‘NYT’ fails to disclose Kershner’s tie to Israeli government-linked think tank

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 20 Comments
(Photo: MediaBistro.com)

You would think that after the controversies involving New York Times reporter Ethan Bronner, the former Jerusalem bureau chief, the paper would be extra-careful about its Israel/Palestine coverage. But you would be wrong.

There is no disclosure to readers of the New York Times that Isabel Kershner, a Jerusalem correspondent for the Times, is married to Hirsh Goodman, who works for a government-linked Israeli think tank called the Institute for National Security Studies. Specifically, Goodman is the senior research fellow and director of the Charles and Andrea Bronfman Program on Information Strategy, tasked with shaping a positive image of Israel in the media.

(Readers of Mondoweiss will be familiar with this story–see posts on Goodman and Kershner here, here, and here.)

That’s the subject of a new report I authored that appears in the latest issue of Extra!, a magazine published by the media watchdog group FAIR.

Here are some excerpts:

The Institute for National Security Studies is well-connected to both the Israeli government and its military. Many of its associates come from government or military careers; its website boasts of the group’s “strong association with the political and military establishment.” In 2010, according to INSS financial documents, the Israeli government gave the institute about $72,000.

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz (10/5/08) identified INSS-produced papers as backing the “Dahiyah doctrine,” an Israeli military doctrine that calls for disproportionate force to be used on civilian infrastructure in Gaza and Lebanon during operations against Hamas and Hezbollah. The doctrine was applied in 2008–09 during Israel’s invasion of Gaza, and was cited, along with the INSS papers, in the UN Goldstone report, which accused Israel of committing possible war crimes (9/25/09).

Goodman’s job within that context is spin. “The media is of strategic importance in a political and military conflict, since it has a formative influence on the degree of legitimacy that each side enjoys,” he writes in an explanation of the Bronfman Program on the INSS website. “Israel must devise a strategy to impact positively on international and Arab public opinion and overall disseminate its message more effectively.”

The INSS is certainly disseminating its message effectively in the Times. From 2009–12, there were 17 articles Kershner wrote or contributed to where officials from the INSS were quoted


It’s normal, of course, for Kershner to have sources in a well-connected and respected institution like the INSS, and she has never used her husband as a source. But it’s extraordinary to report on Israel/Palestine without ever disclosing to readers the tie Kershner has to someone in the heart of Israel’s security establishment whose job is precisely to make sure that Israel receives favorable media coverage.

Media ethics expert Kevin Smith, the chair of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Ethics Committee and an instructor at James Madison University, says that Kershner’s case is a “basic ethics 101 lesson.” In an email, Smith explained: “Repeatedly going to that agency for information still raises serious questions…. The relationship that develops here is not healthy for unbiased news coverage. It’s too awash with personal connections.”

He added that, “at the very least, disclosure is demanded…. You cannot expect trust or to maintain credibility from the public when, before they read a word of your copy, you have engaged in an act of deception by not disclosing your potential conflicts.”

The New York Times did not return requests for comment on this story.

Read the whole article at FAIR’s website here, and check out Max Blumenthal’s take here.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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20 Responses

  1. seanmcbride
    May 3, 2012, 12:33 pm

    I am embarrassed to confess that I once believed that the New York Times was the greatest newspaper on the planet and didn’t understand that it was a crude propaganda platform for a foreign government. Live and learn. Many Americans are now much more savvy about the New York Times than they were before the Iraq War.

    For Semantic Web enthusiasts:

    1. category; Hirsh Goodman affiliation; INSS (Institute for National Security Studies)
    2. category; Hirsh Goodman wife; Isabel Kershner
    3. category; Isabel Kershner affiliation; New York Times
    4. category; Isabel Kershner husband; Hirsh Goodman
    5. vector; Israel > INSS (Institute for National Security Studies) > Hirsh Goodman > Isabel Kershner > New York Times

  2. pabelmont
    May 3, 2012, 12:48 pm

    As McBride suggests, who goes to bed with a pro-Likud propagandist wakes up with pro-Likud fleas. Hope the NYT itches a bit.

  3. Annie Robbins
    May 3, 2012, 12:50 pm

    killer alex, you so rock.

    An examination of articles that Kershner has written or contributed to since 2009 reveals that she overwhelmingly relies on the INSS for think tank analysis about events in the region.

    just pillow talk no doubt eh Isabel?

  4. Annie Robbins
    May 3, 2012, 12:53 pm

    from fair

    It’s normal, of course,for Kershner to have sources in a well-connected and respected institution like the INSS, and she has never used her husband as a source.

    she doesn’t have to, he can feed her his sources directly during the lube job.

  5. HarryLaw
    May 3, 2012, 1:26 pm

    Fellow Mondoweiss users Isabel Kershners Husband has urged the Government of Israel to treat threats to its image as acts of war, and to respond in kind. Max Blumenthal http://english.al-akhbar.com/blogs/gadfly/another-major-conflict-interest-ny-times-jerusalem-bureau. What does that mean? So tone it down, for myself I will not post another comment, did you hear that Herr Lieberman.

    • pabelmont
      May 3, 2012, 3:46 pm

      HarryLaw: your link failed of specificity. I want to hear what Lieberman said.

  6. HarryLaw
    May 3, 2012, 5:05 pm

    Pabelmont , Looks ok to me, I did not quote Herr Lieberman, I just don’t want his goons hunting me down because of any critisism I might make of Israel,which I have never done, and never will, honest, sorry about the misunderstanding.

  7. HRK
    May 3, 2012, 5:38 pm

    When the NYT does these things, they’re not just being biased against the Palestinians. They’re being biased against everyone except Jews. I take offense that this paper would exhibit this kind of ethnic favoritism.

    Have they no shame?

  8. eGuard
    May 3, 2012, 5:53 pm

    Let me guess: this another NYT reporter lives in a stolen house.

  9. mudder
    May 3, 2012, 6:56 pm

    Outstanding investigative reporting!

  10. Les
    May 3, 2012, 7:45 pm

    Jodi Rudoren sent to Tel Aviv to recycle Ethan Bronner — Palestinians just now turning to nonviolent resistance, just now, that is.

    Palestinian Resistance Shifts to Hunger Strikes
    By JODI RUDOREN 40 minutes ago
    Khader Adnan, left, a senior member of Islamic Jihad, had been on hunger strike for 66 days before his release from an Israeli prison last month.

    With the peace process stalled, analysts see nonviolent resistance as a critical tactic for the Palestinian national movement.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/04/world/middleeast/palestinian-resistance-shifts-to-hunger-strikes.html 7:40 PM

    • Annie Robbins
      May 3, 2012, 8:05 pm

      hmm, i didn’t read it that way les. and she didn’t say they are just now turning to nonviolent resistance. she said they were shifting their resistance to hunger strikes, and they are. i rather like the way she wrote about the hunger strikers.

      • Les
        May 3, 2012, 9:22 pm

        If a reporter only implies, he or she are freed from the nasty charge that they are lying. Note takers will agree that this is effective propaganda.

      • Annie Robbins
        May 3, 2012, 10:01 pm

        If a reporter only implies, he or she are freed from the nasty charge that they are lying.

        les, perhaps if you grabbed some of the text from the article and blockquoted it i might better understand your point.

        KHARAS, West Bank — The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.

        Each day since April 17, scores of Palestinian prisoners have joined a hunger strike that officials say now counts more than 1,500 participants. And on Thursday, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of detainees said that if Israel did not yield to their demands for improved prison conditions, the remaining 3,200 would soon join in.


        “I am a man who loves life, and I want to live in dignity,” the other man, Thaer Halahleh, 33, testified, according to an advocacy group that had a supporter in the courtroom. “No human can accept being in jail for one hour without any charge or reason.” .

        that’s the opening. i liked it. this was interesting too:

        Prisoners play a crucial emotional and political role in Palestinian culture. Virtually every family has been touched by incarceration, experts say, and there is a visceral sense of allegiance to people viewed as suffering for the broader community’s rights. The prisoners are highly organized, and influential even on the outside.

