Were you somewhat protected from Israeli pressure because you weren't permanently based there?
Yes, I was based in Cairo. I was only in and out of Gaza. During my four years in Cairo, I spent maybe six or seven weeks a year in Gaza. If I had been in Gaza all the time, the Israelis would have pressured the paper to take me out. I was covering the whole region, including Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Syria, the Gulf states and all of North Africa. So the Israeli government only had to put up with me a few weeks a year. But yeah, the Israelis and the Israeli lobby in the United States are powerful, deceitful and ruthless.
Who's an example of a reporter who became an Israeli target?
Ayman Mohyeldin was pulled out of Gaza by NBC under heavy Israeli pressure. He had witnessed the Israeli military's killing of four Palestinian boys on a beach in Gaza. There are many examples. The Israeli government is hypersensitive about anyone, including Israeli reporters, who challenge the official narrative. The Israeli reporters Gideon Levy and Amara Hass are routinely harassed by the Israeli government, have received death threats and are publicly vilified as accomplices of terrorists for writing the truth about the occupation.
By the time 9/11 occurs, you are finally back in the States. You were burning out by then as a war correspondent?
Yes. I had spent almost 20 years covering war. I was broken. I was a wreck.
Were you married at that point?
Yes, but you're never home. My wife and two older children were overseas with me. We lived in Zagreb, or in Cairo -- but I was rarely home. And when I did come home, I was exhausted and often sick.
This is your first wife, Josyane, with whom you had a son and daughter?
But you rarely saw your family?
How old were you by the time you came back to the U.S.?
Let's see...early 40s.
So you knew you had to change your life.
I told the paper I had to stop. I wanted to take a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, and the Times didn't want to let me take it. The paper kept you on salary while you were at Harvard. Bill Kovach, who was the head of the Nieman program and had been the head of the Washington bureau at the Times, went to New York and met with Lelyveld and said, "Look, this guy has covered war after war for you. You've got to give this to him." And Lelyveld hit the roof. I was on a satellite phone from Kosovo with my editor Andy Rosenthal, Abe's son, who told me that Lelyveld had said, "All right, tell him he can take the Neiman and go to hell." And Rosenthal told me, "I grew up at this paper -- don't do it because they are going to f*ck you when you come back." And I took it anyway, and went off to Harvard.
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