“Hire an Arab”: The casual racism of Ethan Bronner’s business partner

In an important article in the Columbia Journalism Review, Max Blumenthal has exposed the glaring conflicts of interest that fatally compromise the work of Ethan Bronner, the controversial Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times.

Bronner, it turns out, has a business relationship with Lone Star Communications, a PR firm run by Charley Levine that advises right wing Israeli politicians. While reporting on Lone Star clients, Bronner has also been going on paid speaking gigs organized by the firm.

Blumenthal lays out the case in his must-read article.

But here’s a little nugget revealing the casually racist mindset of Levine, who is open about his far-right wing anti-Palestinian politics.

“Hire an Arab”

Last December, Dalia Levine, possibly Charley’s daughter-in-law, commented on her Facebook page that she was “happy Doni did such a great job clearing the driveway and is enjoying the day. Maybe snow isn’t that bad after all.”

To this, Charley Levine responded: “Don’t make my son work so hard. Can’t you hire an Arab like we always did for snowstorms in Maaleh Adumim?

Maaleh Adumim is the illegal Israeli colony in the occupied West Bank where Charley Levine lives.

His comment about “hiring an Arab” reflects the widespread racism in Israel where Palestinians, if not seen as “terrorists,” are viewed merely as cheap laborers to do menial work in colonial settlements where they have no political or civil rights.

It’s a situation similar to that of blacks who worked in white homes and cities under apartheid in South Africa.

Israelis even have a term for work that is of low quality: avoudah aravit – or “Arab work.”

“What, is he an Arab?”

Levine’s comment recalls a controversy back in November 2008, soon after Barack Obama’s election victory. Obama appointed Rahm Emanuel, now the Mayor of Chicago, to be his chief of staff.

Emanuel’s father, Benjamin Emanuel, caused immediate embarassment when he asserted that his son’s appointment would be beneficial to Israel. “Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” the elder Emanuel said, according to The Jerusalem Post. “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.

The elder Emanuel was a member of the Irgun, a Zionist terrorist group in 1940s Palestine, responsible for dozens of atrocities against civilians.

Rahm Emanuel apologized to Arab Americans for his father’s racist comments.

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...I suspect that, were all things actually equal, Obama the human (as opposed to Obama the politician) would be more just. I base this on his work experience and background. Unfortunately, Obama needs no specific influence to be pro-Israel; living in the United States and wanting to fit into the mainstream is enough these days.

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There is a good precedent for the Levines' racism: Theodor Herzl noted in his diary, in June 1895, several unpleasant and dangerous tasks for the indigenous people of Palestine prior to their proposed transfer: "If we move into a region where there are wild animals to which Jews are not accustomed - big snakes etc. - I shall use the natives, prior to giving them employment in the transit countries, for the extermination of these animals. High premiums for snake skins, etc, as well as their spawn."

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It's all so depressingly familiar to the attitudes of the South African racists, not surprising then that Tel Aviv and Pretoria had excellent relations.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.