        On Thursday in Ramallah, 300 women marched to Al Manara Square, chanting, “Yes for hunger strike, no to submission” and “Down with the olive branch, long live the rifle.” By late afternoon, hundreds of protesters carrying Palestinian flags had gathered outside Ramle Prison, where many of the strikers are held, near Ben-Gurion International Airport in Israel, and scuffles broke out between the police and demonstrators. Several people were arrested.

        “There’s a real transformation in the way the prisoners are working — this time, people are willing to die,” Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a recent interview. “Look, the Palestinians may be quiet for a while, but they may erupt. There’s a sinking-in of the idea that nonviolent resistance gets results.”

        is there a particular segment you found suggestive (lying) in a way you didn’t like? maybe i just read it wrong. i value your opinion, or i wouldn’t ask.

      • Les
        May 4, 2012, 12:08 pm

        “Hunger striking by Palestinian prisoners is not a new tactic. According to the Palestine Solidarity Project, the tactic was first used in the Nablus prison in 1968 and has been repeated at least 15 times since, with three men dying over the years.
        . . .
        With the peace process stalled and internal Palestinian politics adrift, many analysts here see nonviolent resistance as a critical tactic for the Palestinian national movement, and the hunger strike as a potential catalyst to bring an Arab Spring-style uprising to the West Bank.

        While the revolutions around the region have helped elevate support for the Palestinian cause, they have also undermined the leadership it has long relied on, and until now the streets here have largely remained quiet.”

        While she does mention that hunger strikes are not new, she fails to mention that they have remained unknown to Americans thanks to the silence of reporters working for the US media.

        By failing to mention that it is Israel (as always, abetted by the US) which is the party responsible for the stalled talks and then, in the same sentence, declaring internal Palestinian politics to be “adrift,” what are people supposed to conclude other than it is the Palestinians who are responsible for the stalled talks.

        Referring to nonviolent resistance as a “catalyst” implies it is something new added to the mix. Does she not mention that nonviolent resistance has always been a Palestinian tactic to oppose their occupation and ethnic cleansing, because she is unaware of that fact?

        What planet has Rudoren been living on that she can seriously write that “until now the streets here have largely remained quiet.”

  11. dbroncos
    May 3, 2012, 7:52 pm

    Goodman’s job within that context is spin…he writes in an explanation of the Bronfman Program on the INSS website. “Israel must devise a strategy to impact positively on international and Arab public opinion and overall disseminate its message more effectively.”


    “Isabel must devise a strategy to impart propaganda on international and Arab opinian and overall distort Israel’s message more effectively.”

  12. Kate
    May 4, 2012, 1:32 am


    “By including digital subscribers, he said, circulation figures “better reflect the marketplace reality where readers are being counted, whether they are reading online or in print, and these new metrics are showing a strong demand for journalism in our chaotic information environment.’’

    That demand was perhaps best exemplified by The New York Times’s dramatic 73 percent increase in total circulation in the six-month report, fueled in large part by digital gains. The Audit Bureau of Circulations said the Times online now has more subscribers than the newspaper’s print version. Average digital circulation was 807,026, compared with print circulation of 779,731, for a total of 1,586,757.”

  13. Sin Nombre
    May 4, 2012, 6:36 am

    Now now, you guys can take this too far you know. You’re acting like you’d have had some problem with Magda Goebbels covering Nazi Germany for the Times back in those days.

  14. casaananda
    May 4, 2012, 6:59 am

    Some people just now waking up to the fact that the NYT is not a fair news organization, at least with regard to I/P? O, give me a break.
    As a journalism student at Columbia in 1975 I wrote the very first long report on conditions and attitudes in Gaza after a month there. The NYT claimed serious interest but then sat on the story for a year and finally, literally, threw it back at me (85 pages of hard copy) angrily. THAT was not a report the world was ought to read, according to the NYT.
    And what about the NYT coverage in the lead up to the assault on Iraq in 2003? Remember that travesty?
    BUT, if I were Jewish, and many at the NYT are, it is not all that likely that I would not be at least marginally biased in favor of Zionists, whether on the far right or of a more liberal persuasion.

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