Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Zionism Laid Bare (from CounterPunch)

A Review of Shahid Alam's "Israeli Exceptionalism"

Zionism Laid Bare

The essential point of M. Shahid Alam’s book, Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism, comes clear upon opening the book to the inscription in the frontispiece.  From the Persian poet and philosopher Rumi, the quote reads, “You have the light, but you have no humanity.  Seek humanity, for that is the goal.”  Alam, professor of economics at Northeastern University in Boston and a CounterPunch contributor, follows this with an explicit statement of his aims in the first paragraph of the preface.  Asking and answering the obvious question, “Why is an economist writing a book on the geopolitics of Zionism?” he says that he “could have written a book about the economics of Zionism, the Israeli economy, or the economy of the West Bank and Gaza, but how would any of that have helped me to understand the cold logic and the deep passions that have driven Zionism?”

Until recent years, the notion that Zionism was a benign, indeed a humanitarian, political movement designed for the noble purpose of creating a homeland and refuge for the world’s stateless, persecuted Jews was a virtually universal assumption.  In the last few years, particularly since the start of the al-Aqsa intifada in 2000, as Israel’s harsh oppression of the Palestinians has become more widely known, a great many Israelis and friends of Israel have begun to distance themselves from and criticize Israel’s occupation policies, but they remain strong Zionists and have been at pains to propound the view that Zionism began well and has only lately been corrupted by the occupation.  Alam demonstrates clearly, through voluminous evidence and a carefully argued analysis, that Zionism was never benign, never good—that from the very beginning, it operated according to a “cold logic” and, per Rumi, had “no humanity.”  Except perhaps for Jews, which is where Israel’s and Zionism’s exceptionalism comes in.

Alam argues convincingly that Zionism was a coldly cynical movement from its beginnings in the nineteenth century.  Not only did the founders of Zionism know that the land on which they set their sights was not an empty land, but they set out specifically to establish an “exclusionary colonialism” that had no room for the Palestinians who lived there or for any non-Jews, and they did this in ways that justified, and induced the West to accept, the displacement of the Palestinian population that stood in their way.  With a simple wisdom that still escapes most analysts of Israel and Zionism, Alam writes that a “homeless nationalism,” as Zionism was for more than half a century until the state of Israel was established in 1948, “of necessity is a charter for conquest and—if it is exclusionary—for ethnic cleansing.”
How has Zionism been able to put itself forward as exceptional and get away with it, winning Western support for the establishment of an exclusionary state and in the process for the deliberate dispossession of the native population?  Alam lays out three principal ways by which Zionism has framed its claims of exceptionalism in order to justify itself and gain world, particularly Western, support.  First, the Jewish assumption of chosenness rests on the notion that Jews have a divine right to the land, a mandate granted by God to the Jewish people and only to them.  This divine election gives the homeless, long-persecuted Jews the historical and legal basis by which to nullify the rights of Palestinians not so divinely mandated and ultimately to expel them from the land.  Second, Israel’s often remarkable achievements in state-building have won Western support and provided a further justification for the displacement of “inferior” Palestinians by “superior” Jews.  Finally, Zionism has put Jews forward as having a uniquely tragic history and as a uniquely vulnerable country, giving Israel a special rationale for protecting itself against supposedly unique threats to its existence and in consequence for ignoring the dictates of international law.  Against the Jews’ tragedy, whatever pain Palestinians may feel at being displaced appears minor.

The ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians that came as the result of Zionism’s need for an exclusivist homeland was no unfortunate consequence, and indeed had long been foreseen by Zionist thinkers and the Western leaders who supported them.  Alam quotes early Zionists, including Theodore Herzl, who talked repeatedly of persuading the Palestinians “to trek,” or “fold their tents,” or “silently steal away.”  In later years, the Zionists spoke of forcible “transfer” of the Palestinians.  In the 1930s, David Ben-Gurion expressed his strong support for compulsory transfer, crowing that “Jewish power” was growing to the point that the Jewish community in Palestine would soon be strong enough to carry out ethnic cleansing on a large scale (as it ultimately did).  In fact, the Zionists knew from the start that there would be no persuading the Palestinians simply to leave voluntarily and that violent conquest would be necessary to implant the Zionist state.

The British knew this as well.  Zionist supporter Winston Churchill wrote as early as 1919 that the Zionists “take it for granted that the local population will be cleared out to suit their convenience.”  In a blunt affirmation of the calculated nature of Zionist plans and Western support for them, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, like Churchill another early supporter and also author of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which promised British support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, wrote that Zionism “is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”  It would be hard to find a more blatant one-sided falsity.

Alam traces in detail the progression of Zionist planning, beginning with the deliberate creation in the nineteenth century of an ethnic identity for Jews who shared only a religion and had none of the attributes of nationhood—neither a land, nor a common language or culture, nor arguably a common gene pool.  Here Alam covers briefly the ground trod in detail by Israeli historian Shlomo Sand, whose book The Invention of the Jewish People, appearing in English just months before Alam’s book, shattered the myths surrounding Zionism’s claim to nationhood and to an exclusive right to Palestine.  But Alam goes further, describing the Zionist campaign to create a surrogate “mother country” that, in the absence of a Jewish nation, would sponsor the Zionists’ colonization of Palestine and support its national project.  Having gained British support for its enterprise, Zionism then set about building a rationale for displacing the Palestinian Arabs who were native to Palestine (who, incidentally, did indeed possess the attributes of a nation but lay in the path of a growing Jewish, Western-supported military machine).  Zionist propaganda then and later deliberately spread the notion that Palestinians were not “a people,” had no attachment to the land and no national aspirations, and in the face of the Jews’ supposedly divine mandate, of Israel’s “miraculous” accomplishments, and of the Jews’ monumental suffering in the Holocaust, the dispossession of the Palestinians was made to appear to a disinterested West as nothing more than a minor misfortune.

