Monday, February 1, 2010

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."


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