Guns Roar and Media Discussions Easily Turn Into Bombings

Media outlets should put forth points for thought, not talking points. Fair Observer is a free and fair forum for debate and discussion.

May 22, 2024 05:00 EDT

Dear FO° Reader, 

Titles of articles should both give the essence of the piece itself and provide a trigger for as many readers as possible to actually pay attention, read the articles and “even” think about what they say. Suffice it to say that these short opening lines reveal to those who will care to read this piece that I am a somewhat cynical author. Here is why, and here is why Fair Observer may be the antidote to my cynicism.

I will break down this letter’s title into its components — but first, just a few words about me. I am Israeli, and most of my career has been devoted to teaching, writing and trying to educate my students about the Middle East, especially the conflicts relating to Israel. In my long career, I have been a professor, a media personality and a government official. In fact, I was a spokesman for the Israeli government from 1989 to 1992. 

Wars, freedom and more

Enough about myself. More about wars. Clearly, my readers expect me to refer now to the war known as the Gaza War, which Israel is in fact fighting on four fronts, not just Gaza. But no, this is about a much longer war, the media war — the war over the ability to speak your mind about the Middle East, especially about Israel, without being escorted by bodyguards, without being heckled and jeered; in short, simply to be able to talk, lecture, write and come back home intact physically and emotionally. 

What do I mean by the above words in actual terms? I can provide so many examples, but here is just one which I feel is educational and representative. In December 1985, I spent a sabbatical year at York University in Toronto. During that period, I was invited to an hour-long TV discussion and debate with Noam Chomsky on TV Ontario, the regional education station. Me, the boy from a small village in Israel, though with a PhD from the prestigious London School of Economics, and the guru of the international left wing; me and the man described by The New York Times as “arguably the greatest intellectual of the 20th Century.” I was flattered, but I went into the discussion with a sense of awe. Then, it was a full-on debate between Chomsky and me. Such was the ferocity of the debate that poor (since deceased) Harry Brown, the nice Canadian moderator, remarked in the end, “I felt like being in Dresden after the bombing in World War II.” Think about that — what was supposed to be a discussion/debate turned into a “bombing.”

So a war it was then, a war it was for me on so many other occasions before and after. Here is something simple, not too profound, but so true: Almost no discussion about the Middle East, especially not those engaging Israel and Israeli speakers, is a real, viable intellectual exchange anymore. It is anything but that, and that is not what it should be. 

Just to finish the Chomsky episode, years later a clip from the “bombing” was incorporated into a movie describing the history of Canada TV. It was included not because of its questionable contribution to the understanding of the Middle East, but because, and only because it was “a bombing.” And this is where cynicism became normal for me. I grew accustomed to the idea that “serious discussion in the media” may be a contradiction. This is the game to play, so play it, but know that it is a game.

That said, I am now writing for and interviewing with Fair Observer.

Living up to its name

I need to be honest here. At the outset, I knew little about the publication. In fact, it caught my eye because I was attracted by the name.

Observations of situations are what authors do when we write, and we expect them to be fair and be published by a fair outlet. When I refer to “fair,” I do not mean that it has to be without bias or an agenda or an ulterior motive. I can attest to myself only, so I write with a clear agenda and it is to put forward my ideas and thoughts with the motivation to convince people to side with them. I try to do so, however, in a way that leaves the reader with the sense that logic, knowledge and intellect were behind the writing. I do not aim for a “bombing,” least of all a war.  

My readers are my judges, and I can only hope that their overall judgment is positive, but this depends on the outlet. Authors need outlets that fit their writing ethics, and Fair Observer has met my ethical standards over the years. It is not the only one, as I send my stuff to a variety of outlets, but it is a very significant media outlet. Here is a publication that thrives on real discussion and debate, free for all and uncensored.

The current conflict in the Middle East has fast become a journalistic watershed. The difference between hatred, ignorance and superficiality and the attempt to address complicated issues and conflicts in the most professional and ethical way can now be seen very clearly. I am happy to have contributed to debate and discussion on Fair Observer and am very happy to continue doing so. This outlet does not promote talking points, but points for thought. Keep doing the good work!


Dr. Josef Olmert 

Iran and Israel Shift From Proxy War to Direct Conflict
Should Israel Make Full Use of its Powerful Military, or Is the Cost Too High?
Negotiating With Terrorists: Pros and Cons
Ariel Sharon: A Complicated Career and Legacy
We are an independent nonprofit organization. We do not have a paywall or ads. We believe news must be free for everyone from Detroit to Dakar. Yet servers, images, newsletters, web developers and editors cost money. So, please become a recurring donor to keep Fair Observer free, fair and independent.

Read from anywhere


Support Fair Observer

We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.

For more than 10 years, Fair Observer has been free, fair and independent. No billionaire owns us, no advertisers control us. We are a reader-supported nonprofit. Unlike many other publications, we keep our content free for readers regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to pay. We have no paywalls and no ads.

In the post-truth era of fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles, we publish a plurality of perspectives from around the world. Anyone can publish with us, but everyone goes through a rigorous editorial process. So, you get fact-checked, well-reasoned content instead of noise.

We publish 2,500+ voices from 90+ countries. We also conduct education and training programs on subjects ranging from digital media and journalism to writing and critical thinking. This doesn’t come cheap. Servers, editors, trainers and web developers cost money.
Please consider supporting us on a regular basis as a recurring donor or a sustaining member.

Will you support FO’s journalism?

We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.

Donation Cycle

Donation Amount

The IRS recognizes Fair Observer as a section 501(c)(3) registered public charity (EIN: 46-4070943), enabling you to claim a tax deduction.

Make Sense of the World

Unique Insights from 2,500+ Contributors in 90+ Countries

Support Fair Observer

Support Fair Observer by becoming a sustaining member

Become a Member