Access to West Bank Historic Site Still Choked

by Genevieve Long for The Epoch Times READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

WEST BANK—Jamal Serahan has spent 29 years of his life watching over a well in the Middle East. It might seem like an odd job, but for Serahan, the well is a precious part of the region’s history. It is fabled to be the same well that Jesus was offered a drink from by a Samaritan woman during a long journey 2,000 years ago.

Jacob's Well, in the West Bank near Nablus. (Genevieve Long/The Epoch Times)

Jacob's Well, in the West Bank near Nablus. (Genevieve Long/The Epoch Times)

Today, the well is housed deep in the caverns of a massive church near the town of Nablus, in the Central West Bank. You can still draw water and drink from it. Before the 2nd intifada in 2000, busloads of tourists visited the area and the well. According to the middle-aged Serahan, who lives in the nearby Balata refugee camp, the numbers of visitors fell off when fighting started and access in and out of the area was restricted 10 years ago.

The numbers have yet to recover, mainly because even though travel restrictions have eased and it is much safe, whether checkpoints will be choked or access will be stalled is still a day-to-day guessing game. But during a recent month-long festival in Nablus some outside life was brought back into the area.

“The tourists are starting to come—now [there are] about 20, sometimes 50, sometimes 70, sometimes 10 [tourists per day],” said Mr. Serahan by telephone from the West Bank, who added that even with easing security restrictions, smooth travel is still uncertain. “They don’t know if the checkpoint is open.”


A Pakistani Woman on Journalism

By Genevieve Long for the Foreign Policy Association


Masooma Haq is a foreign correspondent for The Epoch Times, based in Islamabad, Pakistan. She writes on foreign affairs and human interest. Haq is ethnically Pakistani, but was raised in the west, mostly in the U.S. A few years ago, she moved back to Pakistan to live and work.

Why did you start writing for The Epoch Times?

“I feel like there isn’t a lot of in-depth or accurate reporting about Pakistan, and I wanted to help give a more accurate perspective [through this newspaper]. My view is not eastern and not western, kind of a combination. I think I have a really interesting perspective–kind of unique. I think a lot of people that grow up in the states have a western perspective.”

What is the mission of your newspaper as you understand it?

“Overall, the aim of the paper is to have really truthful reporting that focuses more on human rights. Most newspapers have an agenda. There’s a lot of things they just won’t cover and write about. One of the biggest issues in the world right now is Falun Gong, or Falun Dafa, and a lot of newspapers won’t cover that honestly, but The Epoch Times does. I think a lot of newspapers won’t cover that because they are too afraid to cover it. That’s one really important and prime example of how The Epoch Times is different.”

How does that play into your reporting in a country like Pakistan that is mostly Muslim?

“I know The Epoch times is interested in creating understandings between people. That’s what I try to do in my reporting—I try to look at things from a slightly different vantage point. I think, ‘How can I tell this in a way that can create understanding between people?’. So consequently the starting point is different. Are you just going to copy what language other people are using, or are you going to find your own language for the situation. What I find with a lot of news writing is there is a lot of copying. I think it takes a different perspective and a lot of work to find that and then try to communicate that to people. Especially about this region.”

You have diff perspectives, east/west, you are woman? How do you do it?

“I think there probably aren’t as many challenges as people think there are. There are unwritten cultural norms here that once you get used to, a woman can go out in public and talk to different people, as long as the role is really clear. There are situations where I won’t go by myself. For example, I wouldn’t be able to walk into a mosque and interview a man, that’s not possible. I wouldn’t be able to report it, it’s just not acceptable. But I could interview a man in the street as long as I bring a companion along. A female approaching a man on the street is not acceptable, so you have to create a context for that [by bringing a companion]. You rarely see women out in public. You do see women, but it’s either eating with their family at certain times of the day, or you see them shopping at certain times of the day, but normally you just see men.”

What types of stories do you typically report on?


2a.m., drinking coffee

by Gidon Belmaker on The Jerusalemite

It is now 2 AM .  After a few days of constant reading about all that happened in this area since the fall of the Ottomans (1924), I take a break. Looking out of my living room window, overlooking  the Jerusalem Botanical garden, I feel the sweet Jerusalem breeze, mixed with the the hot smell of dark bitter coffee.

