Reports are that New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren is leaving the job after four years and that the Times is poised to send White House correspondent Peter Baker there. Baker is 48 and one-half of a power couple — his wife Susan Glasser is a top editor at Politico — and the expected reassignment from 1600 Pennsylvania to Elevation 2600 is evidence that the Jerusalem bureau is now what the Moscow bureau used to be in the hierarchy of establishment journalism: the necessary posting to distinguish yourself as top-rung talent (cf, David Remnick). If appointed, Baker would break a string of Jewish bureau chiefs for the Times. He is said to have been brought up Greek Orthodox. He and Glasser got married by a judge.
We’re Times readers, and we’re open-minded. We don’t automatically dismiss its reporting; that paper has too many legendary journalistic accomplishments we have read at so many stages of our lives. This is the highest-pressure job in the business, and as the great anarchist-feminist Emma Goldman, said, we’re asking them to live up to their values before we even ask them to live up to ours.
We want balanced mainstream reporting. Here is some of what we want to read. We seek the (long overdue) recognition that Palestinians form 20 percent of the population of Israel. When 18-year-old Hadeel al-Hashlamoun is murdered at a checkpoint, we want a story about her and her family — and not just the profiles of the Jewish victims’ families. We want the NYT bureau chief to end the coverup of the growing Israeli far right; we want Ofer Winter profiled in the Times, and Aryeh King too.
We want the Duma arson that killed three members of the Dawabshe family in the occupied West Bank last summer covered with the same intensity that the Times brought to the lynching of Emmett Till 60 years ago.
We want on-the-spot reporting from Gaza that listens to Palestinian voices. We don’t mind the Israeli military being quoted; we know that’s how the mainstream works. But we want the Palestinian side reported in depth. We want to see B’Tselem and other human rights organizations in Israel consulted and quoted alongside the Israeli government officials who we also understand are part of the story.
In short, we’re not asking for things to be taken away from coverage, but for things to be added to the picture, for fairness and balance, so there’s not just a focus on one side.
If the next bureau chief is ambitious, he or she will also come to recognize the historical responsibility of the job. A truthful report on what’s gong on in Israel/Palestine will come to the conclusion that the two state solution is if not completely dead almost all but. And that truth needs to be conveyed to American elites and Times readers so they can reckon with the next paradigm.
Lastly, we ask the Times management to do the next bureau chief the favor of giving thought to where he or she is going to live. The house in Qatamon, West Jerusalem, that Tom Friedman arranged for the newspaper to buy the upper floor of 30 years ago, belonged to the family of the Palestinian writer Ghada Karmi before the Karmis were ethnically cleansed in 1948. Karmi describes her upsetting visits to that house in her latest book, Return, and last month she told the story in New York (minute 6 in this video). The house and the Times presence there is a symbol of the unhealed pain of the Nakba for Palestinians; none of them has ever been compensated for their property, let alone allowed to return. Given the fact that a New York Times reporter should strive not just to be objective but appear to be objective, maybe it’s time for the hierarchy at the Times to put the bureau chief in East Jerusalem.