Jodi Rudoren’s parting gift to Israel

An Israeli settlement is seen in the background as Palestinians hold a prayer service in protest of Israel’s plans to build a wall cutting off the Cremisan monastery and agricultural land from a Bethlehem-area village, February 2013.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler ActiveStills

The reporting produced during Jodi Rudoren’s nearly four-year tenure as New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief was never exactly sober.

But Rudoren makes no attempt to conceal her intoxication with Zionism in this week’s feature on a “groundbreaking project” at an Israeli university in the occupied West Bank “that aims to use DNA testing to identify — and recreate — ancient wines drunk by the likes of King David and Jesus Christ.”

In her puff piece celebrating “Israeli wine culture,” Rudoren doesn’t let Ariel University’s pariah status get in the way of an opportunity to make Israel’s violent settlement colony enterprise – boutique wineries! – more palatable.

(On HuffPostLive Rudoren said she had been “fascinated with the wine story for years,” and that she thought it would “bring new audiences to the issue, because it appeals to foodies and wine lovers.”)

Rudoren does give lip service to Palestinian objections to Israel’s appropriation of indigenous varietals. The export director of the Cremisan winery, run out of the Salesian monastery, “sniped” its criticism in an email to Rudoren, she writes, since only verbs with a violent connotation may be used regarding Palestinians.

But she makes no mention of the imminent threat posed by Israeli colonization of the West Bank valley where Cremisan’s grapes are grown.

Whitewashing occupation

With the context of violent military occupation and colonization glossed over, this latest attempt to exploit history and archaeology to bolster modern Zionists’ claims to Palestinian land is instead presented as a novel startup venture.

Its primary bankroller is the Jewish National Fund, the quasi-state agency actively displacing Palestinians for the benefit of Israeli settlers like those profiled by Rudoren. But the Times reporter only euphemistically states that the group “has helped transform Israel’s agricultural landscape.”

After Mondoweiss highlighted this whitewashing of the Jewish National Fund’s role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in its critique of her story, Rudoren whined on HuffPostLive, “That’s background that’s not really relevant to the story.”

It surely wasn’t an angle emphasized by ISRAEL21c, the PR firm that seems to have pitched the story to her.

Journalist Max Blumenthal pointed out on Twitter that Rudoren’s piece was strikingly similar to one put out by ISRAEL21c a few days earlier:

ISRAEL21c, a US-registered nonprofit, is a key player in promoting Israel internationally. Last year it hired students as “digital ambassadors” to covertly plant its propaganda championing Israel as an attractive tech hub in online discussion forums and social media.

Shameful record

With this latest apparently recycled press release, The New York Times’ outgoing Jerusalem bureau chief seems intent on being remembered as Israel’s most reliable stenographer in the country’s foreign press corps.

Rudoren’s recent achievements include a glowing profile of Ayelet Shaked, the Netanyahu government’s justice minister and rising star of Israel’s far right.

In July 2014, Shaked infamously endorsed a call for “the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to ‘little snakes.’”

The following day, a Palestinian teen was kidnapped and burned alive by a group seeking to avenge the deaths of three Israelis found murdered in the West Bank. They were encouraged by the incitement of Israel’s top leadership which was largely ignored by The New York Times.

The newspaper has continued to demonstrate a lack of curiosity regarding the rallies and marches of Israelis calling for “death to the Arabs” and the burning of their villages.

Deference to the Israeli government is also evident in Rudoren’s report on the growing Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, in which she parrots racist Israeli rhetoric that the movement’s call for refugee rights amounts to a “demographic death warrant” for the “Jewish state.”

And she actively undermined a human rights group working to hold Israel accountable for its wholesale slaughter of more than 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza last year.

Rudoren also voluntarily complied with Israeli gag orders on multiple occasions, displaying a willingness to comply with government censorship that even the Times’ public editor described as “troubling.”

Last year, when she was was under fire for uncritically repeating an Israeli police chief’s justification for the nearly fatal beating of a Palestinian American teenager, candid video produced by Rudoren’s husband emerged, revealing not only the couple’s “Israel-centric outlook,” but also “the insular, ethnocentric environment” in which they had embedded themselves, “basking in the exclusively Jewish culture of West Jerusalem,” as Max Blumethal reported for The Electronic Intifada.

Blumenthal noted that Rudoren’s husband had “recently appeared as a parody of a clueless Jewish-American tourist in an advertisement for The Event Aliya Expo, an Israeli-government supported fair promoting Jews-only immigration to Israel.”

Meanwhile, Blumenthal added, Rudoren’s bureau is staffed by researchers and editors with close links to Israel’s Zionist elite, such as Isabel Kershner, a “Jewish Israeli who is married to Hirsh Goodman, a writer and former consultant for the Israeli military-linked Institute for National Security Studies.”

Conflicts of interest

Such conflicts of interest are nothing new for The New York Times Jerusalem bureau.

As Blumenthal noted, Rudoren’s predecessor, Ethan Bronner, had a son in the Israeli military at the time that he was bureau chief.

Bronner also hired Lone Star PR, one of Israel’s top publicity firms, to book paid lectures for him at the same time that the firm pitched stories to him.

Bronner is now an editor for Bloomberg news.

And where will Rudoren land now that she’s leaving Jerusalem?

She’s been rewarded with a position as deputy of the Times’ international desk.

Let’s hope that her successor doesn’t follow Rudoren’s example by beginning their tenure with a rosy tour of Israel’s settlements, glass of wine in hand.

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Comments

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This article is perfectly written: argument from facts - totally depressing facts - with some sarcasm and well-chosen phrases.
I'd welcome a similar analysis of other foreign correspondents. For instance I found Harriet Sherwood much, much better than Peter Beaumont (Guardian). We should support the (relatively) good ones.
Question: Should we wish that Carlos Slim buys the NYTimes? Would that dilute its pro-Zionism?

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"All our made up stuff that fits we print."

Nepotistic corporate "journalism" in its full glory.

Misinforming the public and serving as fish wrap since 1851. It even comes with an index.

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I basically lost all faith in the NYTimes with Bronner, Kershner, Erlanger, Rudoren & Co. on Israel and Palestine. Their reporting was cleverly formulated, toxic misinformation.

Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is the managing editor of The Electronic Intifada and lives in Chicago.