Politico’s Dylan Byers interviews new New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren about her recent Twitter controversy. Too bad she seems to refer to Ali Abunimah as an “extremist” (“of course I will talk to him. And I will talk to extremists on both sides”) whatever that means. (Update: Actually, in reading it over, I don’t think she’s calling Abunimah an extremist, but it is a little unclear)
From the interview:
What is your response to the suggestion that you’re showing anti-Zionist bias?
It’s wildly premature to assess my biases. I have written nothing, other than a few tweets. It is certainly possible, as some have suggested, that I was not careful enough in what I wrote in some tweets, and what exactly I tweeted. But I hardly think that the half-a-dozen or dozen tweets that I’ve sent out in the last 24 hours add up to anything. This is a fleeting medium, in which you react to what you see. So some of the retweets that I’ve done happened to be what I was reading at that moment. It was not a comprehensive review.
Let’s take the two things that people have criticized most in succession:
The first was what I wrote to Ali Abuminah [the editor of Electronic Intifada]. I meant to write him a Direct Message and I instead hit reply. That isn’t an excuse — I don’t mind that people saw it — but it wasn’t intended to be for the public, it was intended to be for him.
But yes, of course I will talk to him. And I will talk to extremists on both sides. And I will talk to moderates. I will talk to lots and lots of people from all sides of this conflict… I will not apologize for reaching out to Ali Abuminah; he seems to be an important person to me. Anyone who thinks that I shouldn’t talk to him doesn’t understand how we do our jobs.
But anyone who thinks I shouldn’t talk to him — I want to talk to them, too. Adam Kredo [a reporter at Washington Free Beacon] said I didn’t respond to him, but I never heard from Adam. So I emailed him back, but I haven’t heard from him. But I would be eager to talk to him about anything.
In terms of Peter Beinart’s book, I will absolutely not apologize for thinking that this is a good book. Peter is someone I’ve known for 20 years, he’s a journalist, he’s written a really interesting book. I don’t agree with everything in the book, I don’t even have an opinion about the arguments in the book, but it’s really well written, it’s really provocative, there’s tons of reporting in it with things people don’t know. I think people should read it. I think hard-right Zionists should read it and Palestinian activists should read it. And you American Jews, who are really the audience for the book, should read it.
I will not apologize for tweeting about the book at all. Will I tweet about books written by people more closely aligned with Netanyahu? Absolutely. I’m reading one book at a time. I expect to have a long and robust and diverse reading list, and when the spirit moves me I may tweet about it.
Rudoren also talked with Marc Tracy at Tablet:
On her tweet praising Peter Beinart’s book.
I did write that tweet carefully with my role in mind. I’m trying to read widely right now on this issue. This happens to be the thing I just read. And it’s a really good book! It doesn’t mean I agree with his argument. It’s readable, it’s filled with new reporting, and its provocative. That’s a journalist’s take on another journalist’s book. He’s obviously more of an advocacy journalist than I am. It doesn’t mean I think his argument is correct, it doesn’t mean I think everyone should line up behind him. It’s well-written, it’s filled with interesting reporting and facts. I’ll say it on any medium you want. I expect some of the books I read from the Palestinian perspective and from the Likud perspective will be good books, and I expect some of them to be crappy!
My editorialization: re-reading this, her balancing “Palestinian” and “Likud” strikes me as another rookie mistake. If somebody more well versed in the conflict said it, I would question their balancing of the two. But, honestly, I really think she’s just getting her feet wet. Which is further argument, for me, on why she shouldn’t be tweeting about it yet.
It happens that I went to college with Peter and we are demographically simiilar, but I don’t do what he does. I’m not an activist.
On the wayward Abunimah direct message.
I’m not going to apologize for wanting to talk with Ali Abunimah either. I really am not prepared to tell you who the right counterpart is on the other side, but I want to meet that guy, too, and all the people in between. I’m going to talk to you and Ron Dermer and settlers and Palestinians and Haredim and Arab-Israelis and secular Israelis.
I tend to agree with Tracy about Rudoren’s odd comparison between “Palestinian” and “Likud.” By her own omission she’s reading up on the issue, and there can be a steep learning curve. I think it’s admirable she’s open to many different perspectives, and impressive that she’s holding her ground in the face of pressure from the usual gate keepers. She arrives in Israel/Palestine in late April, should be interesting to watch.