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February 22, 1985 - Image 15

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-02-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, February 22, 1985 15

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that she too should have to
be exposed to the dangers of
war.
In Jerusalem, his wife can
move about freely and is
studying Hebrew at an ulpan.
She may even decide to at-
) tend meetings of Hadassah-
Israel, having received a gift
membership from an aunt
who is a national officer of
Hadassah in America.
Friedman found an "enor-
mous contrast" in the means
of gathering news in Beirut
and Jerusalem. In Beirut,
there were no trustworthy of-
ficial news channels, and re-
porters had difficulty in
checking the authenticity of
the information they received.
"Here, information is hand-
ed to you on a silver platter
— good reliable information."
In spite of the availablity
of reliable information, how-
ever, Friedman must conti-
nue to work hard at his busi-
ness of being a good and
knowledgeable reporter. Dur-
ing the week in which I inter-
viewed him, he had traveled
north to Lebanon for a first-
hand look at the preparations
for Israel's pull-out, as well as
all the way south to Taba,
and then to Beersheba twice,
in his coverage of the Egypt-
ian-Israeli negotiations.
His being Jewish, and hav-
ing positive feelings about his
Jewishness, in no way affects
his functioning as a corres-
pondent, he maintained. Peo-
ple respect him and react to
him as the New York Times
reporter, which is how he
wants it.
"My editors sent me here
because they had the confi-
dence that I would do the job.
Quite honestly, religion real-
ly doesn't play a factor."
He conceded that some
L )1
people tend to expect more of
a Jewish correspondent in the
Middle East, to a certain ex-
tent. "But serious readers un-
derstand., and certainly gov-
ernment officials understand,
that I'm a New York Times
correspondent, pure and sim-
ple. That's where my loyal-
,— ties and allegiance lie.

"People less sophisticated
and less familiar with how
the press works might be
more demanding on that
score, but I don't take it very
seriously. I do my job, and I
don't mind getting angry let-
ters.
"Nobody elected me to this
job; I'm not running for public
office. My job is Israel's reali-
ty, not Israel's image. Is-
rael's image is the job of Is-
rael Peleg, head of the Israel
government press office. "
Obviously, Friedman has
little choice in deciding what
"hard news" stories to cover.
In choosing what to write
about in a city overflowing
with possible feature stories,
however, he said he asks him-
self two questions. The first

"My job is Israel's
reality, not Israel's
image!'

is whether it's something
worth reporting; i.e., some-
thing that he won't be blow-
ing out of proportion, but is
worth his attention and the
attention of his readers. The
second question is whether it
is really a story, something
he can "sell" to his editors.
"Once I've answered those
two, that's really the only cri-
terion I have. If it reflects well
on Israel, fine; if it doesn't re-
flect well on Israel, also fine.
"Is it correct, is it the reali-
ty? Reality in every sense of
the word. Not just is it real,
but is it in the right propor-
tion, is it part of what is im-
portant about Israel today
that my readers should know
about — whether it's large or
small. That's what I care
about.
"Israel is a bundle of con-
tradictions, good and bad,
and I think it's the job of any
reporter who's trying to re-
flect accurately what's going
on here to do a wide range of
stories. In doing a wide range
of stories, you do stories that
reflect more positively on Is-

rael's image and some that
reflect more negatively. But
the reality here is both."
Friedman is careful to point
out that he is not a "self-
hating Jew," that he has nev-
er attempted to hide his Jew-
ishness, that he has no psy-
chological hangups about it.
"I'm an American of the
Jewish faith and I'm very
proud to be Jewish. I'm a
firm believer in the Jewish
state, and the right of the
Jewish people to have a state.
"No one can ever say I
made my career or got where
I did by hiding who I was. I
don't believe in that and I
never have."
Actually, Friedman's being
Jewish may even have helped
his becoming chief of the Je-
rusalem bureau in particular.
Friedman said that the Times'
executive editor, A.M. Rosen-
thal had long wanted a Jew in
the Jerusalem position and
had appointed David Shipler,
Friedman's predecessor, mis-
takenly believing that Shipler
was Jewish.
Although Friedman char-
acteristically made no effort
to hide his Jewishness in Bei-
rut, it was completely irrele-
vant to his function as the
Times correspondent there.
In a city whose population he
described as comprising a
"mosaic of religious frag-
ments," the question of his
religion never came up.

At times, he would find
himself sitting down to talk
with a rabid Arab nationalist
who was anxious to tell his
story to the New York Times
correspondent. "My approach
has always been that people
respond to you on the basis of
what you yourself project
and give," he said.
"If you approach people
like the representative of the
United Jewish Appeal, they
will respond to you as the
representative of the United
Jewish Appeal. If you ap-
proach people as an open-
minded and fair reporter, in
most cases they respond to
you on the same basis." ❑

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