Weir criticizes lack of diversity in NYT’s Jerusalem appointments

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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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.

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