האם העיתונאי הישראלי הבכיר, שעיתונאית אמריקאית סיפרה כי תקף אותה מינית, הוא פרשן “הארץ” ארי שביט
Last week, Jewish Journal reporter Danielle Berrin, wrote a personal account of a disturbing sexual assault she endured at the hands of a veteran Israeli journalist who she was interviewing for a major story her editor had assigned her. Though Berrin refuses to name him, she offers enough clues that anyone with a passing familiarity with the Israeli media scene will know who her attacker was. She gives the following hints about his identity:
…The glare of his dark eyes, his black hair…
…The book he’d written was among several titles having an impact on the Jewish conversation, and many local community leaders wanted to meet with him.
…The man was married, with children, and a public figure.
…This man had been someone I deeply respected. I’d read his book voraciously and underlined passages; I’d even read every review, and recommended the book to friends.
…He was going to be spending a lot of time in the States, he’d told me, and wouldn’t it be fun if I met him in New York as his mistress?
…Today, it would be an easy choice. But at the time, several years ago, I felt beholden to the man in power.
I don’t know whether Berrin realized how easily her readers, especially those familiar with Israeli media, would figure out who he was. At rate, there is only one name on everyone’s lips on social media: Ari Shavit. He is one of Haaretz’s best-known columnists and sits on its editorial board. His book, My Promised Land, was published in 2013. In 2014, it was published in English to great acclaim in the mainstream Jewish community. It hit the NY Times Bestseller list. Shavit did a 28-campus tour for Hillel International. He was represented by the famed Harry Walker Agency, which means his speaking fee was probably in the high five-figures. Reviewing Google for his speaking engagements back in 2014 reveals he was everywhere. Clearly, he spent a huge amount of time here that year. HBO announced they were turning his book into a documentary (though there has been no further word about the project since 2015).
Berrin covers Hollywood for the Jewish Journal. Her work shows a distinct liberal Zionist perspective. She specializes in a high-brow integration Israel and Hollywood glitz into the same story. Shavit’s book was the talk of the liberal Zionist world. It integrated a tough, yet humane (if you are liberal Zionist) perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was the perfect “shooting and crying” book, allowing Jews to decry the harm done to Palestinians while saying at the same time, it couldn’t be helped. He validated some of the worst prejudices Israelis hold about Nakba and Palestinian rights, while proclaiming you can still be a decent humane Zionist while embracing them. Ari Shavit, at that time, was the type of “get” any young Jewish journalist would die for.
The media watchdog, 7th Eye, notes further circumstantial support for Shavit as the culprit is that every major Israeli publication has published a story about Berrin’s piece–except for Haaretz [udpate: Haaretz published its own story shortly after this post was published, but well after other outlets had published. Naaman Hirschfeld notes that the Haaretz version leaves out key elements of the Berrin story which point to Shavit]. It protects its own.
While this sort of story could have a sort of voyeuristic element, that’s not why I published it. As readers here will know, I’ve chronicled the sexual abuse suffered by Israeli women at the hands of powerful Israeli men who believe they’re entitled to take what they want. I’ve reported on cases of rape and sexual abuse which often either aren’t prosecuted, or sometimes not even investigated. Ari Shavit unfortunately is not an anomaly. He is a ‘type.’ An Israeli type.
This news cannot be good for Haaretz. It already publishes a columnist regularly, Yitzhak Laor, who’s been accused by his female students of rape. Another editor, Benny Ziffer, once justified the right of artists to engage in illicit sex for the sake of their art in one of his columns. Now one of the newspaper’s most well-known journalists faces grave charges of sexual assault. Haaretz, like much of the Israeli media is heavily male-dominated. The publisher, managing editor and much of the senior editorial staff are men. I can’t recall a female managing editor the entire time I’ve been reading Haaretz (the English edition is edited by a woman). It seems to me that what ails Haaretz is what ails much of Israeli society: an overweening domination of the levers of power by men. The attitudes that arise from this toxic phenomenon encourage sexual predation and aggressive behavior toward women. Of course there are women journalists, and very good ones. But they don’t carry the same weight and often don’t get to make the major decisions in the way men do.
I want to add one caveat: while I have contacted numerous Israeli journalists and feminist activists in an attempt to confirm this story with direct evidence I have not yet done so. I contacted Ms. Berrin, but she has not replied. If you know of anyone willing to speak with me on or off the record, please let me know. Shavit told Berrin during their encounter that he “has an arrangement” with his wife. Any man who says that to one woman has says it to scores of women. Which means there are women who’ve had the same treatment from him. I hope they will come forward as Berrin has done.
I asked Haaretz managing editor, Aluf Benn, if he had any comment about this, and other than tweeting me a link to Haaretz’s story, he did not.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.