I sent this letter to Margaret Sullivan, the Public Editor of The New York Times today:
Dear Ms. Sullivan,
As public editor of The New York Times, your role, as I understand it, is to advocate for the interests of readers and to be an arbiter of accuracy.
I welcome your examination in your column today of Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren’s dismissive and derogatory language about Palestinians, though it seems too much to hope that The New York Times can ever appoint a bureau chief that sees Palestinians as fully human.
I am disappointed however that in your comments about Rudoren’s use of social media you wrote the following about me:
Jeffrey Goldberg, writing in The Atlantic, summarized them: “She shmoozed-up Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian activist who argues for Israel’s destruction; she also praised Peter Beinart’s upcoming book (‘The Crisis of Zionism’) as, ‘terrific: provocative, readable, full of reporting and reflection.’ She also linked without comment to an article in a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese newspaper.” The headline on Mr. Goldberg’s article was, “Twitterverse to New NYT Jerusalem Bureau Chief: Stop Tweeting!”
In other words you laundered Goldberg’s inflammatory accusations against me as fact, and you never bothered to contact me to discern their accuracy or discuss them with me. What I advocate is full equality for Palestinians, full implementation of their human and political rights, and the abolition of all laws and practices by Israel that discriminate against them just because they are not Jews.
My views are well-laid out in numerous articles and in my book One Country.
That Goldberg, a former guard at an Israeli prison camp for Palestinian political prisoners, interprets my call for Palestinians to enjoy full human rights as advocating for “Israel’s destruction” tells you much more about his view of the nature of Israel – that racism is foundational and necessary – than it does about my views.
But what is clear is that by using such language, Goldberg seeks to smear and marginalize me and paint me as an extremist, and more importantly to place discussion of Israel’s racist and apartheid-like practices beyond the pale of debate and discussion.
It’s also notable that you quoted Goldberg’s characterization of me and described Phil Weiss as “the anti-Zionist Jewish-American journalist,” but did not characterize Goldberg’s ethnicity, religion or political views in any way, leaving the impression that he is some sort of neutral voice.
By quoting Goldberg’s views about me as if he were some kind of authority, you have assisted him in his campaign. By affirming that communicating with me was a “misstep” by Rudoren you are explicitly endorsing Goldberg’s view of me.
This being the case it is clear that your readers cannot rely on your ability to be fair and impartial when it comes to matters related to Palestine and the Israelis.
Update: 7 December 2012
After my letter above and subsequent exchanges, New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan published a column today, “Some Second Thoughts and Reader Feedback About the Middle East and Social Media.”
Part of it addressed the concerns raised in my letter:
- As has been pointed out to me by a number of readers, I should have provided more context for the quotation from Jeffrey Goldberg, briefly describing him, as I did another source of criticism, Philip Weiss.
One reader (“freespeechlover” from Wichita, Kan.), made this comment:
“Jeffrey Goldberg is not labeled in the manner as is Philip Weiss. Why not? Why is Phillip Weiss an “anti-Zionist Jewish American,” while Goldberg is just Goldberg? Why isn’t he a “Zionist Jewish American, who served in the IDF as a prison guard during the 1st Intifada?” or even a “Zionist Jewish American who writes about the Middle East for The Atlantic?” Why is that missing parallel technique of representation absent?”
Those descriptions are accurate, to my knowledge, and at least some of that certainly would have been helpful for readers in evaluating his comments. I have also heard from the Palestinian-American journalist and activist Ali Abunimah, who was mentioned unfavorably in Mr. Goldberg’s quotation. He called Mr. Goldberg’s description of him as wanting the destruction of Israel “wildly inflammatory,” and also objected to the lack of context. Mr. Abunimah’s views on a one-state solution to the conflict are the subject of his 2006 book, “One Country,” and may also be found in this article on his Web site.
This response satisfactorily addresses my concerns and I appreciate Sullivan’s willingness to engage.