Addressing what he calls the “destabilizing logic” of Zionism, Alam builds the argument that Zionism thrives on, and indeed can survive only in the midst of, conflict.  In the first instance, Alam shows, Zionism actually embraced the European anti-Semitic charge that Jews were an alien people.  This was the natural result of promoting the idea that Jews actually belonged in Palestine in a nation of their own, and in addition, spreading fear of anti-Semitism proved to be an effective way to attract Jews not swayed by the arguments of Zionism (who made up the majority of Jews in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) to the Zionist cause.  Early Zionist leaders talked frankly of anti-Semitism as a means of teaching many educated and assimilated Jews “the way back to their people” and of forcing an allegiance to Zionism.  Anti-Semitism remains in many ways the cement that holds Zionism together, keeping both Israeli Jews and diaspora Jews in thrall to Israel as their supposedly only salvation from another Holocaust.

In the same vein, Alam contends, Zionists realized that in order to succeed in their colonial enterprise and maintain the support of the West, they would have to create an adversary common to both the West and the Jews.  Only a Jewish state waging wars in the Middle East could “energize the West’s crusader mentality, its evangelical zeal, its dreams of end times, its imperial ambitions.”  Arabs were the initial and enduring enemy, and Zionists and Israel have continued to provoke Arab antagonism and direct it toward radicalism, to steer Arab anger against the United States, to provoke the Arabs into wars against Israel, and to manufacture stories of virulent Arab anti-Semitism—all specifically in order to sustain Jewish and Western solidarity with Israel.  More recently, Islam itself has become the common enemy, an adversary fashioned so that what Alam calls the “Jewish-Gentile partnership” can be justified and intensified.  Focusing on Arab and Muslim hostility, always portrayed as motivated by irrational hatred rather than by opposition to Israeli and U.S. policies, allows Zionists to divert attention from their own expropriation of Palestinian land and dispossession of Palestinians and allows them to characterize Israeli actions as self-defense against anti-Semitic Arab and Muslim resistance.

Alam treats the Zionist/Israel lobby as a vital cog in the machine that built and sustains the Jewish state.  Indeed, Theodore Herzl was the original Zionist lobbyist.  During the eight years between the launch of the Zionist movement at Basel in 1897 and his death, Herzl had meetings with a remarkable array of power brokers in Europe and the Middle East, including the Ottoman sultan, Kaiser Wilhelm II, King Victor Emanuel III of Italy, Pope Pius X, the noted British imperialist Lord Cromer and the British colonial secretary of the day, and the Russian ministers of interior and finance, as well as a long list of dukes, ambassadors, and lesser ministers.  One historian used the term “miraculous” to describe Herzl’s ability to secure audiences with the powerful who could help Zionism.

Zionist lobbyists continued to work as assiduously, with results as “miraculous,” throughout the twentieth century, gaining influence over civil society and ultimately over policymakers and, most importantly, shaping the public discourse that determines all thinking about Israel and its neighbors.  As Alam notes, “since their earliest days, the Zionists have created the organizations, allies, networks, and ideas that would translate into media, congressional, and presidential support for the Zionist project.”  An increasing proportion of the activists who lead major elements of civil society, such as the labor and civil rights movements, are Jews, and these movements have as a natural consequence come to embrace Zionist aims.  Christian fundamentalists, who in the last few decades have provided massive support to Israel and its expansionist policies, grew in the first instance because they were “energized by every Zionist success on the ground” and have continued to expand with a considerable lobbying push from the Zionists.

Alam’s conclusion—a direct argument against those who contend that the lobby has only limited influence: “It makes little sense,” in view of the pervasiveness of Zionist influence over civil society and political discourse, “to maintain that the pro-Israeli positions of mainstream American organizations . . . emerged independently of the activism of the American Jewish community.”  In its early days, Zionism grew only because Herzl and his colleagues employed heavy lobbying in the European centers of power; Jewish dispersion across the Western world—and Jewish influence in the economies, the film industries, the media, and academia in key Western countries—are what enabled the Zionist movement to survive and thrive in the dark years of the early twentieth century; and Zionist lobbying and molding of public discourse are what has maintained Israel’s favored place in the hearts and minds of Americans and the policy councils of America’s politicians.

This is a critically important book.  It enhances and expands on the groundbreaking message of Shlomo Sand’s work.  If Sand shows that Jews were not “a people” until Zionism created them as such, Alam shows this also and goes well beyond to show how Zionism and its manufactured “nation” went about dispossessing and replacing the Palestinians and winning all-important Western support for Israel and its now 60-year-old “exclusionary colonialism.”

