Ethan Bronner has written yet another West Bank story, Signs of Hope Emerge in the West Bank, that fuels the Israeli narrative that things are honky dory there. The economic is booming, people are happy, there are movies to see, cars and furniture to buy, and the Hamas morality police are nowhere to be found, thank God. That’s of course to distinguish the West Bank from the Islamic republic of Hamastan (no Bronner doesn’t use that term himself, though he does quote an Israeli official who does).
Bronner’s approach serves the Netanyahu line that Israel is not prepared to negotiate a peace agreement because the Palestinians are “not ready” for that. But what Israel can allegedly do is improve economic prospects for the West Bank so people can work, earn a living, and see some semblance of an economic future (even if there is so prospect for a political future, a need which Israeli dismisses).
Bronner further espouses the line that Jordanian trained Palestinian policemen working for the Fatah-dominated PA are the key to establishing security in the West Bank. Once this security is established, so runs the Israel-Bronner line, then the economy can function properly and Palestinians can return to a semblance of real life. Only then, at some unforseen point in the future will there be enough stability to approach a resolution of the political conflict. By then, of course tens of thousands more Israeli settlers will be in the Territories and a real solution that Palestinians can accept will be impossible.
This narrative essentially points to a one-state solution of the conflict in which Israel dominates and subjugates not only its own Arab citizens (though perhaps in a less draconian fashion than the Palestinians), but those in the Territories as well.
As is usual with Bronner’s reporting he gives the IDF free-rein and rarely questions their spin:
Asked to explain why the West Bank’s fortunes were shifting, a top Israeli general began his narrative with a chart showing 410 Israelis killed by Palestinians in 2002, and 4 in 2008.
“We destroyed the terrorist groups through three things — intelligence, the barrier and freedom of action by our men,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with military rules.
The general’s argument is disingenuous, as those of most Israeli generals are. First, any change in the death toll from 2002 to 2008 has little or nothing to do with the West Bank, since Fatah and even its militant offshoots have not engaged in terror acts in a very long time. And this policy on their part has as much to do with internal Fatah policy (renouncing violent resistance against Israelis within the Green Line) as it does with any actions by the IDF. The Separation Wall does not deter terror attacks as it is not even completed and it is quite easy for Palestinians to enter Israel where there is no Wall (and they do in their thousands every day).
While there may be some justification for the general sentiments expressed in this passage which explains why the newly trained Palestinian recruits are supposedly more effective at policing, I find Bronner to be patronizing and borderline racist. The idea that Palestinian village society is primitive, clannish and impervious to modern values is disturbing:
An important element in making the Palestinian force effective, American and Israeli officials say, was taking young Palestinian men out of the ancestral grips of their villages and tribal clans and training them abroad, turning them into soldiers loyal to units and commanders.
Almost always in a Bronner report there is one glaring claim that is flat out wrong, and he doesn’t disappoint here:
The Israelis have pulled their forces to the outskirts of four cities, greatly reduced the number of permanent checkpoints and promised to help industry develop. They say the Palestinians now need courts, prisons and trained judges.
There are Israeli Occupation NGOs which actually report on these matters as part of their mission and none have supported Bronner’s claim, which parrots IDF/Israeli government claims, that the number of checkpoints has been reduced, let alone “greatly” reduced. Bronner, as is typical, provides no support for this claim because there is none other than a general’s statement that it is so. The idea that Bronner does not subject statements of IDF to minimal fact-checking is disturbing. You’d think that this is what a journalist is trained to do. But not this one.
UPDATE: Before I published this post I wrote to several Israeli peace activists asking whether Bronner’s claim had any truth. After publishing, some wrote back and said that indeed there IS some truth to the claim. Some major checkpoints have been dismantled. Though whether they have been “greatly reduced” is an arguable question.
Bronner follows a particular line when he covers Palestinian issues. The West Bank is a hopeful place. Hamas is bad. Gaza is a hellhole. Fatah is less bad, even good possibly. Israel’s Occupation is messy and even troubling, but perhaps necessary at least for the time being.
I must correct one statement I made about Bronner which turns out to be inaccurate. I read online that his son serves in the IDF. Bronner denies the claim and I must accept his denial. His wife is a native Israeli though and this fact helps to explain some of his journalistic approach to his subject.