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‘NYT’ stonethrowing piece gets it from rightwing propagandists

Israel/Palestine
on 21 Comments

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 York Jersey–

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.”)

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21 Responses

  1. eGuard
    eGuard
    August 7, 2013, 9:15 am

    Michael Oren also writes: And for the record, all Israelis, irrespective of residence and ethnicity, Jews and Arabs, drive with yellow plates.

    The point is not racism, smarty. The point is: what are these Israelis doing there?

    • tree
      tree
      August 7, 2013, 10:06 am

      It’s the racism also. So all Israelis, “irrespective of residence and ethnicity” are allowed on roads in the occupied territories that connect Jewish-only settlements to Israel within the green line. They can’t live in those settlements unless they are Jewish, but they can drive there. So its set up so that there is little to no reason for non-Jews to use those “Israeli only” roads, and then Oren can insist that there are no restrictions on non-Jewish citizens of Israeli using the connector roads to the Jewish only settlements. How “mighty white” of him to point that out.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        August 7, 2013, 4:17 pm

        In USA, anybody can drive up the road to the gated community, sometimes, but when you arrive at the gate, there’s no place to go but back. It’s like an old castle where the bridge over the moat is open to all traffic, but actual entry into the castle is selective. Are we dealing with a macro on the Zimmerman case?

  2. ckg
    ckg
    August 7, 2013, 9:37 am

    And Yahoo news featured a piece by Sharona Schwartz, a pro-Israel writer at the Blaze

    True to its swiftian name, Yahoo news gives prominence to articles from Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze.

  3. frankier
    frankier
    August 7, 2013, 9:41 am

    Now even Abraham H. Foxman posted a comment to the original article…

    Here is the comment (almost surreal!) :

    “This story underplays the potentially provocative and dangerous consequences of hurling rocks at passing vehicles and armed soldiers.

    Many Palestinian residents of Beit Ommar excuse those actions as a relatively harmless form of child’s play at resistance against Israel. The reality is much different.

    Stone throwing is a highly violent form of protest. Drivers confronted by flying rocks have little or no time to react, and many innocent Israelis motorists have been injured and some killed by a hail of stones or just one striking a windshield. Yet the story makes only passing mention of this danger, with a single paragraph quoting the perspective of an Israeli driver. I wish the article had provided a more insight into the daily dangers Palestinian stone throwers pose to Israeli drivers and other civilians.

    The story paints an almost romantic picture of young Palestinian rock throwers, portraying their violence as justified by regional politics and driven by boredom.

    These are not acceptable reasons for an activity which results in numerous injuries and deaths.

    At a moment when Israeli and Palestinian leaders are resuming efforts to end the conflict, more Palestinians should emulate the example of Beit Ommar’s former mayor and encourage children to focus on building a future and avoiding acts of violence.”

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      August 7, 2013, 4:21 pm

      @ frankier

      Always nice to know the terrorist is a native kid with a stone, and the good guy has nothing but F-16s, white phosphorus, Merkhava tanks, and diplomatic immunity at the UN by US UN SC pocket veto.

  4. hophmi
    hophmi
    August 7, 2013, 10:50 am

    “So we get equated with propagandists.”

    You ARE a propagandist. You’re promoting one point of view. You’re not an objective journalist, Phil, at least acknowledge that much.

    “But at least this site is reflecting world opinion: This is an illegal occupation. ”

    It is not world opinion that Jews are responsible for the Iraq War. It is also not world opinion that populations who are the target of stone throwing should react with flowers and candy.

    “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. ”

    The typical Western pro-Palestinian propagandist romanticizes the Palestinian experience and is generally unable to acknowledge any flaw in Palestinian society or culture because they’re too busy putting the oppressed on a pedestal. Therefore, they often find any criticism, including criticism of Palestinians by Palestinians, puzzling and impossible.

    • Donald
      Donald
      August 7, 2013, 2:04 pm

      “Therefore, they often find any criticism, including criticism of Palestinians by Palestinians, puzzling and impossible.”

      Sheizaf did a superb job outlining the problems with this particular story, but there’s more. Towards the end of it Rudoren gives one paragraph describing the treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli justice system, treatment which includes beatings. Pages on the “culture of stone-throwing”, when defiance of authority is hardly unusual among teenage boys even when not living under occupation, but a few lines to Israeli injustice. Nice.

      And when do you think the NYT will do a front page anthropological study of Israeli soldiers mistreating Palestinians, beating them, shooting at Gazan farmers or fishermen, etc…? Is that a rite of passage too? I suspect it is–that is, in that situation it’s probably normal for soldiers to dehumanize the people they are meant to control.

      I agree that there is a tendency on the left to romanticize the oppressed, but one can agree with that and still see the anti-Palestinian bias in the NYT reporting.