Kathleen Christison is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and theWound of 
Dispossession and co-author, with Bill Christison, of Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation, published last summer by Pluto Press.  She can be reached

Monday, February 8, 2010

Biased coverage before this week

The Huffington Post FEBRUARY 8, 2010

The New York Times' coverage of Israel-Palestine was Biased Before Bureau Chief's Son Joined the IDF

This week the editors of The New York Times's sprang to the defense of Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner following weeks of controversy over his son's service in the Israeli Defense Forces. Public editor Clark Hoyt praised Bronner's track-record at the Times, in his February 6th column but nonetheless concluded that "covering Israel's conflict with a son in uniform might be cause to reassign even a superb reporter." The Times' Executive Editor Bill Keller said in a response that "the editors discussed the situation and sees no reason to change Bronner's status as bureau chief."

Let's get somethings straight. Ethan Bronner is not and never has been a "superb reporter" and there are plenty of reasons why he should not be allowed to run the Times' biggest Middle Eastern bureau, let alone commit blatant anti-journalistic acts on behalf of the "paper of record"--the last of which is his son's military service. No other reporter has turned the paper of record into a mouthpiece for the Israeli occupation more than Ethan Bronner and that is quite an accomplishment for a publication that so consistently represents one party's agenda.

There are too many inaccurate assertions in either of these letters to address in a single blog post, but what's most troubling to me is that both Hoyt and Keller appear to believe in Bronner's, and the Times', objectivity: "Bronner occupies one of journalism's hottest seats, covering the intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians," Hoyt wrote. "As the top correspondent for America's most influential newspaper, everything he writes is examined microscopically for signs of bias."

First of all, I object to the characterization of the conflict as "intractable" but that's a minor infraction on the spectrum of editorial infractions. You don't have to be a journalist, editor, or Middle Eastern scholar to find signs of biases in Bronner's coverage. Nor does one have to examine it microscopically. Just type in his byline in the search box of the Times' website and glance at the first twenty headlines that appear and it's obvious where Bronner's sympathies lie. Almost every substantial story is told from the perspective of Israelis: "Israel Nears Membership in Economic Club," from January 19; "For Israel, Mixed Feelings on Aid Effort," published on January 22; "Israel Prepares Rebuttal to the Goldstone Report," from January 23.

Bronner himself told Hoyt that he "would rather be judged by his work than his biography," so a signs of bias take a look at the latter story on what he characterizes as Israel's campaign to "dispel the [Goldstone] report's harsh conclusion -- that the death of noncombatants and destruction of civilian infrastructure were part of an official plan to terrorize the Palestinian population."

In September a United Nations fact-finding mission released a 575-page report of massive war crimes committed by Israel and to a lesser extent Hamas during the 2008 war in Gaza. Bronner did not cover Goldstone's findings for the times in September, but devoted 1,200 words to Israel's rebuttal on January 23.

"The rebuttal will be given to United Nations officials in the coming weeks and its contents will remain under wraps until then," he wrote. "But officers involved in writing the report gave some details."

He proceeds to quote at least seven different Israeli sources and not a single Palestinian or independent human rights group about the details of a document he presumable has not read. The sources refute a few of the specific findings related to infrastructure damage detailed by the commission, but mentions the gravest alleged breaches at the heart of the report, only in passing.

For instance, Bronner makes no mention of the mortar attack on a mosque during prayer service that killed 15 people, but allows an anonymous source to defend itself against the report's minor charges, such as the destruction of a flour mill and chicken coops. "The mission finds that the conduct of Israeli armed forces constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of wilful killings and wilfully causing great suffering to protected persons and as such give rise to individual criminal responsibility," the executive summary of the Goldstone report said.

Rubble and destruction were the most minor consequences of the war, but you'd never know that from reading Bronner's account. The Times in general, and Bronner in particular, have a long history of burying the plight of individual Palestinians under the rubble in service of furthering a one-sided narrative of the conflict.

Bronner's objectivity deserves to be questioned and If his son's military service is the impetus for readers to look deeper into the news they consumer and the interests driving it, so be it. By pretending to engage in a discussion about journalistic objectivity, Keller and Hoyt made it blatantly obvious that readers cannot rely on editors for a balanced news diet.

"It's not just that we value the expertise and integrity of a journalist who has covered this most difficult of stories extraordinarily well for more than a quarter century," Keller wrote in a response to Hoyt. "It's not just that we are reluctant to capitulate to the more savage partisans who make that assignment so difficult -- and who make the fairmindedness of a correspondent like Ethan so precious and courageous."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Letters to the Woodstock Times


Last week's letter entitled 'Anti-Zionist is Anti-Semitic', biblical references and all, was full of mistakes, half-truths and just entirely wrong statements. Normally I wouldn't bother responding but I hate to let such blatant nonsense stand uncontested, especially when it concerns myself and my friends.

First of all, the extensively quoted "Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend" by Martin Luther King Jr. which supposedly appeared in the Saturday Review of 8/67 on page 76 is a complete hoax. There was no such letter that appeared in the Saturday Review or in any other place except for a book written by a one Rabbi Shneier called Shared Dreams who also referenced the same Saturday Review where the supposed letter never appeared. Any check on the web will reveal the letter to be a hoax.

Be that as it may, even if the King letter were real, I would disagree with its conclusions. There are and have been millions of Jews throughout the world, not just here in Woodstock, who have vigorously opposed the Zionist idea of a "Jewish State" with special rights and privileges for Jews and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians - who according to Ben and Batya AmHaAretz - are part of "2000 years of foreign occupation." Hello? You mean because the God of Abraham gave that land to the Jews forever? Please. Get real.

Even the Zionist's own hero, Moshe Dayan once said, "What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred to us? For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived."

Are all anti-Zionist Jews anti-Semetic or self-hating Jews as I have been called by Warren Boroson, whose inane, (if not insane) conclusions are also quoted by the AmHaAretz's?

Millions of Jews who do not accept Zionism, self-haters or anti-semites? Nonsense.

Speaking of the misguided and misinformed Boroson, according to him, "there is no Israeli blockade of food, medical supplies, water, electricity, gas."Are you serious? I suppose the 400 children killed in the invasion in December 2008 were an invention also. I have seen footage of Palestinian infants with bullet holes in their chests.

Had King been alive today, he would side with Nelson Mandela who said, "we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians," and "The so-called 'Palestinian autonomous areas' are bantustans. These are restricted entities within the power structure of the Israeli apartheid system."

King would have unquestionably also agreed with Desmond Tutu, "Yesterday's South African township dwellers can tell you about today's life in the Occupied Territories... More than an emergency is needed to get to a hospital; less than a crime earns a trip to jail... If apartheid ended, so can the occupation."

I was there in Cairo with the Gaza Freedom March - I wonder where Ben and Batya AmHaAretz got this information that we "began pelting the Egyptian Army with rocks" and several of us were arrested? Because that is also nonsense - it never happened. As a group we were committed to nonviolent civil resistance and we stuck to that. The Egyptian police made no arrests of Gaza Freedom Marchers.

Viva Palestina, the 200 truck humanitarian aid convoy that went into Gaza after we had left did suffer some serious violence at the hands of the Egyptian border police with 55 members of Viva Palestina beaten and injured before the trucks were allowed in.

To read a more accurate report of what did happen and to learn about the historical background of Gaza, Woodstock International recently published a special edition Gaza, 20 pages of well written and accurate articles and pictures. You can see it on line at or E-mail me at and I'll be happy to send you a hard copy of the paper. For first hand accounts of what the Hudson Valley contingent went through in Cairo, go to

Tarak Kauff


I deeply abhor the slander to good people aware of the suffering of others who work, give, and suffer hardships to help. Attacking viciously with name calling is the weapon of those of bad faith. Reading this in last week's Times really made my Jewish blood, whatever that is, boil. The people who gave their time and lives for our people during Nazism, Sophie Scholl, the guillotine, Bonhoeffer, the noose, Marlene Dietrich ostracized and spit at on return to Germany, our departed and beloved neighbor Jotje Vos, from Amsterdam, whose housed 23 Jews in her small house and had to deal with her own cramped family, and Samuel Beckett, bicycling around France with resistance messages - these people had hearts in their body, along with brains. While the number of these people were proportionately miniscule among the brain washed anti-Semite mobs and finks of Europe, they attested to the truth. This is not so in the case of the Port Ewen, Ben and Batya, who dare to call my friends anti-Semites, just as they would have spat at Marlene Dietrich had they happened to have been born German. 

I myself do not do roulette. And I make it a point not to present my credentials or prove anything about myself so, like the Jewish whore burned in the Spanish Inquisition who refused to have her neck "mercifully" broken by kissing the cross and from the flames called out "Shmah Israel, Adonoi Eloheinu!" (See film Santo Officio by Arturo Ripstein) I will not state my faith, nor the ways I believe in its true values of solidarity with the downtrodden which in the course of thousands of years our religion evolved to and calls for, nor will I describe how my grandmother, Esther, had a sad face, apparently thinking of the letters that stopped coming from Lithuania, during WWII, a face I mistakenly thought was that of all grandmothers. 
The fact of the matter is that the people in Gaza are hungry and starving. They are mostly under 16 years of age. Gaza is blockaded in a way called War of Attrition, a situation the food and medicines carried by our slandered neighbors attempted to alleviate in a small way. As we are told, to "To save one life is to save the world." If people, like myself, are disgusted by the lies of B & B and past writers to the Times who may believe they have the truth, I suggest to the latter that: They pray for enlightenment; Stop flag worship and remember God; cease from violating the commandment Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness, in their attempt to besmirch the names of those who would feed the hungry as our prophets exhorted; and, finally, that they and we all kindly remember, "empty barrels make the most noise."

Roberta Gould
West Hurley


Dear Batya and Ben AmHaAretz, you are artists and in your art, I realize you apply the concept of "hidur mitzvah," which is the beautification of the commandments...a directive to make commandments and their fulfillment beautiful while doing good. It is a beautiful creation and expression of doing good deeds, when applied by open, informed and non-bigoted individuals. I saw your art and it is indeed beautiful.
The comments in your letter, however, are offensive and hypocritical; as a citizen, as a peace activist, as an artist and as one having Jewish roots I am offended at your comments for the hate they foment and the intellectual hypocrisy they display towards people who dissent and actively voice their criticisms of corrupt governments and murderers.

Before invoking solemn scriptures and in keeping with your sacred artistic genre/spirit, may I suggest you conduct a simple, objective (or as least subjective) examination of how the Israeli government observes and beautifies the "commandments," among which: You shall not steal (as in land from Palestina...); you shall not murder (Palestinian Women Children and civilians...); you shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor (land, water, olive groves...).

