WASHINGTON – Does the fact that his son is currently serving in the IDF render New York Times' Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner biased in his coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Pro-Palestinian bloggers certainly think so, and have recently flooded the newspaper with letters demanding that Bronner be relieved of his post.
Ethan Bronner, 54, is a highly esteemed editor and journalist who filled a number of posts before being sent to Jerusalem two years ago to serve as bureau chief for one of the world's most prestigious newspapers. Bronner, who is Jewish, is married to Naomi, an Israeli psychologist, and is father of two. His son, 20, enlisted in the IDF in December for a year and a half of service before returning to the US for college.
The website Electronic Intifada, a news site that covers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the Palestinian perspective, was the first to claim that Bronner cannot be objective in his reporting because of his son's military service.
The protest continued in the form of letters that flooded the newspaper's offices claiming that it is unlikely that the father of an IDF soldier be capable of covering the conflict fairly. It should be noted that in the eyes of many Israelis, Bronner's coverage is very critical of Israel.
Bronner himself brought it to the attention of his editors that his son enlisted in the IDF, as the paper's ethics guidelines require. The New York Times' public editor, Clark Hoyt, who received hundreds of letters on the matter, decided to print his own response to the debacle in a column published on Saturday.
"Since the initial report of his son’s enlistment, I have heard from roughly 400 readers, many of them convinced that Bronner could not continue in his current assignment," wrote Hoyt, who also noted Bronner's reporting to be "solid and fair."
Other senior journalists, such as famed former Jerusalem bureau chief, David Shipler, told Hoyt they see no problem with Bronner remaining at the post especially in light of the often nuanced and complex relationships necessary for performing the job.
However, Hoyt wrote, "I have enormous respect for Bronner and his work, and he has done nothing wrong. But this is not about punishment; it is simply a difficult reality. I would find a plum assignment for him somewhere else, at least for the duration of his son’s service in the IDF."
Editor-in-Chief Bill Keller thinks otherwise. In response to Hoyt's column, he wrote on Bronner's personal ties in the region: "I suspect they supply a measure of sophistication about Israel and its adversaries that someone with no connections would lack. I suspect they make him even more tuned-in to the sensitivities of readers on both sides, and more careful to go the extra mile in the interest of fairness. I do know he has reported scrupulously and insightfully on Israelis and Palestinians for many years."