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Archive for February, 2010

Do You Have to be Jewish to Report on Israel for the New York Times?

Posted by terres on February 27, 2010

Jewish Reporters in Israel and Conflicts of Interest

Ethan Bronner and Conflicts of Interest

By JONATHAN COOK

February 25, 2010

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 NYT’s 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 leftwing 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”!

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 NYT reporter was facing such a conflict long before the latest revelations surfaced. Could it be that it is actually incumbent on Bronner, as the NYT’s bureau chief, to have such a conflict of interest?

Consider this. The NYT has form when it comes to turning a blind eye to reporters with conflicts of interest in Israel — aside, I mean, from the issue of the reporters’ ethnic identification or nationality. For example, I am reminded of a recent predecessor of Bronner’s at the Jerusalem bureau — an Israeli Jew — who managed to do regular service in the Israeli army reserves even while he was covering the second intifada. I am pretty sure his bosses knew of this but, as with Bronner, did not think there were grounds for taking action.

Shortly after I wrote an earlier piece on Bronner, pointing out that most Western coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict is shaped by Jewish and Israeli journalists, and that Palestinian voices are almost entirely excluded, a Jerusalem-based bureau chief asked to meet. Over a coffee he congratulated me, adding: “I’d be fired if I wrote something like that.”

This reporter, who, unlike me, spends lots of time with the main press corps in Jerusalem, then made some interesting points. He wishes to remain anonymous but has agreed to my passing on his observations. He calls Bronner’s situation “the rule, not the exception”, adding: “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.”

He added that it is very common to hear Western reporters boasting to one another about their “Zionist” credentials, their service in the Israeli army or the loyal service of their children. “Comments like that are very common at Foreign Press Association gatherings [in Israel] among the senior, agenda-setting, elite journalists.”

My informant is highly critical of what is going on among the Jerusalem press corps, even though he admits the same charges could be levelled against him. “I’m Jewish, married to an Israeli and like almost all Western journalists live in Jewish West Jerusalem. In my free time I hang out in cafes and bars with Jewish Israelis chatting in Hebrew. For the Jewish sabbath and Jewish holidays I often get together with a bunch of Western journalists. While it would be convenient to think otherwise, there is no question that this deep personal integration into Israeli society informs our overall understanding and coverage of the place in a way quite different from a journalist who lived in Ramallah or Gaza and whose personal life was more embedded in Palestinian society.”

And now he gets to the crunch: “The degree to which Bronner’s personal life, like that of most lead journalists here, is integrated into Israeli society, makes him an excellent candidate to cover Israeli political life, cultural shifts and intellectual life. The problem is that Bronner is also expected to be his paper’s lead voice on Palestinian political life, cultural shifts and intellectual life, all in a society he has almost no connection to, deep knowledge of or even the ability to directly communicate with … The presumption that this is possible is neither fair to Bronner nor to his readers, and it’s really a shame that Western media executives don’t see the value in an Arabic-speaking bureau chief living in Ramallah and setting the agenda for the news coming out of the Palestinian territories.”

All true. But I think there is a deeper lesson from the Bronner affair. Editors who prefer to appoint Jews and Israelis to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are probably making a rational choice in news terms — even if they would never dare admit their reasoning. The media assign someone to the Jerusalem bureau because they want as much access as possible to the inner sanctums of power in a self-declared Jewish state. They believe – and they are right – that doors open if their reporter is a Jew, or better still an Israeli Jew, who has proved his or her commitment to Israel by marrying an Israeli, by serving in the army or having a child in the army, and by speaking fluent Hebrew, a language all but useless outside this small state.

Yes, Ethan Bronner is “the rule”, as my informant notes, because any other kind of journalist — the goyim, as many Israelis dismiss non-Jews — will only ever be able to scratch at the surface of Israel’s military-political-industrial edifice. The Bronners have access to power, they can talk to the officials who matter, because those same officials trust that high-powered Jewish and Israeli reporters belong in the Israeli consensus. They may be critical of the occupation, but they can be trusted to pull their punches. If they ever failed to do so, they would be ejected from the inner sanctum and a paper like the NYT would be forced to replace them with someone more cooperative.

When in later years, these Jerusalem bureau chiefs retire from the field of battle and are promoted to the rank of armchair general back at media HQ – when they become a Thomas Friedman paid to pontificate regularly on the conflict — they can be trusted to talk to those same high-placed officials, explaining their viewpoint and defending it. That is why you will not read anything in the NYT questioning the idea that Israel is a democratic state or see coverage suggesting that Israel is acting in bad faith in the peace process.

I do not want here to suggest there is anything unique about this relationship of almost utter dependence. To a degree, this is how most specialists in the mainstream media operate. Think of the local crime reporter. How effective would he be (and it is invariably a he) if he alienated the senior police officers who provide the inside information he needs for his regular supply of stories? Might he not prefer to turn a blind eye to a scoop revealing that one of his main informants is taking bribes, if publishing such a story would lose him his “access” and his posting? This is a simple cost-benefit analysis made both by the reporter and the editors who assign him that almost always favours the powerful over the weak, the interests of the journalist over the reader.

And so it is with 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.

This is a conflict of interest of the highest order. It is also the reason why they are there in the first place.

***

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jkcook.net

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To confirm Johnathan Cooks assessment, RTSF reminds its readers that as of now the entire “news” teams of both the CNN and BBC in Israel consists of Jewish “reporters.”

Come to think of it, there are very few people on the Zionist News Networks who are not Jewish, or Jewish-embedded.

