Over the past couple of weeks, a much-discussed topic in the broader Arab blogosphere has been a news story that broken by a member of the blogosphere itself. On January 25, the Electronic Intifada (EI) reported that the son of Ethan Bronner, New York Times‘ Jerusalem bureau chief, had recently been inducted into the Israeli Defense Forces. Citing the NYT's company policy, EI argued that the paper had a responsibility to disclose the information to readers; the NYT's foreign editor, Susan Chira, responded by email, stating (and effectively disclosing):
Ethan Bronner referred your query to me, the foreign editor. Here is my comment: Mr. Bronner's son is a young adult who makes his own decisions. At The Times, we have found Mr. Bronner's coverage to be scrupulously fair and we are confident that will continue to be the case.
If only one reporter for the New York Times would, for purposes of an experiment, announces that he/she has a son who has joined Hamas or Hizbullah forces, we would like then to see if Bill Keller would make the arguments that he has made regarding Ethan Bronner's son. I mean, Mr. Keller. Who are you kidding?
Arab-American blogger Suleika Jaouad sees the case as not being about Bronner, but as part of a larger issue:
This disturbing imbalance in the Times’ reporting on the conflict raises some serious ethical questions about Zionism in the US media. Journalist Philip Weiss, on his blog Mondoweiss, lists a few of them: how deep does it go, and will anyone ever look into it? And on from that, Why are so many of the MSM reporters on Israel/Palestine Jews with intimate ties to Israel? When do [Arab-Americans] get to cover this story?
Palestinian writer Ali Abunimah, who is a co-founder of Electronic Intifada, raises an interesting question to that effect on Twitter:
Abunimah expands on that question on Mondoweiss, then takes it a bit further. Like Jaouad, he sees the problem as going beyond the case of Ethan Bronner and toward the question of equality. After clarifying his belief that being Jewish does not pose a conflict of interest in reporting on Israel (“So anyone who says that being Jewish automatically leads to pro-Israel bias is wrong”), he brings up the example of Palestinian Times journalist Taghreed El-Khodary, saying:
Yes, recently they have had Taghreed El-Khodary in Gaza […] But here is a crucial point: El-Khodary is allowed to report only on Palestinians. Neither she nor any other Arab reporter is allowed to report on Israeli Jews. While Jews/Americans may report on Palestinians, the converse is not true. Why is this? It must be — I assume — because there is an inherent, perhaps unacknowledged assumption that an Arab/Palestinian is or will be automatically biased against Israelis/Jews. Whereas, we are supposed to accept that in no case is a Jewish reporter who identifies with Israel biased even when his son has joined an occupation army that is raiding Palestinian refugee camps and communities dozens of times per week. Seriously?
To what can we attribute this double-standard? I am afraid it smacks of racism.