Ethan Bronner published an article in the New York Times yesterday concerning the Israeli response to the Goldstone report – the Goldstone report, of course, was the UN commissioned report to look into the destruction of Gaza during operation Cast Lead last year. Originally, Israel dismissed the report as anti-semitic and useless (it still considers it anti-semitic), but the attention the report received around the world has forced Israel to reconsider. Interestingly, Bronner’s article in the NYT was much more sympathetic to Israel than a similar report in Haaretz by Amos Harel. Bronner’s article has created quite a stir over two [tweetmeme] different, but related subjects. Firstly, Israel’s report is undoubtedly inadequate and simply an attempt to convince the world of Israeli innocence; and secondly, Bronner’s article is biased.
According to Bronner, the original Israel investigation was originally done by a former IDF intelligence officer. The findings were then given to a general that is independent of the IDF command structure, but who offered advice on targets before the operation:
So in November, Brig. Gen. Yuval Halamish, a former intelligence commander, led an investigation that involved scores of interviews of Israeli soldiers and Palestinian witnesses as well as reviewing military videotape and photographs. He submitted his findings to General Mandelblit, who is independent of the command structure but who wears a uniform, offered legal advice on targets before the operation and is widely seen as an insider.
Haaretz reports that the upcoming Israeli response to the Goldstone report will be done by a committee if Israeli jurists that will be able to question the writers of the original report, but will lack to ability to interview Palestinians or IDF soldiers or commanders. The goal of the committee will not be to look into the allegations of war crimes, but rather to simply judge whether the original investigation was accurate and complete. As Richard Silverstein points out, the committee will only be to give the perception that Israel is taking the report seriously while concurrently limiting the committee’s capacity to investigate the accusation that Israel targeted civilian infrastructure:
The goal is to limit any inquiry to the specific question: did Israel systematically target Gaza civilian infrastructure for destruction.
The committee in addition to having a limited capacity will be staffed by Israeli and international jurists. One of the possible international jurists could be the unbiased Alan Dershowitz (remember the defense team of OJ Simpson and the author of such classics as “The Phony War Crimes Accusation Against Israel,” “Israel is Well Within Its Rights,” “Hamas’ War Crimes” and – my favorite – “Israel’s Actions Are Lawful and Commendable.”). Furthermore, the Israeli government has not decided whether to allow an independent review of its investigation. One possible review would be to allow independent investigators to review the rebuttal, but to refuse them the ability to recall witnesses. The case would then be permanently shut.
Clearly, Israel is not putting a true and thorough investigation into the claims of the Goldstone report. Its refusal to allow an independent committee is astonishing and its personal review committee is littered with Israeli apologists.
The second contention is that Bronner provides biased reporting on the issue.
Indeed, Bronner’s article reads like a preview of the Israeli committee’s inevitable decision. In the article, Bronner cites two accusations of the Goldstone report in an overly simplistic manner and then explains the Israeli response. Furthermore, he quotes two Israeli officers who predictably state that the Goldstone report was biased against Israel and that the findings were inaccurate. In fact, to prove that the report was too harsh on Israel, he uses the findings of the Arab League – whose own investigation was much more harsh than Goldstone and included accusations of Genocide.
By quoting only those officials that disagree with the findings of the Goldstone report, Bronner is only presenting one side of the story; not once in the article does Bronner cite evidence from the report or cite supporters of Goldstone. Such blatant one-sided reporting is contrary to journalistic ethics. It is fine to report on those who oppose the Goldstone report, but without equal coverage from the supporters of the report, Bronner’s article is more of a press release for the Israeli rebuttal than honest and fair reporting.
Indeed, Bronner has been accused of biased reporting in the past. One of his greatest critics is Richard Silvershein who looks at bias in Bronner’s reporting here, here, here and here. To put more fuel on the fire, there has been recent speculation that Bronner’s son is in the IDF – a clear conflict of interest. Electric Intifada wonders how the NYT would react if one of its reporters had a son who was in Hezbollah or Hamas while a Chicago-based blogger continues the different scenarios “what about an reporter in Beirut whose son joined Hezbollah? Or, for that matter, a Pentagon reporter whose son just joined the marines to fight in Afghanistan?”
If the rumor about Bronner’s son is true, his journalistic credibility is shattered – something that would justify the criticism that he has received over the years. Such an event would also explain why Bronner wrote such a one-sided article about Israel’s attempt to protect itself from true investigation.
Some critics of Israel’s upcoming committee have pointed to the release date of the Israeli rebuttal – sometime near International Holocaust Day – as a PR scheme by Israel to garner sympathy. It seems logical to me that Israeli leaders would be traveling to Berlin, Auschwitz, Budapest and the UN in New York for International Holocaust Day. The timing of the report may bring support and sympathy to Israel, but the travel plans of the Israeli leaders is no reason to accuse the Jewish nation of exploiting the Holocaust.