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Stop the Bronner-Bashing!

By David Wilder
2/8/2010, 12:00 AM

For the past couple of weeks, ever since the 'story' broke, I've been debating with myself whether or not to write anything about it. I've learned, usually the hard way, that sometimes it's better to shut up. But usually, my second nature gets the better of me and I mouth off anyhow. That's what I seem to be doing now.


Actually, I find myself in a somewhat strange situation. I've helped out journalists before, even those I really didn't particularly care for. A number of years ago a CNN correspondent was hit in the head with a rock (thrown by an Arab) outside Beit Hadassah. The guy really wasn't a friend of ours, but, what can you do – he was bleeding. So I sent him up to my apartment to get some first aid from my wife. Another time, when a journalist's car battery died in Hebron, I helped him start up with cables. A photographer friend of mine was almost killed by a group of very angry people the night that Beit Shapiro was emptied of its Jewish residents. I didn't save him; someone else from the community arrived first. Etc. Etc. I guess it's what we call in Hebrew 'Derech Eretz' or in plainer language, just being well-mannered and polite.  But I don't recall that I ever had to publicly defend a journalist. Especially one of the most well-known journalists in the field who happens to work for a paper that surely isn't a friend of ours. Well, there's a first time for everything.


I've known Ethan Bronner probably for about as long as I've worked in the business of media as spokesman for Hebron's Jewish community, primarily with the foreign and English-speaking press. Way back then, I'd guess about 13 years ago, Bronner was working for the Boston Globe. I'm not sure why I remember him; I meet so many reporters from around the world and have a lousy memory for names and faces. And truthfully, I usually prefer to forget them as fast as I can after meeting them. But, for whatever reason, when he arrived back in Israel, probably a decade after leaving, I remembered him.


Why? I'm not sure. But his name stuck in my head perhaps because he wasn't as one-sidedly biased and subjective as others.  That’s not to say that I agreed with everything he wrote. Far from it.  In 1996 he wrote, “Since the settlers in Hebron are among the most fervent of Jewish nationalists, believing they are part of a celestial scheme for Jewish reconquest of the Promised Land, the conflict here seems insoluble.”  On the other hand, that same year, he also penned, “For years, leaders of the tiny, fortress-like Jewish settlement in the middle of this Palestinian city have said that the very idea of Palestinian police is absurd since armed Palestinians, uniformed or not, would ultimately turn their guns on Israelis. Never, these leaders argued, should such a force be permitted in Hebron, a city rich in Jewish history where the biblical patriarchs are buried, and today the last West Bank city under full Israeli control. If that came to pass, they said, the lives of every Jew -- settler or visitor -- would be at risk.”  In any case, there aren’t a whole lot of journalists that can be described as being ‘somewhat objective’ concerning Hebron.

 

I’ve followed Bronner’s writing in the NY Times since he arrived back here, I guess about a year or so ago.  I publicly attacked him in an op-ed piece written for the Jerusalem Post this past summer, marking the 80th anniversary of the 1929 riots and massacre, , when he compared the Israeli right to Hamas. On the other hand, after reading a feature he authored called Resolve of West Bank Settlers May Have Limits last September, I had to seriously consider the merits of the piece. But I really didn’t get a kick out of the positive publicity he gave to the radical left-winger Ezra Nawi in the pages of the New York Times .


So much for another NY Times bureau chief in Israel. They come, they go, but we stay.


Almost. Until a couple of weeks ago. I started catching blogs attacking Bronner because… his son joined the Israeli army. This, it seems, in the opinion of some of my best left-wing friends, is a primary reason why Bronner cannot continue to serve as the Time’s Bureau Chief. Why? Because he can no longer be…. Objective?


Ah. The truth finally revealed. Remember such bureau chiefs such as Serge Shememan, who titled Hebron Jews as ‘militants’ and ‘extremists’ . Or Deborah Sontag’s magnum opus, written as she retired from her position in Israel, Quest for Mideast Peace: How and Why It Failed , where she absolves Arafat from the ‘failed’ Barak-Arafat Camp David powwow, which led to the beginning of the Oslo War aka 2nd Intifada in October, 2000, and places the blame on Barak. (According to Tom Gross http://goo.gl/imfk - “this piece has been dubbed “the mother of all Arafat-rehab articles.””) Well, that’s OK. That’s good, objective NY Times journalism because it extols the Arabs, lambasts Israel, and most importantly, demonizes “the settlers.” 

 

But, if a correspondent happens to have a son who has patriotic emotions towards the Jewish state, and desires to take part in defending his people (Bronner is Jewish, and married to an Israeli), well, that’s just too much. That kind of a correspondent will never ever be able to fit the bill and abide by the Times age-old agenda (see previously quoted Tom Gross article). 


 What’s the problem? It’s a given that Israeli soldiers are, by definition, ‘bad guys,’ evil Arab-hating killers, who will let nothing stop their vindictive violent acts of war against poor, innocent, defenseless terrorists, who have nothing but Goldstone to protect them. That being the case, Ethan Bronner’s son is now ‘one of them.’ Bronner the elder, being the ‘evil ones’ father must have some sympathetic symbiosis with these iniquitous emotions, thereby branding him as ‘unfit’ to cover Israel for the paper that publishes all the news that’s not fit to print. 


Guilt by association. I wonder how far back they would go. Say, for example, that it wasn’t Bronner’s son in the army, rather his grandson. Would that still taint his objectivity? Probably. I seem to remember that about 60 years ago the “Jew stain” included anyone twenty-five percent Jewish. 


 OK. The left wing blogs can be excused. After all, this is how they make their money. But – on Saturday, the NY Times Public Editor, Clark Hoyt, wrote in a column in the NY Times officially recommended that Bronner be relieved of his Israeli duties, “at least for the duration of his son’s service in the I.D.F.” This is about as inexcusable as you get. Like I said, I’m not a flag-waving fan of Ethan Bronner, but I do believe that he retains some qualitative journalistic integrity. And I am a flag-waving fan of Jewish patriotism, especially when it takes the form of a young man wanting to serve his country and his people. Especially a kid who didn’t spend his entire life growing up in Israel. To penalize his father for such devotion, to accuse him before-the-fact of lacking the ability to continue to write objectively, is a professional slap in the face, publicly insulting. These people’s problem is that a correspondent who cannot Israel-bash on a daily basis is not worthy of his business card.   


Despite my professional disagreements with Ethan Bronner, which I will continue to express whenever necessary, in this case I stand behind him, his son and his family one hundred percent.