I like to follow Ethan Bronner’s writing for the N.Y. Times not so much because I’ll learn much, but rather to see how torturous the writing and thinking of a liberal Zionist must be in covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for a major western newspaper. And his report in today’s Week in Review doesn’t disappoint. In an article purporting to attempt to explain why the U.S. persists in seeking peace despite the fact that neither party seems to want it as much as we, he writes this howler:
It is worth noting that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has been largely drained of deadly violence in the past few years…The dispute is calmer than it has been in years, which, in the brutal logic of the Middle East, means that neither side is eager right now for the necessary compromises. So why push so hard?
The first sentence of course displays not just blindness, but complete absence. Where was Bronner during the Gaza war in which 1,400 were killed, a war which ended in early 2009? Not to mention the Lebanon war of 2006, admittedly not directly tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but certainly at least a kissing-cousin to it. At least 1,000 were killed in that war. Aside from this, he’s neglecting the hundreds of Palestinians who’ve been killed in those “past few years” by Israel’s often rampaging “security” forces.
What Bronner really means to say is that the past few years have been drained of violence against Israel or perhaps that relations between Israel and the West Bank are drained of violence, which is far different than what he actually wrote. And because Israel faces relatively little violence against it, it is Israel which feels no real urgency to compromise. It is an outright lie to say that the Palestinians are not eager for necessary compromises for peace. They are, and how. But they are not eager to give away the store BEFORE there is a serious settlement proposal even on the table.
Rather, it is ISRAEL which shows itself unwilling to compromise. As everyone and their brother (and sister) now say, we all know the outlines of a settlement. Who is it who refuses to return to 1967 borders, refuses to share Jerusalem as capital of a Palestinian state, refuses to even negotiate the Right of Return on the basis of the Geneva Initiative supported by 40% of Israelis?
What is it that the Palestinians are refusing to negotiate now? A settlement freeze that excludes their future capital, East Jerusalem. If Ehud Barak were Palestinian he’d doubtless agree with this stance just as he’s already said he’d be a militant if he were born Palestinian. Doubtless he’d also be dead by now in that event, but no matter.
It is hard to tell in Bronner’s writing whether he’s deliberately lying about recent history or whether he’s simply so vacant that he can’t be bothered to consider narratives outside of the narrow ones to which he subjects his readers. What’s more, I find it shocking that Bronner’s editor wouldn’t have the least knowledge of recent Israeli-Palestinian history to know that the sentence above is a total fraud.