‘NYT’ fails to disclose that Op-Ed author arguing Israel’s case against BDS is husband of ‘NYT’ reporter in Israel/Palestine

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
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Hirsh Goodman speaks at the State Zionist Council of Victoria in Australia. (Photo: ZCV.org/au)

Hirsh Goodman speaks at the State Zionist Council of Victoria in Australia. (Photo: ZCV.org/au)

The New York Times Sunday Review this week reflects the growing consensus that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is the main game in town.  Two columns on BDS are published: one by Omar Barghouti, a leading advocate for BDS, and the other by Hirsh Goodman, an Israeli-South African analyst who is also the husband of Isabel Kershner–a New York Times reporter based in Jerusalem.

The column by Goodman is noteworthy for two reasons.  The first reasons is that the Times doesn’t see fit to disclose that they’re partners.  This is a pattern for the “paper of record” when it comes to Goodman and Kershner.  In 2012, I authored a piece in Fairness and Accuracy and Reporting’s magazine pointing out that Kershner had repeatedly cited the Institute for National Security Studies as a source, without disclosing to readers that her husband, Goodman, worked as a senior research fellow for the leading Israeli think tank.  Goodman’s job there–I’ve since been told he has left–was to help shape Israel’s image in the media.

Now we have Goodman writing in the Times.  At the very least, the paper should disclose their relationship, a relationship that reflects how deeply embedded in Israeli society Kershner and other Times correspondents are.  It’s also relevant because Kershner reports on the very same issue that Goodman is writing on–the boycott movement.  The Times’ ethics code states:

Staff members must be sensitive that perfectly proper political activity by their spouses, family or companions may nevertheless create conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflict…

Staff members must be sensitive to these possibilities. Any staff member who sees a potential for conflict or a threat to the paper’s reputation in the activities of spouse, friends or relatives must discuss the situation with his or her supervising editor and the standards editor or the deputy editorial page editor. In some cases, disclosure is enough. But if The Times considers the problem serious, the staff member may have to withdraw from certain coverage

The second, and more important reason, that Goodman’s column is noteworthy is that it reflects growing liberal Israeli panic about BDS.  He argues that Israel is losing the narrative in the West, and that the only way to stave off more boycotts is a two-state solution brokered by John Kerry.  This argument has been aired in recent days by Tzipi Livni, Israel’s representative in the peace talks.

Goodman is spot-on when he writes that Israel’s addiction to West Bank settlements and anti-democratic measures in the Knesset are at the root of Israel’s problems with the world. But he won’t admit that BDS is growing because it reflects a fundamental truth about Israel as a state addicted to settlement expansion, all at the expense of the human rights of Palestinians. Here’s Goodman on why Israel is not South Africa:

In apartheid South Africa, people disappeared in the night without the protection of any legal process and were never heard from again. There was no freedom of speech or expression and more “judicial” hangings were reportedly carried out there than any place on earth. There was no free press and, until January 1976, no public television. Masses of black people were forcibly moved from tribal lands to arid Bantustans in the middle of nowhere. A “pass system” stipulated where blacks could live and work, splitting families and breaking down social structures, to provide cheap labor for the mines and white-owned businesses, and a plentiful pool of domestic servants for the white minority. Those found in violation were arrested, usually lashed, and sentenced to stints of hard labor for a few shillings per prisoner per day, payable to the prison service.

None of this even remotely exists in Israel, or the occupied territories. But, increasingly, in the mind of the world it does.

So the world is deluded. Except that it’s not.

In occupied Palestine, children are awoken by gun-toting teenage soldiers for allegedly throwing stones, and taken to prison where they’re tortured and interrogated, all without a lawyer or due process. In occupied Palestine, Israeli military law prohibits protests and gatherings of more than 10 people without a permit.  In occupied Palestine–and Israel proper–Palestinians are forced off their lands; some of them go on to work in the same settlements that confiscated their family’s land.  In occupied Palestine, a permit system regulates and infringes on Palestinian freedom of movement.

And in a bout of liberal Zionist schizophrenia, Goodman concedes those points a few paragraphs later:

The “apartheid wall,” “apartheid roads,” colonization, administrative arrests, travel restrictions, land confiscations and house demolitions are the clay apartheid comparisons are made of, and can be neither hidden nor denied, for as long as Israel continues with the status quo. Military occupation comes with checkpoints, antiterrorist barriers, military courts, armed soldiers and tanks. That’s the reality, no matter what your politics, and just the ammunition the Palestinians and their supporters need in their new war.

But Goodman is again spot-on in his peace process discussion.  He’s right that “Israel cannot win unless it makes peace.”  That may be the most compelling reason why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would agree to a framework agreement with the Palestinians. 

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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