Shavit actually pays insufficient attention to the hundreds of thousands of Arab Jews expelled from their home country who settled in Israel, save to point out that "the number of Jewish refugees Israel absorbs surpass the number of Palestinian refugees it expels." A remarkable fact considering the vast size and wealth of the Arab world, which allowed (indeed, forced) Arab refugees to live for generations in refugee camps, even as Israel engaged in the difficult, expensive, and even dangerous process of absorption. Shavit does mention the Arab nations' complicity in creating a smoldering ever expanding population of refugees. Still, he does not consider the guilt of the broader community of nations in their creation of the world's only community specific international refugee agency, and perhaps history's only organization whose mission was to maintain and grow the size of a refugee population.

Yet while Shavit recognizes many of the painful contradictions and choices that when into Israel's founding, some he seems unable to accept even as he makes them plain to his reader. Like many, Shavit sees the Arab-Israeli conflict in terms of 1967. Despite discussing various ways to deal with the legacy of 1948, he returns time and again to 1967. Yet the story he tells forces more painful realizations. Anti-Jewish violence far predates the establishment of Israel, as he offers a too brief summation of the terror and violence committed against Jews under the British Mandate. In a trope that echoes across time, he describes how the Zionist leadership often condemns Jewish retaliatory violence even as Arab leaders lionize those who murder Jewish civilians, women, and even children.

The roots of the conflict thus go back even earlier than '48. Consider for example Shavit's interview with an Israeli-Arab lawyer, a man educated in Israeli universities, who he admires and believes could well have taken another path and been elected to the Knesset or appointed to the Israeli Supreme Court. For this educated Israeli-Arab, the idea of Jewish history in Israel is "pure fiction." Thus the Jewish state is, for him, devoid of any legitimacy. When he looks to the future he looks forward to a world where: "We [the Arabs] will be masters, and you [Jews] will be our servants." What border agreement will settle a dispute seen in this sort of cultural terms? Shavit worries over Israelis feeling "triumphant," but one must wonder where are the Arabs writers who engage in this author's deep honest introspection over the choices made by the Arab nations?

Shavit's book is not without flaws. He can be arrogant, even self-righteous. Some of his interviews seem more of an opportunity to monologue for a paragraph in the form of a question which he follows with a terse one sentence answer. Yet none of that takes away from the fundamental strength of his analysis or the deep pathos he feels for the Jewish State. He struggles with his desire for a "normal" state, even as he celebrates Israel's accomplishments and suffers for its failures. Ultimately, sympathetic, ethically questioning, and feeling no shortage of angst, Shavit's book speaks volumes of the Jewish experience in general and the Israeli experience in particular.
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113 of 150 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not annoyingly biased., August 27, 2013
This review is from: My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (Hardcover)
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I have spent a long time wondering about Israel and Jewish people. For one, I am constantly dumbfounded why America supports Israel without question. Why does my mom - who thinks everyone except her particular breed of Christian is going to hell - have such high support for Israel and the Jewish people? Why is there so much discrimination against Jews all over the world, even after the holocaust? What happened in the region, and how did those seemingly white people get out there?

And although I knew the textbook answers to some of these questions, and I've certainly heard the Jordanian and Palestinian sides of the story recently, I still had so many questions. This book has been a Godsend in answering my questions, giving me some peace that I have some understanding about both sides of the story from sane people. I love that this guy can bring himself to admit to some faults by the Jews, while you can see it pains him to say so. You can almost hear the defensiveness in his voice.

I tried reading some books about Israel before, but found I didn't yet have enough understanding about its history to understand those books. This one stands by itself and really helps the reader to get a grasp on such a crazy history and complex issues. I'd recommend it for anyone having a curiosity about the region or anyone who wants to hear a fairly unbiased account of this nation.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Two people with a common goal see the same thing differently, April 14, 2014
Richard Malmed (Pueerto Escondido Oaxaca Mexico) - See all my reviews
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I give My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit
one star for prose one star for masterful propaganda and no stars for fairness in journalism.

