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Barnea, Nahum (1944–) - PERSONAL HISTORY, BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS, PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:, INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS, THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE

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A guru of Israeli journalism, Nahum Barnea combines both provocative and compassionate characteristics in his professional activities. He remains the most influential journalist shaping public opinion and foreign policy in Israel. The Labor movement in Israel and its commitment to democratization influenced Barnea, a journalist of radical persuasion. In order to get to the roots of crises between Israel and its neighbors, Barnea carried out field-works in the center of social disputes, war, and terror attacks while putting his own life at risk. Barnea has used his journalism profession to challenge Israeli prime ministers. He is the political columnist of Israeli’s largest circulating daily newspaper, Yediot Aharonot .

PERSONAL HISTORY

Barnea was born in 1944 in Petah Tikva, mandatory Palestine. His sojourn into journalism began at the Hebrew University’s student newspaper, Pi ha-aton , while studying for a B.A. in history and political science. Before his university education, Barnea had served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)‘s Nahal combat unit. Barnea was also the deputy spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Communications. Barnea is the political columnist of the Israeli’s largest circulating daily newspaper, Yediot Aharonot . He served as the editor in chief of the weekly Koteret Rashit . Between 1973 and 1982, he worked with the Histadrut Labor Federation’s Davar daily newspaper in various capacities as a correspondent, columnist, and Washington bureau chief. In 1982 he became the editor of the weekly Koteret Rashit where he worked for seven years until the paper shut down. He joined Yediot Ahronot and serves as the daily’s star reporter. He also wrote for the media affairs bimonthly ha-Ayin ha-Shi’it journal. In 1981 Barnea was the recipient of the Sokolov Prize for Journalism. In 1998 he was chosen as the most influential Israeli journalist in the country’s fifty years existence. He is a recipient of the prestigious Sokolov Award for Journalism and the Y’non Kreiz Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Nahum Barnea

Birth: 1944, Petah Tikva, mandatory Palestine

Family: Wife; three children

Nationality: Israeli

Education: Israel; Hebrew University, B.A.; Y’non Kreiz Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institute

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 1967–1982: Writes for Davar daily newspaper
  • 1982: Editor, Koteret Rashit
  • 1982–present: Writes for Yediot Aharonot

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

In several forums and in the media, Barnea has presented influential perspective on the Israeli-Lebanese crises. At the Brookings Saban Center Briefing on the Gaza/Lebanon Crises in 2006, Barnea spoke along with Hisham Milhem, a Washington correspondent for the Lebanese newspaper an-Nahar , who presented the Lebanese perspective; Shibley Telhami, Saban Center nonresident senior fellow, and Anwar Sadat Professor at the University of Maryland offered views from the Arab world; and Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center, presented U.S. policy option on the crisis. According to Barnea, both Israel and Hizbullah were astounded at developments in July 2006. In particular, Israel was surprised by Hizbullah’s cross-border raid and the use of an unmanned drone to attack an Israeli warship. Other sources claimed that Hizbullah used an antiship missile. Barnea posited that Hizbullah was equally shocked by the magnitude of the Israeli response to its attack on the Israeli warship. The violent situation, according to Barnea, presented an opportunity. Contrary to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israeli-Hizbullah crisis did not boomerang into conflicts between citizens of both countries. The Lebanese public denounced Hizbullah. In addition, as Barnea observed, there was no disagreement between Israel and Lebanon over territory. According to Barnea, there was a rare opportunity for the United States and the international community to jointly promote an immediate cessation of violence and its lasting solution. Barnea cautioned that Israel’s demand for the removal of Hizbullah from southern Lebanon would not alter Israel’s security situation. This is due to Hizbullah’s possession of long-range missiles, and that it does not need to be stationed along Lebanon’s southern border to attack Israel. Barnea presented Israel’s two principal objectives: the return of the kidnapped soldiers and the intervention of the United States and European Union. In the past, Israel has been mistrustful of international involvement. In this way, Israel’s military response to the kidnapping of soldiers was to force international intervention that could dismantle Hizbullah’s military infrastructure.

From leadership, security, and governance, Barnea has written a wide range of issues affecting the Israeli nation. According to him, Israeli prime minister ARIEL SHARON ‘s 2006 stroke illustrated to Israelis how much they needed him in governance due to his competence. For many Israelis, including the supporters of the rival parties, Sharon was the conclusive authority on security matters. Barnea argues that the settlers’ goal was not to institute a legacy but a trauma so big that no Israeli government would dare to repeat in the future.

