It’s the end of an era of sorts. And it couldn’t have happened a moment too soon.
Sol Salbe, always bearer of interesing news and useful information informs me today that Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz’s Washington correspondent will be leaving. Unfortunately, I don’t yet know the why or wherefore of this move. Haaretz has a new editor, Dov Alfon, who may be beginning to put his own stamp on the paper. The Washington post is a key one for the newspaper and it seems reasonable that Alfon would want his person in there.
While I don’t relish the idea of anyone losing their job (and perhaps Rosner is leaving with another position lined up), Rosner was one of my betes noire. His coverage was uniformly narrow and partisan and below the usual Haaretz standards. His was turgid and lacking in any grace. His reporting was so bad I usually could safely ignore it as having little or no relevance to anything. The few times when I did pay attention to him I practically felt like tearing my hair out he was so bad. All this was especially sad when you consider the illustrious figures who filled this role in prior years: Amos Elon and Akiva Eldar among others.
Typical for Rosner is his reporting on the new J Street survey. The main critique he offers is that the questions in the survey are so long that they are “laughable.” Yes, there is a little more substance offered in some of his other nitpicks with the poll, but not much.
Take this passage:
More people [surveyed] agree that “established” and “traditional” Jewish organizations represent their views [on Israel] than the number of people who say such organizations do not represent them. Even when AIPAC – supposedly the great Satan – is mentioned by name, more people (34 percent) believe it accurately represents their views than those (23 percent) who don’t. The 40 percent who do not have an opinion also represent a group that can hardly be considered “fundamentally misread.”
If you go back to the actual poll you’ll find that only 49% of those surveyed found that traditional Jewish groups (i.e. the Israel lobby) represented them. Think what this means in the context of the “we are one” mantra chanted by the lobby to justify their hegemonic grasp of the Jewish voice on Israel. Further, only 34% feel that AIPAC represents their views on the subject–a 15% drop from the number for the generic Israel lobby. Compare the AIPAC number to the 66% who feel comfortable with their local Jewish federation. The former’s numbers are absolutely in the tank. Where is this in Rosner’s coverage? Nowhere to be found. These aren’t questions he chooses to ponder since he is a creature of the lobby and AIPAC.
I suppose if I were a newspaper editor facing a right-wing Bush Administration in power in Washington, I might decide that a Rosner type could be helpful in gaining access to the new political forces. That’s the only way I can see justify putting him in such a trusted position whenever he was originally appointed.
Following that thinking, if you judge there is a likely change coming on Election Day with a Democrat possibly entering the White House, it also makes sense that Rosner should leave now. Someone like him will not find much favor in an Obama White House.
All this is speculation of course. All I know is that a new Washington correspondent for Haaretz is a very welcome change almost regardless of who the person is. I should add that I have no problem with a liberal newspaper hiring a conservative columnist. In fact, this is a good thing as long as the columnist embraces the notion of free-ranging debate and does not retreat behind slogans and narrow-thinking as Rosner did.
With any luck, Rosner will be either joining the staff of the Washington Times or Sheldon Adelson’s shmate Yisral Hayom. I’d think he’d be among kindred spirits at one of them.