Several folks have sent along a sharp interview in Haaretz of Clyde Haberman, a veteran correspondent for The New York Times who left the paper in December, in which Haberman tells Chemi Shalev that Jewish reporters are increasingly being replaced by Asians in the trenches of journalism.
But I’ve focused on Haberman’s comments about the Times. First, he says that the Times should assign non-Jews to report from Jerusalem.
“Throughout my career,” he says, “I’ve had my fair share of “you’re an idiot” letters, but many more letters of praise as well. Israel is the only assignment I ever had in which in four years I never once got a letter that said “nice job.” If I would have gotten one, I would have had it embossed and put it on a wall, like a business does with the first dollar bill it makes.”
This, he says, is the lot of most New York Times’ reporters in Israel, as well as other prominent American journalists who have agreed to an Israel posting. I ask whether sending a Jewish reporter is hence a good or bad idea. “All other things being equal,” he replies, “it is probably better to send a non-Jew rather than a Jew – just as I would probably prefer to send a non-Indian to India. It’s better to avoid that extra component.”
But when I point out that a majority of the Times’ representatives in Israel in the past 30 years have, in fact, been Jewish, Haberman says: “You may be surprised to learn that there aren’t as many correspondents clamoring for the job as Israelis would like to think. Every Times person in Israel has been subjected to non-stop assault. People realize that it entails a lot of scrutiny, grief and verbal abuse.”
I’d point out that Haberman, who is Jewish, is counting Jews. By my count, the last three correspondents in Jerusalem have been Jewish. Though Alison Weir of the Council for the National Interest says that the last five have been Jewish– “a member of the family,” in her pointed phrasing. Because of such concerns, years ago, in its non-Zionist days, the Times used to insist that non-Jews be assigned to Jerusalem. Also note that Max Blumenthal, while not counting Jews, said that the Times bureau is thoroughly inside the Zionist narrative.
Here’s the second bit from Haberman, where he says that the noisy critics of the Times coverage are all Israel-supporting Jews who call the Times correspondents self-hating Jews. Haberman is clearly out of date here. Jodi Rudoren and Ethan Bronner before her have been attacked from the left, from Palestinian solidarity types, as much as they are attacked from the pro-Israel side. But Haberman’s comments point up an issue we’ve landed on: The Times is old guard, and it is extremely responsive to rightwing critics. Haberman:
“We’ve had decades of correspondents that, no matter how different they’ve been one from the other, no matter how talented they are or how many Pulitzer Prizes they have to their name, always end up being accused of being either anti-Semites or self-hating Jews. At some point, this seeps into the DNA of the newspaper: This is what you can expect if you go there – to have your integrity hurled back in your face every single day.”
And things are probably much worse now, Haberman concedes, because of internet and emails and the ability to instantly respond and protest. Not only that, he adds, but Muslims and Arabs, in general, and Palestinians, in particular, have also adopted “the same ‘beat the newspaper over the head’ format that Jewish groups have come to perfect.”
After a while it became clear to me, he adds drily, “that if I didn’t want to be accused of hating Israel, I should start every story with: ‘50 years after 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, Israel yesterday did one thing or the other.’”
Curiously, Shalev doesnt touch on Haberman’s most famous moment at the Times, a fabrication that got him fired in ’66, as a kid, when everyone still read The Sun Also Rises. Some things are hard to live down.