The NY Times’ new Jerusalem bureau chief is already facing scrutiny from Israel watchers, and she is muffing it.
In the latest development, Adam Kredo of the Washington Free Beacon asks Jodi Rudoren if she’s a Zionist. As Jeffrey Goldberg points out, it’s a stupid question. (“I don’t want Rudoren to be a Zionist, or an anti-Zionist, or anything else,” writes Goldberg. “I just want her to report accurately what she sees.”)
ButRudoren’s answer is even worse. It starts out strong:
Asked point-blank if she considers herself a Zionist, Rudoren demurred.
“I describe myself as a journalist. I don’t describe myself in political terms on any subject,” she said. “I see my role in the world as an observer of what’s going on, so I don’t take on labels that have, sort of, ideological or just activist positions.”
She should have stopped there. (In fact, she should have stopped after “I describe myself as a journalist. ” It’s what any journalist should say, whether the question is “are you an atheist?” or “are you pro-life?”)
But Rudoren doesn’t stop there:
Rudoren added: “I don’t know that I’ve ever described myself as a Zionist in the past. I certainly think that right now in my job, and where Zionism is a subject of discussion, I don’t have any interest in being one or not being one. I’m not a Zionist or anti-Zionist.”
I get what she’s saying, but it’s too much sharing for someone starting one of the most sensitive and scrutinized beats in journalism. If I were her boss I’d be tearing my hair out.
Another strike against her is that she tweeted Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada, an anti-Israel Website, saying she heard “good things” about him.
The truth is we all suck up to potential sources, even the ones we revile. (“Oh hi, Rabbi Kahane. I read your oped in the Jewish Press about your plans to run for the Knesset. Very enlightening. Now can we talk about your call for the expulsion of Israeli Arabs?”) The problem is she did it on Twitter, instead of in a cloying phone call.
This is a sticky beat to begin with, and not to have a sense of how to finesse it coming out of the gate is a terrible portent.