    • Fritz
      Fritz
      August 7, 2013, 2:43 pm

      “romanticize”, Hophmi, are You serious? When I visited East Jerusalem and the west-bank I saw what was going on. When I spoke to Palestinians, I understand that they are interested in the same things that I’m in: having a job, being respected in their basic needs and rights, having the chance to bring up their children, building up their houses for the growing number of children, nothing else, but all this forbidden or destructed by the occupation. On the other side, I saw Israeli civilians with guns and “shit-eating smiles” (Indyk over Arafat) going in the middle of the narrow streets of the Arabic quarter of East Jerusalem forcing everyone to go aside, they were rude and aggressive. Rock throwing is all to understandable if You face such a violence in Your own neighbourhood.
      Many non-Jewish Europeans have this experience which has nothing to do with “romanticize”.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      August 7, 2013, 4:37 pm

      @ hophmi

      You did not address the charge you pretend to address, i.e., “But at least this site is reflecting world opinion: This is an illegal occupation. ”

      You mislead further by stating “It is not world opinion that Jews are responsible for the Iraq War.” Please show us where anybody said it was. Not all neocons are Jews, not all Jews are Zionists. That’s taken for granted by regulars on MW, and very often pointed out.

      You mislead further by saying, ” It is also not world opinion that populations who are the target of stone throwing should react with flowers and candy.”

      Who said that here on MW? The point is that when one points out that the kids throwing stones are not doing it for a hobby, but because of frustration with the Jewish Israeli occupation, this does not logically ipso facto mean the observer is placing a stamp of approval on the stone throwing. It’s giving context to it.

      Walk a mile in a Palestinian kid’s shoes, then a mile in an American or Jewish Israeli kid’s shoes.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      August 8, 2013, 8:51 am

      hophmi says: “It is also not world opinion that populations who are the target of stone throwing should react with flowers and candy.”

      It is also not world opinion that occupied populations have no right to resist occupation including stone throwing and should react with flowers and candy.

      If you are an illegal settler in my country, confiscating my land, you should always look behind you. I wouldn’t care, if you carry a weapon or not. You have allready commited a crime against me and my people and I consider it as tresspassing. You are lucky if I don’t carry a gun with me and only stones.

  5. David Doppler
    David Doppler
    August 7, 2013, 11:53 am

    What would Mandela do about stone-throwing Palestinian youths? In addition to abundant charisma, Nelson Mandela, like most effective leaders, was blessed with a high emotional IQ. To break the back of South African Apartheid, he studied the history and culture of White South African – what is in their hearts? Rugby, and especially the National Team, the Springboks. So he worked for an international boycott of South African rugby, which added to the load that ultimately broke the back of Apartheid. Then he gave the Whites back their Rugby, with their own World Cup, and helped inspire them to win it. The country also eventually got the Soccer World Cup, the Black population’s favorite sport.

    We read about Palestinian youths finding a thrill akin to competitive sports in throwing rocks at Israelis. “A day throwing rocks is better than one without it.” Clearly, they need a better diversion, one that is not based in animosity toward Israelis. Arab Idol was a brief diversion, but not scalable to a whole generation of young people. Some way to compete, perhaps to win, in a way that instills pride in self and community, but without killing or maiming the neighbors.

    The Israelis face BDS, and growing international pariah-hood. What – other than stealing Palestinian lands – is in their hearts? The legitimacy of the Israeli State, perhaps. Being exceptional, and being recognized for it. Succeeding in noble endeavor. Mandela would seek to take that which is in the hearts of the Israelis away from them, but only temporarily, only conditionally, withheld, pending behavior modification, to be given back in even greater abundance, to reward the necessary change.

    If Obama seeks inspiration from Mandela, let him understand that he must find a way to hold back that which Israelis love in their hearts. Mandela also recognized that his task was not just to liberate the Blacks from White oppression, but also to liberate the Whites from their fear of the Blacks. Controlling and suppressing the urge for vengeance was one of Mandela’s greatest challenges, and anyone seeking to right the wrongs done to Palestinians must also contend with this basis for Israeli fear. Those Palestinian youths need to take up soccer or basketball or camel racing or some other opportunity to compete and win on local, regional, national, and international stages, and fill their hearts with some thrill other than stone-throwing. Ideally, some endeavor that both Israelis and Palestinians can in the future jointly celebrate, and in which symbols of both can be intertwined in a positive fashion – like the dual South African national anthem.

    • talknic
      talknic
      August 8, 2013, 1:02 am

      David Doppler

      ” Nelson Mandela, like most effective leaders, was blessed with a high emotional IQ. To break the back of South African Apartheid, he studied the history and culture of White South African – what is in their hearts? Rugby, and especially the National Team, the Springboks. So he worked for an international boycott of South African rugby,”

      FAIL: Mandela was languishing in gaol throughout the whole Springbok boycott period.

      “We read about Palestinian youths finding a thrill akin to competitive sports in throwing rocks at Israelis. “A day throwing rocks is better than one without it.”
      https://www.google.com.au/search?q=“A+day+throwing+rocks+is+better+than+one+without+it.”

