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Obvious Flaw of Times ‘Third Intifada’ Story

Ali Gharib’s rather long tirade against my recent blog post in the Forward on Ben Ehrenreich’s New York Times magazine story deserves a brief response.

The story about Nabi Saleh was framed in the context of a Palestinian village testing “the limits of unarmed resistance.” Those were the words Times’ editors placed on the cover of the Sunday magazine (yeah, I’m old-fashioned, and still read in print) and it was the concept that undergirded Ehrenreich’s story. I questioned that because, to me, regularly throwing stones at other people is not unarmed resistance. Stone-throwers may be at a disadvantage when faced with guns and tanks, but they can still inflict harm and still commit acts of violence.

If the villagers of Nabi Saleh were able to stand up to the Israeli occupation without arms, and if Palestinians across the West Bank were to do the same, I believe that they would change the conversation entirely, and shame both Israeli and Palestinian leaders into a real negotiated settlement. But that’s not what is happening.

Evidently what really galled Gharib, though, was the way I questioned Ehrenreich’s credibility because of a strongly anti-Zionist opinion piece he published a few years ago. Gharib said I should say why. I thought that was obvious.

Ehrenreich’s decided point of view discredits him no less than if he had published something that could have been dictated by the right-wing Zionist Organization of America. He took sides in a delicate, complicated conflict, but presented his story in the paragon of classic, objective journalism. He and his editors should have been transparent about his political leanings, or the Times should have found someone else to do the story.

At the Forward, I express my point of view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the editorials I write, clearly labeled opinion. But honestly, I don’t know the inner political thoughts of our reporters or editors — the ones on the ground, shaping our news coverage. It’s none of my business, and they are all professional enough to separate their personal views from their journalism.

Are we shaped by who we are as a Jewish news organization? Of course. That’s no secret, and discerning readers take that into account.

But our highest calling is to produce the fairest, most honest, most independent journalism possible, which is what I’ve done practicing my craft for more than three decades. That’s my credential for occasionally criticizing the Times. I expected better. So should we all.

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