Rudoren is a step in the right direction

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 19 Comments

Phil, Adam and Rania Khalek have done a thorough job of covering Jodi Rudoren’s outlook, at least as it’s communicated through her social media feeds and work as a journalist.

While I agree completely with their conclusions I don’t get the sense that Rudoren is malicious or particularly tendentious. Instead, she seems like someone who’s emerged from a milieu where Palestinians are characteristically simple, barbaric, aloof, stoical, etc… (in other words, a Zionist upbringing). Her direct exposure to actual Palestinians – yes, real people – is causing her to reevaluate some of those latent biases. At least, that’s what it seems like to me.

Take her article about the young Palestinian man – Anwar Qudaih – who was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier today (frustrated by a weak leadership and lack of action, the youthful and ardent Zionist took matters into his own hands). Rudoren explicitly highlights unjustifiable Israeli policies and the number of Palestinian children killed by the Israelis:

The buffer zone was established in 2005, when Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip, which it had occupied since the 1967 war. Human rights organizations say that Israel drops leaflets warning residents to stay out of the area, and that its security forces killed 213 Palestinians near the fence between September 2005 and September 2012, including 154 who were not taking part in hostilities, 17 of them children. 

The framing isn’t perfect, and the stuff about leaflets and Israel’s “withdrawal” is nonsense. Also, the context is provided halfway through the text, but this is still much better than some of her earlier work on the issue – and the facts she conveys are indispensable for understanding what’s actually happening.

For me, this article, along with her second Facebook message, signify a willingness to see the reality with clearer eyes – away from the Hasbara-mongers in NYC. Rudoren’s work also represents a very substantial break from Ethan Bronner’s world which was governed by the spokesperson of the Israeli army. A world where Palestinians were born and died nameless. 

My appreciation for Rudoren’s coverage may be a symptom of the impoverished range of discussion on this issue, but I’m grateful for it anyway. I’m also hopeful that her work will continue to improve as she meets more Palestinians in Gaza. 

I could be (most likely am?) completely wrong. But I’m willing to give Rudoren the benefit of the doubt.

About Ahmed Moor

Ahmed Moor is a Palestinian-American who was born in the Gaza Strip. He is a PD Soros Fellow, co-editor of After Zionism and co-founder and CEO of liwwa.com. Twitter: @ahmedmoor

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19 Responses

  1. Betsy
    November 24, 2012, 10:57 pm

    @Ahmed Moor — I think you’re showing generosity of spirit. More than the NYTimes or its Middle East bureau deserve. Perhaps she can grow, as she experiences more reality & starts to think beyond the entrenched biases & cliches of what seems like a narrow life experience.

    But, is this a position for on-the-job learning? the major newspaper in the US, and such an important & complex news beat?

    That said, it almost seems like her lack of preparation & knowledge actually might help — perhaps she’s more open because of that? But the public should expect much more. The question is not — is she a nice & well intentioned person. The question is — is the public getting the journalism it deserves?

    • Ellen
      November 25, 2012, 5:06 am

      Betsy, you capture it well. But Rudoren is in a tough spot. One, she is struggling to think beyond a life of brainwashing and a limited sphere of experience and historical understand of much.

      She seems to be struggling to breakout of particularly American narcissistic school of Journalism where writers place themselves into their reporting.

      Her somewhat confused writing reflects this. Judging by the comments section, most readers do not get what she was trying to express. That yet another Palistinian was killed after the truce. That there is confusion all around. That was fair reporting, albiet seemingly written in cut and past thoughts.

      Two, if she were to reveal as much underestanding of the plight of Palistinians and surrounding cultures as she does for Zionist interests, she would be ruthlessly pilloried. Finished, destroyed, reduced by the tribe to a N!&&er lover.

      I think this is the most we can expect from the NYT, but is is progress.

  2. W.Jones
    November 25, 2012, 12:15 am

    Sure, I think it’s an improvement having their bureau chief in Gaza at the time of the attack, and I expect she will gain knowledge on the ground.

    Her article on Saturday seemed to show sympathy for Gazans, but did it appear that she placed blame on Hamas for the people flocking to the fence:

    “Palestinians flocked to the fence on Thursday and Friday because their leaders said the cease-fire eased what they call Israel’s “siege” on Gaza… Hamas leaders said that was but one of the quality-of-life improvements that they had won. They also told their people that Israel would ease the three-mile limit on how far fishermen can venture from the coastline and the passage of people and goods through border crossings. But an Israeli government official said Friday that since no further talks had taken place, its policies had not changed.”
    link to nytimes.com

    Now I could see her responding- well that’s the facts and I am just doing my job reporting them. And she could be right. But the way it’s framed here would make an analogy this way:
    Two neighbors have a disagreement about a fence and come to some agreement. Neighbor A tells his kids it’s ok to go near the fence now, but instead when they do, Neighbor B retaliates.

