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Other journalists with ties to the Israeli military... Is Ethan Bronner the rule rather than the exception?

Now that there has been so much controversy over the fact that the son of the New York Times' Israel-Palestine bureau chief is serving in the Israeli army, more is starting to come out about other major journalists who had/have their own intimate connections to the IDF.

Jewish Week reports that a previous Times bureau chief, Joel Greenberg, "before he was Jerusalem bureau chief but after he was already having bylines in the Times from Israel, actually served in the IDF."

Richard Chesnoff admits: "I've been covering and writing about Mideast events for more than 40 years. And like Bronner, I had a son serving in the Israeli army during part of the 14 years I covered both Israel and the Arab world as US News & World Report's senior foreign correspondent." (I wonder if he disclosed this to readers at the time.)

As I've noted previously and featured in a video, Atlantic Monthly's Jeffrey Goldberg served in the Israeli military himself; it's unclear when/if his military service ended.

NPR's Linda Gradstein's husband was an IDF sniper and may still be in the reserves. I don't know whether Gradstein herself is also an Israeli citizen, as are her children and husband.

About five or six years ago I learned that the national editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune was an Israeli citizen who had served in the Israeli millitary.

Given that many of the journalists for American media are actually Israeli citizens, connections to the Israeli military may be quite common. Perhaps Bronner is the rule, not the exception.

Several years ago I was told by an American editor that Time Magazine's bureau chief had made aliyah after he had assumed his post. (Making aliyah means "ascending" to Israeli citizenship.)

So far, despite promises that they would get back to me the Times has still not answered my questions about Times correspondent Isabel Kershner, a naturalized Israeli citizen originally from Britain. Did she ever serve in the IDF herself? Have any of her relatives? Are any relatives currently serving in Israeli forces?

(Others may wish to ask the New York Times foreign desk these questions as well: email foreign@nytimes.com or phone the main number, 212-556-1234, and ask for the foreign desk.)

Similarly, I wonder how many of AP's editors are Israeli or have Israeli families? How many serve or served in the Israeli military or have family members with this connection?

How many TV correspondents? I remember looking into this a few years ago and being surprised at how many had Israeli families, and in some casees were Israelis themselves; NBC's Martin Fletcher is a case in point. It's hard to imagine that he doesn't have Israeli military connections among his family members.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer was based in Israel for many years, wrote a book whitewashing Israeli spying on the US, and used to work for the Israel lobby.

It's interesting to learn that Tikkun's Rabbi Michael Lerner, whose criticisms of Israeli human rights violations and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza have been powerful but who continues to support Israeli state discrimination, has also had a son in the military. In an interview with Jewish Week Lerner is quoted as saying: “Having a son in the Israeli army was a manifestation of my love for Israel, and I assume that having a son in the Israeli army is a manifestation of Bronner’s love of Israel."

Lerner goes on to make an interesting point:  

"...there is a difference in my emotional and spiritual connection to these two sides [Israelis and Palestinians]. On the one side is my family; on the other side are decent human beings. I want to support human beings all over the planet but I have a special connection to my family. I don’t deny it.”

To me, the fact that so many major journalists have such ties to Israel is an extraordinary and disturbing situation. Israel is a foreign country. Most Americans want full, unbiased reporting about it and its numerous violent conflicts, invasions, and occupations. Yet, we have a pattern in which journalists for American media have intimate military connections to one side of these conflicts. As Lerner notes – Israel is, literally, family.

Naturally, we know that there are journalists with potential bias on many subjects who transcend such bias and give us excellent journalism. However, it is foolish to assume that this is always the case – especially since the reporting on Israel-Palestine is so consistently Israel-centric.

I believe that these close connections to Israel should always be divulged to the public. I also believe that our news agencies should either do a better job of hiring journalists without such connections, or should hire journalists with opposite connections to balance this Israel-heavy situation.

Of course, given the ownership and management of US media, and the considerable clout of pro-Israel advertisers and well-funded lobbying groups, I realize that such a change is highly unlikely.

Sadly, media critics, with the exception of Project Censored and FAIR, seem very timid about taking this on. No doubt they're minimally informed on Israel-Palestine itself, while being fully informed on where where the power lies in this country and the damage that criticism of Israel can do to journalistic careers.

Therefore, I believe it is critical that the rest of us work to make this bias known to more American citizens, whose tax money is going to Israel in such uniquely massive proportions.

To help in this effort, people can put on events, write letters to the editor, tell others about If Americans Knew, distribute cards, factsheets, booklets and DVDs, and join our email list.

It's up to us.

Posted on Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 05:53AM by Registered Commenter[Alison Weir | Comments Off

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