Start With a Lie, Then Bury the Truth
The Dec. 2 edition of the New York Times features a lengthy article ("Dividing the West Bank, And Deepening a Rift -- Israeli Housing Could Hamper Peace" page 14, front section.) by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren about Israeli plans to develop a largely empty area east of Jerusalem so as to link the capital with Maale Adumim, a nearby Jewish town in the West Bank with a population of 36,000. Even though the article appears in the news section, a clearly opinionated Rudoren is fiercely opposed to developing the area, known as E-1, predicting dire consequences for the peace process if Israel proceeds with its plans.
Playing the role of doomsday prophetess, Rudoren tells readers in paragraph 4 that "construction in E-1 would connect the large Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim to Jerusalem, dividing the West Bank in two. The Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem would be cut off from the capital, making the contiguous Palestinian state endorsed by the United Nations last week virtually impossible."
The headline "Dividing the West Bank....." thus is in perfect sync with Rudoren's unqualified assertion that developing E-1 would cut the West Bank in two and deprive Palestinians of a territorially contiguous state.
But that's all in paragraph 4. Much farther on in her article, in paragraph 24 -- twenty paragraphs later -- Rudoren seems to have second thoughts, finally acknowledging that even with development of E-1, Palestinians still can contemplate a contiguous state in the West Bank. "A few miles away in E-1," she writes "there is a road, built in 2007, its lanes divided by a concrete wall. One side is meant for Israelis, and would have exits to Maale Adumim and various parts of Jerusalem. The other, for Palestinians, would have few offramps BUT PROVIDE A PATH FROM RAMALLH TO BETHLEHEM TO ANSWER CRITICISM ABOUT CONTIGUITY" (My emphasis).
Thus early on, in paragraph 4, we are told that a contiguous Palestine would be out of reach with E-1 development but lo and behold, in Paragraph 24, contiguity is restored between Ramallah north of E-1 and Bethlehem to the south.
Why would Rudoren contradict her basic thesis in the next-to-last paragraph? She obviously must have known that the top of her story was premised on highly dubious grounds and, as they say in the news business, decided to clean up her act with what is known in the trade as a CYA ploy. It's an attempt to belatedly let a glimmer of truth permeate her piece, while burying it so far down that hardly any readers would notice.
There are a couple of other miscues in her article that also steer clear of objective, evenhanded reporting.
In her zeal to denounce E-1 development with phony warnings about leaving Palestinians with a noncontiguous state in the West Bank, Rudoren fails to mention that, with the formation of a Palestinian state, there also would be no contiguity between Gaza and the West Bank. Even Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas seems reconciled to such a noncontiguous arrangement in promoting a state comprising the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Even more significant is the absence in Rudoren's piece of important historical context about Jewish settlements vis a vis progress in the peace process. When Israel found a genuine peace partner in Anwar Sadat, it evacuated all its settlements in Sinai for the sake of a peace treaty with Egypt -- an important precedent for the future of peacemaking with its neighbors.
Similarly, there is no mention in Rudoren's half-page, six-column piece that Israel pulled out all Jewish settlers and abandoned their settlements when Ariel Sharon decamped from Gaza. This was a colossal blunder. Sharon foolishly expected that Palestinians would turn Gaza into a Middle East Singapore -- not a terrorist Iranian-supplied forward base for rocket barrages against civilian populations in southern Israel. But however mistaken, Sharon's move again demonstrated that Jewish settlements can and have been abandoned when Israel saw what it deemed opportunities for peacemaking.
In any case, it would be instructive if Times editors asked Rudoren whether and how she can reconcile paragraph 4 and Paragraph 24. Good luck!
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers