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Ethan Bronner’s Palestinian goodbye party

Israel/Palestine
on 19 Comments

Today The New York Times publishes a valentine to Artists4Israel, a group that paints pretty pictures in the occupation. Jodi Rudoren’s report from the occupied Golan Heights is yet another example of the Times’s deep fascination with the Israeli mindset even as the newspaper of record is incurious about Palestinian culture. As several recent posts show (here, here and here, at 1:17), the Times has a negative reputation among Palestinians and doesn’t seem to care.

Anyone who’s interested in this issue should watch this speech on the conflict last month by Times deputy national editor Ethan Bronner at Purchase College. It is very revealing.

Bronner is famous of course for being Jerusalem bureau chief for the Times three years ago when his son entered the Israeli Defense Forces, causing a great deal of embarrassment for the newspaper. Bronner addresses that in a somewhat pained tone, saying that it was his second son’s choice and “wasn’t the easiest thing that happened to me while I was there,” and his son was entering a force that had killed the fathers of two journalists who worked for the Times: Fares Akram and Khaled Abu Aker, whom he calls “my closest Palestinian collaborators.” But:

It didn’t drive us apart. We were joined by a lot of common beliefs. .. We were joined by a belief in truthseeking, in journalism, and in personal trust, all of which are increasingly lacking in this conflict.

(Bronner does not mention that his son’s decision was a factor in the decision by a third Palestinian who worked for the Times, Taghreed El-Khodary, to leave the newspaper.)

Fares Akram and Khaled Abu Aker were also, Bronner says, the only two Palestinians who came to his going-away party in Jerusalem a year-and-a-half ago.

There were actually three going-away parties. Bronner tells a story about them at the beginning of the speech. One was at PASSIA in Jerusalem, a Palestinian thinktank, and the party fizzled when six young “radical” Palestinians stood up and asked him about his son and then walked out. The second party was in Ramallah, hosted by a Palestinian, and Bronner says that because of traffic at Qalandiya crossing, he and three others from the Times (Isabel Kershner, Jodi Rudoren and photographer Rina Castelnuovo) got there an hour late, by which time almost everyone had left and the hummus had a brown crust. “It was really depressing.” So that was a bust too.

But the third party was a big success. It was in Jerusalem– a “classic contemporary Israeli event, there’s great food in Israel today, spectacular wine.” Some Likud government ministers came, and Israeli officials hovered about Fares Akram as if he were an “exotic bird” because they never got to see people from Gaza. Bronner doesn’t seem to understand how sad it is that the only two Palestinians at this party with great food and spectacular wine were both his employees.

As for the political wisdom of Bronner’s speech, it’s astute. He says that the two state solution is cooked (but the only solution in his view), that the Israeli government won’t give up settlements or Jerusalem, and that the sides are more polarized from one another than ever. They demonize one another, and it’s impossible to imagine their coexisting happily. As someone who just visited the place, I agree with him entirely.

But the image of Palestinians in this speech is tragic, when you consider that this was the Times’s top man in Israel for many years. Bronner makes several statements that help explain why Palestinians just don’t like the New York Times.

He says that the young radical Palestinians who came to his first going-away party believe in boycotting “anything having to do with America or Israel.” This is surely wrong; they likely believe in boycotting Israel and groups that seek to normalize the occupation. He says that Palestinians in refugee camps “have keys in some cases, deeds in other cases, to homes that no longer exist, from the 1940s.” Anyone who is sensitive to Palestinians would note that one house that does exist is the one the New York Times owns in West Jerusalem. He says that it’s a great shame that the Israelis can’t give up the settlements and the Palestinians can’t give up the right of return– thereby equating a crime that the world says should be stopped (the settlements) with the Palestinian insistence on their right to property taken from them in a crime (the Nakba). And Bronner repeatedly praises Israeli food and art and wine (spending a bit too much energy for my taste on the fact that Sigalit Landau makes pictures of herself naked).