    We’ve already seen that Israeli forces have violated agreements in the past, it wouldn’t surprise me if they implied a promise about this to Hamas when they met with them and didn’t observe the promise. But I don’t know, what do you think about this article?

  3. Donald
    November 25, 2012, 12:49 am

    This is how I feel about her reporting and it was that passage that jumped out at me today when I read it. (I mentioned this in an earlier thread). Yes, Rudoren has her unconscious biases, but she seems conscientious about trying to correct them and that passage is pretty much what I want to see from the press–reporting on what actually happens to innocent people in the conflict, on both sides. Of course, the vast majority of the innocent victims are Palestinian and so if reporters simply report the facts about the suffering of people on both sides, that’s going to come out.

    Her article today is in very sharp contrast to the disgusting editorial the NYT wrote about a week ago (I forget the exact date), where they opposed an invasion, but solely on the basis of the harm it would do to Israel. They condemned rocket attacks and said Israel had the right to defend itself, but said absolutely nothing about Palestinian fishermen being shot at or Palestinian civilians in buffer zones inside Gaza being shot. I’d like to see an editorial page that wasn’t racist, but I’ll settle for decent reporters and worthless editorials. (The WSJ was legendary for that combination when it came to reporting on the economy–trust the reporting, but ignore the editorials.)

  4. Accentitude
    November 25, 2012, 1:48 am

    I’m just going to leave this right here and back away slowly…..

    New York Times Says that Weed is Totally Awesome and Should be Legalized
    link to gawker.com

    • Mooser
      November 25, 2012, 12:09 pm

      “I’m just going to leave this right here and back away slowly…..”

      What’s your hurry? Here, let’s smoke a bowl or two and drink some coffee.

      • Accentitude
        November 27, 2012, 3:00 am

        Throw in some pizza bagels and a copy of “Dude, Where’s my car?” and I’m there.

  5. peeesss
    November 25, 2012, 3:12 am

    Ahmed Moor’s “appreciation of Rudoren coverage” is without doubt, at this time, simplistic to say the least. Reading her comment on the killing of Palestinians at the fence does not show Israel’s action as “unjustifiable”. She prefaces it with human rights organizations supposedly stating Israel “dropped leaflets” warning Palestinian to stay clear of the fence. Isn’t she justifying, in a sense, what she states next , the death of Palestinians at the border/fence area.? Are they the same type leaflets telling Palestinians in Gaza to “leave ” their homes as it will be targeted. They knew better. In 2008 the people of Gaza listened and were massacred even as they followed Israel’s instructions. Women and children waving white sheets, flags were mowed down. anything, anyone that moved was a “terrorist” to be terminated. In previous wars upon Lebenom Israel did drop leaflets telling the people in the south to leave their homes. As per Israeli custom those that left were torn apart by US made missils and bombs even as they used the roads Israel said would be save for evacuation. The author of that atrocity was none other then Shimon Peres, the indefatigable “peace” politician. Rudoren’s slight change in emphasis on Palestinian life that Mr. Moor senses is, I believe, due to the outcry by Mondoweiss commentators to her FB racist babbling about Palestinians “ho hum” approach to the death of ther chidren. Maybe when she gives up her home , stolen, in Jerusalem to the rightful owner I might be able to see some change in her writings.

    • Donald
      November 25, 2012, 10:36 am

      “She prefaces it with human rights organizations supposedly stating Israel “dropped leaflets” warning Palestinian to stay clear of the fence. Isn’t she justifying, in a sense, what she states next , the death of Palestinians at the border/fence area.? ”

      No. Look, if Israel does drop leaflets, then it should be reported. Does this justify the killing of Palestinians? No. Only to a moron. But if you argue that it is is a form of apologetics to report the dropping of leaflets, then you are inadvertently implying that the leaflets shouldn’t be reported, because it would take away Israel’s guilt.

      Reporters are supposed to report. If Israel dropped warning leaflets and then killed civilians, then reporters should say something like this–“Israel dropped leaflets warning people to stay out of a zone and then they killed them.” I can perfectly well judge for myself what I think of that behavior. And sure, the Israel apologists will think it’s wonderful and humane that leaflets were dropped. Those are the morons I was referencing.

