An almighty kerfuffle has broken out at the New York Times following demands by the paper’s public editor, Clark Hoyt, who is meant to be neutral, that the Times reassign its Jerusalem bureau chief, Ethan Bronner, on the grounds that Bronner’s wife is Israeli, which automatically makes their 20-year-old son an Israeli citizen who is required to do compulsory army service.
Hoyt appears to be bowing to an organized e-mail campaign from readers of the anti-Israel website, the Electronic Intifada.
Other New York Times journalists have backed up Hoyt, even though it is not Hoyt’s job to recommend staff reassignments.
Their hypocrisy in singling out Bronner is startling. They have nothing to say, for example, about Anthony Shadid, who covers Iraq for the New York Times, and who is an Arab-American, or Nazila Fathi, the Times’s Tehran correspondent, who was born in Iran.
Indeed, from my experience, a large number of foreign correspondents for major media around the world have some direct or family connections to the peoples they are covering, and most manage to stay broadly neutral.
Bronner, while less hostile to Israel than some of the Times’s previous Jerusalem correspondents, is nevertheless a classic liberal whose sympathy for the Palestinian cause often shows through in his reporting, though clearly not enough to satisfy the Electronic Intifada.
On other occasions in his reports, Bronner has bent over backwards to be overly critical of Israel precisely because he did not want readers to think he was sympathetic to Israel because he was Jewish.
To single out Bronner smacks of discrimination. And if the Times does now decide to reassign him, it should certainly also find someone to replace its current Gaza correspondent, Taghreed El-Khodary, who sounded like a virtual Hamas propagandist when she spoke at a media conference I attended last November, as I pointed out here.