One Bold Step

Everyone talks a great game about changing the world, or even just their lives, but courage, while free, comes with one price: action. I want to share my bold step with you, and, if you write to me with your bold step, and it's timely, I'll post it on my site every couple of weeks, if not more often.

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Location: Phoenix, Arizona, United States

Director of Research for (aka: The Foundation Foundation). Formerly with Air America Radio Phoenix ("Froggy Went A Marchin..."). Sang the National Anthem at a rally in Phoenix with Cindy Sheehan. Loves: chocolate, flowers, perfume (my grandmother), great music, politics, and a whole-hearted appreciation of the truth (Are there really "conspiracy theories" or do we need more FOIAs?). Seeker of justice and agent for change.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Dean, The Journalists And The Cloak Of The Easy Way Out

At a time when many Americans are distrustful of their
government and the common person is the nation’s best
journalist, there is one man whose work has been swept
under the rug of time: Robert St. John. St. John covered
Europe during World War II. While on a train in
Rumania, he was shot by Nazis. When WWII ended, he
covered what was then “Palestine,” the Roman-named
territory wholly owned by the British, and its return to
Jewish and Arab rule. While stationed in Palestine, he

witnessed the work of, and interviewed, people who did more to free the Middle-East with less of everything than our current leader could dream of in his waking hours. At his death, he was revered by both Jews and Arabs, alike. For decades, St. John was “The Dean” of Middle-East journalism. Now, he is someone whose best work deserves a second look in the light of day.

As I dust off the shelf of current notables like Rather, Moyers, Woodward, Koppel, Brokaw, and Jennings, there is nothing about their work that relishes of finger-licking good universality quite like St. John’s book: Shalom Means Peace. While the former tell tales of their work that only reach the borders of our nation, and Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation is a terrific example; Shalom Means Peace has world-wide implications. With all due respect to today’s journalists, if about forty percent of the world’s population is invested in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and won’t be at peace with each other until the peace process currently going on in Israel and The West Bank is resolved, then books such as Generation, and even the Watergate scandal, are mere specs on the political planet. One need only read Sleeping With The Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul For Saudi Crude, written by former CIA Agent Robert Baer, to understand this and realize that Nixon had the same people around him that surround our current president, today.

What ignoring Robert St. John does is smack of journalistic arrogance, not to mention ignorance, and corporate malfeasance. If I was to suddenly uncover lost Watergate tapes and claim that they exonerated former President Nixon, I would be laughed off the face of the Earth, and Bob Woodward would probably have my head on “Larry King Live.” Now, while Larry King might be interviewing people on the scale of a walleye’s spawn in Lake Superior these days, the point is noted. So, now, I ask all the great journalists of our time: How can you claim to be reporting honestly on the Middle-East if you disregard its finest journalist’s discoveries? Some of them were the following:

*It was difficult to understand how so few could stand up to so many. Seven hundred thousand Jews against forty million Arabs who encircled them. And the Arabs had access to the munitions of the 100,000,000 people of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Seven hundred thousand Jews with friends scattered all over the globe, but with no official ally, and with the United States, from whom help had been expected, aiding the enemy by playing theoretically neutral with its arms embargo.
It was difficult to understand how an army of only seventy thousand men and women, and even children, ill-equipped and with little training, could stand up against the British-organized Arab Legion and the combined military forces of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, and Iraq, plus irregulars from Saudi Arabia and other countries.

*...[Gershon] Agronsky said that the reason several hundred thousand Arabs fled from what is now Israel was because they thought they had all of Arabia to run to. The Jews stood firm because they had nowhere to go but into the sea. He told how the Arabs who had remained in the New City were now being fed with Jewish rations and housed in Jewish-owned homes. He said the Arab could thank his gods that, unlike the Jews of Europe, here he had never been resented, cursed, and despised.

*One night Hacohen repeated to me some of the conversation he had had with Count Bernadotte. It had been mostly about the mediator’s contention that there could be no peace in Palestine unless the State of Israel immediately took back the 300,000 Arabs who had fled.
“I told him there could be no peace if we did. We would be glad to have most of them return. But if just five terrorists came back with each 50,000 respectable Arabs, it would create a new tension that might lead to a new explosion and we’d have war all over again. We would have to sit constantly with our guns in our hands. And besides, I told him, who will feed and house these 300,000 refugees? The State of Israel, exhausted financially by the burdens of war, is in no condition to do it. It would mean that the average family in Israel would have to finance two Arabs, for we have just about 150,000 families here. The income of the average family here just about keeps that family going. We are all going to have to pull in our belts to pay for what the war [of Independence] has cost us, and for our own reconstruction. The average family simply cannot bear the financial burden at this time of supporting a couple of Arabs.”

*The 1,300 Arabs [surrounding Mishmar Haemek], at any time they wished, might have been able to destroy the kibbutz, with a population which never went over 600. But, instead, they came trooping into Mishmar Haemek every time they had a toothache or a cut finger. The doctors of the kibbutz took care of the Arabs without charge. And Jewish agricultural experts showed the Arabs how to get larger and better crops from their land.

*At this point Monty pointed to a village laying against a brown hillside not many rods away. It was easy to tell it was an Arab village because the houses were painted sky blue to keep away the devil.
“That place may look deserted to you. It may look like a lot of other Arab places you’ve seen that are deserted because the people fled to Egypt or Transjordan. But this village is deserted because the Arabs who live there have all been at the front fighting on our side. They’re still at the front, just in case war breaks out again. There are good Arabs and bad Arabs. I know! There are ones who got panicky and ones who didn’t. But the Arabs in that little village are rare. They fought beside us, and bravely, against their own people!”

Today’s journalists can debate the legitimacy of Israel, its place in the Middle-East, and its actions defending itself against the millions more Arabs -- with plenty of land, not to mention
oil -- that surround them, all they want to, but they cannot debate the fact that the man who announced to the world the end of World War II on NBC Radio did his homework. Robert St. John’s work is meticulous. It would be difficult to remake into a movie. While this might put some people off, it is the stuff a real article is made of.

By living amongst both Arabs and Jews for over a decade from the start of WWII to late in 1948 when he left to write Shalom Means Peace, he dedicated more of his time, energy, and resources to finding out the real “story behind the story” than most working journalists sadly, today, do. Many journalists, now, just swallow the spin of their governments or sit in the same bed of oil and lace that surrounded Nixon, and now surrounds President Bush.

In the age of the Internet, the satellite phone, and gigabytes of memory in laptop computers, it is much easier to find references to the work of St. John, and even his out of print books (note to Doubleday: please republish). There is no excuse for sloppy coverage of either side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is too much at stake, including for the current journalists involved, no matter how “objective” they claim to be.


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5:52 AM  

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