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The Conscience of the New York Times

12:45 PM, Feb 11, 2010 • By RACHEL ABRAMS
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New York Times “public editor” Clark Hoyt searched the conscience of the New York Times the other day and found it wanting. (His own came up clean as a whistle, though.) Is retaining the services of Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner moral, he wondered—spurred by protests from Electronic Intifada and FAIR—when Mr. Bronner’s son, who apparently is an Israeli citizen, has just been drafted into the IDF (where he will do only half the usual three-year stint before returning to the U.S. to finish college)? Or is the greatest newspaper in the history of newspapering making a teeny tiny little unaccustomed unprecedented error by keeping Mr. Bronner in place? “It doesn’t seem fair,” Mr. Hoyt said, “to hold a father accountable for the decision of an adult son.” And yet, more in sorrow than in anger, he found he could do no other than that very thing, suggesting Bronner be reassigned somewhere “plum” for the duration of his son’s IDF service:

[S]tepping back, this is what I see: The Times sent a reporter overseas to provide disinterested coverage of one of the world’s most intense and potentially explosive conflicts, and now his son has taken up arms for one side. Even the most sympathetic reader could reasonably wonder how that would affect the father, especially if shooting broke out.

“Taking up arms for one side?” That’s one way of describing the military service required of every citizen of a country surrounded by enemies who for more than six decades have been taking up arms for their side. In fact, it’s just the way the outraged contributors to EI and FAIR would describe it. And while we’re on the subject, “shooting” doesn’t “break out,” it’s provoked. In “one of the world’s most intense and potentially explosive conflicts” it’s provoked by bombs exploding on buses and in cafes and in nightclubs—that’s Intifada of the non-electronic kind—and rockets raining down on towns day after day; it's provoked, in other words, by the violent hatred of the Islamists for the Jews.

Mr. Bronner is no worse—and no better—than any of the other vaguely Labor-left-leaning NYT Jerusalem bureau chiefs who have preceded him. And with the full support of Executive Editor Bill Keller, et al., who for the moment at any rate see no conflict of interest, he is staying put. As for Mr. Hoyt’s attempt to placate the barking cadre of anti-Israel watchdogs by suggesting otherwise, well, even the most witless Times reporter knows what appeasement gets you.

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