Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Case of Gil Hoffman: Citizen Armies and Journalistic Ethics

Recently I went to see a talk by Gil Hoffman at a synagogue in Bridgeport. Hoffman, who is currently on a US speaking tour, is a reporter for the Jerusalem Post covering Israeli politics and government. As an Israeli citizen, he serves as a reservist in the Israeli Defense Forces -- specifically, as his JPost bio states, in the IDF "Spokesperson Unit." Obviously this is a conflict of interest, but of what magnitude? To be sure, having an army in which all citizens are required to serve presents some unique ethical conundrums for people in certain lines of work -- that is to say, some ethical dilemmas are inevitable. Mr. Hoffman is affable, funny and generally charming (one can see why he would be an effective spokesman for the IDF) but given the extremely flattering treatment of Israeli government policy that he offers in his public presentations -- he seems loath to criticize the government for anything, and flatly describes opposition to Jewish settlements in the West Bank as anti-semitism -- one has to wonder, where exactly does his journalistic duty to inform the public end and his duty to the IDF begin (and vice versa)?