New York Times Columnist Addresses the Question of How Well the Press Covers Israel

Renowned newspaperman and CUNY graduate Clyde Haberman, who spent 13 years as a globetrotting foreign correspondent for The New York Times in locales such as Tokyo, Rome and Jerusalem before taking up his current assignment in 1995 as Metro section columnist for the paper, delivered this year’s Frances Haidt, ’44, Memorial Lecture presented by the Ethyle R. Wolfe Institute for the Humanities in cooperation with the Department of Judaic Studies and the Department of English.

The subject of Haberman’s talk, which was held March 18 in the Woody Tanger Auditorium at the Brooklyn College Library, was “Covering Israel: Does the Press Get It Right?” His answer was usually, but not always. “Nobody always gets it right,” he told his audience of more than 100 persons. “But, yes, mostly over all we get it right.”

Haberman described how shortly after arriving in Jerusalem in 1991, he joined several other correspondents in covering an anti-Palestinian demonstration by Orthodox Jews. One of the protestors came up to him and bluntly asked, “Are you a Jew?” Haberman replied that he was and the man quickly rejoined his fellow demonstrators. Then one of Haberman’s fellow journalists, a Briton, who also was Jewish, warned him not to tell people he was Jewish. “It will just cause trouble for you,” he said.

Haberman, a 1966 graduate of City College of New York who is married and has three children and one grandchild, admitted that covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for four years was one of the most troublesome – even dangerous – assignments for the Times, with the exception of covering the Iraq War. He spoke of aspects of his time in the Middle East that bothered him and others that amused him, then took questions from his mostly elderly audience.

Prior to joining the Times in 1977, Haberman worked at the New York Post, where he covered a wide range of local and national stories, including the bloody Attica prison rebellion in 1971 and Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign for President.

The Israelis and the Palestinians have many different words to describe the things they are fighting over, he said. But, he added, they both claim to be fighting for the same thing. The Palestinians call it “Salaam,” the Israelis call it “Shalom.” Both words mean “Peace.”