The First Jewish Jerusalem Bureau Chief of the “New York Times”

Hint: it’s not who you think it was. But his baleful legacy lives on in his successors.

Journalists and pilgrims gather in the yard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City on February 25, 2018. GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images.

Journalists and pilgrims gather in the yard of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City on February 25, 2018. GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images.

Observation
Feb. 12 2019
About the author

Jerold S. Auerbach, professor emeritus of history at Wellesley College, is the author of Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism, and Israel 1896-2016  (Academic Studies Press).


In June 1984, A.M. Rosenthal, executive editor of the New York Times, transferred Thomas Friedman from his assignment as a foreign correspondent in Lebanon to the position of Jerusalem bureau chief in Israel. According to Friedman’s recollection, Rosenthal chose him with a specific purpose in mind: “to dispense with an old unwritten rule at the New York Times of never allowing a Jew to report from Jerusalem.” That “unwritten rule” was based on the notion that Jews would be incapable of reporting objectively on their own people in their historic homeland.

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More about: History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Middle East, New York Times