      “Clearly, they need a better diversion, one that is not based in animosity toward Israelis.”

      Clearly their animosity is well justified, having been occupied ALL THEIR LIVES.

      ” Those Palestinian youths need to take up soccer or basketball or camel racing or some other opportunity to compete and win on local, regional, national, and international stages”

      Israel refuses them the opportunity to compete on regional, national, and international stages. The Palestinians of the West Bank cannot travel to Gaza, the Palestinians of Gaza cannot travel ANYWHERE without Israeli approval (under the 2005 agreement with Egypt)

    • Byzantium
      Byzantium
      August 8, 2013, 3:41 am

      David, while I appreciate your obvious admiration of Mandela, an oft-overlooked feature of the dismantling of Apartheid is the willingness of the white population to surrender their privileged status once given the option to do so. Remember that the process of change began with the ouster of then State President PW Botha by a small cabal of “young Turks” in his own National Party, led by future President FW de Klerk. Convinced that Apartheid was no longer sustainable, de Klerk then proceeded to unban the ANC and begin the long road toward reconciliation. Part of this process was the holding of a national referendum (the last one in which only whites were allowed to vote) seeking support for the new direction that had been set – support was declared by a margin of more than 60%. And when the first democratic elections were finally held in 1994, the white population submitted to them – and their outcome – without resistance or significant resentment (I remember that day, and can say truthfully that the mood at polling stations among whites was upbeat and optimistic, reflecting a sense of relief rather than fear or anger). I think this willingness to accept change and disenfranchisement on the part of white South Africans also played a significant role in bringing about a peaceful transition – and it is a willingess to compromise and sacrifice which I don’t see on the part of Israeli society today.
      (PS: The South African national anthem is actually composed of verses in four languages – almost nobody knows the whole thing, but we’re generally happy to sing “our” bits).

  6. Citizen
    Citizen
    August 7, 2013, 4:06 pm

    Let’s look at the big picture of all this, the use of the word “terrorist” and “terrorism” to justify what’s been going on since Zionist Frum invented the phrase “Axis of Evil” and that other guy invented the phrase “Clash of Civilizations.” What Greenwald has to say applies to the back and forth here on stone-throwing Palestinian “culture” as well as how all US and Israeli leaders manipulate the masses via such false inflamed illogic:
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/25/andrew-sullivan-
    distortion-terrorism-woolwich

    The US has copied Israel in justifying it’s policies. John Q Public should’ve paid attention to our own intelligence agencies focus on “blowback” a long time ago. But our mainstream media ignores it; so the guy next door does too, you know, the one looking for a job, or a better job, and a way to pay his survival bills, along with the other neighbor across the way, so totally devoted to every sports score?

  7. mijj
    mijj
    August 7, 2013, 8:24 pm

    bombs and bullets are no more than power intensified variants of stone throwing. Is it the tech sophistication of bombs and bullets that makes them acceptable forms of stone throwing? … whereas the throwing of actual zero-tech stones is despicable?

  8. thankgodimatheist
    thankgodimatheist
    August 7, 2013, 10:24 pm

    Throwing stones is the least Palestinians should do. You don’t like it? Get the hell out of the way..GET OUT!

    • OlegR
      OlegR
      August 8, 2013, 7:11 am

      Of cause another point of view would be advising Palestinians to stop throwing rocks cause they might get shot or something…

  9. OlegR
    OlegR
    August 8, 2013, 7:06 am

    /So we get equated with propagandists./

    Ohhh you don’t think of yourself as a propagandist Philip ,
    that’s so cute…

    /But at least this site is reflecting world opinion:/
    Said the guy running almost as fringe site as they get.
    But even assuming you are correct, that only makes you
    a propagandist of a “world opinion,” but since when did a majority of opinion made it necessarily correct?

  10. iResistDe4iAm
    iResistDe4iAm
    August 8, 2013, 10:00 am

    Why was it acceptable for indigenous South Africans to resist (using both armed resistance AND non-violent protests/boycotts) their forced dispossession and colonisation by foreign colonists, and the segregated Bantustan state solution forcibly imposed on them,
    but NOT acceptable for indigenous Palestinians to resist (using either armed resistance OR non-violent protests/boycotts) their forced dispossession, colonisation and occupation by foreign colonists, and the segregated, fragmented and rapidly shrinking two-state solution forcibly imposed on them?

  11. David Doppler
    David Doppler
    August 9, 2013, 11:16 am

    “FAIL: Mandela was languishing in gaol throughout the whole Springbok boycott period.” Yes, and during the many years leading up to this period he befriended his jailers, read up on the history and culture of the White South Africans, and came up with the plan to take that which was in the hearts of his enemies away from them. Check out the book, Playing the Enemy, which describes it. Being in a cell didn’t prevent him from leading, although it created some logistical problems.

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