(JTA) — Ari Shavit acknowledged that he was the unnamed Israeli journalist accused of sexual assault by a U.S. reporter but called the incident “a misunderstanding” that he had not thought constituted “sexual harassment.”
Shavit’s statement, released late Thursday, came after heavy speculation in Israel about the identity of the man whom Jewish journalist Danielle Berrin had accused of sexual assault in a column in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.
“Today I understand, with sorrow, that I completely misunderstood our interaction in that meeting,” Shavit, a correspondent for the Israeli daily Haaretz, said in the statement.
“Until I read this week the article she published, I felt that we had a friendly meeting that included, among other things, elements of courtship. I did not for a moment think that sexual harassment had occurred. But what I saw as courtship, Berin saw as inappropriate behavior and even harassment from me,” Shavit said, clarifying that the incident occurred in February 2014.
He added: “I apologize from the depths of my heart for this misunderstanding.”
In a cover story for the Journal, Berrin recounted a meeting that she said constituted “sexual assault.”
“I figured I was safe. But after I answered one of his questions in a way that moved him, he lurched at me like a barnyard animal, grabbing the back of my head, pulling me toward him,” she wrote.
“I turned my face to the left and bowed my head to avoid his mouth,” Berrin wrote, adding that he asked her to go up to his hotel room and said he had an “arrangement” with his wife.
“In the end, I guess, I consider myself ‘lucky.’ Very, very ‘lucky.’ Because although I was groped and grabbed and pulled — sexually assaulted — I was not raped or otherwise harmed.”
Though Berrin did not name Shavit, her descriptions of him, which included calling him “an accomplished journalist from Israel” and mentioning that he had gained fame in the Jewish community for his recent book, led some to speculate that she was referring to the Haaretz columnist.
In 2013, Shavit published the book “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.” He visited Los Angeles in February 2014 to promote the book.