The daily newspaper Haaretz announced that senior columnist Ari Shavit will take a “time out from his journalistic work” amid sexual assault allegations.
“Haaretz is vehemently opposed to any form of sexual harassment,” said Haaretz in a statement “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,” the statement continued. “Today he informed us that, in light of recent publications, he has decided to take a time out from his journalistic work.”
Shavit has apologized for what he termed a “misunderstanding” with American journalist Danielle Berrin, who says he sexually assaulted her during an interview in 2014.
But many Israelis aren’t buying his apology.
“I don’t know if Berrin accepted his apology, but I didn’t,” wrote Knesset member Shelly Yachimovich, the former head of the Labor party, in a Facebook post. “It’s not like he accidentally stepped on somebody’s toe.”
Shavit wrote in Haaretz that he believed that he and Berrin “had a friendly meeting, which included elements of courtship.” But he realized that he had “completely misinterpreted” their interaction.
“I never thought for a moment that it was sexual harassment, but what I saw as courting, Ms. Berrin saw as inappropriate and harassing behavior on my behalf.”
Yachimovich said that Shavit apologized “only after he was exposed and he understood that was drowning.” She added that she was disappointed to see such behavior from a man who “preaches morality” in his journalism.
An Israeli female journalist’s organization also said Shavit’s apology was not enough. In a statement, the Forum for Female Journalists called Shavit’s apology a “step in the right direction” but said he failed to take full responsibility for his actions.
“A female journalist that comes to a work meeting shouldn’t be in a position of defending herself from unwanted touch or sexual remarks,” the group said.
It called for the media to develop standards to prohibit such incidents from happening again.
Berrin, a writer at the Jewish Journal in Los Angeles, described being grabbed by Shavit when she went to interview him in a Los Angeles hotel about his acclaimed book “My Promised Land.”
Shavit “lurched at me like a barnyard animal, grabbing the back of my head, pulling me toward him,” she said.
Berrin declined to name Shavit, but he outed himself amid rampant speculation about his identity in the Israeli and Jewish press.
Since Shavit’s apology, Hillel International has suspended his campus speaking tour.
On Friday, pressure was building on Haaretz to suspend Shavit.
“Haaretz should have already issued a statement condemning the specific act, condemning sexual assault on a whole — and distanced itself from Ari Shavit — at the very least by suspending him until further notice,” wrote Mairav Zonszein in the Israeli news and commentary site +972.
The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel also called on Haaretz to suspend Shavit.
“[It was] encouraging to see that Ari Shavit admitted to and apologized for his actions, rather than denying them or continuing to hide behind the anonymity that Berrin gave him. But a feeble apology is not enough, and he and his superiors must reinforce his words with actions. Men have to understand that the reality has changed,” said ARCCI chief Orit Solitziano, according to the Times of Israel.
Oded Kramer, an Israeli creative engineer, tweeted that “every moment that Haaretz isn’t suspending Shavit at least temporarily is a disgrace.”
כל שניה שהארץ לא משעים את ארי שביט, לפחות זמנית, לפחות כדי להראות מראית עין, היא בזיון, לא משנה איזה תירוץ ישלף הפעם.— odedkramer (@odedkramer) October 28, 2016
Israel’s Channel 10 said it would consider Shavit’s future after it investigated the allegations.
This story was updated to reflect new information.
Naomi Zeveloff is the Middle East correspondent of the Forward, primarily covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories.