Israel Faces the Press
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Since the Second Intifada or since the breakdown of the Oslo process, Israel has had a progressively more complicated and complex relationship with the press. This is not to suggest that some of the negative or critical press expressed toward some Israeli political leaders is not deserved, but the historically liberal media has always favored the perceived “immediate” underdog which today is seen as the Palestinians. This situation may indeed be getting more complicated for Israel as a result of two new developments at the Jerusalem offices of CNN and the New York Times.
CNN announced that it was firing four of its Jerusalem staff as part of a budgetary reduction effort. All four of them happened to be Jewish Israelis. CNN also admitted that it needed its now smaller bureau to be able to move more comfortably throughout the immediate area and the entire region; suggesting that Jews would not be able to do so in Muslim countries. Of the remaining six CNN staff members one is a Jew and there are two Jewish part-timers who work only one shift per week. It has been observed as to whether CNN has similar constraints on women or can Muslim or Christian journalists report better than Jews in the region? Presumably, someone at CNN must have concluded that Jewish journalists are too biased to cover the conflict with the Palestinians. Apparently the HR people at CNN do not read all the Israeli papers!
At the same time as reported in great detail by Jeff Goldberg and Marc Tracy the Times is sending Education editor Judi Rudoren to relieve the Times’ Ethan Bronner after four years in Jerusalem. Rudoren, who like Bronner is Jewish, got off to a running start as she prepares to leave Chicago for Jerusalem. Even prior to going out to the region, Rudoren apparently has begun to make contacts. While this is evidence of an extremely diligent journalist—reading and reaching out to future sources—it is rather off-putting in the fact that she chose to contact the head of Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah and she praised Peter Beinart’s highly controversial brand new anti-Netanyahu book on Israel and Zionism. In addition, as Marc Tracy reported in detail in Tablet (and in his references), given her previous controversial remarks—all of which were totally acceptable—it would seem to have behooved Rudoren to low key her entry into one of the toughest international journalistic assignments in the world, and not to stir the pot before she arrives there in late April.
Both of these critical moves in the Jerusalem media center suggest that this Israeli Government’s efforts to get out its version of events transpiring in the region may have just become much more complicated.