      • peeesss
        November 26, 2012, 3:22 am

        I agree Donald. If it is a fact , the dropping of leaflets or warnings should be reported. But an able and serious reporter who has an understanding of “wars” that Israel has been involved in should bring out the fact that not withstanding the “warnings” that were given in the past, Palestinians and Lebanese civilians were deliberately attacked , killed, in spite of following Israeli directives. The Palestinians have lived through this so called Israeli “regard” and apologetics for the spilling of innocent blood for decades. A able and impartial journalist would report these facts. BTW , there are a lot of morons out there.

    • joemowrey
      November 25, 2012, 11:28 am

      I agree with Peeesss,

      I doubt Rudoren would have gotten the job if she wasn’t thoroughly vetted concerning her commitment to the task of weaving every piece of Palestinian misery together with subtle Zionist hasbara. It may take her some time to rise to the level of mastery Bronner achieved at this, but I doubt she’ll last long in the position if she starts telling the truth on a regular basis without managing to spin it correctly.

      As I pointed out in a previous post, you have to read her rhetoric carefully. But do notice that any mention of Palestinian suffering will more often than not be accompanied by at least one (two to one is preferable) hasbara spin point. Below is my previous post giving a shining example of this technique.

      But then again, I suppose we could be optimistic and hope she has an awakening. But it won’t matter. If she does, she’ll be fired or “reassigned,” hounded out of the limelight, and her career will be destroyed.

      Previous post:

      “…12 people killed the day before in the single deadliest attack since the latest hostilities between Israel and the Gaza Strip began Wednesday after months of Palestinian militant rocket fire into Israel.”

      Gotta love the amount of Zionist spin she can cram into one sentence to offset the fact that 12 innocent people were blown apart. “…hostilities between Israel and the Gaza Strip…” implying your average fair fight between two warring countries. As if. Then, “…began…after months of Palestinian militant rocket fire into Israel.” Oh, of course, these equally-balanced “hostilities” are only taking place because of Palestinian rocket fire. More than 60 years of Zionist oppression, dispossession and ethnocide against the native population of Palestine has nothing to do with it.

      • eljay
        November 26, 2012, 8:32 am

        >> More than 60 years of Zionist oppression, dispossession and ethnocide against the native population of Palestine has nothing to do with it.

        What always gives Zio-supremacists away is how hard they work to gloss over one or more of the following facts:
        – Israel was born of terrorism and ethnic cleansing;
        – Israel is an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist “Jewish State” rather than a secular, democratic and egalitarian Israeli state – a state of and for all Israelis, equally;
        – Israel remains enagaged in a 60+ years, ON-GOING and offensive campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder; and
        – Israel refuses to engage in sincere negotiations for a just and mutually-beneficial peace.

  6. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    November 25, 2012, 5:21 am

    In all seriousness, why would ANYONE turn to the NYT for news and analysis on the Middle East? I’d just as soon have read Pravda to learn about what was going on in the USSR.

    And the above extracts show no change at all in the attitude of the cossetted little Zionist, Rudoren. She puts words like ‘siege’ in scare quotes, insists that Israel no longer occupies Gaza, and makes the whole thing into a ‘he said she said’ kind of thing. But who really cares what Rudoren says about anything really? Now that we have the internet, and so much excellent journalism out there, who needs to feed on the scraps from the NYT table?

  7. Pamela Olson
    November 25, 2012, 7:15 am

    I actually agree with Ahmed on this. I was appalled (not to say infuriated, when people were dying just next to her) by some of the things she shared on social media. But it’s good that she read the Mondoweiss piece and offered a substantial (and very different in tone from previous comments) response. She is listening to readers, and she also appears to be listening more and more (baby steps sometimes) to her own common sense and conscience.

    I for one plan to continue to engage with her in a respectful way. I hope some of you will as well. People are people, even when they have been brainwashed all their lives. And like Ebenezer Scrooge, people can change. Sometimes it take a few ghosts, but hey, reevaluating your entire worldview isn’t easy.

    I am not excusing the gaping holes in her reportings by any means, but it is a step up from Bronner, that’s for sure (which, granted, isn’t saying much), and it’s also a step up from when she started in Jerusalem. Considering how little money, power, and cultural/institutional/media influence we have compared to the “other side,” it is heartening to see things changing, even if it’s still too slow for my taste. We should do all we can to encourage this trend, and I think respectful engagement (including critique) is one potentially effective method.

