As the New York Times long-standing Jerusalem bureau chief, with primary responsibility for reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflict, Ethan Bronner has endured bruising criticism for pro-Israeli bias, recently exacerbated by charges of conflict of interest upon the revelation that his son has been inducted into the Israeli army.
So Bronner craned his journalistic neck to peek at things from another perspective with a front-page story called “Palestinians Try a Less Violent Path to Resistance,” and you know right away from that headline that he’s got it wrong.
Bronner makes several big mistakes. First, he ignores the long history of Palestinian nonviolent struggle against colonization, beginning in the 1930’s, and characterizes current nonviolent protest against the Occupation in the West Bank as a “new approach.” And second, he credits the movement entirely to the efforts of Fatah political leadership and the business community:
Something is stirring in the West Bank. With both diplomacy and armed struggle out of favor for having failed to end the Israeli occupation, the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, joined by the business community, is trying to forge a third way: to rouse popular passions while avoiding violence. The idea, as Fatah struggles to revitalize its leadership, is to build a virtual state and body politic through acts of popular resistance
The facts are the opposite–Fatah officials are Johnny-come-latelies to the grassroots nonviolent movement in the West Bank that began with construction of the Wall in 2002, led not by politicians but by popular committees.
Finally, Bronner declares:
Nonviolence has never caught on here, and Israel’s military says the new approach is hardly nonviolent.
Now Bronner is back in known territory — where Israel’s military gets to define what violent is, and Bronner gets to make pronouncements about Palestinian intransigence, without attribution or analysis or any other basis for his conclusions.
In his post in Mondoweiss on Bronner’s article, Alex Kane makes reference to several books that could have educated Bronner about the facts of nonviolent resistance in Palestine, including Rashid Khalidi’s “The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood”, and Neve Gordon’s “Israel’s Occupation.” To this I would add Mary Elizabeth King’s “A Quiet Revolution,” and Professor Joel Beinin’s article in The Nation, “Building a Different Middle East”, for an overview of the expanding nonviolent movement in villages throughout the West Bank, and the participation of Israeli and International activists in that struggle.
Here’s hoping Mr. Bronner continues down the path of telling the Palestinian side of the story to the American people, this time armed with facts and a more open mind.