Ethan Bronner’s Pro-IDF Stenography Continues
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.
17 thoughts on “Ethan Bronner’s Pro-IDF Stenography Continues – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Boy, You read Bronner DIFFERENTLY than I do.
I’m amazed that you consider the removal of critical roadblocks between two major Palestinian cities, to be of no consequence.
There is NO EQUATION between expansion of settlements and the stepping of Fatah to establish, police, adjudicate, and enforce law.
It is PROGRESS, not regress.
You seem to follow the directions of a political correctness doctrine. Your post is identical to a similar post on Mondoweiss.
I would think that you would not want to be redundant.
Richard W., you’re a very poor reader. What I said was that Bronner’s claim isn’t true.
And you are a poor dissenter, if you regard progress as regress.
And, if your only approach is attack anyone that is to the right of the “heroes”, you stop change, rather than assist in the change.
Witty, do you by chance make fortune cookies? Or are part of a fortune cookie manufacturing facility? There is a discernible fortune-cookie-ish cadence to many of your utterances. I’m serious…
If you deem the question too silly, you don’t need to respond.
You mean like “love thy neighbor as thyself”.
I’ll gladly repeat that fortune cookie.
Israel needs to practice it. The Arab world needs to practice it. Iran needs to practice it. Knee-jerk dissent needs to practice it.
I need to practice it. Richard S. needs to practice it.
Fortune cookie and all.
In reading Witty’s posts, I’m starting to understand the phoniness of Richard S’s knee-jerk hatred of those he disagrees with. Richard S’s smears of anyone to the right of his extremist anti-Israel views are hollow and boring – yawn….but hey Jews attacking Jews and Israel will always get plenty of eyeballs from an endless supply of like-minded haters – hope you’re making a few shekels of your phony indignation Rich – if not actually getting Rich (perhaps you can join HRW in begging for Sauid-petro funding by showing how much you smear Israel and it’s supporters — boot licking and genuflecting is not limited to a point of view it seems-just to idealouges who need cash)….for now I’ll start to read more fair discussion and analysis of Middle East Issues elsewhere
Not really, but if you’d use my Amazon links to buy Joan Peters, Alan Dershowitz and Daniel Pipes’ books I would.
YOu’re a total moron aren’t you. HRW held a meeting with Saudi officials at which it discussed the reports it was preparing on human rights in the Kingdom. This is a courtesy they extend to every country whose human rights record they chroncile including Israel. They didn’t solicit nor did they accept a dime from SA. What scummy right wing pro Israel tabloid have you been reading???
“Start???” Sounds like you started a long time ago. You’ve imbibed all the extremist pro Israel cliches & hasbara talking pts. Why did you even bother crawling out fr. under the rock you share with Pipes, Charles Johnson & their ilk???
Richard, you have written “yet another” harsh critique of Ethan Bronner. He is definitely not my favorite NYTimes Jerusalem bureau chief but the only point that you make that has some tooth to it for me is that the “greatly reduced” may be an overstatement. As I have said before, there is value in having a reporter ( as you put it) “take dication” to a degree if he has connections to what is going on in the minds in the government. Still his article has enough of other points of view in it so that calling it dictation” is over the top. Again- this anti-Bonnerism series is tiresome. I do enjoy and agree with your “spunk” on many other issues and appreciate that you have your antennae so sensitive..
Is it really necessary every time I write a critique of Bronner for you to pop up telling us that he’s really a good guy and means well & that I’m not giving him the benefit of the doubt as I should??
There is no value is a reporter taking dictation fr. the very authorities on whom he is supposed to report. Then he’s merely a conduit for official policy & this is never what a good journalist should be. We already have plenty of Israeli journalists who do precisely this & it only serves the government’s needs, but not those of the citizens who need to be fairly informed on the events of the day.
Turn the channel. If you have a diff. set of priorities & I don’t satisfy yours you’re perfectly welcome to write yr own blog & set yr own priorities there.
One of my jobs (as I see it) is to critique the bad journalism out there about the IP conflict. Bronner is by no means the only journalist who gets it wrong so often. But he’s one of the more influential ones because of his perch at the NYT.
No it’s not necessary for me to “pop up” anymore than it is for you to keep on the case. And of course this is your blog and you are free make me feel I should shut up about the fact that every time I read a Bronner article you have a very different take on it that seems an erroneous interpretation. If I don’t feel free to say that but you perhaps want only praises from me ( which you get)- I guess I would prefer not to partake here.
I do not think Bronner “takes dictation” and he is not advocating a POV as it seems you have decided. And he is not supposed to advocate a POV, though I find that subtley he does. Mostly he is very fair- which is what I suppose the Times requires of him. They have other reporters on the case as well. I am not about to start a blog about that either… kind of a snippy retort Richard… perhaps partly my fault for speaking out.
Sorry- I need to clarify this above: “And he is not supposed to advocate a POV, though I find that subtley he does.”
In a subtle way, through his choices, he tells a story that I cannot say is unsympathetic to the Palestinian side, or sympathetic to the Israeli side only. In his interview with Terri Gros he talks about how he labors to be fair…which I suppose may be infuriating to some on the far ends.
