by Leo Rennert
To grasp the particular lens through which the New York Times covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one need look no farther than an article by Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner about a minor controversy over an Arab member of Israel's Supreme Court who stood during the singing of "Hatikvah," the national anthem, but did not sing along with the court's other members. ("Anger and Compassion for Arab Justice Who Stays Silent During Zionist Hymn" March 5, page 10.")
Bronner's piece, spread over six columns, prominently mentions the outrage on the political right, prompted by Justice Salim Joubran's mute stance during the singing of "Hatikvah." But then, Bronner stirs the pot further, citing an editorial in the far-left newspaper Haaretz, which called for changing the wording of the anthem because it dwells only on Jewish aspirations for a free nation in the land of Zion and Jerusalem.
Yet, despite this brouhaha, Bronner finally concludes that most Israelis took the entire episode in stride and, if anything, gloried in the fact that an Arab sits on Israel's highest court.
So far, OK. But Bronner isn't willing to leave it at that. As far as he's concerned, this little storm brings to the fore the much deeper question of "the nature of Israeli democracy." And, from that perspective, Bronner indeed takes a very gloomy view of the Jewish state. Again relying on Haaretz, he quotes columnist Gideon Levy as despairing over the Jewish state's basic values -- "Among all the speeches (yada, yada, yada) at the new Supreme Court president's inauguration ceremony, it was Joubran's silence that taught us an important lesson: that Israeli democracy is paper-thin and fragile. All it needs to ruin it is one judge who refuses to join the choir." Readers should have no trouble inferring that Bronner shares Levy's dark outlook about Israel.
Like Levy's use -- or misuse -- of this incident, Bronner seizes on it to inject his own view and agenda in covering Israel -- "Internationally, the criticism of Israel focuses on its treatment of the four million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza. They are not Israeli citizens, but their territory and lives remain under Israeli control and strictures."
The onus for the conflict is entirely Israel's.
Not a word about the treatment of Palestinians in Hamas-ruled Gaza. Not a word about Israel's complete withdrawal from Gaza -- a withdrawal that gave Palestinians a historic opportunity to build a decent society there, only to see it turned into a launching pad for aggression against Israel. Not a word about the extensive autonomy granted to Palestinians in the West Bank, frittered away by Mahmoud Abbas's refusal to seriously negotiate a two-state solution. Not a word about Abbas's maximalist demands that would eliminate the Jewish state altogether. Not a word about Abbas's campaign of anti-Israel incitement to violence in Abbas-controlled schools, textbooks, media and mosques. Not a word about generous Israeli offers of realistic peace deals, summarily rejected by Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. Not a word about continuing rocket fire at Israel from Gaza.
Bronner is loath to touch any of these Palestinian obstacles to peace: In his view, all that matters is that "internationally, the criticism of Israel focuses on its treatment of four million Palestinians" -- a criticism he heartily promulgates and endorses.
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