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NYTimes Jerusalem bureau chief to speak on campus Tuesday

Published: January 29, 2010
Section: News

New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner will speak at Brandeis Tuesday about the challenges he faced reporting from Israel in an event entitled “Covering the Middle East in 2010: A report from the field.”

The event will be held in the International Lounge of the Usdan Student Center.

Brandeis will be the first stop on Bronner’s speaking tour, which will continue to Vassar College, UC Santa Barbara and the American Jewish University.

“You have to be aware of the anger that lies in the region and navigate your way through it safely and with a good story in hand,” Bronner said in an interview with The Hoot.

Some of the differences Bronner identified between being a reporter in Israel and in any other place in the world are the dangers and the attention you face in Israel.

“There’s a lot of pressure [in Israel], there’s no other place quite like it, quite so powerful. Its not just the Jewish Americans who care, Israel is considered the birthplace for four billion people and three major religions, There’s absolutely no way to make everyone happy because everyone has a different view and they’re hoping you choose to pick theirs,” he said. “The way to address this is by first not being a fool when you are talking to political radicals, look at what happened to Daniel Pearl, you have to think about how far your’re going to follow a story before it becomes dangerous but you also can’t have a strong ideology because then you’re going out [ to cover a story] and you’re constantly trying to prove what you believe, it better to approach it with a ‘what’s going to happen?’ mindset ‘ How is humanity going to fix itself today?’ and let that lead you to your writing.”

Another monumental change in reporting from the Middle East is the technology, Bronner said.

“In the 1980’s, when I was here, there was no pressure to report so fast. With the Internet, people are expecting news all the time, especially from Israel. Also, when you get it wrong or someone thinks you get it wrong there’s e-mail. There was none of that back then so the response to a piece is extremely different,” he said. “The technology of the violence has grown immensely. Youused to be able to drive into Gaza or cross the Lebanese border and take a cab back, there was no fear of suicide bombers and that fear makes a lot of things impossible.”

Currently Bronner feels that the Palestinian conflict is still the most important issue facing Israel.

“Israel needs to define itself, its borders, its relationships and its identity as a Jewish democracy. Yes, there’s the Iran nuclear problem but even the Defense Minister of Israel recently said that Palestine is the most important, more than all the rest, ” he said.

Soon after the September 11 terrorist attacks, Bronner wrote an article that he feels made a huge international impact and that he is most proud of.

He wrote about the American government withdrawing Full Bright scholarships to Gaza because Israel was not allowing Palestinian students to leave the area.

The next day, the Attorney General at the time, Condoleezza Rice, changed the policy after reading his article.

Bronner also had some advice for current students, particularly for aspiring journalists or writers, “In order to be the best, you have to read the best. Read it because its important to know what’s going on, but read it to understand why it’s the best, why it’s so compelling to the rest of the world. Instead of just noticing it made the front page figure out why,” he said. “You all should consider going abroad after graduation. Go somewhere far far away and teach English or volunteer. Experience learning in a new place–learn the culture and the people–you would be surprised how much happiness that can give you.”

Bronner’s trip to Brandeis is being sponsored by the Schusterman Center for Israeli studies and the Schuster Institute for Investigative Reporting.

Director of the Schusterman Center for Israeli Studies Ilan Troen said he decided to bring Bronner to campus because of how attentive the Brandeis community is toward Israeli issues.

“I have many contacts here in the states and in Israel from whom I learned that [Bronner] makes several trips a year to the States where he takes up speaking engagements before various groups, including on college campuses.

Given the interest in Israel-related topics as well as the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, I thought this would be a wonderful partnership between us as hosts to a distinguished and prize-winning reporter,” Troen said.

Troen said he chose Bronner in part because of his prestigious employer.

“We have had other important journalists and will continue to invite them. There is, though, something particular and valuable that a New York Times correspondent in Israel brings,” he said. “That is a measure of authority and objectivity as well as the likelihood that the Jerusalem post is an important way station on a significant career.”

Bronner has previously worked as a Middle East correspondent for The Boston Globe and Rueters as well as having held editorial positions at The New York Times.