NY Times stokes Palestinian victimhood, ignores self-inflicted wounds
In its March 8 edition, the New York Times runs a front-page article about the plight of the Palestinians. Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner writes that since the onset of the Arab Spring and the world's focus on Iran's nuclear program, "the Palestinian leadership has found itself orphaned." Palestinians are politically divided between Fatah and Hamas, peace talks with Israel have collapsed and foreign support is waning. ("Mideast Din Drowns Out Palestinians" page one )
Bronner goes on to quote Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, that Arabs elsewhere are preoccupied with their own problems, the U.S. is in an election year and has economic problems, Europe has its worries - "We're in a corner."
In sum, the Palestinian question is no longer front and center on the world's agenda.
All true. But who bears responsibility for this sad state of affairs? Bronner points to external forces and trends. But in doing so, he only helps perpetuate a familiar Palestinian sense of victimhood. It's always someone else who's to blame - whether it's Israel, the U.S., or oil-rich Arab states that don't come through with their financial pledges. In the meantime, a two-state solution recedes even farther on anyone's calendar.
In echoing these familiar complaints, Bronner does no favor to the Palestinians. If they're in a funk because the world is turning its back, it's because of self-inflicted wounds - a lack of vision and statesmanship by leaders who won't take responsibility for steering Palestinians toward any sort of realistic peace deal.
Despite all the problems that beset the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas still could kickstart meaningful peace talks. How? By taking Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at his word and inviting him to Ramallah and restart negotiations toward a two-state deal. Abbas would have to drop his insistence on a construction freeze in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank as pre-conditions for a new round of talks. But if he really wants to advance the peace process, why not plunge directly into negotiations on all outstanding issues?
The answer is that Abbas continues to run away from any realistic Palestinian overtures that could bear fruit. For that to happen, he would have to prepare his people for painful compromises on Jerusalem and the "right of return," jettison maximalist demands that would eliminate the Jewish state, and stop glorifying terrorist killers.
By now, it's clear Abbas is not apt to head in that direction. Having groomed generations of Palestinians to let the world do their bidding and pursue ways to supplant Israel rather than accepting a compromise painful to both sides, Abbas has dug himself a deep hole from which he can no longer extricate himself.
Bronner, however, avoids any critique of Abbas that would hold him responsible for the Palestinians' self-inflicted wounds. Like Abbas, he bemoans the world's growing inattentiveness to Palestinian plights, but avoids urging Palestinians to take charge of their own fate.
To be of real help to the Palestinians, Bronner could begin by putting Abbas under the same critical lens that he uses to write about Netanyahu. Coddling Abbas and the Palestinians does them no favor.
A postscript: Atop Bronner's front-page piece, the Times runs a four-column color picture of Israeli soldiers firing at stone-throwers in the West Bank town of Al Ram. Except that the picture doesn't show any stone-throwing, only the fire of Israeli weapons. With the jump on page 3, the Times runs a four-column black-and-white picture of a Palestinian protester at Al Ram throwing stones at Israeli forces/ Which, of course, is another instance of the Times' upside-down coverage of the conflict. Israeli soldiers wouldn't be firing their weapons if Palestinians didn't pelt them with stones. Since the stone-throwing initiates such incidents, it should be featured on the front page, and the return IDF fire on the inside. The Times, however, does just the opposite - again suggesting with its vivid color photo on the front page -- that Israel is the guilty party.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers