Jonathan Cook argues that conflict of interest,
in the sense of being immersed in,
and having a symbiotic relationship with,
the Israeli Zionist elite while purporting to be neutral,
appears to have become a prerequisite for being a Western media bureau chief or senior editor in Israel.
”Like the crime reporter, our Jerusalem bureau chief needs his ‘access’ more than he needs the occasional scoop
that would sabotage his relationship with official sources.
But more so than the crime reporter,
many of these bureau chiefs also identify with Israel and its goals
because they have an Israeli spouse and children.
They not only live on one side of a bitter national conflict
but actively participate in defending that side through service in its military.”
A recent assignment of mine covering Israel’s presumed links
to the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh
provoked some more thoughts about the New York Times reporter Ethan Bronner.
He is the Jerusalem bureau chief who has been at the centre of a controversy
since it was revealed last month that his son is serving in the Israeli army.
Despite mounting pressure to replace Bronner,
the New York Times’ editors have so far refused to consider that he might be facing a conflict of interest
or that it would be wiser to post him elsewhere.
Last week, when suspicion for the assassination in Dubai started to fall on the Mossad,
a newspaper editor emailed to ask if I could ring up my “Israeli security contacts” for fresh leads.
It was a reminder that Western correspondents in Israel are expected to have such contacts.
The point was underlined later the same day
when I spoke with a left-wing Israeli academic to get his take on Mabhouh’s killing.
I had turned to this Ashkenazi professor because he counts many veterans of the security services as friends.
At the end of the interview,
I asked him if he had any suggestions for people in the security services I might speak with.
He replied: “Talk to Eitan Bronner.
He has excellent contacts.”
Naively, I asked how I could reach this expert on the veiled world of the Israeli security establishment.
Was he employed at the professor’s university?
“No, ring the New York Times bureau,” he responded increduously.
Oh, -that- “Eitan”!
“I can think of a dozen foreign bureau chiefs,
responsible for covering both Israel and the Palestinians,
who have served in the Israeli army,
and another dozen who like Bronner have kids in the Israeli army.”
A more interesting question than whether Bronner is now facing a conflict of interest over his son serving in the Israeli army
is whether the New York Times reporter was facing such a conflict
long before the latest revelations surfaced.
Could it be that it is actually incumbent on Bronner,
as the New York Times’ bureau chief,
to have such a conflict of interest?