Fact-Checking Ethan Bronner Isn’t Pleasant, But Somebody’s Got to Do it

And thank God that somebody is Richard Silverstein, who calls out Bronner’s legendary pro-Israel bias in an article Bronner wrote the day before yesterday about the Flotilla bound for Gaza.


Israel and most military bodies like to give names to their exercises. I’ve got one for the upcoming flotilla interdiction. And for this, we’ll have to turn Meir Kahane’s “Never Again” slogan on its head. My suggestion: “Mavi Marmara–Again.” Or alternatively, we could use a version of the slogan that Auschwitz survivor Malvina Schwartz saw scrawled on a wall in her Hungarian hometown after she came back from the camps: “This time–we’ll finish the job.”

Ethan Bronner interprets the bellicosity of Brig. Gen. Mordechai this way:

“The statements seemed part of a heightened effort to stop another flotilla and to pre-emptively explain Israel’s position if violence ensues.”

I’d make one small change in that sentence: “when violence ensues.” Because the IDF of course controls whether there will be murder and mayhem, just as it did a year ago on the Mavi Marmara, when it slaughtered nine men with ‘kill shots’ at point-blank range.

And hey, we can’t get away with writing about a Bronner piece without noting his bias in favor of Israel:

“Israel…said that a year ago the ship was dominated by extremists who created the confrontations that resulted in the deaths.”

“Israel said?” What about what everyone else in the world said, which directly contradicts this? And what about an acknowledgement that whatever the passengers did, they did not, could not provoke nine murders. That was solely the doing of the IDF naval commandos. Not a word on this from Good Soldier Bronner (oh, that’s right, it’s his son who’s in the IDF).

And how about a little more hasbara from the Times IDF (er, Israel) bureau chief:

“Israel began a naval blockade two and a half years ago when it invaded Gaza to stop Palestinian militants from firing rockets into Israel.”

Say what? First this is erroneous. There was a full Israeli blockade of Gaza, including naval, beginning in 2006, not 2009. Second, the reasons Israel says it’s doing something are often not the real reasons it’s doing it. In this case, the blockade, if this was the purpose, never stopped a single rocket from being fired. Rather, Israel wished to punish Gazans for voting for Hamas to be their leader and to punish Hamas for its pre-emptive coup which kicked Fatah out of the enclave in 2006. That’s the real reason there is an Israeli siege. One which, contrary to the word of an Israeli hack general, is illegal under international law.

How about this bit of breathless Bronnerism:

“Today Gaza has plenty of goods available…”

For God’s sake, what does it mean that there are “plenty of goods available” if there are no jobs with which people can earn money to buy them? This is the heartlessness of Ethan Bronner. Besides, most of those goods didn’t come to Gaza through Israeli crossings which allow a trickle to flow in. Rather they’re smuggled in via Egypt. No thanks to Israel.

Bronner gets yet another point wrong in this passage:

“The government says its goal is to prevent Hamas from importing weapons by sea. In March, Israel stopped a vessel packed with weapons that it says were Gaza-bound.”

No, the vessel wasn’t bound for Gaza. It was actually taken on the high seas on its way to Egypt. It’s possible the weapons were intended for Gaza, but that ship wasn’t bringing them there.

Bronner continues his whitewash of the Mavi Marmara massacre thus:

“This year an Israeli commission concluded that the blockade conformed with international law, as did Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara in international waters. The panel included two foreign legal experts who agreed with the conclusions.”

First, Bronner neglects to mention the clear bias of the panel, the fact that it was not independent, did not have subpoena power, and had a very limited mandated. Not to mention that it’s nearly senile 89-year-old chairman died a few weeks into deliberations. Second, the two foreign “experts” were neither experts nor unbiased. David Trimble is not an expert on international law, but rather a Northern Ireland pro-Israel politician. The other expert was a Canadian military judge advocate whose expertise on international law was never promoted by the Israelis.

Enough badgering poor old ‘Eitan’ Bronner. Let’s go back to the IDF military spokesperson who’s always good for a cynical laugh:

“He said that many of those planning to take part in the flotilla were peace activists, but that they were naïve because “extremists will set the tone” if Israeli commandos board the ships.”

Yes, indeed. The tone will be set by extremists like 86 year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein; or non-violent human rights activist Medea Benjamin; or by Yonatan Shapira, the peace activist who refused to bomb Palestinians in the West Bank with his IDF Black Hawk helicopter. These are the caliber of man-eating extremists those commandos will be facing. Scary. They better take along an extra copy of Gandhi’s biography in order to do battle with them.

My main beef with Bronner is that he seems to never get off his ass and do any actual reporting. Does he ever leave his Tel Aviv office or his home in a formerly-Palestinian-but-now-Jewish-neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem? Does he ever try to get into Gaza? Does he ever sit down with the Palestinian Authority? Or how about interviewing Hamas? No, Ethan Bronner sits at his desk with his rollodex which has only one source- the Israeli government.

And we wonder why most Americans don’t know anything about the Middle East?

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About Stacy

Attorney, Publisher, Foreign Policy wonk

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One Comment on “Fact-Checking Ethan Bronner Isn’t Pleasant, But Somebody’s Got to Do it”

  1. Steve Says:

    Ethan Bronner is a disgrace. I actually have friends that defend him by saying “but he’s criticized by supporters of Israel too so he must be objective.” False. Wrong. Part of the media tactic of the Lobby is to criticize ANYONE who even slightly deviates from their Israel Right or Wrong line, as being anti-Israel. That some anti-peace, Likud extremists have criticized Bronner does not make him objective nor does it make him less of a hasbarist. It just means the Lobby is very organized and good at keeping the media in line.


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