Furthermore as fervent and faithful people, Batya and Ben, you perhaps also forget that The Torah (Vayikra 23:40) refers to the etrog as a p'ri eitz hadar, the beautiful fruit of the tree of life; interpretations aside, for the Palestinians that tree, that fruit, is (was...!) the olive; In Palestine, the olive tree is prized for its historical presence, its beauty, its symbolic significance, and most importantly for its economic significance; how many of those holy, life enhancing fruit trees have been destroyed by the Israeli occupation?

Since you are so intent on Scriptural reference, I would also remind you to revisit another commandment: You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your God. You did!

And please, do not ever make wrongful use of the name of true patriots who have the courage to criticize! Criticism of corruption and murder is not terrorism! It is a mitzvah towards all people of good will and the oppressed!

Maurizio Morselli
New York, NY

Monday, February 1, 2010

Pete Seeger and Jeff Halper

Pete Seeger's role in ending Israeli house demolitions
by MainStreet, Wed Nov 25, 2009

Pete Seeger and Jeff Halper

One of America's great peace activists, Pete Seeger, now 90 years of age, has never forgotten his roots in the world of social injustice. In this case, it is the plight of the Palestinians, a people deprived of freedom and self-determination for over 40 years. Some would even put that at 60 years when they were first ethnically cleansed from their country of over a thousand years, Palestine, in 1948. It created one of the longest refugee problems, and one of the longest military occupations in modern history.

For the past ten years, Seeger has personally supported Jeff Halper's organization, the Israel Committee Against House Demolition or the ICAHD. The ICAHD has documented over 18,000 house demolitions by Israeli authorities and armed forces since 1948. It has been one method of ethnically cleansing Palestinian families from their land. Other methods have included undermining the ability of Palestinians to feed their families by wrecking their olive and fruit orchards and farmlands.

Anyone who owns a radio probably knows the song "Turn, Turn, Turn" (To everything there is a season) very well. A number of versions of this song have become permanent fixtures on the play lists of most popular music radio stations. Here's what the listeners don't know: every time this song is played, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions receives a few dollars, which accumulate to "several thousand dollars every year," according to the committee's co-founder and coordinator.

Read on HERE:

When people like Seeger stand up, who cannot take notice.

Ethan Bronner, Israeli apologist at the NY Times

As'ad AbuKhalil, a frequent critic of Bronner's coverage, blogged in response that "The New York Times devoted more space to Israeli and Zionist criticisms of the Goldstone report than to the [content of the] report itself" (The Angry Arab News Service, "Ethan Bronner's propaganda services, 25 January 2010)
John Mearsheimer:
"Bronner's job — as usual — is to present Israel in the most favorable light...If we had journalists in Israel who were not pro-Israel (almost all the mainstream ones are) and we had a media that was willing to allow honest reporting and critical commentary regarding Israel — like Ha'aretz does — we would have a discourse in this country about Israel that bears little resemblance to the nonsensical one we now have. This stunted discourse seriously damages Israel, which points up that Bronner is no friend of Israel."
Terry Gross interviewed Times’ Ethan Bronner yesterday…
Stumbled upon Terry Gross and Fresh Air last night. Bizarre listening to Ethan Bronner and Gross sort of contort themselves to lay the blame, ultimately, at Hamas' feet.  Bronner offers some "horse race" analysis about the why and wherefore (Israel had to do this in part to restore confidence in the military after the 2006 Lebanon incursion; Hamas provoked Israel only because they saw how Hezbollah upped its profile by doing so in 2006). He goes on to admit that the Hamas rockets kill maybe one person a year, but, dammit, the U.N. doesn't enforce resolutions to keep Iran from meddling. The end of the interview, in particular, was odd. Bronner basically acknowledges that if one were to create a "pain index"– there's no question that the Palestinians are much worse off, "But that's not what we're talking about here…"  Any atrocities mentioned were only those committed by Hamas.
It almost sounds as if Bronner knows in his heart of hearts that the Israeli response was morally indefensible, but has his reflexive, knee-jerk hiccup back to the party line–
Bronner's pro-Israeli bias reporting on Israel's attack on Gaza last year was also criticized by the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) (See "NYT and the Perils of Mideast 'Balance'," 4 February 2009).
NYT and the Perils of Mideast 'Balance'
02/04/2009 by Peter Hart
New York Times reporters Ethan Bronner and Sabrina Tavernise went to Gaza (2/4/09) to look into stories of civilian atrocities, and turned up some very powerful examples. Unfortunately, the impact of that reporting was undermined by the all-too-familiar tendency to "balance" these facts with criticisms of Palestinians.
For a piece that is attempting to get a better sense of who's "version" of events is more accurate, the Times reveals its bias from the start, rendering a white phosphorous attack on a house as a "phosphorus smoke bomb," the qualifier "smoke" helpfully suggesting that the bomb, which accidentally incinerated most of a family in their home, was being used legally as a smoke screen.
The Times underlines this point in the second graph by noting that the bomb was "intended to mask troop movements outside." According to whom? That claim is stated is as a fact, with no attribution.
The Times' reporters continue by writing:
The war in El Atatra tells the story of Israel’s three-week offensive in Gaza, with each side giving a very different version. Palestinians here describe Israeli military actions as a massacre, and Israelis attribute civilian casualties to a Hamas policy of hiding behind its people.
In El Atatra, neither version appears entirely true, based on 50 interviews with villagers and four Israeli commanders. The dozen or so civilian deaths seem like the painful but inevitable outcome of a modern army bringing war to an urban space. And while Hamas fighters had placed explosives in a kitchen, on doorways and in a mosque, they did not seem to be forcing civilians to act as shields.
OK--neither side's tale is completely accurate.  But after reading the Times' own account, it certainly seems that the Palestinian "version" is much closer to reality. Nonetheless, the reporters chalk up the differences as part of  "a desire to shape public opinion."
The Times goes on to review--and in some cases debunk--some of the Israeli justifications, including an attack on a school and the destruction of homes. The impact of that investigative work is, yet again, diluted by the framing of the big picture:
Both sides engage in their own denials.
Israelis argue that this war was especially tough because they had waited so long before taking action in response to the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza over eight years.
Yet after Israelis withdrew their settlers and soldiers from Gaza in late 2005, they killed, over the next three years in numerous military actions here, the same number of Gazans as those killed in this war--about 1,275.
For their part, few Palestinian villagers even acknowledged the existence of fighters here. Hamas is now asserting that it achieved a victory.
Let's compare those two forms of "denial." Israelis somehow have convinced themselves that their military has been exercising unusual restraint--while killing over 1,000 people before this latest round of attacks. Palestinians, meanwhile, deny the existence of Hamas fighters in their area-- though, by the Times' own reporting, in the very same article, Israeli claims about the numbers of Hamas fighters in this given area appear to be (in some cases) unfounded.
This equivalence comes amid stories of heart-wrenching suffering--an injured baby left to die on a tractor because Israeli soldiers were firing on family members trying to get to a hospital. Why dress up that kind of reporting with this sort of "he said, she said" balance? Perhaps the sense that the truth is too one-sided.
This is Ethan Bronner’s chance to seize the Friedman laurels
by PHILIP WEISS on DECEMBER 30, 2008 · 
I notice that Ethan Bronner's coverage of Gaza in the Times continues to be cautious. He balances attacks on Islamic University with the threats to Israelis in the Negev. The most vivid moments in this story are anti-Hamas. The execution of a Palestinian collaborator with Israel. The very genuine fear and trembling of Israelis in Ashkelon. Taghreed El-Khodary is in Gaza for the Times; but I sense that Bronner is the writing the piece from the fact that the Times hyperlinks his byline here.
Ambitious Times reporters would be wise to bear in mind: This was the moment in the previous generation that Tom Friedman became Tom Friedman. The fog of war enveloped Beirut too, but Friedman (a '67-War Jew who had lectured his high school classmates on the glories of Zionism in Golden Valley, the Jewish suburb west of Minneapolis) had the cojones as we say in Arabic to say what was happening: "indiscriminate" bombing. The word was cut from his lead by his editors, Friedman threw a righteous fit, which before long became widely known, and his name was inscribed in the pantheon. The rest is history. The mustachioed middlebrovian Friedman now lectures America on the rightness of the Iraq war and the glorious fitness of global capitalism. But let us be clear: Tom Friedman showed great independence and honesty during the bombing of Beirut and later Sabra and Shatila. He was upset by what Israel had revealed to him about its character, and he let his readers know. Great. Then came his book From Beirut to Jerusalem. A star was born.
Ethan Bronner seems too wimpy to grasp the nettle, maybe El-Khodary will. One of you must take some chances, and use some bold adjectives to describe the one-sidedness of the slaughter. Push the envelope. Don't go down in flames (I'm unpaid) but challenge your editors at this moment of shocking horror. American Jews are watching you, Barack Obama is glancing at the front page. Jump up to the challenge
One of the most insightful articles on Israel/Palestine I've read recently pointed out that the best intentions are always assumed on the part of the Israelis, but the intentions of Palestinians are always assumed to be the worst possible ones. If Israel drops a bomb on a house with a family in it, that's justified by the intent, which was (we are told) only to hurt one person in the house. If Gazans use a tunnel to smuggle goods during a blockade, it's assumed that the intent is to smuggle arms - even though the recent war showed that Hamas had little by way of arms.
New York Times fails to disclose Jerusalem bureau chief’s conflict of interest Posted by Philip Dru on 1/25/10 • Categorized as Israel, Propaganda
The New York Times has all but confirmed to The Electronic Intifada (EI) that the son of its Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner was recently inducted into the Israeli army.
Over the weekend, EI received a tip suggesting this had been the case and wrote to Bronner to ask him to confirm or deny the information and to seek his opinion on whether, if true, he thought it would be a conflict of interest.
Susan Chira, the foreign editor of The New York Times wrote in an email to The Electronic Intifada this morning:
“Ethan Bronner referred your query to me, the foreign editor. Here is my comment: Mr. Bronner’s son is a young adult who makes his own decisions. At The Times, we have found Mr. Bronner’s coverage to be scrupulously fair and we are confident that will continue to be the case.”
The Electronic Intifada also wrote to Clark Hoyt, the public editor of The New York Times, to confirm the information and ask for an opinion on whether this constituted a conflict of interest, but had yet to receive a response.
Bronner, as bureau chief, has primary responsibility for his paper’s reporting on all aspects of the Palestine/Israel conflict, and on the Israeli army, whose official name is the “Israel Defense Forces.”
On 23 January, Bronner published a lengthy article on Israel’s efforts to refute allegations contained in the UN-commissioned Goldstone report of war crimes and crimes against humanity during its attack on Gaza last winter (“Israel Poised to Challenge a UN Report on Gaza“).
As’ad AbuKhalil, a frequent critic of Bronner’s coverage, blogged in response that “The New York Times devoted more space to Israeli and Zionist criticisms of the Goldstone report than to the [content of the] report itself” (The Angry Arab News Service, “Ethan Bronner’s propaganda services, 25 January 2010)
Bronner’s pro-Israeli bias reporting on Israel’s attack on Gaza last year was also criticized by the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) (See “NYT and the Perils of Mideast ‘Balance’,” 4 February 2009).
The New York Times’ own “Company policy on Ethics in Journalism” acknowledges that the activities of a journalist’s family member may constitute a conflict of interest. It includes as an example, “A brother or a daughter in a high-profile job on Wall Street might produce the appearance of conflict for a business reporter or editor.” Such conflicts may on occasion require the staff member “to withdraw from certain coverage.”
After Israel’s invasion of Gaza last winter, Israeli military censors banned local media from printing the names of individual officers who participated in the attack for fear that this could assist international efforts to bring war crimes suspects to justice. This followed the publication of a number of soldiers’ personal testimonies in the Israeli press describing atrocities they had seen committed by the Israeli army in Gaza.
The Times’ treatment of Bronner sets an interesting precedent. Would the newspaper’s policy be the same if a reporter in its Jerusalem bureau had an immediate family member who faced Bronner’s son across the battlefield, as a member of a Palestinian or Lebanese resistance organization?
It would appear that despite the highly sensitive nature of Palestine/Israel coverage, and the very high personal stakes for Bronner and his son that could result from full and open coverage of the Israeli army’s abuses of Palestinians, The New York Times does not consider this situation to be a problematic case. It had not even disclosed the situation to its readers — until now.
The Electronic Intifada | Mon, Jan 25, 2010

