Israeli author and journalist Ari Shavit made his second visit to Yale in two this week, speaking to a crowd of just over 50 about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Shavit, the senior correspondent for the Israeli center-left newspaper Ha’aretz, spoke about his experience living and writing in Israel to his audience in Linsly-Chittenden Hall on Monday night. A question-and-answer forum hosted by several Jewish groups at Yale focused on Shavit’s 2013 book “My Promised Land — The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,” a nonfiction book that provides an in-depth yet personal narrative history of Israel.
“I try to combine my patriotism and love for the country with my liberalism and love for peace,” Shavit said.
Shavit’s book, a New York Times best-seller, delves into the nature of both modern Zionism and the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During the talk, Shavit called his book a “biography of a nation,” adding that in order to understand both the internal problems of the Israeli government and the external problems of the regional conflict, people must first have a firm grasp of Israeli history.
“The [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict has to do with history, with identity and with religion,” Shavit said. “If you come with a kind of naiveté that everything happened yesterday without understanding the depth of it, you cannot begin to address it or resolve it.”
Shavit argued that the possibility of a one-state condition is the greatest danger to Israel and to peace in the region, and a two-state vision is essential for creating peace. However, with the increasing influence of the Israeli extreme right, Shavit said he fears the consequences of Israeli occupation and settlements on the peace process.
“Occupation is unfair to the Palestinians,” Shavit said. “It takes away from them the one part of the land that should be theirs. I know that they [Palestinians] want to destroy me, but letting them live and rot in such a way … would that strengthen me?”
He added that Israeli occupation endangers Israeli citizens because it strengthens the anti-Israel cause of radical Palestinians and encourages terrorism. Asserting that the first step in catalyzing the peace process is to stop the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Shavit said Israel should reconstruct the Gaza Strip and deliver clean water and electricity to Gaza’s two million inhabitants in order to help develop a sustainable Palestinian state.
Shavit’s beliefs are considered left-wing in Israel’s political system. However, unlike many of his leftist colleagues, Shavit identifies as both a patriot and a progressive. Despite his ideological leaning, Shavit said he hopes to build a bridge between conservative and liberal Israelis, Jews of Israel and Jews around the world and progressives in Israel and progressives in the United States.
“I want to see a real alliance between progressive America and progressive Israel,” Shavit said. “I want us to work together, acknowledging the challenges of the Middle East and yet maintain our values and really make Israel what it must be, a benign nation and a beacon of freedom, social justice and eventually peace.”
Yale students interviewed resonated with Shavit’s message.
Meital Gewirtz ’19 was intrigued by Shavit’s contrast between the objectives of Israel and the objectives of other nations. Gewirtz said Shavit thinks Israel was created more to allow Jews the freedom to be openly Jewish rather than because Israel was seeking power.
Paul Lee ’18, who travelled to Israel on a Yale-West Point program this summer, read Shavit’s book before the trip. Lee said that as someone who studies Korean and Asian politics, Shavit’s efforts to bridge the gaps between different groups of people were inspiring.
The talk’s co-hosts included the Slifka Center, Yale Friends of Israel, YIPAC and J Street U at Yale.