Weir criticizes lack of diversity in NYT’s Jerusalem appointments

Alison Weir
Alison Weir

A couple years ago I did a post lamenting the fact that so many of the folks covering Israel and Palestine for American papers were Jewish, and some critics accused me of anti-Semitism. Well the issue doesn’t go away. Below are two responses to the hiring of Jodi Rudoren as the next New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem that fasten on to her Jewishness from different points of view.

First there’s Ron Kampeas at Foreign Policy issuing guidelines for Rudoren that reflect a smug ethnocentrism. As Ilene Cohen said in passing this along, “You’d think the New York Times was a Jewish house organ rather than the paper of record.”

Two of Kampeas‘s “rough rules for Times bureau chiefs (and other journalists) for navigating the world’s most delicate reporting assignment.”

Polish that Sunday school Hebrew….

There has persisted among foreign correspondents, at least until recent years, a stigma associated with the notion that once in your pre-journalist existence you might have become conversant with the language of the Torah.

And below are excerpts of Alison Weir at Counterpunch questioning the fact that every Times correspondent in the conflict in recent years has been Jewish– “a member of the family,” something that is perfectly OK to talk about in Israel but not here. I think Weir is right to land on the “diversity” issue, and the consequent Israeliness of the Times outlook– the manifest investment of Times reporters (who live atop a West Jerusalem house seized from Palestinians during the Nakba) in the Israeli perspective. 

(That said, I’m open-minded; I sense that Rudoren is not a Zionist, that she’s tough and smart, and that we’re about to see a sea-change in Times coverage.)

Note Weir’s critique of the Khader Adnan coverage. Shocking.

[Rudoren] takes the place of Ethan Bronner, who was preceded by Steven Erlanger, who was preceded by James Bennet, who was preceded by Deborah Sontag. All, according to an Israeli report, are Jewish.

Most Americans — particularly those who would object to only white reporters covering racial issues or only male reporters covering gender issues — are reluctant to discuss the potential bias in such a profoundly un-diverse system, having been conditioned to fear that such discussion would be “anti-Semitic” or would open the commentator to this extremely damaging accusation….

Yet, Bronner and Kershner – and Times columnists who frequently bemoan the alleged lack of a Palestinian Gandhi – did not publish a single story on Adnan until the 66th (and last) day of his hunger strike – after the Washington Post had finally carried a report two days before. The Times’ headline was the very bland, “Hearing for Palestinian on Hunger Strike Is Set. 

While Adnan’s is the longest Palestinian hunger strike on record, through the years there have been hundreds of hunger strikes by multitudes of Palestinians in Israeli prisons; the Times almost never reports on them. It’s revealing to compare their numerous stories on the Israeli tank gunner captured by Palestinians, Gilad Shalit, to the sparsity of their reporting on Adnan and others. 

Overall, the thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel seem largely to have been invisible to Times’ reporters….

If [Jeffrey] Goldberg’s assessment of Rudoren is accurate, then it appears that once again the Times has a person at the helm of its reporting on Israelis and Palestinians for whom Israelis are “family.” Quite possibly, literally.

Rudoren may be intending to cover the region accurately and with fairness. To do so, however, it appears that she will need to overcome enormous ingrained bias, relentless and vitriolic objections of the organized pro-Israel community (quite likely including friends and family), and pressure by many powerful Times advertisers and colleagues.

On top of this, unless she chooses a different lifestyle than her predecessors’, she will be living in Israel, her children will go to Israeli schools, and her home will be one of the thousands confiscated from Palestinians who are now living and suffering largely out of sight, their daily humiliations and victimization for the most part invisible.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in American Jewish Community, Israel/Palestine, Media, Nakba, US Politics

{ 25 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Dan Crowther says:

    the commenter scott the other day said we should withhold judgement on ruderon for a while, im inclined to agree — as for phil’s hopes and dreams, well……..

  2. Donald says:

    “Ethan Bronner, who was preceded by Steven Erlanger, who was preceded by James Bennet, who was preceded by Deborah Sontag. All, according to an Israeli report, are Jewish.”

    Sontag was good though–I don’t know about the others offhand. But Sontag wrote a long piece (I don’t have time to look for it) in the NYT which undermined the claim that Arafat was totally to blame for turning down a generous Israeli offer at Camp David and triggering the second intifada.

    On the other hand, Anthony Shadid’s death prevents us from knowing if the NYT would have ever assigned him to cover the I/P conflict, but my guess is “no”.

    • Krauss says:

      I agree, Anthony would have been far too dangerous to the Israel Lobby and it’s media allies (like Marc Tracy, Jeff Goldberg and to some extent Kampeas and people like them).

      I mean, just imagine the silent racial undertones when an Arab(!) would be able to cover the I/P conflict. The Zionists would have gone nuts – Arabs can have ingrained biases! This is too dangerous to just play away, would you let an Irish-American Catholic with family in Ireland to be a NYT correspondent in that area when the conflict was at it’s worst?

      Yet, when the roles are reversed, the worry isn’t the source of a possible bias for Ms. Rudoren but that her bias isn’t strong enough…
      I’m reminded by an old joke.. guilt for (gentile) whites is that they are too ethnocentric… guilt for Jews are that we are not ethnocentric enough!

