David Bromwich shares my criticism of the New York Times's article on the Israeli plans to take more land in east Jerusalem:
A few details warrant further notice in the Bronner-Kershner story on the urban-renewal-by-monument-making that Israel has used to advance the cause of the settler movement around Jerusalem. The state is converting areas captured in the 1967 war into national heritage sites. This act of annexation it supports by the cultural claim to have discovered "indisputable evidence of ancient Jewish life here." The aim is to ring the Old City with an aura (physically marked and certified) of sacred history that will make it impossible to divide.
Meanwhile, new housing will be built for Palestinians in areas conveniently "away from the historic sections."
The Times headline, "Parks Fortify Israel's Claim to Jerusalem," is a curious instance of euphemistic grammar. Parks, of course, don't fortify an argument, people do. The headline shirks the duty of honestly explaining the stratagem by which Israel has chosen to carve up Jerusalem; it transfers the responsibility for the deed to an abstract entity. The parks did it. What could Israel do but cooperate with the parks? The technical term for such sleight-of-hand and the logical fallacy it conveys, is personification, or anthropomorphism.
A larger but less noticeable offense is the personification of the Israeli and Palestinian "narratives," which are revealed to have distinct moral characters:
"In other words, while the Israeli narrative that guides the government plan focuses largely--although not exclusively--onand links to the land, the Palestinian narrative heightens tensions, pushing the Israelis into a greater confrontational stance."
The Israeli narrative works by gentle and rational suasion. It guides. The Palestinian narrative, by contrast, is marked by unmistakable aggression. It pushes, heightens tensions, forces confrontation. The Times may award itself the available excuse that these oddities are merely the accidental signs of abridgment for the sake of conciseness. Just as everyone knows the Israelis are saying the parks support their claim, so everyone knows that the Israelis argue that their narrative has been guided by history, while the Palestinians reply that the Israeli stance is more confrontational than that. So, you see, the Palestinians move the pieces of the story around in a different way, much as one might push the pieces of a legal argument to advance one presentation or another. All these substitutions and transpositions are neutral and impartial-sounding, in themselves. Yet the result is not innocent.