Of course he does, in his self-pitying, self-congratulating sort of way. He is always the one put upon by his critics fr. left & right. The honest man seeking to find a middle path among the warriors on either side. The notion is thoroughly unconvincing.
It’s quite a bit more necessary for me to stay on Bronner’s case because almost no one else does. While your views on this matter are entirely conventional & amt to apologetics, which one can find just about anywhere.
I don’t “make” people “shut up” unless they behave much worse than you have. But you say the same thing every time you write on this subject. I at least analyze Bronner’s work & grapple with it seriously and gear this to whatever his particular subject is. You provide absolutely no real evidence to back up anything he says or writes.
I don’t want praise fr. you. But I do want serious, reasoned, articulate argument. Not the same ideas over and over. I’ve criticized another of my frequent critics for repeating over and over again the same idea in attacking me (that I observe double standards). It’s the same idea. Come up with something new to say rather than repeat yrself.
Of course he is & I’ve proved it. His POV is more subtly stated and nuanced that Jeffrey Goldberg or Daniel Pipes (thank God). But he very much has a POV.
Dream on, my friend. If he ever needs a PR flack you should apply.
Dream on, my friend. If he ever needs a PR flack you should apply.
Richard this from you is the kind of hot-headed response that I have come to be more turned off about than any light I am getting here on your blog. It’s mostly selections of news delivered parsed and with added anger that I commiserate with often enough. But I don’t need it.
I say the same thing because it strikes me that you keep saying the same thing about this one reporter- essentially. His reporting seems like a vehicle for you. Another Bronner to rip up for show. And I have already said he is not my favorite, nor does his reporting repesentwhat the whole NYT coverage amounts to with regard to the situation.
What you don’t acknowledge is that the NYTimes particularly at this point in time has to walk a fine line and not appear to alienate a section of it’s Jewish readership. The paper (Bronner) has reported, for instance, adequately enough on the soldier’s testimonies in March- with links to them- but not the second round in late Spring. Bronner is not going to satisfy an activist on either side.
Apparently you don’t need my small support or comments in your increasing quest for self promotion. I am reminded that I first began posting here on your blog to give support after I actually admired your ability ( at the time) to take criticism. I read you first on Chris Lydon’s blog where you “popped up” occasionally. Now I come full circle w re you.
FYI-I have made points recently where I think your interpretation is off on your blog, I link below one more recent and note no response. There have been others but I am not going to make a further search at this point.
Hey, thanks for that dismissive summing up of my blog oeuvre. I’m glad you’re not a critic. You’d have me on the dust heap of the blogging history. Thankfully, I think more highly of my own work (along with other readers than you) & find what I do to be rewarding than you apparently do.
Not at all. I actually engage with every piece he writes that I critique. I quote passages & point out their deficiencies. I write a critique that takes time & thought. I don’t think yr comments criticizing my approach to Bronner’s work have any intellectual content to speak of. You’re not rebutting any of my specific claims with research or evidence or facts. You’re merely dismissing my perspective on his work.
The NY Times Jewish readership is a lot more progressive than you think. After all, I read it & hundreds of thousands of other progressive American Jews & Israelis do as well. Bronner to an extent talks down to all of us.
Yes about the anger and thinking highly of your work own work- this comes across. It’s not like me to trash you but I am responding to your tone and insults above ( this time about your assessment of my intellectual content) not unusual towards others. This general tone makes the blog harsh and at times you seem like a bully. In my opinion this does bupkiss to convince anyone who doesn’t already think like you, or agree with you, of anything. You gather mostly those who cheer you and those who endeavor to bash you knowing you have the power in this space. I thought myself in neither category or both, frankly more interested in the I-P news gathering which I can get elsewhere.
Re Bronner “talking down” – very odd- I don’t get that from Bronner at all- there is more talking down from you here.
I read Bronner and get a totally different take on him and I am not his “flack” because of that. Others out there have an opposite take!! I am reacting to your criticism, not supporting Bronner per se. Not a hard concept. The issues is not Bronner himself for me but what you write and the points you try to make about him which do not ring true. They are more about what you read into his work than is really there I feel, which fits your hardened opinion of him. So I conclude you have this “thing” against him. Whereas you might have (and did) compliment him at first, now his work is all inadequate or worse. Your at it now every chance you get. Today again. Yes tiresome. I gave examples specifically and not exhaustively. Basically you want Bronner to be an activist and take a side. He can’t do that in a blatant way not only b/c of readership issues. Again-there are those on the other side who think Bronner is too critical of Israel. Bronner says he gets strong messages from both sides.
The NYTimes editors decide where their readership is btw- not you- and also they decide how far they can go in reporting. Their op/eds and contributors are a different story. I assume Bronner needs his access in Jerusalem. Again, on the whole the NYTimes coverage is not bad but it’s not the only source the world has or relies on.
I found another comment criticizing your incessant dissing of Bronner. Here you compare apples and oranges-
What are you going to do without him after his gig is over? I guess move onto Friedman full time. Friedman is still one of our most influential columnists even though most ( not all) of his columns are a rehash and not insightful.
I am not spending more time on this. I’ve said what I have to say to you.