New York Times, Jerusalem Staff
The Times claims the highest ethical standards in reporting, eschews even the appearance of bias and insists on its neutrality in covering the news. Yet the newspaper of record has failed to tell readers about reporters in its Jerusalem bureau who have personal ties to the Israeli government and military. It is only when these connections are made public elsewhere that the Times establishment has seen fit to comment—but not to change.
Ethan Bronner, Times Jerusalem bureau chief from 2008 to 2012, had a son in the Israeli army. When he was informed of this fact, Times ombudsman Clark Hoyt suggested that the newspaper move Bronner to another assignment because “even the most sympathetic reader could reasonably wonder how [his son’s service] could affect the father.” Times executive editor Bill Keller refused, saying that if he moved Bronner he would be “pandering to zealots.” Bronner stayed on for another two years.
As Bronner’s stint in Jerusalem was ending, journalist Alex Kane reported that another bureau reporter had personal connections that the Times should have disclosed to its readers long before. The husband of Isabel Kershner, who has been reporting from the Times Jerusalem office since 2007, was paid to enhance Israel’s image through media spin. He is Hirsh Goodman, at that time a senior research fellow and director of the Charles and Andrea Bronfman Program on Information Strategy at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a think tank closely connected to the Israeli government and military.
Kane quoted Goodman from the INSS website, where he stated his commitment to creating spin: “Israel must devise a strategy to impact positively on international and Arab public opinion and overall disseminate its message more effectively.” Kane determined that Kershner had made frequent use of the INSS in her Times reports—17 times over the previous four years, compared with two times and once for similar think tanks. The media watchdog FAIR has also cited several of Kershner’s articles as biased reporting.
It appears that Goodman has since left INSS, but Kershner’s reporting continues to lean heavily on Israeli government and military sources. Meanwhile, Kane said, the Times has never responded publicly to the revelations about Kershner’s ties to INSS.
And there is Myra Noveck, an American-born Israeli citizen. Alison Weir of Council for the National Interest and If Americans Knew reported in Counterpunch that in 2012 two of Noveck’s children were serving in the Israeli military. When Weir asked the Times about this, then executive editor Jill Abramson replied that Noveck is not a reporter but a news assistant, even though her name has appeared in bylines.
The most recent Times Jerusalem bureau chief was Jodi Rudoren, a U.S. citizen. She was assigned to her post in 2012 and left at the end of 2015. Rudoren appeared in a video with her husband and Anti-Defamation League director Abe Foxman, known for his single-minded support for Israel. Max Blumenthal wrote that the video, which was posted on YouTube in June of 2014, “provides clear confirmation of the Israeli-centric outlook that colors Jodi Rudoren’s coverage. More importantly, it offers a sense of the insular, ethnocentric environment the Rudorens have embedded themselves in, presenting an almost absurd portrait of a couple of Jewish-American Brooklynites basking in the exclusively Jewish culture of West Jerusalem while casually shielding out the presence of Palestinians.”
In September of 2014 Times columnist David Brooks revealed that his son was serving in the Israeli army and had been doing so for months. A columnist is not expected to present “objective” news and is held to a different standard than that of staff reporters, but The National Society of Newspaper Columnists code of ethics calls for disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. Brooks has written about Israel and Palestine and should disclose his son’s service whenever he does so. His son was apparently serving in the Israeli army when Brooks published a column (“When Middle East Conflicts Become One,” July 19, 2014) about the attacks on Gaza, but neither he nor the Times informed readers of his conflict of interest. In addition, the revelation about Brooks’ son underscores the heavy influence of Israel supporters in the pages of the Times.
It is not surprising, therefore, to find Israeli-centric attitudes in The New York Times. Readers should be asking why—when the Times is covering a long-standing conflict between two ethnic groups—virtually all of its Jerusalem bureau reporters, and other staff as well, stand squarely on one side, firmly entrenched in Israeli Jewish society. Who among them has a similar experience of Palestinian reality?
Readers may want to contact the newspaper about this lack of balance in its staffing. Please visit the TimesWarp page “Write the Times” for information.