    • robin
      November 25, 2012, 7:43 pm

      I agree and, given what we’ve come to expect, I actually find it amazing that she a) read something on Mondoweiss b) admitted to it publicly and c) thought about it and responded. Even though her response took a mostly defensive tone, I think engaging with the criticism inevitably leads to some reevaluation. And indeed her response seemed to hint that she was reexamining her initial “natural” reaction to the Palestinians she saw–hopefully also reflecting on why she was able to dehumanize them so casually.

  8. Pamela Olson
    November 25, 2012, 7:28 am

    And by the way, Ahmed, thanks for your generosity of spirit. I think this is the most important “weapon” Palestinians have. For me, at least, it turned a four-day visit into ten years of activism. :)

  9. Betsy
    November 25, 2012, 10:41 am

    Jerome Slater made really important points, when he published on Mondoweiss (with her permission) link to mondoweiss.net his exchange with Rudoren about her profile of Dani Dayan.

    We all seem to appreciate the fact that she is talking with a lot of people, including her critics. And, she seems to be growing & able to look more from multiple points of view. And, Ahmed Moor, yes, I too felt like there was a change in her writing over the past month.

    But, there are red flags even in this better journalism, that create the possibility that this could be a cul-de-sac, rather than a growth curve — that it could become a way to domesticate & control rather than expand, critical thinking.

    First, what has struck me is that her recent pieces seem to be much more likely to: include multiple ‘actual’ names of Palestinians; extended quotes from them expressing what they are ‘actually’ thinking & feeling (rather than her imputing generalized & stereotyped things onto them); concrete details that help to ‘put the reader into the scene’ of ‘actual’ Palestinian homes & settings [pardon my irony, her 'actual' person remark still rankles me].

    Second, she’s actually traveling around Gaza it seems & trying to get facts.

    So, it seems like she is making space for many perspectives. But, I fear that all of her work tends to personalize things, in a way that actually makes it hard to understand how real people connect with very big historical contexts & structures.

    Slater’s critique of her profile of Dayan had to do with this. Compare two pieces: the Dayan piece link to nytimes.com and a recent interview in the courtyard of the assasinated Hamas leader, Ahmed al-Jabari, link to nytimes.com

    Both have a lot of ‘human interest’, ‘featuristic’ concrete details about how things look, to bring the reader into the scene — so it seems more empathic, sympathetic, open. But the Dayan piece has a much longer time-frame — trying to understand his current ideology in the context of his life & family history over many decades. It also makes an effort to listen to what his Big Picture vision is for his community & country — including how art, culture & urban life connects with rural life in settlements. But, in the recent piece about people in the al-Jabari courtyard — there’s no equivalent effort to understand how the concrete ‘touching’ details of everyday life relate to the people’s big picture ideology or many decades of personal, family, community history. In other words, they both seem to convey the interviewees as ‘persons’ in ‘actual’ lives — and therefore seem like appropriate journalistic listening. But, in fact, the concrete details in Palestinian setting are much more like quick snap shots, w/ very little depth, they are not ‘telling’ details, in the sense that they don’t grasp the Big Picture view from Palestinian point of view, or convey the long reach of history, or the underlying economic experiences. Her notorious comment re/ ‘limited lives’ — did not at all focus on the acute economic, military, structural de-development forces & lack of public services, etc. that actually limit Palestinian life — instead it personalized it in an outrageous, and frankly, racist way. She tried to walk this back on Facebook — but, to actually do so — she would have to include a dispassionate, disinterested, fact-rich account of these structural limitations in some of her ‘actual’ [sorry, I can't stop myself] journalism.

    Around the Palestinian stories, she always implies the Israeli context — e.g., she seems very concerned about their view (vengeful) towards Israel, but doesn’t really explore the Palestinian context of the settlements & Dayan. The Dayan article focuses mostly on the in-fighting among settlement political factions. We never hear about the Palestinian communities that were there on the settlement grounds, or how they fit into the Palestinian countryside.

    She claims to Slater, that she’s interested in being objective & putting people & the personal into context. Well, then, if that’s her goal, she has to move from highly personalized, concrete snap shots of Palestinians — to talking about these contextual structures & histories over long periods of time.

    If she does not make this leap, she will end up a particularly creative & effective kind of propaganda — a sort of faux ‘multi-cultural’ fluff –that chills out criticisms of NYTimes — without their serious consideration of how they train, pick & oversee their Middle East bureau.