The speech left me with a couple of questions. Has the Times covered BDS? The most important movement in Palestinian civil society, endorsed by countless Palestinian organizations and Josh Ruebner and Max Blumenthal who are on book tours right now—has the Times covered the boycott movement, and if not why not? Bronner’s ignorance about whether those young radicals are boycotting Israel or the U.S. is telling. (Update: A friend points out that Times coverage of BDS has been very thin.)

Also, why didn’t the Times team leave enough time to get through Qalandiya crossing? If someone were throwing a party for me in Ramallah, I would damn sure leave early and give myself a lot of time, especially if all four representatives of my organization were traveling together. And I’d probably take Hizma crossing. Being that late to a party in your honor seems to represent a kind of contempt.

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19 Responses

  1. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    November 15, 2013, 11:29 am

    “my closest Palestinian collaborators”?
    Isn’t the word “colleague”?

    • Karl Dubhe
      Karl Dubhe
      November 15, 2013, 12:18 pm

      Not in this case, those who work for the forces of occupation, or the companies that support an occupation, are collaborators.

    • Amar
      Amar
      November 15, 2013, 12:30 pm

      A bit stunned myself that he would use the word ‘collaborator’. That term is most often associated with Palestinian turncoats who help the IDF in offering info they may need.

  2. philweiss
    philweiss
    November 15, 2013, 11:41 am

    PS Thanks to Krauss for hopping on settlements/right-of-return equation in a comment yesterday.

  3. amigo
    amigo
    November 15, 2013, 1:00 pm

    Yesterday, The Irish Times ME reporter ,Mark Weiss reported the Settlement expansion plans by Israel.He mentioned ” Settlements on 4 occasions but not once referred to them as Illegal or that they are considered Illegal under International Law.

    He also reported the incident involving the death of a uniformed member of the Occupation Forces, (my description)who was killed by a 16 year old Palestinian who was , note “Illegally in Israel.”

    Get the double standard.

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      November 15, 2013, 3:34 pm

      Weiss is a bot and only bots are qualified to report on the occupation. Otherwise ordinary people might learn something.

      • lysias
        lysias
        November 15, 2013, 5:55 pm

        Does it say something about the Irish Times?

      • seafoid
        seafoid
        November 16, 2013, 1:53 am

        In fairness they also have Michael Jansen and Lara Marlowe. All newspapers have to project Israel as a normal country in the interests of balance.

  4. Krauss
    Krauss
    November 15, 2013, 1:57 pm

    Just an addition in relation to my comment yesterday.

    I noted that he spent a great deal of time to slam his critics as biased. He took a fatalistic viewpoint on the current state conflict, because he refuses to see it as a logical end goal of Zionism, which it is. This is what it had to lead to.

    But he cannot accept this, and still pretend he is a liberal, so he then bends over backwards to paint it as an accident – both sides to blame, of course. He does this by blaming the victims of ethnic cleansing, which is pretty fucking shocking, if you’ll excuse my language.
    Finally, I noted that his de facto position was a “liberal” Zionist, which he defines as being “neutral”.

    I could also add that if it wasn’t for the notoriously high threshold of racism you can get away with against Palestinians in the American discourse, he’d be fired for his blatant racism of blaming the victims of ethnic cleansing. (Then again, considering that Richard Cohen just keeps getting new lifelines, maybe not).

    For me, Bronner’s speech is an encapsulation of the corrupted nature of ‘liberal’ Zionism. He’s not as delusional as some(read: Jeremy Ben-Ami) to keep deluding himself the conflict will get “solved” with the 2SS. Instead he’s content with trying to blame both sides, throw up his hands and de facto support the status quo.
    Why do I say he supports the status quo? Because he’s smart enough to get that the 2SS is over, but at the very same time, he tries very hard to slam the door shut on any true democratic solution(one person, one vote, no matter what race). This is where his “liberalism” falls apart, as it usually does, with the “liberal” Zionists.

    Bronner’s dilemma is that while he pretends to oppose the settlers, what he actually opposes is a democratic solution to the conflict now that the 2SS is closed as he himself admits, and he – shockingly – blames the victims of ethnic cleansing for the conflict’s dead impasse.

