In her column of Friday (Saturday, March 8 in the print edition) titled “Seeking to Bridge the Arab-Jewish Divide with Music,” the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times, Jodi Rudoren, provides a fawning sketch of the Israeli singer David Broza and his efforts to promote Palestinian/Israeli coexistence. The focus of the article is the music workshops the singer provides Palestinian youths at the Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem and Broza’s recent album, a collaboration with G-Town, a hip-hop duo from the camp.
What Rudoren neglected to mention in her report is that last Monday evening David Broza was the entertainment headliner at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affair Committee (AIPAC).
Most observers are of the opinion that one of the main focuses of AIPAC is supporting the Israeli settlement project and deflecting any criticism aimed at the Jewish State for its policies toward the Palestinians. Both of these goals are, obviously, in direct contradiction to fostering understanding and coexistence between the Palestinians and Jewish Israelis.
Playing AIPAC was a bizarre choice for a musician who is presented in the New York Times as part of the vanguard for reconciliation efforts in Jerusalem. However, this anomaly may not be perceived as such by Broza nor Rudoren, who both appear to possess a well-developed tribal loyalty that would prohibit any strong aversion to a powerful Zionist organization such as AIPAC.
I have already written about my view of Broza performing for AIPAC, here. I included the opposing opinion of the American Israeli liberal Zionist Emily Hauser in her reply to me below via twitter.com.
I’ve heard David Broza talk about peace, and the truth is we should be glad he’s there talking to these folks.
To this I can only state the obvious. Broza was hired as the entertainment and not as a lecturer. This is an audience containing members who booed President Obama and walked out on John Kerry. If Broza “talked to” these zealots, as Hauser suggests he would, I doubt it would have gone well for him.
After all, his audience was comprised of a very large group of super-pumped pro-Israel, pro-Iran-sanction fanatics, who after two days of listening to overwrought rhetoric at the conference had been expecting patriotic Israeli Zionist anthems mingled with all-American Jewish schmaltz. If the Israeli singer had started talking about real peace, he would have very likely faced a lynch mob and not a group of eager open-minded thoughtful listeners. They probably would, at least, have withheld what I am sure was Broza’s very generous remuneration.
There is one additional point I would make in regard to the puff piece in the Times on Broza. Rudoren wrote:
Few Israeli Jews visit Shuafat, a garbage-laden, outrage-filled, crowded outpost in the northeast corner of Jerusalem with 35,000 residents, most from families displaced around Israel’s establishment in 1948. That Friday, the metal gates of the complex where the boys were banging had to be shuttered against stones thrown from the street, likely an objection to the fraternization with Israelis that many Palestinians denounce as dangerous ‘normalization.’
There is no further explanation of what “normalization” means and why some Palestinians reject the kind of cooperative projects in which Broza is engaged. Nor is there any indication of the immediate causes of the outrage of the residents. Our own Annie Robbins reported, just days ago, about the Israeli authorities shutting off the water supply and the many house demolition orders that threaten residents of the camp. Yet the average reader of Rudoren’s column is led to conclude that the stone-throwing Palestinian youths are being unreasonable by inexplicably rejecting a hand of cooperation and friendship.
The truth is much more complicated, as the Times is wont to ignore.
The idea that normalization, or the existence of joint Israeli/Palestinian projects and activist groups, is opposed to Palestinian interests gained credibility in the occupied territories after the failed Oslo talks led to the almost total collapse of the so-called Israeli left. The Jewish Israeli left fell in step with the false mainstream belief that at the Camp David Summit Ehud Barak made a generous offer that Yasser Arafat wrongly refused, preferring to incite a violent Intifada instead.
Cooperative intercommunal projects like the one in which Broza is engaged, were once very popular among liberal Israelis, but after the failed Camp David Summit and the outbreak of the al Aqsa Intifada, almost all Israelis withdrew from their joint activities with the Palestinians. The Palestinians felt abandoned and betrayed by their Israeli colleagues, and this led to a deepening distrust and the very prevalent belief that the Israeli peace and coexistence advocates could not be counted on in the long term.
In addition, Palestinians correctly reason that normalization projects are used as exaggerated evidence of the prevalence of enlightened Israelis and as a false indication that there is progress being made toward peace and reconciliation.
It is doubtful that the youths in Rudoren’s article who protested against Broza’s presence in East Jerusalem knew that the singer would shortly be entertaining the powerful American pro- Israel lobby. Sadly, it is the often valid widely-held Palestinian opinion that, in the end, even Israelis who profess solidarity will betray them. That is the source of the anger that led to stones being hurled at Broza’s studio.
Even with her many shortcomings, Jodi Rudoren is a more fair-minded reporter than her predecessor Ethan Bronner, although this is faint praise. Bronner set the bar for fair reporting so low, not even a limbo champion could live down to his standard. Rudoren has occasionally pushed the boundaries of the Times Jerusalem coverage and shown real courage. I respect her for that. But the Broza piece is far from being an example of Rudoren’s best journalism.
Editor’s note: The original version of this piece stated that Rudoren had not responded to questions sent by email and twitter. Rudoren said in a note to the editor she did not receive those messages.