In September 2001, he conducted an interview with MARWAN BARGHUTHI , the leading spokesman for the Palestinian intifada. Barghuthi serves as the secretary general of the Fatah Party in the West Bank. Barnea considers Barghuthi to have taken radical perspective to Palestinian politics due to his firm opposition to what was referred to as the peace process. He explains that Barghuthi’s position was because the peace process was nothing less than a guise for Israel to consolidate its control over the Occupied Territories through the construction of an intricate network of settlements, by-passing Arab roads, and cantonizing the Palestinian population, which led to the formation of intifada. Barnea cautioned that Barghuthi’s populist radicalism should not be construed as working for the Palestinian Authority, but as indicative of an increasing process of radicalization that Fatah itself is undergoing, with or without the blessing of the Palestinian Authority. He explained that, in August 2001, Barghuthi survived an Israeli assassination attempt from the nearby Israeli settlement. Thereafter, Israel formally requested of the Palestinian Authority that Barghuthi should be handed over to Israel due to his prominent role in the intifada. Barnea, who had traveled with an Israeli army unit in south Lebanon, compared the battle to the famous Tom and Jerry cartoons, whereby the powerful Israeli military played the role of the cat Tom, and the resourceful Hizbullah guerrillas played the mouse Jerry. Barnea concluded that, in every conflict between them, Jerry wins.

THE WORLD’S PERSPECTIVE

Barnea is widely acknowledged as a guru of journalism. However, many commentators consider his opinions to be highly controversial. His views on the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and other expressions of alternative tourism to Israel were criticized on the basis that many leftists of Gush Shalom are waging war in the courts in order to prevent the government from expelling ISM activists. It was also noted that ISM announced planned to bring one thousand supporters to Israel, and of those thousand who went, only twenty were barred from entering the country.

THE ROLE OF A LEADER IN ISRAEL IS FULL OF CONTRADICTIONS

What is Sharon’s legacy? Is it the outposts he built or the outposts he evacuated? Is it the norms of demanding warfare he bequeathed the Israeli Army in the early 1950s? The battle he waged in Umm Katef in 1967? Crossing the Suez Canal in 1973? Or is it this entanglement in Lebanon in 1982? Is it the tenacious sticking to the soil of Israel, to everything that grows and lives there, or is it the disregard for law and order and for the rules of the game, which reached a peak in the family violations of the election laws?

The role of a leader in Israel is full of contradictions. Every day people are killed because of orders he gives, decisions he makes. He must acquire a degree of alienation and obtuseness. He must be fanatically loyal to the basic idea that put the Jewish state here, in the heart of a hostile region. And yet he must prove to his voters and to the world that he is pragmatic, that he is willing to compromise, wants calm, stability. This makes it very difficult to form a “legacy.”

BARNEA, NAHUM, “ARIEL SHARON: THE MAN AND THE MYTH,” INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE , 5 JANUARY 2006.

Journalists are said to have catapulted EHUD OLMERT , the Israeli prime minister, to power and the dysfunctional government. In the run-up to the 2006 elections, Olmert was considered as a weak candidate. The media was equally accused of indirectly causing the July-August 2006 war with Hizbullah, the patterns of its management, and the human loss encountered. In this way, Israeli senior and influential journalists were blamed for the resounding failure of their profession. Among the senior journalists were Barnea and Dan Margalit. Barnea had in the past been reported to have made lives miserable for most Israeli prime ministers, owing to his leftist ideology. But his professional orientation was considered to have shifted since Olmert became prime minister. In his 10 March 2006 interview, along with Shimon Shiffer, he compromised his profession by treating him as an associate. He also assured his readers that “Olmert is imbued with the experience and the self-confidence a leader requires.” Barnea is considered to have laundered the image of Olmert in his columns. Barnea was Olmert’s former neighbor and they are still good friends, and Barnea was accused to have allowed friendship to come in the way of journalism, reportedly protecting Olmert despite obvious discrepancies in his administration.

According to the Israeli Prize for Journalism headed by journalist Moti Kirshenbaum, Barnea “is a journalist with a unique style that combines a knack for writing with fieldwork…. Barnea had accompanied the Israeli experience for dozens of years.”

LEGACY

Barnea radically influenced Israeli media, public opinion, and international relations in the Middle East. He affected and promoted the development of journalism cum diplomacy in Israeli. His columns clearly explain how Israel can deal with the crises in the Middle East and the need for international intervention. From a leftist perspective, Barnea admitted that most of the Israeli media acted more as a guard dog of a disengagement plan than of democracy. According to Barnea, “There is no argument that the tone in the Israeli media is pro-disengagement. Were the media just supportive, or also enlisted?” The legacy of Barnea in Israeli journalism remains his undying campaign for the deepening of democratic governance. He has challenged journalists to report, expose, criticize, educate, and influence public opinion. Barnea advocated against the pervasion of the media. To him, the media’s conscription in the disengagement process was a fatal mistake. Barnea has been honored with Israeli Prize for Journalism because of his special way of capturing Israeliness, talent, and courage. In the early twenty-first century, every young reporter in Israel aspires to be like Nahum Barnea.

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