I was saddened to learn recently, that Nader al-Masri, the Gazan long distance runner, who represented Palestine in the 2008 Beijing Olympics by running in the 5000 meter race, had been denied entry into the West Bank. Mr. Masri had requested a permit to travel to leave Gaza in order to participate in the second annual Palestine Marathon, which was held last Friday in Bethlehem.
The Israeli Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to bar the Gazan runner, but recommended that they reconsider their decision. The IDF ignored the suggestion of the Court, which will come as no surprise to those who understand the bureaucratic pecking order in the Jewish State.
The trials and tribulations to which Masri has been subjected have given a whole new meaning to the running term – “hitting the wall.”
Last Thursday, a day before the marathon, I was happy to see the video above about Masri and the decision of the IDF to refuse him a travel permit on The New York Times web site. The runner reacted to the disappointment of not being able to run in Bethlehem with an equanimity and lack of rancor that is common among Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
Jodi Rudoren, the New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief, had been remiss in Gaza coverage so I was surprised that the video was followed the next day with her article titled, “Mideast Tensions Sideline a Gazan Marathon Runner.” It featured the video at the top on The Times’ web site and was mostly free of the “balancing” Israeli government point-of-view which always seems to be prominent in the newspaper’s articles about Palestinians.
Recently Adam Horowitz, co-editor of Mondoweiss, corresponded with Rudoren concerning the fact that she rarely visits Gaza. Horowitz had based his claim on research done by Patrick Connors of Adalah-NY. Ali Abunimah from the Electronic Intifada also has been in touch with Rudoren on this issue via his much followed twitter feed. And on April 7, Max Blumenthal tweeted to Rudoren about her not reporting on Gaza recently.
Who knows, maybe these messages which Rudoren, unlike many Times reporters, tends to read and respond to, may have caused her to initiate the coverage on Masri.
On a personal note, I have had a brief correspondence with Rudoren, as a result of a highly critical post I wrote here about one of her columns. She also responded to an email I sent her via the NYTimes email form, in which I expressed my complete dismay at her analysis of a speech by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Ironically, I thought her short reply, “Thanks,” was an automated message, but she later informed me it was not. She is one of 8 followers on my nascent twitter feed.
I think The New York Times is generally feeling the heat from readers as indicted by the reader comments on its web site in response its articles on Palestine/Israel. This has been pointed out on this site by commenter dBroncos (that’s Denver Broncos).
Another indication of a new willingness to look at the Palestinian point of view is the addition of the Palestinian political scientist, Ali Jarbawi, as a regular opinion writer at the NY Times.
Could The Times be a-changin’? Sure, but not enough. Despite the welcome recent inclusion of more columns from the Palestinian point of view, don’t get too excited. The paper is a long, long way from renouncing its pro-Israel reporting.
Update: This piece originally expressed my doubt that Rudoren had interviewed Masri herself, and cited the fact that Fares Akram, who is based in Gaza, is credited as a contributor to the column. Rudoren has informed me that she did interview Masri.