No, Ari Shavit didn’t say the phrase in quotation marks above. But he said something almost equally stupid. Within hours of publishing the post here last night which identified him as the distinguished Israeli journalist who sexually assaulted Danielle Berrin in his Los Angeles hotel lobby, Shavit released a statement:
Two and a half years ago, in January 2014, I met Ms. Danielle Berrin for a discussion in Los Angeles. Today, I understand, sadly, that I interpreted in an incorrect fashion the interaction between us at that meeting. Until I read the article she published this week, I felt that we had a friendly meeting which contained an element of flirtation. At the time, I didn’t sense there was any element of sexual harassment. But what I saw as courtship, Berrin saw as inappropriate, even harassment behavior from her perspective.
As someone who respects every woman and human being, and as someone who detests sexual harassment, I apologize from the bottom of my heart for this misunderstanding. I did not intend to do anything that wasn’t acceptable to Ms. Berrin and certainly didn’t have any intention to cause her a feeling of discomfort or the hurt her feelings.
“Flirtation??” Did he really say that? Ugh. How disgusting! Since when does flirtation involve pawing? And what sort of man confuses the two? A sexual predator of course. But this sexual predator sits at the apex of Israeli journalism.
Now lets go back over Berrin’s version of events which has Shavit grabbing her unsolicited and trying to force himself on her. She uses the word “grope” and makes very clear this was a physical assault. When did she ever give him the impression that his advances were reciprocated? And what sort of man has the chutzpah to say he respects “every woman” when he disrespects Berrin as he did? What does he take us for? Fools?
Note also, that Shavit, who told Berrin that he could have an affair with her because he “has an understanding” with his wife, made no mention of the impact this will have on his wife or children. He apologized only to Berrin, but not to them. What a heartless and callous man! And he has the chutzpah to say he “respects every woman?!” Really? Except Berrin, his wife, and how many other women who endured his unwanted advances?
While it’s good Shavit didn’t try to do a “Cosby” regarding this charge against him, his actual response is not much better. He has a great deal at stake: an HBO documentary, future book contracts and remunerative speaking engagements. This could torpedo his future financially. That is the only reason he is appearing to be contrite.
Anyone who knows powerful Israeli men knows the type. When I worked for the Westchester Jewish federation, I once sat in a room with Haim Ramon listening to him speak. I thought he was the coldest, most supercilious fish I’d ever met. It didn’t surprise me in the least when he later forced his tongue down the throat of a young Israeli soldier in a government office, in an incident that virtually ended his political career. This, for those who don’t know, is SOP (standard operating procedure) for Homo Masculum Israelii.
Will Ari Shavit pay a price for his overweening male indecency? Hillel International announced it was suspending (but not cancelling) his current speaking tour because it has a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment. Channel 10, where Shavit appears as a commentator is waiting to see how embarrassing the episode is before determining his future (they didn’t put it quite that way, but that was what they meant).
I’ve asked Haaretz managing editor, Aluf Benn, whether Haaretz itself is releasing a statement about the incident and Shavit’s role at the paper. He has not replied. I hope that Israeli female journalists will protest his egregious behavior and make him pay a price. Haaretz is an overwhelmingly male bastion in which men play many of the most powerful roles. If Shavit doesn’t pay a price for assaulting a fellow journalist, it will tell us a great deal about whether this predatory Israeli male culture is dying out or continuing to flourish.
Readers: if I hadn’t published my post last night, Ari Shavit might not have copped to engaging in sexual assault today. I hope this reminds you of the critical role this blog plays in keeping the Israeli élite honest (or slightly less dishonest than they might otherwise be). Your support means a great deal. Please contribute what you can by clicking on the Network for Good (tax-deductible) or the Paypal badges in the sidebar.