    And again, this is the “liberal” side of Zionism. And it’s completely mainstream to maintain this level of shocking racism at the highest levels of the NYT.

    His speech and his revealing racism is a very good reason to study the American media landscape, which inevitably gets into the sociology of Jewish power(for a lack of a better term) in the media. I know this make people uncomfortable, but Bronner’s speech makes it brutually clear there’s no other choice. The only way to bring real pressure from the outside is to expose bigots like Bronner. And we also have to get at why this level of racism is so accepted in Jewish/Zionist context.

    Otherwise, you can never have real pressure on Israel through the American media.

    P.S. There is a correlation here related to Max Blumenthal, note the increasingly desperate attacks on him from Buzzfeed. The two leading the charge has been Rosie Gray and Ben Smith. Smith has been notorious in his close relations with neocons on matters Israel. He grew up in a liberal Zionist family on the Upper West Side. Does it matter that he is BuzzFeed’s political editor? I think it does. People like him act as the gatekeepers on Israeli/Palestinian discourse, which is why he set out to destroy Max. As some readers may recall, Ben Smith was also instrumental in the smearing of the Think Progress blog which got Ziad Jilani among others fired, by carrying water for Josh Block.

    People sometimes criticize the sociology of power, especially how it relates to the Jewish ascent in the last 50 years and Zionism, and understandably so for historical reasons. But to ignore it is to do a disservice to the Palestinians. There is racism, a lot of it, on this issue in the Jewish community.

    • Krauss
      Krauss
      November 15, 2013, 2:16 pm

      By the way, as I look back at the events of the last few months, it does strike me just how defensive “liberal” Zionists have become.

      They, like Bronner, are slowly coming to the conclusion that even keeping up the illusion of an Israel interested in peace is crumbling before their eyes.

      But they, just like Bronner, are exposing their own bigotry and attachment to ethnic nationalism – even when it leads directly to Apartheid – by desperately trying to stop anyone who wants a truly liberal solution to the conflict. The modus operandi is the way Bronner sets it up: things are bad, probably unfixable, but there is no alternative that can be accepted, because that’d be the end of the ethnocracy we’re out to protect and that means holding up the status quo.

      This explains Alterman vs Blumenthal, precisely because of this issue. Blumenthal’s argument pierced this veil of fatalism. It is unavoidable. When you look at the facts, you have to make a choice. Either you’re on the side of Apartheid or you are not. And if you’re not a liberal, this isn’t a problematic choice. But if you pretend to be a liberal, to even be given this choice is lethal. This is why Alterman and others went ballistic on Blumenthal.

      How many people outside of Bronner’s small clique of friends in the media are going to buy the narrative that the victims of ethnic cleansing are in equal blame as the violent right-wing settlers, who control much – if not most – of the Israeli government?

      Put aside the desperate screams of anti-Semitism and other stalling tactics, peel back the layers of talking points and all you see is a bareness to their arguments. A naked appeal to chauvunistic nationalism – at any price, including Apartheid. This is the status quo, which Bronner claims there is no solution to. This is how “liberal” people become defenders of Apartheid, by using the cloak of fatalism – and a good deal of racism to boot – to bury any chance for a democratic solution.

      We’ll look back in just 10 years from now and wonder in amazement how an ardent supporter of the status quo, blaming the victims of that Apartheid, could just sail through America’s pre-eminent liberal newspaper which gives space to bigots like Bronner in a way that could never have happened during the struggle against Jim Crow or the Apartheid era in the 70s and 80s.

      • Cliff
        Cliff
        November 15, 2013, 4:40 pm

        Bronner is able to do that because everyone above his pay grade thinks as he does.

      • Donald
        Donald
        November 15, 2013, 5:33 pm

        “We’ll look back in just 10 years from now and wonder in amazement how an ardent supporter of the status quo, blaming the victims of that Apartheid, could just sail through America’s pre-eminent liberal newspaper which gives space to bigots like Bronner in a way that could never have happened during the struggle against Jim Crow or the Apartheid era in the 70s and 80s.”