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Posted in Conflicts of Interest, Gaza, Jewish-embeded, OPT, Zionist | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Afghanistan: Blood Orgy for ‘Hearts and Minds’

Posted by terres on February 24, 2010

NATO Forces Kill 48 Civilians in 9 Days

If I can’t win Afghan hearts, I’ll rip them out of their chest cages instead: Gen McKristallnacht

U.S. Special Operations Forces ordered an air strike that killed at least 27 civilians and critically wounded another 12 in southern Afghanistan, Afghan and coalition officials were reported as saying.


Gen. Stanley McChrystal tears. The commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan said he was “extremely saddened.” All he wanted was winning Afghan hearts, one way or the other. Credit: S. Sabawoon/EPA. Image may be subject to copyright. See RTSF Fair Use Notice.

The NATO commander,  U.S. Gen Stanley McChrystal, went on Kabul television yesterday to shed crocodile tears for the  “mistaken” air strike in Gujran district of Daykundi province on Sunday, which killed 27 Afghan civilians and wounded 12 others. Most of the dead and injured victims were women and children. [The government said only four women and a child were among the civilians killed. You don’t believe them?]

  • The air strike came just days after a NATO rocket attack on a house killed nine Afghan civilians.
  • An earlier NATO bombing raid in the northern province of Kunduz killed seven Afghan police officers on February 17, reports quoted hospital and government officials as saying.
  • Two day earlier, NATO admitted that their Feb. 15 air strike in southern Afghanistan had killed five civilians “accidentally” and wounded two others.

It’s difficult to believe so many civilians can be killed by “mistake” almost on a daily basis. It’s far more likely that these are calculated military tactics designed to strike fear in the hearts and minds of civilians and to dissuade them against opposing NATO occupation forces in their country.

In countries like Afghanistan, as the “Taliban” have demonstrated, fear is the ultimate weapon of “winning hearts and minds.”  That’s clearly what matters to Gen Stanley McChrystal:  Winning Afghan hearts, one way or the other!

He is not worried about committing war crimes, right now. Where would you prosecute him, in a NATO country?

Meanwhile, “a suicide bomber killed an influential Afghan leader and 13 other people in a relatively peaceful eastern province on the Pakistan border Monday, police said.”

And the US toll in Afghanistan war of occupation reached 1,006 (NATO total 1,661) with the number of soldiers killed doubling since 2009.

“As you’ve all been seeing, we’re making steady, if perhaps a bit slower than anticipated, progress [we can’t kill them all in one day,]” Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, reportedly told a news conference.

An estimated 30,000 to more than 100,000 civilian Afghans have been killed in the 9-year war of occupation imposed on them by the U.S-led NATO forces.

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Posted in Daykundi province, Gen Stanley McChrystal, Gujran district, Kunduz, NATO bombing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Israel: World’s Worst Terrorist State

Posted by terres on February 22, 2010

Israeli immigration officials copied British passports used by hit squad, ministers told

Israeli immigration officials at Tel Aviv airport secretly copied the British passports which were then used by the hit squad which assassinated a leading Hamas official, ministers have been told.

By Melissa Kite, Deputy Political Editor Daily Telegraph
Published: 9:00PM GMT 20 Feb 2010

The six British citizens whose identities were stolen and used by the killers all had their passports taken away from them briefly during routine checks at the airport, it has been claimed.

The revelation by diplomatic sources that the Foreign Office has been told that the passports were copied by Israeli officials is the first time Israel’s involvement has been directly alleged.

It will put further pressure on the Israeli government which has been at the centre of a growing diplomatic storm over its possible involvement in the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai last month.

Diplomatic sources say ministers have been briefed that the passport fraud was committed by immigration officials who stopped the British nationals, who all now live in Israel, as they went through the airport during recent trips.

The passport numbers were taken, most likely by photocopy, and then used to create new documents which were used by the hit squad.

The identities of French, German and Irish citizens were also used.

The suspects used fake passports bearing their own pictures, but the names and numbers of the innocent Europeans.

All six British passports were not biometric, which means they did not have a computer chip embedded in them and so the fraud would have been relatively straightforward, experts believe.

The revelation will put further pressure on Israel to come clean about what it knows following widespread speculation about the involvement of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, in the killing, although other organisations have not been ruled out.

Mabhouh was one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing and has been wanted by Israel for his role in the 1989 kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers on leave.

He was murdered in a Dubai hotel room in January after an elaborate plot involving at least 11 assassins, including at least one woman, posing as tourists, with some wearing wigs and false beards.

Six holders of British passports, three with Irish documents, one with a German passport and another with a French passport made up the hit team.

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, held talks with the Israeli ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, last week as the row threatened to escalate into a major diplomatic crisis.

He denied that the Government was merely “going through the motions” and described the use of fake British passports in the assassination as an “outrage”.

But the Foreign Office said it was too early to speculate on who could have carried out the identity theft.

Michael Levi, a professor of criminology at Cardiff University and an expert on identity theft, said the passports would not have been difficult to tamper with.

He said: “The sort of organisation that can pull off a hit like that will be able to make those sort of changes to a passport.”

The Conservative leader, David Cameron, said Israel must provide assurances that it would never sanction the use of UK papers in operations by its secret service.

He also called for answers from the Government about when it knew that falsified documents were used in the murder on January 20. Reports last week alleged that ministers may have had a prior tip-off.

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2010

Proetsts Should be Sent to the Local  Senior Agent of the Israeli Establishment:

Express your disgust to

In Great Britain:  David Miliband
In France: Nicolas Sarkozy
In Germany: Angela Merkel
In Ireland:  Mark “to whom it may concern” and send it top the President’s office.

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Posted in British passports, David Miliband, Israeli ambassador, Israeli immigration officials, Nicolas Sarkozy | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »