April 9, 2014
A little over 40 years ago, I landed a job at the foreign desk of the Washington Post, a leading American newspaper, just about four years after returning to the United States to settle in Washington for good, since I was returning with my American wife in the wake of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
My success was due to meeting the paper’s deputy opinion page editor, the late Stephen S. Rosenfeld, an American Jew. I called him the morning after I had read his very long column critical of Sen. William J. Fulbright (D-AR), who was then head of the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was believed to be understanding, if not sympathetic, to the Palestinian people in their conflict with Israel.
I was surprised by Rosenfeld’s reaction when I told him that the Post did not carry the senator’s remarks which he decried. He was shocked and promised to call me back, wondering whether the coverage appeared in a later edition of the paper.
But when he returned my call he admitted, rather embarrassed, that I was correct, as the paper failed to carry the speech. The excuse was that it came too late for the deadline…but not for his commentary.
“At least you and I think it was an important speech,” I said, laughingly. He went along with me, and later revealed that he was a subscriber to the bi-monthly magazine that I had edited then but folded a few weeks earlier due to lack of sufficient funding.
The magazine, called Amideast, was published by the American Friends of the Middle East (AFME), a non-profit organization, which was very popular among its readers who followed the news of the turbulence, as always, in the Middle East. He then suggested we have lunch together.
Palestinian at the Washington Post
I revealed that I was a Palestinian who lived in Beirut after we lost our homeland to the Israelis in 1948. He took a small step backward in amazement, if not shock.
I was then free-lancing for some papers in the Arab world, including the Daily Star of Lebanon, which I had edited before coming to the US. He wondered about my future plans. I replied, half-jokingly, that I would like to work for the Post. He took my response seriously and said he would look into it. That evening I started my first day at the Post, but regrettably my stay did not last for long.
One evening, my immediate editor at the foreign desk, also an American Jew, came to my desk wondering whether I could translate the letter he was carrying in his hand. But on checking, it turned out it was written in French, not Arabic as I had thought it would be.
He looked at me saying, rather grudgingly, “How come you, a Lebanese, do not know French?” My response was that I am not Lebanese. And when he pressed me, I revealed that I was a Palestinian who lived in Beirut after we lost our homeland to the Israelis in 1948. He took a small step backward in amazement, if not shock. I then knew that my days at The Post would be numbered. A few weeks later I succeeded in getting another job. (Job security at American private enterprises is not usually secure.)
The presence of American Jews in several American media outlets has always baffled many Americans and disappointed several Arab Americans, and certainly the Arab world.
Revealing my personal experience was prompted by the recent recommendations of Clyde Haberman, a veteran American Jewish correspondent for the New York Times who left the paper last December. He told all in a “sharp interview” with Haaretz, the liberal Israeli daily, according to Philip Weiss, founder and co-editor of Mondoweiss.net, which describes itself as “a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective.”
Haberman first declared that the New York Times should assign non-Jews to report from Israel, explaining that in the four years he was there he never got a letter that said “nice job.” He continued, “This was the lot of most New York Times reporters in Israel, as well as other prominent American journalists who have agreed to an Israel posting.”
American Jews in the Media
When asked by Weiss whether sending a Jewish reporter is hence a good or bad idea, Haberman replied, “It is probably better to send a non-Jew rather than a Jew — just as I would probably prefer to send a non-Indian to India. It is better to avoid that extra component.”
Weiss added: “Because of such concerns, years ago, in its non-Zionist days, The Times used to insist that non-Jews be assigned to Jerusalem. Also note that Max Blumenthal — author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel […] — while not counting Jews, said that the Times bureau is thoroughly inside the Zionist narrative.”
Adding insult to injury is the announcement by CNN of the appointment of Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US who had to abandon his American citizenship before assuming his post, as analyst and contributor.
Oren, who now lives in Tel Aviv, has told the Jerusalem Post that he saw his new position as an opportunity to give “balanced but insightful commentary on pressing Israeli and Middle East issues.” But on his Facebook page, Oren declared, “I look forward to continue serving the people of Israel in the future and further strengthening the historic US-Israeli alliance.”
Incidentally, the leading anchor at CNN is Wolf Blitzer, a German-born Jew who early in his career was a Washington correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. Prior to that, in the 1970s, he wrote for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) Near East Report newsletter.
Does this mean that the Arab world, and more directly the Palestinians, would now have a better chance to tell their side of the story in the US media? Your guess is as good as mine!