Should The New York Times's Jerusalem Bureau Chief Be a Zionist?

An update on the controversy about Jodi Rudoren, the New York Times' education editor who has just been appointed the paper's Jerusalem bureau chief: I think it's generally agreed that the Jerusalem job is the paper's most sensitive, and Rudoren did a couple of unwise things in the immediate aftermath of her appointment, tweeting to Ali Abunimah, an advocate of Israel's destruction, in an overly shmoozy fashion that she has heard "good things" about him and would like to talk. (As I pointed out here, there's nothing wrong with interviewing Abunimah -- I've interviewed plenty of like-minded Hamas and Hezbollah figures -- though I don't think he's quite so central to the overall story as she thinks he is, but there's something odd about her tone. Just imagine, by contrast, if she had tweeted to an extremist settler rabbi that she had heard "good things" about him; the outcry would have been loud, and appropriate.)

Her bigger mistake was to endorse Peter Beinart's upcoming book about Zionism and the American Jewish community. Peter has a very anti-Likud bent, which, again, is fine, but it's not a reporter's job to praise controversial Middle East polemics, but simply to, you know, report on them. (Part of the obvious concern here, as Shmuel Rosner has noted, is that she's poisoning her chances of building trusting relationships with various Israeli sources by taking sides in Israeli politics. But unlike Shmuel, I think she can undo the damage by showing, over time, that she's fair, and represents accurately the positions of all sides.)

Now, some of the criticism of Rudoren has gone too far. Adam Kredo, of the Washington Free Beacon, tells us that "The New York Times' incoming Jerusalem bureau chief, Jodi Rudoren, won't say if she is a Zionist." He's also upset because she won't say whether she believes Israel practices apartheid.

"Asked if she considers Israel an apartheid state--as critics of the Jewish state so often do--Rudoren declined comment.

"I don't have an assessment yet," she said. "I'm not sure I'll ever answer that question in the way you've just framed it."

She kind of booted the answer there. She should have simply said, "I'm not going to answer such a leading question," and left it at that.On the first question, she was absolutely correct to demur; she should not identify herself as anything but a reporter. It would be equally absurd to expect her to answer a question about her American party affiliation. Why? Because it's immaterial. I don't want Rudoren to be a Zionist, or an anti-Zionist, or anything else. I just want her to report accurately what she sees.