The New York Times has published an exchange between its public editor Clark Hoyt, who says that Ethan Bronner should be taken off the Jerusalem beat (the outcome I thought would ensue when Bronner’s son entered the Israeli army and the fit hit the shan), and Bill Keller, the executive editor, who digs in his heels on Bronner’s behalf and protests too much. Keller makes the following statement:
If we send a Jewish correspondent to Jerusalem, the zealots on one side will accuse him of being a Zionist and on the other side of being a self-loathing Jew, and then they will parse every word he writes to find the phrase that confirms what they already believe while overlooking all evidence to the contrary.
There are a couple of problems with this hypothetical. 1, It’s not a hypothetical: The Times has sent not one but two Jewish correspondents to Jerusalem! 2, I believe that Bronner is a Zionist. I’m not certain, but I believe that if he were at all honest about his ideas about the Jewish state–ideas that we as readers have a right to know about, given the place we’re all in in history right now, and the dual-loyalty issues that Zionism created, and that Arthur Hays Sulzberger the late publisher of the Times anticipated that it would create–then we would know him to be a Zionist. That was the vibe I got at his lecture the other day: he’s emotionally invested in the idea of a Jewish state. He should talk openly about this. Many, many American Jews are Zionists, and Keller shouldn’t put them on the defensive. Why is it an "accusation" to say someone is a Zionist? Many people think that’s a good thing; Dershowitz says supporting Israel is the secular religion of American Jews.
I think Keller’s decision not to move Bronner (for now; we still might get a trainwreck/climbdown) is defensible; but consider: both Jerusalem correspondents are Jewish, one is Israeli, and both are married to Israelis. That’s a lot of Israelness. I bet a few members of that menage are Zionists.
This controversy, and Keller’s stand, leave the Times with no choice: It must assign an Arab-American reporter to Jerusalem. Or not even an American. If it had any stones, it would seek to elevate Taghreed El-Khodary, the fabulous correspondent it has in Gaza. And I wonder what the Israelis would do when she applied to enter the country.