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‘Times’ troika of Keller, Hoyt & Bronner were involved in earlier conflict-of-interest

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The revelation that the son of Ethan Bronner, Jerusalem bureau chief for the Times, entered the Israeli military brought charges that the Times has a conflict of interest on one of the most important stories on the planet. Times public editor Clark Hoyt has said that Bronner should leave his post. But Times executive editor Bill Keller has stuck by his man in J’lem.  

Well, here is another charge of conflict of interest involving Israel/Palestine coverage in the Times, and all three characters show up here too: Clark Hoyt, Bill Keller, and Ethan Bronner. The yarn:

In September 2007 The New York Times Magazine ran a lengthy profile of diamond merchant Lev Leviev, written by former Israeli government spokesman Zev Chafets. The piece, titled "Missionary Mogul," somehow completely failed to mention Leviev’s investments in building several settlements on the West Bank that are illegal under international law.

Disturbed by the puff-piece, Adalah NY, which has conducted a boycott against Leviev precisely because of this illegal-settlement activity, sent a courteous and informative letter to Times management urging the paper to cover Leviev’s activities "which the public deserves to know." It got no response.

Meantime, within a couple of weeks of that valentine to Leviev from–sorry to repeat myself– former Israeli government spokesman Zev Chafets, Leviev began placing quarter-page ads on The New York Times op-ed page. According to Adalah, as of last year the Times had run at least a dozen Leviev ads.

(In 2007, too, Leviev’s Africa-Israel real estate company bought the former headquarters of the Times for $525 million, from an owner to whom the Times had sold it three years earlier.)

In December 2007, Bronner, who was then a deputy news editor at the Times, overseeing reporting from Palestine and Israel, gave a talk at Alwan for the Arts, the Arab center on Wall Street. Adalah was there and later stated: "In the question and answer session Adalah-NY representative Issa Mikel noted some of [Times reporter] Steven Erlanger’s good reporting on the plight of the West Bank village of Jayyous, but added that Erlanger had not reported on Leviev’s role in building settlements in Jayyous and other locations. Mr. Bronner answered, ‘Yes,’ in response to Mr. Mikel’s question about whether The Times would follow up on issues relating to Leviev."

But there was no coverage of Leviev’s settlement activity. And in February 2008, two Adalah leaders wrote a second, stiff letter to the Times, copied to Bronner, Clark Hoyt and Bill Keller, saying that the newspaper had a conflict of interest.

"Since the start of our [boycott] campaign, Leviev’s human rights abuses have been covered by The New York Post twice, The Forward twice, Democracy Now, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv, Yedioth Ahronoth, multiple jewelry industry publications and the UK-based Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. To eliminate the appearance of possible conflict of interest and impropriety created by Leviev’s large payments to The New York Times for ads and The Times’ simultaneous failure to correct the record and report critically on Lev Leviev’s activities in Palestine, Angola and New York City, we believe it is now imperative that The New York Times address the serious deficiencies we have noted in its reporting on Leviev.

"Thank you, Ethan Heitner and Riham Barghouti."

I covered this issue in 2009. Now it’s 2010, and Adalah’s anti-Leviev campaign has gotten extensive coverage in the last year. But the Times has still not covered Leviev’s activities in the West Bank–nor the boycott of his business that has begun to bite.

The importance of the campaign against Leviev is reflected by anti-settlement activist Abdullah Abu Rahme in his Jan. 1 letter from Israel prison

"In my village, Bil’in, Israeli tycoon, Lev Leviev and Africa-Israel, the corporation he controls, are implicated in illegal construction of settlements on our stolen land, as well as the lands of many other Palestinian villages and cities. Adalah-NY is leading an international campaign to show Leviev that war crimes have their price…

The Times has several times covered the Bi’lin protests, and mentioned Rahme. But it has never mentioned the Leviev angle: his involvement with Matityahu East, the settlement built on Bil’in’s land.

Sure smells fishy to me. Throw in Chafets working for the Israeli government, Leviev’s ad buys, Bronner’s son in the IDF, Bronner’s marriage to an Israeli, and the fact that the other Times correspondent is an Israeli married to an Israeli and… hey, it’s Chinatown, Jake. 

Postscript:

Adalah will have another protest this Saturday at Leviev’s jewelry store in Manhattan. There will be funny jingles. Will the Times be there? 

Apropos of Rahme, who is now sitting in Israeli prison for leading the movement protesting the theft of the village’s land to expand the Leviev-built settlement, the Times has published Bono complaining on its op-ed page about the lack of a Palestinian Gandhi, and columnist Nicholas Kristof has been on Facebook wishing the Palestinians would take up non-violence. Well, the Leviev campaign is non-violent.

It only gets worse. A recent expose in Yediot, in Israel, fingers Leviev as one of the leaders of the Bukharan Community Trust, which is funding the construction of the police station in the major settlement flashpoint known as the E-1 corridor, which will connect Ma’ale Adumim to E. Jerusalem, cutting off the southern West Bank from the northern two thirds:

"E-1 is an area that spans from East Jerusalem to the large settlement of Maale Adumim. The area is not large, however a simple glance at the map reveals its strategic importance. If Israel is able to expand the settlement of Maale Adumim to the west, the Palestinians will be unable to have territorial contiguity between the northern West Bank and southern parts of the West Bank: the future Palestinian state will remain carved and free movement of Palestinians will be possible, if at all, only through the Jordan Valley. This is why for the Palestinians this a matter of life and death and the Americans have strictly forbidden Israel to build in the area. The construction of the Samaria and Judea District Police headquarters is the only breach of the status quo noted to date."

Where’s the Times?

Lately, a Danish bank blacklisted Leviev’s Africa-Israel because of its settlement construction. The story made Globes, an Israeli financial wire, but not the Times. 

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