If you want to understand how active pro-Israel forces are in the political culture, a good example is the response to Jodi Rudoren’s article in the Times this week that characterized stone-throwing as a cultural practice of Palestinians, without ever mentioning that they live under military occupation and might have a reason to throw stones. The piece has been attacked by among others myself (for being anthropological about a political situation) and Noam Sheizaf (saying it read like a colonialist’s letter home) and Ali Abunimah (“timid, Israeli-centric reporting”).
But it is also getting slammed from the right for supposedly romanticizing terrorism. The Times has published a letter attacking the piece, from Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. who grew up in New
While Palestinian protagonists are described in detail, their Israeli victims are largely dehumanized “settlers” — no name, age or gender.
And Yahoo news featured a piece by Sharona Schwartz, a pro-Israel writer at the Blaze, slamming the piece by quoting Camera and Commentary and a bunch of other Israel supporters saying that stones are killing people. Schwartz is a hasbarist, but her piece is obviously getting a lot of circulation.
This is how hasbara operates. We slam from the left, they slam from the right. And so Rudoren and the Times can throw up their hands and say, “Well we got it from both sides, so that’s a sign that we got it right. We didn’t make either side happy. That’s what honest journalists do. They both have an axe to grind.”
So we get equated with propagandists. I’m not saying I don’t have a strong point of view. But at least this site is reflecting world opinion: This is an illegal occupation. If Americans were subject to Palestinian conditions, we wouldn’t be talking about stones we’d be talking about semi-automatic rifles.
It’s a reflection of the fact that propaganda outfits for Israel and the occupation are deeply imbedded in the American discourse. Here is Noam Sheizaf on that theme, imbeddedness, and arguing that Rudoren’s piece is an orientalist anthropological hash.
The whole report actually reads like a letter from India or Africa by a 19th century British correspondent – colorful and strong on details, with a touch of “human tragedy,” yet totally missing the story.
How could such pieces be written by such smart people, again and again? I’d like to offer some of my own anthropological ideas.
The typical New York Times reporter is totally embedded in Israeli society. Many of his or her friends are Israeli, their kids go to Israeli schools (the previous correspondent’s son joined the army), and it is quite natural for him or her to view reality through Israeli eyes, which is blind to the ongoing violence that Palestinians are subjected to. Therefore, these correspondents often find Palestinian behavior puzzling or foolish. (Rudoren explains that confronting army vehicles with stones is “futile.”)