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Why Did the Sunday Times Run A One-Sided Piece On The Occupation? Because There’s Only One Side


Crossposted on Tikkun Daily

By MJ Rosenberg

On Sunday, the New York Times ran an extraordinary magazine piece (it was the cover story) on West Bank Palestinians who are resisting the Israeli occupation through non-violence. For those who follow the issue closely, the extraordinary aspect of the piece was not so much anything author Ben Ehreneich revealed as it was that the article appeared in the New York Times at all.

You just don't expect to find this type of reporting on Israel in the Times which, ever conscious that it is the New York Times, is always cautious about its reportage on Israel. Most of its coverage is either extremely balanced ("the Palestinians say this, the Israeli government says that") or slavishly supportive of the Israeli line. (Columnists Tom Friedman and Nick Kristof both consistently deviate from the line, but they are columnists, influential columnists to be sure, but opinion columnists nonetheless).

Ehrenreich's piece neither adhered to the Israeli line nor was it balanced. It had a clear point of view: the occupation is a terrible thing that should not continue.

Does that make it biased? It would, if there was another side to the argument. But in the case of the occupation there isn't. Imagine Ehrenreich's counterpart on the right explaining that the 45-year occupation is a good thing which should continue forever.

Other than West Bank settlers and their supporters on the far right of the Israeli and American political spectrum, no one makes that case. The United States government is committed to the "two-state solution." Prime Minister Netanyahu has also endorsed it as has every Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo agreement with Yasir Arafat. As for the lobby here in the United States, it too supports the two-state solution.

It hardly needs to be said that endorsing the "two state solution," by definition, means opposing the occupation. After all, there is no place where a Palestinian state could be created other than the West Bank (including east Jerusalem) and Gaza. That is if you favor two states. The "one state solution" would include the land that is now Israel in a single state for all the people who live there. But that, obviously, is something different than the "two state" framework.

Of course, neither the Netanyahu government nor the lobby here really want the occupation to end. If they did, they would not, in the case of the Israeli government, keep expanding settlements or, in the case of pro-Israel organizations here, support Israel's right to do so. Nor would they use their influence to prevent any pressure from the United States on Israel to end the occupation. In short, both Israel and its lobby here nominally oppose the occupation while actually supporting it.

The reason they can't say they support occupation is the same reason that the New York Times will never run a major piece that takes the opposite point of view from Ehrenreich's. That is because in the year 2013, it is no longer possible to defend occupation and the denial of rights to the native people that goes along with it. Like defending colonialism or segregation, defending occupation is beyond the pale of civilized discourse.

And that is why hardly anyone defends it. It survives because those who favor it, do not engage on that issue directly, saying "of course, I oppose the occupation but...."

And it is the arguments that follows the "but" that allow an institution universally believed to be wrong to continue.

The words that invariably follow the "but" rarely, if ever, defend the occupation itself. Instead they attack the people whose land is being occupied, the Palestinians in particular and sometimes Muslims in general.

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