I believe Ari Shavit is an intelligent man with a connection to the state of Israel. I do not understand why he is perusing an agenda of demonizing the people of Israel with half truths, elimination of truths, and stereotype pandering.
Shavit is honest, he tells the reader that he "despises" Jewish people who have a different opinion than he does. He tells his readers that he "would not have liked" his great grandfather because of how he thinks.
In every instance of Jewish accomplishment Shavitz proclaims, he stinks on it it with an Arab suffering.
Shavit knows that the West Bank was taken in an act of war by Jordan. Shavit knows that the armistice lines set up by the United Nations were not boarders. Shavitz vilifies the Jewish people who are of another opinion without trying to represent their side of the story.
Shavit knows that the Gaza situation resulted when the Arab Nations refused to recognize Israel in 1967. Shavetz knows of the leaders of thirteen Arab states gathered at a summit conference in Khartoum, Sudan from August 29 to September 1. There they pledged to continue their struggle against Israel. Influenced by Nasser, "their conditions were quite specific: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel.
I agree with Ari Shavitz that when Yigal Amir murdered Yitzhak Rabin it was a dark moment in the history of Israel and was to affect the future. He does not mention that Anwar Sadat also a man of peace was assonated for his similar actions.
Shavit knows of the 600 thousand Jews who fled Arab countries in fear of their lives, many of them finding refuge in Israel but Shavitz prefers to sum that up with a phrase that indicates that these refugees were "extracted" by Israel.
I advise the readers of My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by
Ari Shavit to balance it with
The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East
By Caroline Glick
If Ari Shavit is not actually aware of what I am assuming that he knows, it would not hurt him to read the Glick book also.
He has given the anti Israel minions a wealth of propaganda.
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30 of 43 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What Caroline Glick said about this book, July 4, 2014
This review is from: My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (Hardcover)
Go into any Jewish community in the United States these days and spend a few hours talking to people. At a certain point in the conversation, at least one person will bring up Ari Shavit's bestselling book, My Promised Land.

Mention of the book will arouse great enthusiasm. Invariably, a prominent member of the group will say, with utter conviction, and to the nods of all present, "I think that Shavit's book should be required reading for all American Jewish students."

The most illustrious American Jewish writers and editors today are all but unanimous in their praise for Shavit's book, which they proclaim is an "epic," account of Israel.

As Martin Kramer wrote this week in the online journal Mosaic, "the last `epic' account of [Israel's birth in] 1948 to seize the imagination of its Jewish and non-Jewish readers," as Shavit's has done was Leon Uris's Exodus, published in 1958.

Uris's book was an inspirational, historical fiction that told the story of Israel's birth. Decades of American Jewish readers were profoundly influenced by the narrative. Ask any American Jew over the age of 35 who made aliyah if he read Uris's Hollywood-style account of the Zionist revolution. The answer is almost always affirmative.

Like Exodus, Shavit's My Promised Land has been a runaway success. As Kramer noted, Shavit has been embraced by the Jewish establishment's celebrity intellectuals - sharing stages with New Yorker editor David Remnick, and Bloomberg's Jeffrey Goldberg. He's been kvelled over by Tom Friedman and Franklin Foer from The New Republic.

Shavit got marquis billing at the AIPAC policy conference in Washington in March, and has been feted by the Jewish Federations and the most affluent synagogues in America.

Unlike Exodus, which is a fictional account of Israel's founding, Shavit insists that his narrative is the undisputed truth. As Foer put it in his blurb an on the back cover, Shavit's book is an, "epic history . . . full of moral complexity . . . mind-blowing, trustworthy insights."

Also unlike Exodus, Shavit's tale of Israel is not one of heroism, determination, faith and gumption. Rather, Israel's tale is morally ambiguous. Israel is a country born in sin and its subsequent history has been immiserated by tribalism, fanaticism, displacement, and war crimes.

On the other hand, Israel isn't all bad. Shavit still loves it with all his heart because it is a great country made up of human beings. And you should love it too. At least a little bit.

