Critics hammer ‘NYT’s Rudoren for daring to convey Palestinian experience

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

On Saturday, the New York Times changed its path. It published a superb account of the Palestinian experience in occupied East Jerusalem written by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren. Go read the story for yourself, but it sought to capture the Palestinian view of occupation, beginning with a 44-year-old lecturer at Hebrew University who “shares the frustration and alienation underlying this new uprising.”

Rudoren described Israel’s separation wall as “ugly.” She quoted a number of Palestinians. She observed: “For many of the 320,000 Arab residents, the violence is a consequence of years of feeling like the neglected stepchildren of both City Hall and the Palestinian Authority . . . ” She cited a poll showing that 61 percent of Palestinian Jerusalemites support “armed struggle” against Israel.

She cited the grotesque double standard in Israeli law enforcement when it comes to Palestinian attackers who lose their residency status and Jewish settler-killers for whom no such punishment was ever considered. She added tartly: “Nor were checkpoints established in their neighborhoods.” She cited Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat’s “boasts” about investments in East Jerusalem, implying that they are token investments.

The other remarkable thing about this remarkable article is that it unleashed a storm of criticism by Zionist Jews online and that Rudoren, who is also Jewish, countered the critics on her twitter feed.

The criticism includes a sustained attack on the New York Times from CAMERA that is longer than the original article:

How long can The New York Times cover up for Palestinian terrorists, omit material facts, and just generally get the story wrong about Israel?

And a twitter war on Rudoren, which you can find at her feed, @rudoren. Here are some excerpts, most of them it appears from American Jews:

Jubel Foster:

once again B’tselem provided a ready made story complete with maps & quotes. No mention in the article that they were the source

Rudoren:

I did not speak to B’tselem for this article, or use any of its data.

Jerry:

Nice PLO propaganda, you neatly avoided the savage nature of the stabbings & blamed the victims!

Rudoren responded:

Really not. Second paragraph talks of stabbing in the back. But this piece was about the broader situation for EastJ Arabs

@LesterGruber:

When the mayor answered your question, you dismissed his answer as “boasting”. Have you ever shown this skepticism to Mr. Abbas?

Rudoren:

I’m very skeptical of Abbas and all leaders. But the “boasting” was about Barkat’s boasts over time, not response to my Q

Trainer Gloria:

To be fair, why don’t you write a 2nd article from an Israeli Jewish perspective. Your article is one-sided.

Rudoren:

To be fair, read the entirety of our report over time. This article was about East J. Many others about Israeli Jews.

Gloria responded:

Jodi I just searched u and Kershner in NYtimes. I can’t find any articles sympathetic to Israel, only condemnation. Pls give a link

Rudoren:

Too numerous. Use search on under my byline or Isabel Kershner, for starters.

Pam Ehrenkranz:

What’s next? Will you tell us of the frustration of the Oregon shooter? Murder is murder and terrorism is not excusable

Rudoren:

Are you not interested in why people are shooting up campuses either? I am.

Gordon Owades, from Massachusetts, who declares Am Yisrael Chai (the people of Israel live):

I enjoyed this piece, @rudoren, and I mourned the death muhammad abu khdeir in ’14 [East Jerusalemite whose murder was mentioned in article], but I remember something precipitated it, do you?

Rudoren:

Yes, we have written much about the kidnapping of 3 teenagers in WB and the connex between the two. As you likely know.

A rightwing religious Jew from NJ:

Serious Q: Did @nytimes @rudoren ever do a similar piece exploring life for Israeli Jews facing violence and murder?

Rudoren:

Yes, piece last week on woman who survived Old City stabbing, piece last week on Israeli mood, many in previous rounds

A PR guy @goeljasper who promotes Israel in English from Jerusalem:

hey, @rudoren. If there is an “East” Jerusalem, as you so often write, can you please inform us all of what the borders of this “town” are?

Rudoren:

Territory Israel captured in 1967 war and incorporated into Jerusalem municipal boundaries.

rebutantiIsrael, who is devoted to defending Israel online:

jodi @rudoren asked Niv Birkat what Israel has done for the residents of E. Jerusalem. Birkat answered her. Jodi accuses him of “bragging”.

Rudoren:

I think I said boast, and I did not mean in response to my query, but in campaign and throughout my 3+ years covering

Ari Feldman:

In reference to your article regarding East Jerusalem, how did the 1967 war start? You never explained, and I want to learn more.

Rudoren also got critics from the left  — Helena Cobban and Ali Abunimah, who wrote, “You constantly claim ‘most of the world’ considers Jerusalem to be occupied. Can you list the countries which don’t?” — as well as some backup from Steve Inskeep of NPR and from Jareer Kassis, a Palestinian scientist and writer who works in the U.S.:

In a rare article of its kind, @rudoren describes life (such as it is) for Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

And Kassis is right about the pattern: New York Times coverage has tended to be from the perspective of Israelis. Rudoren lives in West Jerusalem, comes from a community familiar with the Zionist side, and has made prejudicial comments about Arabs on at least two occasions (here and here). This article shows a real extension of spirit; she goes out of her comfort zone to simply describe Palestinian conditions.

And you see what happens to her. She comes under huge pressure from her own community, the Jewish community, for daring to treat Palestinians as human beings, and she feels that she must be responsive to these critics. Because they have power, emotionally and politically.

When I was in the mainstream, I often felt that pressure.  People wrote to my editor at the New York Observer that I was a Holocaust denier, and he took them seriously, enough to ask me if that was the case, one of my oldest friends no less (!), before concluding that I was being “used” by Palestinians. The only phone call I ever got from one director of the Nation Institute when Adam and I were there was early one morning when a board member called him because some anonymous individual had complained about something we ran against Israel. In both cases I was under political pressure because of anti-Zionist views, and whether the pressurers were fair or not (they were lying bastards), they were effective; this site soon left the Observer and then the Nation Institute. This is what happens in the mainstream when a journalist speaks up for Palestinians; Zionist Jews are all over them. And the Jewish part is germane because that’s the most passionate component of the lobby in the U.S., and because a Jewish writer is subject to excommunication. A religious community that has blinded itself to the suffering of the other will turn on dissident members of that community with rage. At a J Street panel five years ago, Jonathan Chait told Matthew Yglesias that the Jewish community had to open up to critical voices, but not anti-Zionists like me, and Chait now spouts Zionism at a magazine that I used to work for that has never run an anti-Zionist article.

I doubt that Rudoren is headed for a dissident career. What she has done is to step outside the Israeli bubble and tried to convey Palestinian voices in an honest manner. She has performed that basic journalistic duty, of bearing witness — and then been subject to contumely she has to rebut. The pro-Israel Jewish community is empowered on this question, for historical reasons I understand, but it’s a distortion of democracy when these voices have so much influence, while Palestinians are always denied the permission to narrate. This conflict is now deeply polarized, and that conflict is coming to the U.S., because we are involved.

Let’s hope the Times editors back Rudoren up. That they support her in going out of the newspaper’s comfort zone, so that she provides the same service from villages in the West Bank, and Area A, and Gaza, too.

 

68 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I have been rude about Rudoren on this site before, but this time she has my respect.

Agree. When I opened my paper Saturday, couldn’t believe it. What happened to reliable stenographer? A journalist again.

I’m curious to know why she wrote this article and why the NYT published it. Is it a genuine step away from being a mouthpiece for Zio-supremacist propaganda, or is it just a bit of appeasement, a bit of PR to make her / her paper appear less biased / more “even-handed”?

Gonna be interesting to see where she goes from here. Unless she was just indulging in some radical chic.

Wait, Zionists think the NYT is biased AGAINST them?

Wow.