Days before U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, the New York Times magazine has published an unusually pro-Palestinian cover story entitled “If There is a Third Intifada, We Want to be the Ones who Started It.”
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The 7000 word article, written by author and freelance journalist Ben Ehrenreich, depicts the struggle of the Tamimi family in the West Bank village of Nebi Saleh to regain access to a spring which has been taken over by the nearby settlement of Halamish. Ehrenreich spent three weeks living in the home of Bassem Tamimi, one of the prominent leaders of the weekly protests that have drawn international media attention and which are routinely dispersed by the IDF.
The article, which some may interpret as encouraging a third intifada, is decidedly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and hostile both to the IDF as well as to the Palestinian “Ramallah bubble”, which, the author maintains, serves as an inhibitor to the “popular struggle” of Palestinian villagers.
The article is likely to elicit sharp condemnation from Israeli and Jewish critics who view the New York Times as harboring anti-Israeli sentiments. The timing of the article, its prominent placement, its provocative headline and its undeniable one-sidedness will all serve as fodder for the critics, but their main line of attack may be the “track record” of Ehrenreich himself.
In 2009, Ehrenreich published a direct attack on Zionism in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Zionism is the Problem”. In the article, Ehrenreich castigates not only the “deplorable conditions in which Palestinians live and die in Gaza and the West Bank” but “the Zionist tenets on which the state was founded “as well.
“The problem is functional”, Ehrenreich writes. “Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism.”
Elsewhere in the article, which was written after Operation Cast Lead, Ehrenreich compares Israeli policies in the territories to apartheid, saying “If two decades ago comparisons to the South African apartheid system felt like hyperbole, they now feel charitable.”
In December, 2011, Ehrenreich published another article on the Tamimi family and its struggles in Harper’s magazine, this time focusing on the “water wars” that Israel allegedly wages against the Palestinians. He won the prestigious PEN award for the Harper’s article.
Ehrenreich, 41, is the son of Barbara Ehrenreich, the prominent and prolific feminist, activist and author.