Jews fit to print: Can reporting on Israel in the NYT be fair?


The New York Times met its Jewish quota this weekend with a bevy of Israel-related stories:

  • After a few years covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from Jerusalem, the Times’ Ethan Bronner concludes in a thoughtful Week in Review piece that he’ll never be able to satisfy readers on either side of the divide that his reportage can be fair:

I have written about the Arab-Israeli conflict on and off for more than a quarter-century and have spent the past four weeks covering Israel’s war in Gaza. For me, Mr. Husseini’s story sums up how the two sides speak in two distinct tongues, how the very words they use mean opposite things to each other, and how the war of language can confound a reporter’s attempts to narrate — or a new president’s attempts to mediate — this conflict in a way both sides can accept as fair.

  • Young Egyptian activists are using Facebook to organize and mobilize political movements, and Hosni Mubarak’s government is none too happy about it, stymieing their forays into real-world demonstrations, reports Samantha M. Shapiro in the Sunday Magazine. Will these young Egyptians find a way to translate their online activism into real-world difference?

Online, members of the movement are casting votes on the Web site’s walls, publishing notes with their views on the political situation and creating groups to draft a constitution for their movement. But what does it mean to have a vibrant civil society on your computer screen and a police state in the street? When I spoke to Nora Younis, she described the April 6 strike as a practice session for the new generation. “It’s a rehearsal for a bigger thing,” she said. “Right now, we are just testing the power of each other.

  • Tom Friedman jumps on the bandwagon of those who say the window of opportunity for Israeli-Palestinian peace, and the two-state solution, is closing. Why? Hamas and, of course, Jewish settlers:

We’re getting perilously close to closing the window on a two-state solution, because the two chief window-closers — Hamas in Gaza and the fanatical Jewish settlers in the West Bank — have been in the driver’s seats. Hamas is busy making a two-state solution inconceivable, while the settlers have steadily worked to make it impossible…

Without a stable two-state solution, what you will have is an Israel hiding behind a high wall, defending itself from a Hamas-run failed state in Gaza, a Hezbollah-run failed state in south Lebanon and a Fatah-run failed state in Ramallah. Have a nice day.So if you believe in the necessity of a Palestinian state or you love Israel, you’d better start paying attention. This is not a test. We’re at a hinge of history.

And now for the good news…

  • Israeli entrepreneur Shai Reshef is planning to start a global online university, Tamar Lewin reports:

"The idea is to take social networking and apply it to academia,” said the entrepreneur, Shai Reshef, founder of several Internet-based educational businesses. “The open-source courseware is there, from universities that have put their courses online, available to the public, free,” Mr. Reshef said. “We know that online peer-to-peer teaching works. Putting it all together, we can make a free university for students all over the world, anyone who speaks English and has an Internet connection.”

  • After Israel’s first, and mostly disastrous, foray into professional baseball in 2007, a Yankees partner is making plans to launch an entirely new baseball league in the Jewish state in 2010 or 2011, reports Alan Schwarz in the Bats blog. Despite the obvious challenges, Marv Goldklang is optimistic. To paraphrase Herzl, he said:

Israel is a place where dreams come true – notwithstanding the twists and turns you read about in the front part of the paper. Israel is that type of place. Hopefully what we’re doing is not too much of a dream.

And from New York, this little gem:

  • Samuel Freedman recalls The New Jewish Times, an edgy, iconoclastic Jewish monthly that published for just eight months in 1981 and a was a precursor to today’s so-called hip Jewish publications: Heeb, Jewcy, etc. Aside from a few memorable stories — an interview with then-fugitive Abbie Hoffman, a feature on a day camp run by the Ku Klux Klan — the magazine also was a forum for a few emerging literary stars. Among them: comic Art Spiegelman, Israel analyst Yossi Klein Halevi and then-office administrator Candace Bushnell, later creator of "Sex and the City."

Yes, long before “Sex in the City,” the phenomenon and the brand, Ms. Bushnell found her way to New Jewish Times through a job listing posted at New York University. She answered phones, greeted visitors, collected checks from advertisers, dropped off papers in the diamond district and pulled a few all-nighters doing layout. A harbinger, she also took friends from the paper to the Mudd Club and Area.

Ms. Bushnell herself is not Jewish, and Mr. Halevi recalls her as having “this kind of stunned expression” at the mayhem swirling through the office. Mr. Lemberg, though, recalls someone “unfazed.” And for Ms. Bushnell, the months she spent in the factory loft were part of an oddly precious time in her life, long before she became the uptown bard of cosmopolitans and Manolo Blahniks.

“It seemed so in line with the energy of New York,” she recalled of New Jewish Times. “There was the punk scene, and 42nd Street was 42nd Street. The city was so much more dangerous than today, but it also felt so creative. People would be on the street with boom boxes dancing to disco in the middle of the day. It was this exciting, eye-opening time.”

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