      • I’m reminded by an old joke.. guilt for (gentile) whites is that they are too ethnocentric… guilt for Jews are that we are not ethnocentric enough!

        That joke hits home. And who works so hard to shape our collective consciousness? … The “storytellers” of our time.

        I’ve also noted that more than 50% of the time I listen to NPR I’m getting regaled with Jewish American stories, holocaust stories, or talk of Iran (essentially brought to us by Jewish Zionists and the “Jewish state” of Israel). I have a connection to the Jewish community, but your average “goy” must be questioning WTF is going on with national PUBLIC radio, obsessed with ~2% of the US population (and very much staffed with the 2%). It’s almost shameless, tone-deaf, and totally alienating.

        • chauncey says:

          If you are exaggerating about NPR, it ain’t by much.

          CAMERA has referred to NPR as “National Palestine Radio.” If that is accurate, I am a monkey’s uncle.

          The best defense is a good offense, I guess.

    • Amar says:

      I’d prefer that the NYT had someone who was Jewish reporting on IP, just that someone who was principled and very knowledgeable about the conflict and whom would fight tooth and nail with the editors to ensure proper contexts were provided and no glaring ommissions occured. At least they may be slightly better shielded from accusations of bias or ethnic sympathies of which reporters like Shadid may have faced. Sure they may be added to the ‘shit list’ but they would be in exalted company.

      • American says:

        Amar,

        First, why would you prefer a Jewish reporter?
        Second, if a Jewish one was objective they wouldn’t be shielded, they would get the same ‘treatment’ –self hating Jew, etc.—a non Jew would get from the usual suspects.

        • Amar says:

          Well for one, they cant slander them with anti-semitism. And two, their reporting may be viewed with ‘some authority’ or candidness if it appears less than flattering to members of their own tribe.

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          Amar, I get where you’re coming from, but as the zionists’ assaults on Jewish critics of Israel shows, they just cut the “anti-semite” out and replace it with “self-hating Jew” and let the libels roll.

        • i agree with amar- assuming the (nonexistent) choice between an *unbiased* jew and an *unbiased* gentile, the jew is preferable for political reasons. although some will call them a “self-hating” jew, this will not stick so much. most people, jew or gentile, would at least conclude it is unlikely there will be a “pro-palestinian” or “anti-jewish”/”anti-israel” bias, when the reporter is a jew.

          obviously we should be above this, and in normal circumstances the preference would be an unbiased person, who preferably is *not* ethnically or religiously tired to EITHER side. not to stoop to their level and play their “game”, but we need to be realpolitik and play our hand based on the rules that exist, however unfair.

          but hell, i’d happily take a truly unbiased jew OR gentile at the NYTimes… let’s see how the latest jewish reporter in jerusalem pans out. not expecting much.

    • nawwas says:

      No doubt the Times has a tendency to send pro-Israel journalists to Jerusalem. But, as Deborah Sontag showed, it is possible to evolve and become critically minded. James Bennet, by the way, has a Jewish mother, but I do not believe he identifies as ‘Jewish.’ (Though he wouldn’t deny that identity, either). And, one cannot look at his reporting and say that he was “biased” in the way that Sontag started out as, let alone the way Bronner and Kershner has been the whole of their tenure. Indeed, he was the best reporter the Times had in Jerusalem for more than three decades.

  3. Citizen says:

    I read Ms Weir in Counterpunch a day or so ago, and referenced her article in a comment here at the time–I think she is really great, one of the great courageous voices who’s been on top of nearly everything regarding the I-P conflict and its relation to our domestic politics for years. Her web site, If Americans Knew, is a font of needed information always. I’ve never been able to get the Christian fundies I have email contact with to actually read it–they either simply are not interested because Jews, and therefore, Israel are the chosen we must support always, or, in the case of one Jews For Jesus (who’s not a Jew) member; she turned to her own hasbara sources and they told her Weir’s site is anti-semitic. That was enough not to skim it at least once. Otherwise, nobody I know is interested in what Weir has to say, nor re MW either. They are interested in saving dogs, or the sports news.

    • RobertB says:

      Citizen,

      Alison Weir is one of the few American journalists who has the courage & integrity to write & convey the truth about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. She refuses to be silenced … she is labeled as an “enemy” on the JDL website.

      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      If Americans Knew

      If Americans Knew Receives Death Threat

      “After debating on “How Can Peace Be Achieved Between Israelis and Palestinians?” Thursday, October 2nd, 2003, Alison Weir and If Americans Knew received a voicemail message saying: “On Monday, at 2 PM, you better not be in your office. Because me and my buddies, who were trained in the Israeli Army, will come and kill every single one of you…”

      The caller went on to say, “This is not a joke. On Monday you better watch out. Don’t come to work. And close your organization or you’re going to die.”

      The recipient of the threat, Alison Weir, speaks widely on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. She is executive director of If Americans Knew, a nonprofit organization known for providing information on the Middle East.”

      link to ifamericansknew.org

  4. Rusty Pipes says:

    Re Kampeas:

    There has persisted among foreign correspondents, at least until recent years, a stigma associated with the notion that once in your pre-journalist existence you might have become conversant with the language of the Torah.

