NY Times censors violence by Palestinian demonstrators in West Bank
In its Jan. 23 edition, the New York Times runs a human-interest piece by Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner about a Palestinian cameraman filming protests in the West Bank against Israel's security barrier. Conspicuously missing from the article, however, are violent tactics employed by stone-hurling protesters ("From Unyielding Cameraman, an Acclaimed Film" page A6).
The scene is the Palestinian village of Bilin, which has become a weekly venue for rowdy demonstrations against the barrier and a nearby Jewish settlement.
However, with some pro-Palestinian spin, Bronner describes Bilin merely as a "center for Palestinian popular resistance," carefully omitting mention of the violent nature of this "resistance." After all, stones fired by slingshots can be lethal and sometimes they have been - something that apparently is of no interest to Bronner.
The hero in his piece is Emat Burnat, a villager who has been filming the turmoil for the last six years and now has teamed up with an Israeli filmmaker to produce a film, "Five Broken Cameras," that has won awards at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.
It's a compelling story, but flawed by Bronner's failure to report the dark, dangerous side of the weekly Bilin protests and his downplaying of humane Israeli responses to Palestinian injuries.
To wit two paragraphs far down in his piece:
"In late 2008, he (Burnat) accidentally drove a truck into the separation barrier and was badly injured. A Palestinian ambulance arrived at the same time as Israeli soldiers, who saw what bad shape he was in and took him to an Israeli hospital.
"'If I had been taken to a Palestinian hospital,' Mr. Burnat said, 'I probably wouldn't have survived.' He was unconscious for 20 days. Three months later, he was back filming."
Bronner doesn't shed any light on how and why Burnat "accidentally" drove into the barrier. Perhaps he did it on purpose in a moment of angry "resistance." We can't tell. But never mind. The IDF saved his life. And, one might think that this would have been a good way of finishing the piece - a decent, humane Israeli gesture to balance Palestinian assaults against the barrier.
But Bronner doesn't want such a balanced finish for his article. Determined to tip the scales against Israel, Bronner signs off with a Burnat comment advising his son to see how vulnerable life can be, followed by this ending of the article:
"Weeks later, an Israeli tear gas canister hit his friend Phil in the chest and killed him."
What were the exact circumstances which led to Phil's demise - did Phil join in stone-hurling attacks against Israeli security forces so that it was Palestinian violence that led to this tragic result? Bronner won't say why tear gas had to be used. Evidently, It would spoil his pro-Palestinian spin.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers