THUMBS DOWN to former Los Angeles Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Marjorie Miller for her January 23, 1999 feature, “To Be A Jew,” and to the Times for permitting Miller’s hostile personal views to color coverage of Israel.
Miller assures readers that despite being Jewish she is “like most American journalists … a fair and impartial observer” with “no more stake in the Middle East conflict than … in the civil wars of Central America.” Yet she indicates just the opposite as she seeks a reflection of herself in Israelis and ponders why she “had become so assimilated” and “rejected Judaism?”
Her self examination leads her repeatedly to voice dissatisfaction with Israel, its policies, its people and even its geography. She says she could not “identify with the Holy land,” and felt “hot and trapped” in Jerusalem.
Among her sources of discomfort were religious Jews and alleged Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians that made her “blood boil.” Jewish suffering did not seem to concern her as viscerally. Although Miller covered Israel during a wave of unprecedented terrorism that left more than 60 Israelis dead in just 3 weeks, she was silent about these horrors in her personal reveries. Her only reference to terrorism was to deplore Israeli indignation about the possible release of Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands. “What made Jewish blood so much more valuable than another’s,” she asked, as if that were the issue.
During Miller’s tenure, the murder or serious wounding of six religious Jews in a span of three months did not prompt a single story from Times’ correspondents. In the same period, the Times ran a 2194 word, front page story on the comparatively minor harassment experienced by 3 Arabs living in a Jewish neighborhood.
This autobiographical portrait of a disaffected Jew may suggest underlying reasons for the Los Angeles Times’ chronically distorted reporting on Israel.