Shavit's portrayal of Israel revolves around the continuous clash between the bad and good things that Israel is and does. A central anchor of the "Bad Israel," narrative is Shavit's account of the battle of Lydda (Lod) in the 1948 War of Independence. Kramer's article, titled, "What happened at Lydda?" is a critical assessment of Shavit's account of that battle.

By Shavit's telling, the Israeli forces that conquered Lydda from the Jordanian Arab Legion and the local Arab irregulars in July 1948 massacred civilians who were hiding in a mosque. Shavit alleges that after killing the innocent, Israeli troops forced local Arabs to bury the bodies to hide their crime, and murdered the Arabs who dug the graves.

The purported massacre, according to Shavit, is what fomented the Arab flight from Lydda. Shavit judges the soldiers and commanders who participated in the operation. But he lays the blame for these alleged events on "Zionism."

"Zionism," he wrote, "carries out a massacre at Lydda."

Shavit claims his historical narrative is based on interviews he conducted in the 1990s with soldiers who participated in the battle. Shavit has not released the transcripts of those interviews.

Yet as Kramer relates, the same sources to whom Shavit attributes his story gave opposite accounts in on-record, and in many cases, on-camera interviews with other reporters and researchers.

Shavit referred to the battle of Lydda as "Israel's black box." As Kramer put it, Shavit maintains that, "in its story lies the dark secret not only of the birth of Israel but indeed of the entire Jewish national movement--of Zionism."

Through his point by point examination of Shavit's narrative, Kramer demonstrated that Shavit's account is arguably no less fictional than Uris's idealized portrayal of Israel.

Kramer found no clear evidence that a massacre was carried out at Lydda. At best, there is an argument between historians about what happened. Shavit's claim that the dead were "civilians," is not supported by historical accounts of the battle. His claim that 250 Arabs were killed in the battle is disputed.

Moreover, as Kramer demonstrates, contrary to Shavit's claim that Israeli soldiers allegedly killed Arabs out of rage and not for reason of military necessity, the documentary history of the battle contains no evidence of malice by any of the soldiers or commanders involved in the battle.

A perfectly reasonable explanation of the evidence -- and a better one than Shavit's claim of original sin -- is that the Israeli fighters fought a hard battle in an urban area under the accepted rules of war. And people died.

Whereas Shavit wrote that the Israeli forces buried the bodies of the Arab dead to hide evidence of their supposed war crime, according to the participants' firsthand accounts, the Arab dead were buried because it was hot and the bodies would have rotted if they weren't interred.

As for murdering the Arab burial detail, one of its members - who lived his whole life in Lydda (Lod) after the war -- was interviewed on record about the battle several times. He was neither killed at the time, nor did he allege that his colleagues were killed.

Kramer ends his article by calling for "the grandees of American Jewish journalism who rushed to praise Shavit's Lydda treatment," to tell their readers the truth about the at best dubious nature of Shavit's account of the battle.

Kramer is right to hold Shavit's enablers to account. But the problem is that promoters like Jeffrey Goldberg, (who presented Shavit's as "a beautiful, mesmerizing, morally serious, and vexing book," for which "I've been waiting most of my adult life") are unlikely to be called to order by their American Jewish audience.

Goldberg, Remnick, Friedman, Foer and David Brooks are not operating in a vacuum. True, they are leading voices in the American Jewish community. But their stature owes mainly to the American Jewish community's desire to listen to them. They reflect the values and preferences of the American Jewish community more than they shape them.

AIPAC didn't give Shavit the center stage at its annual conference because David Remnick featured an abridged version of his tale of the Lydda "massacre," in The New Yorker. AIPAC gave Shavit center stage because AIPAC leaders like his message of Israel's moral deficiency just as much as Remnick does.

How can this be? Shavit's most enthusiastic readers are not uninvolved Jews. They are not American Jews who have left the community. Shavit's biggest admirers are members in good standing of the American Jewish community. They belong to synagogues. They belong to AIPAC. They give to the Federation.

What is it about his dishonest moral indictment of Israel that excites them?

For generations of American Jews, Israel was perceived as "poor little Israel." As they saw things, Israel was economically backward. It was dependent on charity from the American Jewish community. And it needed organizations like AIPAC to protect and promote its interests in Washington.

There was truth behind these perceptions in Israel's early years in particular. Israel was a weak country and a poor country. American Jewish support was a critical component of Israel's economic and diplomatic viability. But in recent decades, Israel has become more and more capable of standing on its own.

Today Israel is not dependent on the charity of American Jews. It is a prosperous country with a healthy, rapidly growing and diverse economy. With Asia expected to eclipse the US as Israel's largest trading partner next year, Israel has become less dependent on the US in general than it was in the past.

Israel's economic vitality is an unwelcome development for many American Jews who cannot get their arms around Israel not needing them to save it.

And as Israel becomes more powerful, American Jews are becoming less willing to defend Israel in any meaningful way.

For the past decade, AIPAC made convincing the White House and Congress to pass sanctions against Iran its primary goal. But when President Barack Obama told AIPAC to stop lobbying for further sanctions after he signed the interim nuclear deal with Iran last November, AIPAC folded like a deck of cards. Israel and the Republicans on Capitol Hill that had pushed the legislation were left high and try.

Defending Israel to an unsympathetic president from the Democratic Party is apparently too much to ask most pro-Israel American Jews to do.

And this is where Shavit's book comes in.

By portraying Israel as a country that is morally deficient, Shavit gave the American Jewish community two gifts. First he gave them a way to feel morally superior, and therefore patronizing towards Israel. Israel, they can say, committed a massacre - and did so because its founding ideology is poisonous. American Jews would never do such a thing. But out of the kindness of their hearts, like Shavit, they will continue to love this unworthy cousin.

The second gift Shavit gave the American Jewish community was the ability to feel comfortable refusing to be inconvenienced for Israel. Clearly - given Israel's moral failings as portrayed by Shavit - American Jews should have no interest in picking up and making aliyah. But beyond that, since Israel is a morally lacking country, there is no reason for them to take a serious stand on its behalf. There is no reason for them to object to the galloping anti-Semitism on college campuses. The BDS people may be over the top, but according to Shavit, they have a point.

There is no reason for them to stand up to Obama. He is using "tough love" to make Israel free itself of sin and atone for its past crimes - like the one it committed in Lydda.

The success of Shavit's book reveals the rupture in the relationship between the American Jewish community and Israel. A generation ago, being pro-Israel meant believing in the justness and morality of Israel and being willing to be inconvenienced a little or even a lot to defend the Jewish state.

Today, being pro-Israel means that you support Israel despite its immorality because you are forgiving. And supporting Israel means you'll help Israel so long as it doesn't inconvenience you in any way or make you feel uncomfortable about anything at all.

Ari Shavit's libelous account of the birth of Israel is just playing to the crowd. It's time to start worrying about how to heal a crowd that celebrates being lied to in this way.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.
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21 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Dangerous Book, March 27, 2014
Elliott Cohen (Atlanta, Georgia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (Hardcover)
This is a dangerous book: While the facts are true, they are presented without enough context. As a result, the reader gets an extremely slanted view of the history of Israel and of the Arab-Israeli situation. True, Shavit advises the reader in the very beginning that he is a "peacenik", but he is a "peacenik" in the same sense that Chamberlain was. Shavit mistakes theoretical peace for factual total surrender. After 16 chapters of denigrating Israel and beating it to the ground, in the 17th chapter he says "but I really love you". No one who hates Israel and wants to see it destroyed needs more ammunition than Shavit gives him. This book deserves and requires a chapter-by-chapter reply to tell the other side of the story.
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24 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Personal Look at Israeli History, August 26, 2013
This review is from: My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (Hardcover)
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This is personal look at the story of modern Israel, through the eyes of an Israeli journalist who is a self-described "peacenik" and also a former soldier. It is vividly, movingly written, and often focuses on individuals, some of whom the author knows from historical accounts and some of whom he met and interviewed. These range from the author's own great-grandfather who was a founder of the Zionist movement to fervent contemporary supporters of the settler movement.

