The New York Times does it again. On Sunday, Ethan Bronner, the paper’s deputy national editor, handed us his analysis of what has unleashed another round of horror in the Middle East. It seems that the cause is Israel’s decision to build a wall which creates “growing human distance between Israelis and Palestinians who once knew each other intimately and are now virtual strangers.” To help Mr. Bronner make his point his colleagues have helpfully included a photo of part of the formidable wall. There follows paragraphs describing the blissful interaction of Palestinians and Israelis when Israeli employers “attended weddings of their Palestinian employees and their children.” So, “while mixing the populations … was no panacea, divorcing them has only made things worse.” No mention of the fact that the wall he so regrets has sharply reduced the incidence of deadly terror attacks on such military targets as restaurants, bars and buses.
There is worse—something only a professional skilled writer could have accomplished in a single sentence. Here it is – see if you can detect the jujitsu. “A result [of the wall and separation] has been a heightened dehumanization that has allowed the murder of four teenagers to escalate in just a few days into a series of devastating Israeli air strikes that have killed scores and Palestinian rocket attacks that have displaced thousands.” In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye famously said that if the world practices and eye for an eye and a tooth of a tooth, we would all soon be blind and toothless.
Yes, but it remains relevant to consider who started the current tit-for-tat. It was not the murder of four teenagers, but the kidnap and murder of three teenagers by Palestinians who remain at large despite the fact that Mr. Bronner points out “Israeli security forces searching for them took the opportunity to arrest hundreds of Palestinians associated with Hamas” although “it was commonly claimed” among Palestinians that the Jews themselves had done this or invented the entire story. This does not excuse the retaliatory killing of a Palestinian boy, but the sequence suggests something about complicity that is obscured by referring to “four teenagers.”
Then there is the sequence in the latter part of the sentence – first mentioned after the four murders is escalation “in just a few days into a series of devastating Israeli air strikes that have killed scores,” and then and only then do we read about “Palestinian rocket attacks that have displaced thousands.” I get it. First came the wall, which, second, shattered the Palestinian “cautious but unmistakable admiration for Israeli politics and public accountability.” Then came four murders, and “in a few days” we get Israeli air strikes and, last in the reported sequence, Hamas’s rocket attacks.
Bronner does not lay out an explicitly erroneous sequence of events. But he is no amateur penning his first op-ed letter. Surely anyone with his journalistic experience might have considered whether his reporting might mislead readers not on the alert for the latest example of anti-Israel media bias.