Monday, February 08, 2010

The New York Times decides not to cave in to anti-Zionist bigotry

On the other hand, the fact that the Times's Public Editor, who is no doubt an intelligent and decently well-intentioned person in other respects, thought it would be prudent to surrender to this particular propaganda campaign is one more depressing sign of the times. So this is not simply a dog-that-didn't-bark story.

Jeffrey Goldberg is on-target, as usual. (Bernard Avishai, who doesn't always agree with Jeffrey Goldberg, weighs in here.)

--Jeff Weintraub
Jeffrey Goldberg
February 8, 2010 - 08:48 am
Pandering to Zealots

Clark Hoyt, the public editor of The New York Times, wants Ethan Bronner, the paper's Jerusalem bureau chief, to be reassigned because his son has joined the Israeli army. Hoyt believes that Bronner is a stellar correspondent but that the "appearance of conflict" is such that he should be forced out of his job. He bases this on complaints from, among others, something called "The Angry Arab News Service." Hoyt writes: "Web sites like the Angry Arab News Service have called him a propagandist for Israel." Did it strike Hoyt that perhaps a web site called "The Angry Arab News Service" might be engaged in the dissemination of, you know, propaganda?

Thank goodness for Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times, who has responded to Hoyt by telling him, in essence, "Thank you very much for your ill-informed and cowardly opinion. Now please go away."

Two thoughts, as someone with various entanglements in this story: One, the assumption is that Bronner, someone I know a little, and someone who leans left on the spectrum (though it's hard to tell from his coverage, which is down the middle, generally) will somehow be a proponent of Israel's military now that his son has enlisted. In fact, the opposite could be true: Wouldn't it be in Bronner's best interest to write critically of offensive Israeli military operations, in order to influence events in such a way as to keep his son out of harm's way?

Two, and this is a somewhat obvious point except to propagandists, reporters are capable of actually separating out their personal interests from their coverage. I've worked with Palestinian reporters in Gaza and the West Bank, many of whom have had family ties to Fatah and, in one case, even to Hamas, but without fail they've functioned as professional news-gatherers interested only in getting the story before the competition. I don't think the Times should stop using Palestinian reporters in the West Bank and Gaza, because if it did so, its coverage would suffer. And its coverage of Israel would suffer immeasurably if the Times bent to the pressure of anti-Israel propagandists and removed Ethan Bronner from his post. I'm just glad Bill Keller is the editor of the Times, and not Clark Hoyt.