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.

February 12, 2019 | Jerold S. Auerbach
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).

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.

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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