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NY Times profile of Gazan long distance runner reveals reality of occupation

on 9 Comments

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.

Ira Glunts

Ira Glunts is a retired college librarian who lives in Madison, NY. His twitter handle is @abushalom

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9 Responses

  1. on April 16, 2014, 11:02 am

    I didn’t get what you got, at all. I got, one, again, the extraordinary matter-of-factness that accompanies any Times’ account of Israeli crimes.

    And two: the conspicuous lack of mention of the Palestinian soccer players who were shot in the feet by Israeli soldiers. Why no mention, Jodi? Hard to keep emotion out of that?

    No, Ira, sorry. The Times isn’t changing at all.

  2. amigo on April 16, 2014, 11:04 am

    Ira, is anyone reporting on the NYT editorial re Peace Talks.

    In it they advise the US to get out of these talks and they also explicitly place the blame on Israel for the last breakdown.

    Here is the Haaretz link.Was unable to recover the NYT even though I posted it earlier on the “Palestinians can have an embassy in Jerusalem” article.

  3. Helena Cobban on April 16, 2014, 3:04 pm

    Ira, the ‘Times” aren’t a-changing very much at all, at all. Jodi Rudoren takes her “courage” in her hands and travels to *Beit Hannoun* in the far northern end of the Gaza Strip to write about– marathon runners. She makes no mention at all of the very numerous Gaza-Palestinian students, academics, writers, business people, and plain ol’ family members whose desire to travel to and from the Strip has been completely stymied by the system of control maintained by the Israeli military over all passage of people or goods into or out of the Strip.

    And she includes this mendacious and demeaning “description” of the Strip:

    Hamas imposes strict religious rules on Gaza, a dense and dirty patchwork of dilapidated shacks and concrete apartment blocks, and its 1.7 million residents bear with economic isolation, daily power blackouts and occasional Israeli airstrikes.

    Wow, amazing! The “economic isolation”, “daily power blackouts” etc have no author. According to her, they just happened! (Or possibly, by implication reading her text, they are the result of Hamas’s allegedly “strict religious rules”?) And the only Israeli military activity is “occasional Israeli airstrikes”?

    This is truly misleading and inaccurate as a description of the current situation inside Gaza. (Also, had she traveled a bit further into the Strip than Beit Hannoun, she could have seen lovely market garden, orchards, occasional playgrounds, etc. ..)

    Ms. Rudoren, we’re coming up to the 47th anniversary of Israel’s military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank (including E. Jerusalem), and the Golan. When will you get your head around the fact that this situation of generations-long military occupation is, as a whole, something that needs to be clearly identified and, by any lovers of freedom and human dignity anywhere, robustly opposed??

    • Ira Glunts on April 16, 2014, 7:31 pm


      Point taken. Thanks for your comment and the other three comments here.


  4. on April 16, 2014, 6:48 pm

    It is finally clear that momentum is building and if we continue to pepper the NYT with enough questions and complaints they will respond and change. It is an exciting development. I have just sent a letter of complaint to Sullivan about the Bruni article that was so negative about Palestinian students on US campuses.

  5. DaveS on April 17, 2014, 12:07 am

    Just to add one thing. The Times headline reads “Mideast Tensions Sideline a Gazan Marathon Runner” as if Masri were the victim of political intransigence by both sides. By contrast, Haaretz has run multiple aritcles on the subject that more clearly identifies the decision-maker: “Israel refuses to let Gaza athlete run in Bethlehem marathon”; “High Court rejects Gazan runner’s appeal to race in Bethlehem marathon”; “Gaza blockade stifles dreams of Palestinian runner”. The Times headline, whether or not authored by Rudoren, is extremely misleading.

    • Ira Glunts on April 17, 2014, 7:35 am

      Thanks for making this point David. I noticed that but didn’t include it in the article.

  6. eGuard on April 18, 2014, 5:29 am

    A 5000 kilometer race?

    • Ira Glunts on April 18, 2014, 12:29 pm

      Thanks for the correction. It is amazing what you write some time and also what slides by without remark.

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