I don’t know what it is with Ethan Bronner, the NY Times’ Israel correspondent. He’s clearly intelligent. He knows the issues fairly well. But his problem is he’s conflict about the politics of the Middle East. With a child in the IDF and married to an Israeli it’s almost as if he has to pull his punches [correction: Ethan Bronner denies he has a son in the IDF and I can’t for the life of me remember where I read this. So I stand corrected on this particular matter and apologize to Bronner and Phil Weiss, who picked this up from here. But Bronner’s wife IS Israeli.]
It’s not that he’s a horrible journalist. After all, as I said he’s articulate and intelligent and knows the issues. But rather than come right out and say something definitive, he beats around the bush and tempers his judgments. He wants everyone to like him and is shocked when many don’t.
The thing that irks me most about his reporting is that he ALWAYS manages to include a real howler in almost every major report that he writes. It usually something so condescending toward the Israeli peace movement or the Palestinians or something so twisted or distorted that it leaves you scratching your head how an otherwise intelligent human being can say something so out there, so…dumb.
In today’s report, he chose a worthy subject in Israeli peace activist Ezra Nawi, who has “adopted” the Palestinian villages of the south Hebron Hills, defending them from the marauding neighboring settlers. In addition, Ezra does come up for sentencing on Wednesday so the scrutiny on Israeli justice from a major U.S. media outlet is quite welcome. Please sign this Jewish Voice for Peace petition to pressure Israeli authorities to end this sham judicial process. For more on Nawi’s case, see this report by Neve Gordon.
But it’s as if he somehow has to mollify his right-wing readers in choosing such a progressive topic that he adds the following howler:
Since the Israeli left lost so much popular appeal after the violent Palestinian uprising of 2000 and the Hamas electoral victory in Gaza three years ago, its activists tend to be a rarefied bunch — professors of Latin or Sanskrit, and translators of medieval poetry. Mr. Nawi, however, is a plumber.
A note before I go on: later in this story he DOES quote an Israeli peace activist, David Shulman, who IS a professor of Sanskrit at the Hebrew University. But it’s as if this single source has somehow become emblematic of the entire Israeli peace movement. Not just emblematic, but in Bronner’s eyes the entire Israeli left has been reduced to David Shulman. While Prof. Shulman, a leader of Ta’ayush, IS an extraordinary scholar and human being, it is s deep disservice to him and the Israeli left to imply there aren’t many tens of thousands of others doing work equally valuable.
Bronner: have you forgotten about B’Tselem, Gisha, Yesh G’vul, Combatants for Peace, Breaking the Silence, Rabbis for Human Rights, Hadash, Peace Now, the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, Courage to Refuse, Parent’s Circle, Anarchists Against the Wall (just to mention organizations)? And individuals like Uri Avnery, Rabbi Menachem Froman, the Sheministim, Michael Sfard, Jeff Halper, Shulamit Aloni, Robbi Damelin, Yitzchak Frankenthal, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Dov Kheinin. Are these all nothing but effete European professors of obscure humanist subjects? The very notion is absurd and offensive.
Now, as always with Bronner’s howlers–there is a kernel of truth there. The organized Israeli left has shriveled and failed in a massive way since the first Intifada and especially during the Lebanon and Gaza wars. Note I said the “organized” left. I say this deliberately because Israeli NGOs and individual peace activists are doing work as vital as any done by the Israeli left when it was a more powerful political force. So for Bronner to dismiss the constituency of the Israeli left as he has done is deeply insulting and false.
He owes these courageous groups and individuals an apology. But will they get one? Don’t hold your breath.
David Shulman provides this bit of sad news from the anti-Occupation forces:
Yesterday was a tough day in the Territories…The whole group of some 30 Taayush activists, including 2 Palestinian drivers and some of our Palestinian colleagues, was arrested on arrival at al-Safa to accompany the farmers to their lands. The arrests were carried out [by the IDF] very brutally, there was one broken leg and one apparently broken arm.
As far as the IDF and the Occupation goes, plus ca change plus la meme chose. Oh I forgot, that’s going to mark me as yet another effete western intellectual do-gooder.