Neil Young once wrote that rust never sleeps and neither does Phil Weiss. For nearly two days I’ve been intending to write a post about the pro-settler plot to encircle Arab East Jerusalem with parks in order to reinforce a Jewish territorial claim to the land. The $120-million project which Akiva Eldar, Peace Now and Ir Amin have “outed” would serve a dual purpose of surrounding Arab neighborhoods with parkland, which would also inhibit any potential expansion or development in these communities and prevent them from linking to each other.
Wouldn’t you know that Phil got to the post before me and reported essentially the “take” that I had on Ethan Bronner’s execrable coverage of the same story in which the latter seemed oblivious to the fact that the plan is not only secret, but that it wasn’t vetted by the usual governmental planning authorities. Pro-Israel liberals like to talk about Israeli democracy, but conveniently forget that when certain political figures operate the levers of power and decide that conventional democratic oversight is “inconvenient” it somehow slips through the cracks; and no one on the Israeli Jewish side seems to notice or care much. Except, that is for Akiva Eldar. And what is he but the typical crybaby Israeli leftist, right? Democracy? We’ve got more important things to worry about like combating the Arab population menace.
Returning to Bronner’s problematic approach, it is typically aimless reportage, which refuses to take a stand or analyze what is clearly right in front of his nose. Instead of Eldar’s forthright term “secret” describing the nature of the plan and its execution, which confronts you in the Haaretz headline, Bronner buries the lede using the term “quiet” instead. He also seems to adopt the turn of the century Zionist narrative that any territory not directly controlled by Jews is barren wasteland:
As part of the plan, garbage dumps and wastelands are being cleared and turned into lush gardens and parks, now already accessible to visitors who can walk along new footpaths and take in the majestic views, along with new signs and displays that point out significant points of Jewish history.
I guess one Arab’s piece of territory is another Jew’s “wasteland.” And note the approving terms “lush gardens,” “new footpaths,” and “majestic views.” Doesn’t it sound like those old Zionist brochures boasting how the halutzim have made the desert bloom?? This is inadequate journalism and what’s especially sad about it is that Bronner, if he bothered to respond to e mail sent to him by critics like me (which he doesn’t) would be entirely credulous and not have a clue why this is terribly slanted.
Further, the right-wing pro-settler private group which is both surreptitiously buying up Arab land or forcibly expelling Arab inhabitants from it is twice labelled by Bronner simply as a “private group.” The fact that it refused to be interviewed for his article reflects merely how “delicate” the subject is, rather than a desire to continue to veil its actions in a cloak of secrecy (which is the real reason). Only toward the end of his story does Bronner provide any context about the extremist leanings of Ir David (get a load of the money and sophistication behind this group’s website).
Bronner allocates three entire paragraphs to Israel’s bogus hasbara touting the merits of its plan:
As an official in the prime minister’s office put it in his answer: “Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish people for some 3,000 years and will remain the united capital of the State of Israel. Under Israeli sovereignty, for the first time in the history of Jerusalem, the different religious communities have enjoyed freedom of worship and the holy sites of all faiths have been protected.
He continued: “The government will continue to develop Jerusalem, development that will benefit all of Jerusalem’s diverse population and respect the different faiths and communities that together make Jerusalem such a special city.”
Israeli officials point out that when East Jerusalem was in Jordanian hands from 1949 to 1967, dozens of synagogues in the Jewish Quarter were destroyed, Jewish graves were desecrated and Jewish authorities were largely denied access to the Western Wall or other shrines. By contrast, in Jerusalem today Muslim and Christian authorities administer their holy sites in a complex power arrangement under Israeli control.
No word from the prime minister or Bronner on precisely how this land grab will “benefit all of Jerusalem’s diverse population and respect the different faiths…” Of course, a proper reading between the lines which you should never expect Bronner to provide would lead one to understand that Ir David’s activities will benefit one part of Jerusalem’s population and will respect one faith, and only one: Jews.
Bronner typically relegates the views of progressive Israelis on the topic to the end of the article where fewer readers will have an opportunity to read them. Such an journalistic decision also consciously or unconsciously reveals Bronner’s editorial emphasis (or “bias” as some would have it).
Anyway, Phil got there first, darn that guy. He’s good, and I’ve got to stay one step (well, maybe a half step) ahead of him or he’ll eat my lunch. Seriously though, last weekend I was in DC and had a chance to meet Phil, Adam Horowitz and my other peace blogging buddies including Jerry Haber, Dan Sisken, Jim Lobe, Dan Luban and Ali Gharib. We had a blast over dinner at Busboys and Poets. In further conversations, we decided to try to maintain an organized presence at the J Street October conference. So if you’re on the east coast (or even Midwest) stay tuned for developments. I’m hoping J Street might be interested in dedicating part of its agenda to some panel discussions about pro-peace blogging/media and furthering the I-P peace message.