While wishing to preserve the state of Israel, the author, Ari Shavit sympathizes deeply with the Palestinians. The story of displaced Palestinians is juxtaposed with that of Jews who perished in the Holocaust or who managed to survive and sought a new life in Israel. Shavit's deep empathy for his supposed enemy is admirable. What troubles me a little is that he spends much time on the Palestinian's anguish, and relatively little on the aggressive wars that have been waged against Israel. He may assume we, his readers, know that part of the story. But will every reader know it? The eyes of moral judgment here are turned largely toward the Israeli rather than the Arab side. A question not taken up is this: what special compassion was owed the survivors of death camps that destroyed millions? Another--what would have happened if Israel had not been confronted at its birth by violence? This is an enlightening book but falls short of being a balanced account.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unfair and one-sided depiction of my own promised land, June 3, 2014
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This review is from: My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (Hardcover)
The Israeli journalist Ari Shavit’s latest American bestselling book “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,” offers a disheartening outlook, a definite but skewed reality, and a detrimental PR for Israel.
The book is very well written (Ari Shavit must have had a brilliant editor); it’s an attention-grabbing page-turner, but at the same time, it reinforces the Arab agenda of delegitimizing the state of Israel. Lacking proper background knowledge or understanding of the particular history before reading the book, may serve to convince the ignorant reader that the Palestinians’ claims to Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, the Galilee, Lydda, etc. is absolutely justified. And the Jews, the Zionists, and the Israelis are the latest Crusaders whose time in the holy land is fleeting, as it will soon run out. The book lets the naïve reader be persuaded that the state of Israel will implode as the population time bomb continues its steady march toward doomsday, while the extreme right continues to tear down any chance for peace by colonizing the West Bank (a.k.a. Judea and Samaria), whereas the new materialistic and fun-seeking generation of young Israelis are completely disconnected from the ideals and the spirit of their forefathers—the Zionists founders of the Jewish state.
Ari Shavit believes that he is a Zionist. He makes sure that the reader knows that he is in love with Israel; that he admires the Israeli resourcefulness and innovative spirit, and that he approves of the original Zionists’ goal of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine, a goal, which according to Shavit, was accomplished via ethnic cleansing and a Palestinian Nakba. The goal justified the means, in Shavit’s opinion, because there was no other choice. But, although Ari Shavit rationalizes the 1948 Jewish cruelty toward the Palestinian Arabs, he has missed a couple of important points. The 1948 war was a war of survival for the Jews in Palestine. Eastern Jerusalem and the Etzion Bloc Jews suffered similar, if not worse fate at the hands of the Arabs. These two areas were cleansed of its surviving Jews—those who had not been killed or massacred during the Arab onslaught. And had the Jews lost the war—a scenario that seemed quite plausible during the earlier days—a new holocaust would have dawned on the Jewish community in Palestine. Ari Shavit failed to emphasize that the war was launched by the Arabs—not by the Jews. The Arabs’ intent was loud and clear—killing the Zionists and throwing them into the sea. But Ari Shavit makes it sound differently. He lets the reader perceive the Jews as the aggressors, the ethnic cleansers, the killers of innocents. He lets the reader perceive the Arabs as the innocent victims. And although he approves of the ugly measures taken by the Zionists in pursuing the founding of their state, he does not tell the whole truth; he does not convey the fact that it was those same Arabs who started the ugliness, the killings, the massacres; he does not make the reader understand that the Jews fought a defensive, desperate war of survival.
The second missed point is the fact that readers have selective memory. After reading the book, many will only hark back to the killing in Deir Yassin and the ethnic cleansing of Lydda and the Galilee; they won’t understand the reasons for it, nor will they know that these beastly actions were an integral component of a zero-sum-game that had taken place during the 1948 war of Jewish independence. Had these events not come to pass, Jewish Jerusalem would not have survived, the Jewish State would not have been viable, and Ari Shavit would not have had the good life he revels in today.
But the most disheartening aspect of the book is its implicit conclusions.
Ari Shavit makes sure that the reader understands and legitimizes the feelings harbored by Arabs toward the Jewish State. He makes it clear that what the Arabs refer to as “the Nakba”—the Arabs’ catastrophe, stemmed from the creation of the Jewish State—will always be the core of the Middle East conflict. In fact, Ari Shavit’s leftist ideology that strives for a peaceful co-existence with the Palestinian Arabs is also the one pointing to the only conclusion — that peace between Arabs and Jews is impossible as long as Israel exists. Shavit makes it clear that what the Arabs refer to as the occupied territory is not limited to the west bank; it includes the territory occupied in the 1948 war; it includes pre-1967 Israel.
And although Ari Shavit is adamantly opposed to the west bank settlements; although he sees those as the main obstacle to peaceful co-existence, he, at the same time, makes the case that there is no difference between colonizing the west bank and the colonization of pre-1948 Palestine. This contradiction is threading throughout the book, and it becomes one of its major takeaways.
I could not help but thinking of the damage done by Ari Shavit’s book to the Israeli struggle against Arabs’ attempts to delegitimize its existence. Ari Shavit told us the truth; he did not tell the whole truth, and he painted his version of the partial truth with colors he had viewed through his own left-minded kaleidoscope. I could not help but thinking that the Israeli Shavit is much like Edward Snowden, the American who exposed the NSA secret files, methods and extent of surveillance programs. Both believed that they acted out of patriotism; both brought to light part of the hidden truth they believed had to be exposed. Both failed to dilute the ugly part of the truth with the reason for its being or by countering it with the far greater beneficial part. Both impressed upon their audience that their part of the truth is the whole deal and that it is plain evil. Both failed to understand the damage they had done by aiding the enemies of their state, and by distancing its friends. And both became American celebrities through their actions.
Although I found the book interesting, captivating and extremely well written, I could not recommend it to others or rate it highly because I was distracted by its one-sidedness and unfair depiction of my own promised land—the land of Israel.
Avi Perry
Author of 72 Virgins
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32 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A NECESSARY COMPANION TO Ari Shavit's MY PROMISED LAND, December 2, 2013
This review is from: My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel (Hardcover)
Psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote in The Red Book of the distinction between “The Spirit of the Times” and “The Spirit of the Depths”. We see this vividly demonstrated when we put Ari Shavit’s acclaimed new book My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel alongside Erel Shalit’s classic work, The Hero and His Shadow: Psychopolitical Aspects of Myth and Reality in Israel. The former takes us through the history of the heroic creation of Israel, including the darkest “shadow” behaviors of the Jewish state in the 1948 massacre of the Arabs of Lydda.
In the latter work, Erel Shalit tells us why.
This is no simplistic psychological analysis. The brilliance of this Israeli Jungian analyst is that he offers no easy solutions, plumbing the paradox of the necessary heroic identity of the Jewish state, and yet, around every corner is the shadow of every hero: the beggar, the frightened one, the part of all of us that is dependent on forces outside of our control.
It is also very important to note that Erel Shalit’s book is fascinating reading for anyone interested in the inner workings of the soul. On one level Israel is the backdrop for the author to explore how shadow, myth, and projection work in all of us, regardless of our life circumstance, nationality, environment, or history. It even includes a comprehensive glossary of Jungian terms that has some of the best definitions I have ever encountered, and hence a find for readers new to Jung.
And, of course, for people who are fascinated by the scope and depth of the story of Israel, this is a simply great read. It stands alone, but read as a companion to Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land, Erel Shalit’s Hero and His Shadow gives us The Spirit of the Depths in all its dimension. We may not be able to resolve the Arab/Israeli conflict, but we can learn many things from this brave, complex Israeli author, that we can apply to healing the inner and outer wars in our own lives.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Clark-Stern, author of On the Doorstep of the Castle, Out of the Shadows, and Soul Stories.
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My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel
My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel by Ari Shavit (Hardcover - November 19, 2013)
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