Last month, former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman published an essay in Tablet highlighting how, and why, news organizations get Israel so wrong. The AP’s Jerusalem bureau, where Friedman used to work, was the subject of much of his criticism. He argued that the bureau stuck to a preexisting narrative of Israeli extremism and Palestinian moderation. One of his examples that his former employer stifled stories that presented a divergent narrative came from 2009, when two of his colleagues had a story about a peace proposal from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Palestinian leadership rejected. Both the Israelis and Palestinians confirmed this, but editors pulled the piece.
Steven Gutkin, the former AP bureau chief in Jerusalem, who hired Friedman in 2006, wrote a response in which he denied the charge that the story was pulled due to editorial bias, asserting that the information discovered by the reporters, namely a map depicting a proposed land swap, was old news. (Friedman addressed Gutkin’s response here on the Scroll last week. Gutkin has since published a rebuttal.)
Now, Mark Lavie, a former colleague of Friedman’s at the AP in Jerusalem and the author of Broken Spring, has weighed in, identifying himself as one of the reporters involved in writing about the 2009 peace offer blog post directed to Gutkin. He confirms Friedman’s account of the story being pulled.
I’m not named in Matti’s article, either, but I am the “furious” one who discovered the Israeli peace offer in early 2009, got it confirmed on the record and brought it to you. You banned me from writing about it. That is by far the worst journalistic fiasco I have been involved in, and we’re talking 50 years of journalism here. No denials on your part can erase the truth–and this is the truth: The AP suppressed a world-changing story for no acceptable reason. I am not ascribing motives to the decision–oh, hell, of course I am. It fit a pattern, described by Matti, of accepting the Palestinian narrative as truth and branding the Israelis as oppressors.
While the AP hasn’t responded in any official capacity to Friedman’s essay—and neither Friedman, Gutkin, nor Lavie work there anymore—his arguments have clearly touched a nerve.
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Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.