She’s Em Bed with the Israelis: Kershner and the NY Times

By Ira Glunts

The New York Times has always been known for its pro-Israel coverage. However, their present team of Isabele Kershner and Ethan Bronner have raised the degree of biased reporting to a new level of distortion.

The other day, Isabele Kershner presented a "scoop" that surely made her controversial boss proud. Her superior, Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan “AbuBenTzali*” Bronner, has been criticized for his lack of objectivity, but his colleague Kershner showed that she too can compose pro-Israel news stories. 

Kershner reports in "Israel Seeks To Mend Rift With The U.S." (March 17) that the octogenarian Israeli President, Shimon Peres, whom she incorrectly implies has a moderating effect on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, floated a bridging proposal which was meant to mend the current rift between feuding American and Israeli officials.

Peres sought to introduce a distinction between building colonies on open land in and around occupied East Jerusalem (presumably OK) and building within already existing Arab neighborhoods there, which usually entails booting out Palestinian residents (presumably, not helpful.) Both practices are equally illegal and threaten the Arab presence in the city. The first, which has been going on for over forty years, is actually the most significant in terms of altering the demographics of the area, although the second has recently generated spirited demonstrations and much bad publicity. The Obama administration has explicitly called for a halt to all new settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Americans would surely dismiss Peres’ meaningless distinction, which Kershner finally acknowledges in her last paragraph.

Shimon Peres, who is a former Israeli Prime Minister, has had a more than six decade career as an important Israeli politician. However, he now occupies the ceremonial position of President and his real influence on policy has diminished to close to zero. What makes Peres’ thoughts newsworthy is anyone’s guess. It definitely is not the modest venue in which he chose to “float” (Kershner’s word) the proposal, which is an elementary school in a suburb of Tel Aviv!  This is decidedly an odd place to test out thoughts on foreign diplomacy. One wonders if Kershner personally attended the event or was it covered by a local “stringer.” Maybe some precocious and enterprising sixth grader tipped the paper about the Peres statement.

After it was made public recently that Ethan Bronner’s son had enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), his editor Bill Keller dismissed charges of conflict of interest arguing that the fact that his star correspondent’s family is embedded in the Israeli culture only increases the quality of his contacts and enhances his understanding of events. I suppose that Kershner, who like Bronner, is married to an Israeli and is said to be more embedded than even AbuBenTzali, could possibly have a son or daughter in the class that hosted Peres. How is that for having contacts that most American reporters lack! 

Reporting the non-story of Shimon Peres’ meaningless proposal is only one small example of the bizarre lengths that Bronner and Kershner will go in order to make Israel look good. In fact in the same piece, Kershner leads with the claim that Netanyahu’s quick and official repudiation of his crackpot brother-in-law’s accusation that President Obama is an anti-Semite is an indication that the Israeli Prime Minister is trying to be conciliatory. Yet later on in the article she admits that Netanyahu shows no inclination to budge on the very issue that caused the flap: building in East Jerusalem.

Clark Hoyt, the Public Editor of the Times, recommended that Bronner be reassigned, since readers “don’t expect a correspondent sent to cover an intense overseas conflict to wind up heavily invested in one side….” This prescription should also apply to Kershner, whose life and writing, like Bronner’s clearly points to the fact that she is “em bed” with the Israelis.

*AbuBenTzali may be translated from Arabic and Hebrew as “Father of Kid IDF.”

– Ira Glunts first visited the Middle East in 1972, where he taught English and physical education in a small rural community in Israel. He was a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces in 1992. He lives in Madison, New York where he writes, works as a college librarian and operates a used and rare book business with his wife. He contributed this article to Contact him at: gluntsi[at]

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