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Update: The New York Times appended a correction to Rudoren’s story Wednesday afternoon following this report.
The correction states in part, “An earlier version of this article misstated the United States’ view of the West Bank settlements seized by Israel in the 1967 war.”
The New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren is under renewed criticism from the pro-Israel community for articles critics say slant toward the Palestinian Authority and misrepresent U.S. policy towards Israel.
Pro-Israel officials have once again questioned Rudoren’s journalistic objectivity following two recent articles that they say favorably portrayed Palestinian stone throwers and falsely claimed that the United States considers Israeli settlements illegal.
Rudoren has displayed a pro-Palestinian bias since her appointment last year and may have been influenced by one of Israel’s top opponents, these critics say.
Rudoren on Monday penned a nearly 2,000-word profile on Palestinian rock throwers, describing these often-deadly assaults as a “hobby” and a “rite of passage” in Palestinian society. The article prompted the Israeli Defense Forces to offer a veiled rebuke.
One day before that article was published, Rudoren claimed in a separate dispatch that Israeli settlement construction could prematurely detonate a new round of peace talks.
The United States considers Israeli settlements illegal, Rudoren stated in her article.
“The United States, along with most of the world, considers these settlements illegal, and some of them sit in the heart of the area imagined as a future Palestinian state,” wrote Rudoren.
However, this statement is factually inaccurate, according to Middle East experts and an analysis of official U.S. policy on Israeli settlements since 1949.
“This is not the declared policy of the United States,” Steven Rosen, a former top official at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), wrote in a 2012 analysis of U.S. policy.
“Successive U.S. administrations have deplored settlement activity as an obstacle to peace, but no American president—except Jimmy Carter—has taken the view that building Jewish homes in Jerusalem constitutes a violation of the Geneva conventions,” wrote Rosen, currently director of the Washington Project of the Middle East Forum.
While Carter stated in 1980 that he considered the settlements illegal, every presidential administration of the last 30 years—as well as those before Carter’s—has refused to state this as U.S. policy.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly declined to declare settlements illegal despite pressure for him to do so.
The United States in 2011 vetoed a United Nations Security Council Resolution that would have labeled Israeli settlements illegal.
“If an American president were to take the position that all Israeli construction outside the former 1967 line is illegal, it would have the effect of criminalizing the Jewish communities of the eastern sector of Jerusalem, where 40 percent of the Jews in that city live,” Rosen wrote in his policy analysis.
Rudoren told the Washington Free beacon via email that she is “looking into whether the thing re U.S. and [Israeli] settlements requires a correction.”
Asked to address recent criticism, Rudoren said, “I don’t have any comment on the criticism, which I’m sure you’ve seen has come from both sides. Lots of praise, too, for getting behind a stereotype/caricature, though it is of course quieter.”
Pro-Israel officials say Rudoren’s most recent inaccurate statements should prompt readers to question her objectivity.
“This is an ongoing problem with Rudoren,” said Noah Pollak, executive director of the Emergency Committee for Israel. “Not only is she stunningly ignorant of her beat, but her knowledge vacuum is filled every time by the same kind of ‘mistake’—namely, substituting what the anti-Israel left wishes was true for what is actually true.”
Some insiders allege that Rudoren’s writing has been influenced by Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, a website that has come under fire for what critics describe as its anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias.
Abunimah, who has referred to Zionism as “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today,” chastised Rudoren in a July 16 article.
“Why can’t Rudoren just say clearly that the settlements have been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, the U.N. Security Council, the U.N. General Assembly, and almost every government in the world, repeatedly and consistently, for decades?” Abunimah wrote in an article headlined, “Why is New York Times reporting on Israeli settlements so timid?”
Rudoren acknowledged to the Free Beacon that she has seen Abunimah’s article but that it did not factor into her Sunday dispatch.
Rudoren’s reporting “is the result of sending a journalist to the Middle East who doesn’t know anything about the Middle East,” one senior official with a pro-Israel organization told the Free Beacon.
“This is why journalists shouldn’t take their cues from random fringe blog sites,” the official said. “They stop producing accurate copy and instead start misleading their readers. Sad for her and sad for the Times.”
Rudoren forwarded to the Free Beacon a response that Times’s standards editor Philip Corbett has been sending to readers who have “expressed concern” over her article on Palestinian stone throwers.
“We understand the sensitivity of these issues and the complexity of the ongoing conflict,” Corbett wrote. “But I respectfully disagree with the idea that our story was biased or in any way supported or glamorized the stone-throwers.”
“The purpose of the piece was to give a close-up, detailed look, to help readers better understand this ongoing element of the conflict,” he wrote, adding that “it included the justifications offered by some youths and others in the town, but it also very clearly showed the corrosive and negative effects.”
“I think few readers would feel that our story glorified the practice or its consequences,” Corbett concluded.
“To be clear, this story was just one piece of our continuing, extensive coverage of the region and the conflict,” his letter states. “It was not meant to address every related issue. But I think it provided a thoughtful, memorable, and detailed look that many readers found enlightening.”
Rudoren initially came under fire last year after she tweeted several sympathetic messages to Abunimah and other well-known Israel critics.
She told the Free Beacon in an interview at the time that she would continue to engage with all types of people via Twitter and Facebook.
“I’m not really interested in labels about who I am and what I think,” she said
Rudoren again drew fire in April 2012 for a tweet comparing Israel to Iran. She later apologized, telling the Free Beacon that there are “clearly people trying to just make the whole experience of reporting on or discussing the issues toxic.”
The Times subsequently assigned an editor to oversee Rudoren’s use of social media, including her Facebook and Twitter accounts, according to reports.
Yet her reporting has won plaudits from many of Israel’s critics, who celebrated her 2012 portrayal of Palestinian hunger strikers.
“What is most impressive about Rudoren’s record so far is that there is no attempt to give the faintest appearance of balance,” Middle East expert Barry Rubin wrote at the time. “She probably doesn’t understand what that concept means. And she certainly knows that the editors and ombudsman won’t hold her accountable.”