        Not sure it will be in as little as 10 years, but yes, people will look back at the racism of some “liberals” today and wonder how they managed that much cognitive dissonance without their heads exploding. I also think this about the casual acceptance of harsh sanctions on Iran, where victims of Saddam’s poison gas attacks have difficulty getting medicine (attacks supported by the US at the time). Imagine what “liberals” would say if there were sanctions on Israel that made medicine difficult to obtain. Some people matter and others don’t.

        And echoing the people below, very good posts.

    • seafoid
      seafoid
      November 15, 2013, 3:46 pm

      I guess more than a few jews prefer racism to the all out civil war that will happen when Zionism collapses.

    • Cliff
      Cliff
      November 15, 2013, 4:39 pm

      Krauss,

      You are absolutely right.

      People sometimes criticize the sociology of power, especially how it relates to the Jewish ascent in the last 50 years and Zionism, and understandably so for historical reasons. But to ignore it is to do a disservice to the Palestinians. There is racism, a lot of it, on this issue in the Jewish community.

      Yes, and that is all it is. The ‘sociology of power’.

      Zionist Jews ALWAYS frame these arguments (intentionally and dishonestly) through the lens of antisemitism.

      But antisemitism itself is not complex. A Zionist Jew will hear the same argument that Walt and Mearsh. put out and say those two are talking about ALL Jews EVERYWHERE regardless of income/politics/religious affiliation/personal history.

      This is a fantasy. It is a pure fantasy to project that kind of paranoia onto your political opponents.

      The reaction Max’s book has been so BIZARRE and hysterical that it has become one of the more disturbing chapters of Zionism vs. anti-Zionism in America.

      In the ‘aftermath’ of Goliath, there was that recent Jack Straw story.

      Jack Straw’s comments were uncontroversial and antiseptic.

      But an Israeli Jewish politician took what he said and projected her CRAZY and BIZARRE fantasies onto it.

      Then predictably the Israeli press and American Jewish press ran with it.

      This conflict and the Israel Lobby and general hysteria in the ORGANIZED American Jewish community is mind-numbing.

      It’s one area where there is no justice whatsoever.

      I listened to a Blumenthal interview recently where he addresses the whole Nazi analogy thing.

      He says that as Americans, that’s our frame of reference. He’s right.

      Zionist Jews are always using Nazi analogies to describe their enemies or the sense of urgency they feel when handling their geopolitical goals.

      But when us non-Jews use the analogies to describe THEIR behavior, it’s antisemitic.

      But it’s US who are drowned in the endless Holocaust Industry and Holocaust religion.

      I remember watching this movie called ‘The Believer’ ten yrs ago about a Jewish kid who becomes a skinhead to express his religious quandaries (good movie, begins with religion and ends with it).

      I never understood why the character become a skinhead when he could become an IDF trooper and harass and abuse the Palestinians in the OT.

      You could sincerely do that. You can join the IDF and treat an entire people like anmials and your society won’t give a shit.

      American Jews will defend you and pay your way.

  5. just
    just
    November 15, 2013, 3:27 pm

    Krauss– thank you for these very powerful posts. I think you hit the nail squarely on the head, and flattened it.

  6. dbroncos
    dbroncos
    November 16, 2013, 12:58 am

    “Bronner doesn’t seem to understand how sad it is that the only two Palestinians at this party with great food and spectacular wine were both his employees.”

    Yes, only two Palestinians showed up to Bronner’s party and they were paid to show up.

    • kayq
      kayq
      November 16, 2013, 6:38 am

      Precisely.

      Bronner isn’t the brightest liberal out there, is he?

  7. Hostage
    Hostage
    November 16, 2013, 1:23 pm

    As several recent posts show (here, here and here, at 1:17), the Times has a negative reputation among Palestinians and doesn’t seem to care.

    The one area where the New York Times occasionally levels the playing field is the Op-Ed page. So PM Netanyahu is boycotting the NY Times Op-Ed page for failing to pay allegiance to the Jewish State. See: Netanyahu to ‘New York Times’: Take a hike http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Netanyahu-to-New-York-Times-Take-a-hike

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