  10. David Samel
    November 25, 2012, 11:21 am

    Several points about Jodi Rudoren:

    1) There already are innumerable instances of irksome pro-Israel bias, and surely more will follow. For example, a few days ago, in an article co-authored with David Kirkpatrick about the cease-fire agreement – link to nytimes.com – we find the following: There were immediate questions about the durability of the deal. Hamas, which controls Gaza, has in the past not fulfilled less formal cease-fires by failing to halt all missile fire into Israel by breakaway Palestinian militants. These “questions” were not posed by Netanyahu or Barak, but clearly are contemplated by the article’s authors. Ignoring the history of Israel’s violation of cease-fires, in November and December 2008 and October and November of this year, they can only envision Hamas breaking the current cease-fire. However, to any truly neutral observer, Israel’s firing on demonstrators a couple of days ago should have come as no surprise.

    From the same article: The agreement postponed the resolution of the most contentious issue: Israel’s tight restrictions on the border crossings into Gaza under a seven-year-old embargo imposed to thwart Hamas from arming itself. This is pure mendacious hasbara. Israel’s embargo was imposed to punish Gazans as a whole by making their lives as miserable as possible without overtly killing them. Israel did not prevent lentils, pasta, clothing, toys from entering Gaza, or agricultural goods from being exported, or Gazans from travel, “to thwart Hamas from arming itself.” If Israel had merely inspected everything entering Gaza to ensure there were no weapons, there would have been no outcry at all. Indeed, it was the deprivation of civilian goods that led to the entire flotilla movement. Rudoren surely knows that, but still she portrays the siege as a self-defense measure.

    2) Such bias is not particular to the Times, but pervades almost all of the MSM. The Times is not going to hire Alex Kane as its middle east reporter, and so Rudoren must be judged in comparison with people like her predecessor, Ethan Bronner, and Isabel Kershner. In this light, she may be a step in the right direction, though whether she has walked ten yards with ten more to go, 90 yards to go, or a full mile depends on one’s perspective.

    3) Rudoren has made some egregious blunders, but I agree with Ahmed and Pam Olson that her willingness to engage in self-review is somewhat encouraging. I am referring to her dialog with Jerry Slater – link to mondoweiss.net – as well as her second fb response to Phil.

    4) While most of us mw readers are miffed by her pro-Israel slant, Rudoren is surely being pressured by the other side, probably a lot more so, who see her as pro-Palestinian. Since she is willing to consider criticism and learn from it, it is imperative to continue to criticize her, constructively, to keep her moving in the “right direction” as Ahmed perceives it.

    5) There is another way I could have put those last two points. I could have described her response to critics as evidence that Rudoren is weak-willed and pliant and easily influenced. Instead I used more positive language about her being receptive to constructive criticism. The stark difference is quite easy to see, and that is what was so objectionable to Rudoren’s description of the culture of martyrdom, and her subsequent explanation that she simply was reporting on the stoicism and steadfastness of Gazans. No, Jodi, your article portrayed Gazans as more killable, willing to see their children die for a worthy cause, and less susceptible to the inconsolable grief that we Americans/Israelis associate with the loss of children. By contrast, the stoicism/steadfastness language conjures images of Londoners during the blitz. There is a world of difference between the two characterizations. Palestinians and their supporters are especially sensitive to excuses for killing them, from Dershowitz’s “continuum of civilianality” to Obama’s one-sided “no country would tolerate rockets” to Rudoren’s “culture of martyrdom.” They all stink.

  11. sardelapasti
    November 25, 2012, 9:21 pm

    So she is learning, eh?

    Should be done having learned to read and write by next year, then another 2-3 years to start understanding where she is and, say, something like another 10 years to learn to drop her malicious, intentionally racist, warmongering codeword-laden bullshit… then more years to learn to “apologize”(??) for being maximally aggressive.
    Of course the NYT couldn’t ever find a journalist with a minimum of ready training…

    The owners of NYT (same as those of AIPAC?) have decided that Bronner was too outrageous given their blunders, but that the outrageousness of Rudoren would be pushing the envelope to the acceptable maximum. The strict obligation for all journalism to remain safely and provocatively in Yiddish hands is also respected, of course.

    And you not only pay money to buy this shit, you pretend to see some encouraging trend when these things happen… They got to go! What do you think would happen if the “Anti-Zionists” and the Anti-Zionists got to obnoxious letter-writing and harassment campaigns like the Zionist riffraff routinely do? How many days would that Rudoren b…. last?

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