NYTimes Ethan Bronner Files One More Sympathy Card for the Palestinian Cause, on the Front Page

March 9th, 2012 7:30 AM

Departing New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner filed Thursday's off-lead front-page story from the West Bank town of Ramallah, passing on yet another sympathy note for the Palestinians, whose left-wing cause for statehood and against Israeli "occupation" is no longer being trumpeted as loudly in the wake of the tumult in the region: "Mideast Din Drowns Out Palestinians."

The above-the-fold photo featured two Israeli soldiers firing orange flame at "Palestinian stone throwers" in the West Bank....from a clash last month. A photo of a Palestinian "protester" throwing stones was relegated to the jump page.

(The Times ran a correction Friday: "...While the soldiers, whose activity was not recounted in the article, were indeed firing rifles at stone throwers in the West Bank town of Al Ram last month, the rifles contained rubber bullets," not the real ones that were implied.)

There was no mention of anti-Israeli terrorism on the part of Palestinians, no condemnation of the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, used as a bargaining chip to free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who had attacked Israelis, though his release was mentioned by Bronner.

In the 14 months since revolution has spread across the Middle East and tension has soared over Iran’s nuclear program, the Palestinian leadership has found itself orphaned. Politically divided, its peace talks with Israel collapsed and its foreign support waning, the Palestinian Authority is sidelined, confused and worried that its people may return to violence.

“The biggest challenge we face -- apart from occupation -- is marginalization,” Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, said in an interview. “This is a direct consequence of the Arab Spring where people are preoccupied with their own domestic affairs. The United States is in an election year and has economic problems, Europe has its worries. We’re in a corner.”

For decades, as autocrats ruled their neighbors, the Palestinians were at the center of Middle Eastern politics, their struggle with Israeli occupation embodying the Arab longing for post-colonial freedom and dignity. The Obama administration came into office asserting that a state in the West Bank and Gaza was the key to regional progress.

But when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel visited Washington this week, the conversation was dominated by Iran, not peace talks or occupation.