Between 2006 and the end of 2011, Friedman was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press (AP) news agency. During his journalistic career, he also worked as a reporter in Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Moscow and Washington, D.C. Firedman first drew wide attention with a pair of essays about anti-Israel media bias that included sharp criticism of the AP.
Friedman's book, The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible, published in May 2012 by Algonquin Books, is an account of how the Aleppo Codex, "the oldest, most complete, most accurate text of the Hebrew Bible," came to reside in Israel. It was believed that many pages had disappeared from the codex during the 1947 Anti-Jewish riots in Aleppo when the Central Synagogue of Aleppo, where the codex was housed, was set on fire and badly damaged. Friedman concludes instead that it arrived in Israel essentially intact, and that a particular Israeli scholar (whom he names) was most likely responsible for the loss. Moreover, contrary to the usual understanding that the codex was willingly given to the state of Israel, Friedman reports the sealed transcripts of a court battle in which the Jews of Aleppo attempted to recover it from the state.
The book won the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, was selected as one of Booklist's top ten religion and spirituality books of 2012, was awarded the American Library Association's 2013 Sophie Brody Medal and the 2013 Canadian Jewish Book Award for history, and received second place for the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 nonfiction religion book of the year.
In 2019 Friedman published Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel, the story of four Arabic-speaking Jews who operated an Israeli, pre-independence Zionist intelligence unit, the "Arab Section," in Beirut, then in the territory of the French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon towards the end of the British Mandate for Palestine. The book won the 2018 Natan Book Award.
Views and opinions
Following the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, Friedman wrote an essay criticizing what he views as the international media's bias against Israel and undue focus on the country, stating that news organizations treat it as "most important story on earth". He said when he was a correspondent at the AP,
the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. It was higher than the total number of news-gathering employees in all the countries where the uprisings of the "Arab Spring" eventually erupted... I don’t mean to pick on the AP—the agency is wholly average, which makes it useful as an example. The big players in the news business practice groupthink, and these staffing arrangements were reflected across the herd.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the piece went "viral" on Facebook. The Atlantic then invited Friedman to write a longer article. AP issued a statement, saying that Friedman's "... arguments have been filled with distortions, half-truths and inaccuracies, both about the recent Gaza war and more distant events. His suggestion of AP bias against Israel is false".
- The Aleppo Codex: A True Story of Obsession, Faith and the Pursuit of an Ancient Bible 2012.
- Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story, published by Algonquin Books, May 3, 2016.
- Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel, 2019
- Shapira, Ian (22 March 2019). "The Arab-born spies who served the young state of Israel". Washington Post. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
- Gladstone, Bill (18 March 2019). "Matti Friedman is a natural-born storyteller". Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
- "Why journalists say Israeli-Arab reporting is 'rigged'". Haaretz. 14 September 2014.
- "Homepage". Matti Friedman official website.
- Friedman, Matti (26 August 2014). "An Insider's Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth". Tablet.
- Meyer, Lily (7 March 2019). "'Spies Of No Country' Offers Nuanced Understanding Of Israel's Complexity". National Public Radio. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
- Bergman, Ronen (25 July 2012). "A High Holy Whodunit". The New York Times.
- Matti Friedman (2014). "The Continuing Mysteries of the Aleppo Codex". Tablet.
- "Friedman accepts 'Aleppo Codex' prize". The Times of Israel. 22 January 2014.
- "Top 10 Religion & Spirituality Books". Booklist. 15 November 2012.
- "'The Aleppo Codex' wins RUSA's Sophie Brody Medal for achievement in Jewish literature". American Library Association. 27 January 2013.
- "'Aleppo Codex' wins Canadian book award". The Times of Israel. 2 May 2013.
- "2013 RNA Contest Winners". Religion Newswriters Association.
- Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier's Story of a Forgotten War
- "Natan Announces 2018 Natan Book Award Winner and Finalists". ejewishphilanthropy.com. Retrieved 2019-07-14.
- Friedman, Matti (30 November 2014). "What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel". The Atlantic. Retrieved 10 December 2014.
- "AP statement on Mideast coverage". Associated Press. 1 December 2014. Archived from the original on 4 December 2014.
- mbentsion (2014-09-19). "Matti Friedman hits back at AP, and so do I". Broken Spring. Retrieved 2017-01-24.
- "Former AP Reporter Confirms Matti Friedman Account". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved 2017-01-24.