    I doubt that Chris Hedges’ language studies at Harvard Divinity School were an impediment to his reports from Israel/Palestine being taken seriously.

  5. lysias says:

    To do so, however, it appears that she will need to overcome enormous ingrained bias, relentless and vitriolic objections of the organized pro-Israel community (quite likely including friends and family), and pressure by many powerful Times advertisers and colleagues.

    I’ve long wondered whether it was pressure from advertisers (in particular, the big New York department stores) that led the New York Times to shift from its and the Sulzberger family’s historical policy of non-Zionism.

  6. American says:

    The NYT appointing reporters who have or ‘may’ have a bisas for Israel is the same disregard for ‘conflict of interest’ in the press that we have in government appointments regarding Israel —-WS to Fed and many other areas.
    Avoiding conflicts of interest or even the appearence of conflict of interest used to be the standard.
    No such thing as neutral now, too many have a agenda—this is what has happened to the press, media and government and why no one trust any of them.
    Personal and institutional ethics has gone the way of the doo-doo bird.
    How did this happen?

  7. Les says:

    Israeli born Shamai K. Leibowitz working as an FBI translator reported that Congresswoman Jane Harman was sharing classified information with Israel. When nothing was done he leaked the information and ended up with a 20 month sentence in a Federal prison. While the Times article named Congressman Keith Ellis as the topic of one of those conversations, the reliable Times chose not to include the name of the person who committed the treasonous act, known to be Congresswoman Jane Harman. Imagine doing a story about a spy without mentioning the name!

    link to nytimes.com

    • chauncey says:

      I read about this case but didn’t know Harman was involved. Can you provide a link?

      • Dan Crowther says:

        No word in the piece on the most explosive info rumored to have come from Leibowitz:

        ” Threat Level thinks it’s more likely Leibowitz was behind the leaked news that Representative Jane Harman had allegedly been caught on an NSA wiretap engaging in a quid-pro-quo conversation with an Israeli agent. That information was published in April by Jeff Stein, a writer for Congressional Quarterly, on his SpyTalk blog, which was mirrored at CQ Homeland Security. Stein told Threat Level he never comments on sources.”
        link to mondoweiss.net

      • link to youtube.com
        i made that clip from a chas freeman speech i put on youtube. israel can dictate staffing of national security positions in the USG, most especially when it matters to israel and concerns the middle east.

        occupy AIPAC everyone…
        link to occupyaipac.org
        when some of the worst anti-semitic screeds are seemingly supported by facts, we have a problem. anti-semites like to talk of ZOGs (zionist occupied governments). we don’t use the term here, but we basically say as much. congress is “israeli occupied territory”. AIPAC dictates legislation. AIPAC targets and unseats someone deemed not “pro-israel” enough. hell….. tom friedman can state that AIPAC and the pro-israel lobby bought the standing ovations for netanyahu.

        it’s very bad and we are only talking about the transparent and undisputed facts about the nature of the lobby, and the power of the lobby.

        • Citizen says:

          anonymousecomments, you are right; it’s hard to distinguish ZOG as portrayed on white racist web sites from what one gets by factually putting evidence together as is done here on MW–thanks for putting up clips of Chas Freeman discussing this state of affairs on YouTube–here’s a longer one of yours, and it’s of better quality too:

  8. dbroncos says:

    The Times, no doubt, reflected very carefully on which reporter their advertizers would accept as a replacement for Bronner. The vetting process began long before Rudoren was chosen and debreifed about the special relationship she would have with her readers. She wouldn’t have been hired if the NYT believed she was going to impede their cash flow. However, she seems non-committal. Thus far she’s out manuveured the Zionist inquisition. We’ll see…

  9. pnkfloid says:

    “That said, I’m open-minded; I sense that Rudoren is not a Zionist, that she’s tough and smart, and that we’re about to see a sea-change in Times coverage.”

    I think you have the tail wagging the dog. I also think it is not the point that all the NYT reporters sent to cover I/P are Jewish. The NYT sends people who will carry out their editorial policy. The NYT decided it couldn’t get away with the IDF-fawning Bronner anymore, and if there’s any sea-change, (maybe it will be a pond-change) its because in the face of increasing public understanding of Israel’s repression of Palestinians, they need a leeetle more balance. So they changed tack, and think Rudoren can strike a different pose.

  10. And two, their reporting may be viewed with ‘some authority’ or candidness if it appears less than flattering to members of their own tribe.

    Well, yes, you are absolutely right. Reporting from the Middle East could never be viewed as authentic or trustworthy unless it comes from members of The Tribe. I certainly know that I would doubt its “authority” because I have been acculturated by the media to expect authenticity only from Jews. And I’ve never even lived close to New York City!

  11. The over-representation of “Jews” is not a problem in itself, as said Jews could be ethnic Arab or political Palestinians in theory.

    The problem is the over-representation of pro-status-quo, Israel-right-or-wrong-individuals, and the fact that most of them are embedded into the infrastructure and social networks of one of the conflicting parties.