Another Rudoren Boo-Boo

NYT Jerusalem bureau chief Defends, then Apologizes for Iran-Israel Comparison

April 4, 2012

The New York Times’ recently installed Jerusalem bureau chief is once again drawing fire on Twitter for likening Israel to Iran. When approached by the Free Beacon, she defended the comparison.

"What do Israel and Iran have in common? Jailing journalists, according to [the Columbia Journalism Review]," Rudoren tweeted yesterday.

The comment—which immediately elicited a flurry of angry reactions from various pro-Israel forces across Twitter—included a link to a CJR report noting that Israel and Iran respectively place second and third on the list of countries currently incarcerating journalists.

The report itself drew widespread criticism for employing statistical sleight of hand in order to paint a portrait of Israel that does not comport with the facts.

Justin Martin, the report’s author, "avails himself of obviously bad numbers. He relies on an artificial, self-serving, and meaningless definition of ‘per capita,’" wrote Omri Ceren in Commentary. "And he equates twilight totalitarian roundups with open Israeli jurisprudence. For a scholar to publish something like this in an academic outlet is disgraceful, and any CJR editor who touched the post is complicit in nakedly politicizing their journal."

Rudoren initially defended her tweet, maintaining that the report was noteworthy.

"Just sharing a link that caught my eye," she tweeted in response to one of her critics.

"Was trying to make a lite point off a tidbit. It’s Twitter, not a dissertation. Others' analyses also intrstng," she later added.

She then apologized.

"Folks, I tweeted the CJR link w/o reading it carefully (and w/o reading any of the analyses)," the tweet stated. "Apologies."

Asked to comment on the controversy earlier today, Rudoren scoffed at her Twitter critics and defended her credibility on the issue of Israel.

"It was a quick tweet of a tidbit," Rudoren, who ignited a firestorm earlier this year when she used Twitter to reach out to some of Israel’s fiercest critics, explained in an email.

"I wasn't saying there was equivalency, just noting they were side by side in his list, which, again, in this moment, seemed worthy of a quick mention," Rudoren said. "That's how I see Twitter—a medium for a quick note—hey, look at this—as opposed to an in-depth exploration."

She maintained that it is perfectly acceptable to make note of the report, even if it was flawed.

"To suggest that noting the existence of a CJR study, even if flawed, is anti-Semitic
seems entirely out of proportion. Anti-Semitism is about intent, right? So the suggestion is that I put the tweet out to hurt/destroy Jews? Seriously? A tweet? It’s a platform for conversation, for sharing information—and, sure, for debunking or critiquing that information," Rudoren wrote.

"To the extent that my tweet led me to critiques of the CJR study, and led others to both the studies and the critiques, it worked. To say that throwing a link out there affects my credibility seems to me to reflect a lack of understanding of the medium, or at least how I use it," Rudoren added.

"Given the ongoing news/climate re Iran and Israel, that seemed the punchy twitter thing to note (while reading at night on vacation after a long day at Disneyworld—perhaps not the brightest idea)," she said.

Many of her critics are simply trying to make her job unpleasant, she said.

"There's also clearly people trying to just make the whole experience of reporting on or discussing the issues toxic," Rudoren said. "Which is unfortunate."