                     -------------FROM FANTASYLAND MEDIA----------------
In covering the Israeli "settlements" in the West Bank, Ethan Bronner of the NY Times uses as picture of a small boy outside a shack to represent the close to 500,000 Israelis who are stealing land captured in the 1967 war. Since when do these billion dollar funded settlements look like that? Crude propaganda from the NY Times, always eager to cast Israel in a favorable light.

While praising Israeli concessions, Bronner also fails to mention that 2,000 "buildings" (apartment buildings) will continue to be built according to Israel =150,000 people added to the 300,000+ existing settlers.
(Thanks to Felice Gellman for this story)


"IDF combat soldiers and officers from the Gaza operation are now beginning to confirm what our enemies have been saying for months. They tell us that, contrary to our own beliefs and expectations, combat norms in Gaza exhibited a blatant disregard for Palestinian civilians. Their comments were not a left-wing leak, but emerged from a frank discussion at pre-army training institute. As Amos Harel writes: 'The soldiers are not lying, for the simple reason they have no reason to.'

...Yet we still must ask ourselves: When Jews around the world literally endangered themselves marching in solidarity rallies in January this year, was this what they had in mind? Were Jewish communities and individuals, and of course the vast majority of the Israeli public, were we all in favor of a lax attitude to civilian casualties? Or did not we all take comfort in the IDF's high moral standards?

Searching for cold comfort, we can nevertheless pride ourselves on the vibrant, dynamic, and brutally honest democracy of Israel. It is unlikely that issues such as these are exposed or ever debated in the countries of Israel's enemies..."

--->But what about the dishonesty of Israel's supposed friends? Ethan Bronner, The NY Times' chief propagandist for Israeli militarism, had this to report last weekend: “'When we entered houses, we actually cleaned up the place,' said Yishai Goldflam, 32, a religiously observant film student in Jerusalem...'There are always idiots who do immoral things. But they don’t represent the majority. I remember once when a soldier wanted to take a Coke from a store, and he was stopped by his fellow soldiers because it was the wrong thing to do.'

300 plus children dead in Gaza, and the NY Times is talking about an Israeli soldier returning a Coke. No "brutally honest democracy" in sight in the good old USA.


"Human Rights Watch report claims Israel committed war crimes in its use of air-burst white phosphorus artillery shells

'Israel's military fired white phosphorus over crowded areas of Gaza repeatedly and indiscriminately in its three-week war, killing and injuring civilians and committing war crimes,' Human Rights Watch said today.

In a 71-page report, the rights group said the repeated use of air-burst white phosphorus artillery shells in populated areas of Gaza was not incidental or accidental, but revealed 'a pattern or policy of conduct.'

It said the Israeli military used white phosphorus in a 'deliberate or reckless' way..."

--->Rather than covering this story, Ethan Bronner of the NY Times gives it one sentence, buried in an article that disputes Israeli soldiers' accounts of committing war crimes in Gaza. I wonder if Israeli citizens would put up with this level of dishonesty from their own media?


"U.S. citizens critically hurt at West Bank protest...Protesters who were at the scene said that Anderson was standing by the side of the road when soldiers fired at him...

The protest took place in the West Bank town of Na'alin, where Palestinians and international backers frequently gather to demonstrate against the barrier. Israel says the barrier is necessary to keep Palestinian attackers from infiltrating into Israel. But Palestinians view it as a thinly veiled land grab because it juts into the West Bank at multiple points...

