Today, Haaretz announced in an article that Ari Shavit, accused of sexually assaulting Jewish Journal reporter, Danielle Berrin, would be “taking a break” from Haaretz. Haaretz management released this statement:
“Haaretz is vehemently opposed to any form of sexual harassment. Such behavior is utterly unacceptable and must be thoroughly rooted out. Haaretz expects all of its employees to behave in a professional manner. Ari Shavit is a senior journalist with many achievements over the past 20 years of working for Haaretz. Today he informed us that, in light of recent publications, he has decided to take a time out from his journalistic work.”
First, what does “taking time out” mean? The phrase is so vague as to be virtually meaningless. He certainly wasn’t suspended. If Haaretz really wished to convey a message of zero-tolerance for sexual assault it would’ve suspended him without pay or fired him. Further, this statement uses Shavit’s phrase to portray his behavior: “harassment.” It was not harassment, it was sexual assault. That’s the word Berrin used and if Haaretz really cared about the victim it would honor her own terminology.
Further, the paper articulated the decision as Shavit’s own. This may’ve been a way of Shavit saving face. But what debt does a newspaper owe to an employee who betrays the standards of journalism and his own newspaper by engaging in such behavior? Given this journalist’s overweening pride, I seriously doubt it was his choice.
Another seamy development is that Hillel Schocken, brother of Haaretz publisher, Amos Schocken, and part owner of the newspaper, has published a particularly tone-deaf Facebook post in which he writes:
Before the Ari Shavit story, no one knew who Berrin was. Chizik (another U.S. Jewish journalist who has come forward claiming she was sexually assaulted by a different Israeli journalist) wants more of the same. Why should only Danielle get published? No fair!
I think that a journalist who was attacked many years earlier [it was only two and a half years earlier] and stayed quiet should remain quiet. If the information she had was important to the public she had no right to conceal it. And certainly when doing so concealed the identity of her attacker.
Tell me what was her real purpose? To say that senior journalists are potential rapists or that only Israeli journalists are? Why did she choose now to publish this? [she explains in her original article that she was motivated by the revelations concerning Donald Trump]
This is the Old Boys Club circling the wagons to protect one of their own. Shameful!
Contrast Haaretz’s lurching response with Hillel International, which immediately cancelled Shavit’s upcoming national speaking tour. This shows that sexual assault is taken much more seriously in the U.S. than in Israel. It also shows that despite Haaretz being Israel’s leading liberal paper, it is beset by the same sexism as the rest of Israeli society. Shavit did not appear as a panelist on his weekly show on Israel’s Channel 10, but the station made only a vague statement that it would wait to see how the case unfolds before making any longer-term decisions.
How will this charge affect the status of Shavit’s HBO documentary? I will contact the company to find out if they’ve made a statement on this.
In her rejection of Shavit’s sort-of apology, Berrin adds this mystifying sentence about Shavit’s brilliance as a writer:
I remember how excited I was to interview the author of “My Promised Land,” a book of astonishing insight and self-reflection. It is mystifying to me how someone so deeply attuned to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be so obtuse when it comes to human relationships.
I automatically grant sexual abuse victims great latitude regarding their suffering. But about politics I can’t. Only a liberal Zionist could write these words. Only a liberal Zionist could have such a shallow view of Shavit’s work and his analysis of the conflict. Shavit is not “deeply attuned” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is deeply attuned to the Israeli perspective. He gives it a nice sheen so that it appears humane and generous (to a point). But when push comes to shove, Shavit grants no agency or independence to Palestinians. He offers no ideas or approaches that can help end the conflict. He reinforces the stereotypes that permit Israelis and liberal Zionists in general to believe that they’ve done everything in their power to heal the suffering–but that in the end such healing is either impossible or so far in the future as to be a fleeting wisp of hope.