Sunday, February 14, 2010
Columnists: We come and we go (Jerusalem Post)
Columnists, we come and we go
By Ray Hanania
(Originally published in the Jerusalem Post, Feb. 2, 2010)
Years ago I was a lead writer for a flashy column in Chicago’s daily newspaper The Sun Times. Called Page Ten, it showcased an assortment of news tidbits – some called gossip, others called insider tips – and my beat was politics, mainly Chicago’s City Hall.
After two years, the editor called me one day and said the column run was over. All the celebrity recognition I received from the column quickly ended and the column was replaced with someone else’s. They moved me back to my regular beat covering Chicago’s City Hall, which is where I wanted to be from the beginning.
In journalism, this happens all the time. Sometimes the move is a shift. Other times it involves scandal. Sometimes, it even involves a newspaper reacting to public outcry.
In Israel, this week, The Jerusalem Post decided to drop the regular column ‘Critical Currents’ by Naomi Chazan, the head of the New Israel Fund. The change came in the middle of a storm of controversy in which Chazan and the NIF were being attacked by a right-wing Israeli organization which was angry because, it asserted, the NIF had made it possible for the United Nations to produce “The Goldstone Report.”
The Goldstone Report, as you have read, is the report completed by a fact-finding mission led by renowned international jurist and civil rights lawyer Richard Goldstone. The report concluded that Israel and Hamas both committed war crimes.
But in demonizing NIF and Chazan, the critics complained not that the report was inaccurate, but that some of the facts obtained by the report came from organizations that received funds from NIF. It is a typical lynch mob mentality. Demagoguery at its worst.
NEVERTHELESS, CHAZAN’S column was dropped. It should also be noted that Chazan was also writing for Yedioth Aharonot and Maariv and online web sites and some of her columns were dropped there, too.
I know the NIF very well. It has, in the past, supported the Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour. I have attended many of the events it has organized in Chicago and in Jerusalem. It is progressive and it supports peace based on justice. It backs the two-state solution and its programs often involve frank discussions and analysis that not only challenge the extremism in the Palestinian community but the growing extremism in Israel, too.
I worked for Yedioth Aharonot’s online web page, YnetNews.com, also. And I have been writing irregularly for The Jerusalem Post since leaving YnetNews about two years ago. (I won a Society of Professional Journalism Lisagor Award for my columns at YnetNews.com and I enjoyed the freedom they gave me.)
But YnetNews.com is an online news site. And being the old-fashioned journalist that I am, I still prefer the print newspaper. I like to see my columns in print, not just online.
Recently, The Jerusalem Post offered to give me a regular column. The column will run every Wednesday, except for this week. The column will reflect my fiercely moderate views and unashamedly anti-extremist views. I passionately dislike extremists – a political lifestyle I define for someone who rejects compromise and enables violence through selective silence; someone who denounces others for violence but is silent when their side engages in the same violence.
A moderate is everything an extremist is not. And, I will go further to say that the new Middle East is not a conflict between Israeli and Palestinians, but rather between extremists and moderates. I am proud to help lead that fight.
The fact that I am Palestinian does not make me feel uncomfortable writing for The Jerusalem Post, which is usually right of center (although it does carry left-wing columnists and op-eds) and all the way to the limits of the right. I don’t mind. To me, journalism is about divergent views.
In fact, to the contrary, I feel at home writing for the newspaper. I believe in the secular future of Palestine and Israel. I also recognize and respect the heritage of my family which has had roots in Jerusalem for a millennium and probably even more. Jerusalem is my home whether it is controlled by the Ottomans, the British or Israel.
Many Palestinians are angry with me for writing for The Jerusalem Post, but I don’t care. There are even more Israelis angered by my columns who sometimes are more articulate in expressing their hate.
But there are far more Palestinians and Israelis who support my views and who reject the extremists who try to control through censorship, intolerance and bullying.
I support the NIF. And I am proud to also write for The Jerusalem Post. I am sure Chazan will do well and find a new forum for her views, views that are badly needed.
In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and define “the moderate Arab voice” speaking to an audience or primarily Jews and Israelis who I believe need to better understand what has otherwise been a poorly articulated Palestinian narrative and viewpoint.
Named Best Ethnic Columnist in America by New America Media, the writer is a Palestinian-American columnist and peace activist. He can be reached at www.YallaPeace.com. This column originally appeared at the PalestineNote.com news blog.