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Reflections from Mike Wallace on Jewishness and journalism

The following excerpt written by veteran journalist Mike Wallace is from "I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl."

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© 2005 Dr. Judea and Ruth Pearl. Wallace was senior correspondent on "60 Minutes" and was  a reporter for CBS News for 40 years.

(JTA) — Occasionally down the years I’ve winced at being labeled a “self-hating Jew” because my reporting from the Middle East was perceived as tainted by hostility toward Israel. It wasn’t true, of course, but I figured it came with the territory, meaning that I was deemed biased because I reported accurately what was happening on the other side, with the Palestinians.

And it turned out that every once in a while it was helpful to me as a reporter, for the fact that I am Jewish and not in the pocket of the Israelis seemed to appeal to movers and shakers in Cairo and Damascus and Riyadh, who were willing to talk to me on the record with some candor.

I’ve worked the Middle East beat since the 1950s, back in the days of Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat, Yasir Arafat, Muammar Gadhafi. My relations with all of them, with the sole exception of Begin, were cordial and straightforward. But when I questioned Begin in a fashion that I thought reasonable and he found belligerent, our conversation was brought to an end by the intervention of Ezer Weizman, his defense minister, who shortly afterward took me for a friendly drink at a nearby bar.

My eyes had first been opened to Israeli-Palestinian realities by two pioneering figures from that part of the world. Back in the fifties, Reuven Dafne, a Romanian Israeli, and Fayez Sayegh, a Palestinian Christian, two friends of mine, gave me a primer course on the complicated subject, for which I remain grateful.

I have long admired the courage and determination of the Israelis and sympathized with their yearning for a secure state. I have similar feelings about the Palestinians. But I’m an American reporter, a Jew who believes in going after facts on the ground, as Daniel Pearl did, and reporting them accurately, let the chips fall where they may.

(Permission granted by Jewish Lights Publishing, P.O. Box 237, Woodstock, VT 05091.) 

 

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