A Palestinian protester was also wounded in the leg as a result of live IDF fire.

In 2003, another ISM activist, 23-year-old American Rachel Corrie, was crushed to death in Gaza by an Israeli bulldozer as she tried to block it from demolishing a Palestinian home."

--->The NY Times does a masterful job in twisting stories like this so that they don't appear critical of Israel. Lets see how the reporter, Ethan Bronner, does it this time.

Bronner's story is on page 7 on the NY Times, while Haaretz put the story on their front page. Bronner's headline reads "American Injured in Clash at Israeli Barrier" rather than Haaretz's "U.S. Citizens Critically Hurt at West Bank Protest." "Injured" is less dramatic than "critically hurt." A "clash" would indicate violence on both sides, rather than the "protest" that Haaretz uses in their title.

Going on, Bronner writes, "The army spokeswoman said there were about 400 violent demonstrators at the village of Niilin, west of Ramallah, many of them throwing rocks at the troops. The forces shot back, she said, but not with live fire." No mention here of the Palestinian protester shot in the leg. No mention of the statements by other protesters that Anderson was only standing by the side of the road. And, of course, no mention of the American activist, Rachel Corrie killed this week in 2003 by an Israeli bulldozer.

And to Bronner, why had Anderson come to the West Bank? "Mr. Anderson, 37, came to Israel two weeks ago to join his girlfriend, who is also active in opposing the barrier and the occupation of the West Bank." He was here, according to Bronner simply to join his girlfriend. Not because he was committed to human rights for Palestinians. Haaretz didn't try to minimize his commitment with stories of his girlfriend.

Bronner is simply a masterful Israeli propagandist, the type that any reputable newspapers would fire for consistently distorting the news. But the NY Times is simply not a reputable newspaper, when it comes to Israel.


"After weeks of denying that it used white phosphorus in the heavily populated Gaza Strip, Israel finally admitted yesterday that the weapon was deployed in its offensive.

The army’s use of white phosphorus – which makes a distinctive shellburst of dozens of smoke trails – was reported first by The Times (UK publication) on January 5, when it was strenuously denied by the army. Now, in the face of mounting evidence and international outcry, Israel has been forced to backtrack on that initial denial...

The incident in question is thought to be the firing of phosphorus shells at a UN school in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip on January 17. The weapon is legal if used as a smokescreen in battle but it is banned from deployment in civilian areas. Pictures of the attack show Palestinian medics fleeing as blobs of burning phosphorus rain down on the compound."

--->The NY Times has been slow in reporting the obvious use of white phosphorus in Gaza (YouTube is full of fist hand accounts). As late as January 14, its chief Israeli apologist in the region, Ethan Bronner, was writing that observers had "seen no evidence of the use of white phosphorus, an obscurant used in military conflicts that can be dangerous for civilians under certain circumstances." Such a delicate description of Israeli war crimes.


I don't know anyone who speaks the truth as bluntly as Noam Chomsky. And the truth must be spoken about the slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza. Here is Chomsky on the invasion:

"On Saturday December 27, the latest US-Israeli attack on helpless Palestinians was launched. The attack had been meticulously planned, for over 6 months according to the Israeli press...

That surely includes the timing of the assault: shortly before noon, when children were returning from school and crowds were milling in the streets of densely populated Gaza City. It took only a few minutes to kill over 225 people and wound 700, an auspicious opening to the mass slaughter of defenseless civilians trapped in a tiny cage with nowhere to flee.

In his retrospective 'Parsing Gains of Gaza War,' New York Times correspondent Ethan Bronner cited this achievement as one of the most significant of the gains. Israel calculated that it would be advantageous to appear to 'go crazy,' causing vastly disproportionate terror, a doctrine that traces back to the 1950s. 'The Palestinians in Gaza got the message on the first day,' Bronner wrote, 'when Israeli warplanes struck numerous targets simultaneously in the middle of a Saturday morning. Some 200 were killed instantly, shocking Hamas and indeed all of Gaza.' The tactic of 'going crazy' appears to have been successful, Bronner concluded: there are 'limited indications that the people of Gaza felt such pain from this war that they will seek to rein in Hamas,' the elected government. That is another long-standing doctrine of state terror..."


"As of this writing, Israeli Air Force attacks today on the occupied Gaza Strip killed an estimated 300 or more people and injured hundreds more. These Israeli attacks come on top of a brutal siege of the Gaza Strip, which has created a humanitarian catastrophe of dire proportions for Gaza's 1.5 million Palestinian residents by restricting the provision of food, fuel, medicine, electricity, and other necessities of life."
(From End the Occupation)

-->To the NY Times, such violations of international law are not war crimes but Israel "reminding foes that it has teeth." Sort of like saying that the Nazis invaded Poland, to continue the NY Times headline story, to "re-establish its deterrence." And Israel's motive in the bombing of Gaza? "It worries that its enemies are less afraid of it than they once were, or should be. Israeli leaders are calculating that a display of power in Gaza could fix that." So whenever a country decides that its neighbors are "less afraid" of it, bring in the bombers to fix things. Eric Bonner, writing for the NY Times, is a veteran Israeli apologist. Researcher John Mearsheimer recently pointed out that "Bronner's job -- as usual -- is to present Israel in the most favorable light."