In my head I can still hear the roaring canons and smell the gunpowder of old wars, coming out of history books. I hear hateful speeches of fallen heroes, and sword brandishing by opposing factions.

Then comes a moment of silence. I look at the clouds, cascading  over the the rooftops. I stretch my neck to feel the breeze a bit better. This is the only place in Israel where it can get a bit chilly in August. For a moment, I could hear the loving heartbeats of my city. For one moment, I could here  my city weep.  She weeps for her sons, calling her name, killing each other.  She weeps for herself, for she never forgets.

Every morning, the city wakes up, puts on her makeup and smiles. I, for one moment,  could hear my city weep. I wept with her.

‘Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi’

By Genevieve Long for The Epoch Times

There are some documentaries that are like stepping on broken glass to watch. Painful, shocking, and they leave you with a wound. Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi is one of them.

Christian Parenti (Courtesy of Ian Olds/HBO )

Christian Parenti (Courtesy of Ian Olds/HBO )

This feature-length documentary is a window into the work of Ajmal Naqshbandi, an Afghan man who worked as a fixer in Afghanistan before he was kidnapped and murdered by the Taliban in 2007. A ‘fixer’ is a journalism term for a local contact who works closely with foreign reporters to arrange interviews, establish contacts, and facilitate reporting in their locale.

The broken glass in the film goes beyond Ajmal’s death, which underlies every scene in the movie. You know that he dies, and you know how—but you learn the murkiness of the world he worked in as the scenes of the movie play out.

“I think some people are very optimistic or hopeful about Afghanistan,” said Ian Olds, the film’s director. “But it’s hard to be so optimistic after seeing this film.”

Ajmal Naqshbandi (Courtesy of Ian Olds/HBO )

Ajmal Naqshbandi (Courtesy of Ian Olds/HBO )

Olds directs both narrative and documentary work. He is an award-winning filmmaker who also co-directed a documentary about Iraq with Garrett Scott. Scott passed away before he and Olds could start working on their next project with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. So, Olds decided to take a research trip to Afghanistan anyway, and wound up getting the footage for Fixer.

“It was only after Ajmal passed away that it became a kind of obligation to tell the story,” said Olds. The film has been screened at festivals around the world, and garnered Olds the Best New Documentary Filmmaker award at Tribeca—auspicious for a filmmaker who usually makes fiction.


The Non-Story of Shepherd Hotel

Guest Blog by Gidon Belmakervisit his blog, The Jerusalemite, here.

Too much ink has been wasted in newspapers around the world about the row between Israel and the US, caused by the Shepherd hotel building permits. A permit to build 20 new housing units in East Jerusalem was issued to a Jewish-American entrepreneur, that’s the whole deal. From 1967 till this day, Israel has built more than 550,000 housing units in east Jerusalem. These 20 new housing units do not make for a new policy of the Israeli Government.

Palestinians in an East Jerusalem neighnourhood

Palestinians in an East Jerusalem neighborhood (Ben Kaminsky/The Epoch Times)

Most Israelis are educated on the slogan of a “united Jerusalem in the eternal capital city of Israel”. The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, expressed this thought once again in reaction to to these reports, saying, “I would like to re-emphasize that the united Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel.  Our sovereignty over it cannot be challenged; this means – inter alia – that residents of Jerusalem may purchase apartments in all parts of the city”, in a cabinet Meeting  on July 19.

After 1967, Israel hastily annexed the eastern part of the city, and many surrounding Palestinian villages (unlike the West Bank, which is under military rule, even after 40 years), and thus the city was united. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are considered citizens of Israel, though they can’t vote for the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament).

In reality, Jerusalem is on of the most divided cities in the world. Some experts say that Jerusalem in even more divided than Nicosia or Belfast. Yes, you can see Palestinians in the western part of the city, and Israelis in the Palestinian neighborhoods in the eastern part, but invisible walls are separating the two populations.

One small street separates Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem and some Jewish neighborhoods in the west side. Nevertheless, crossing that street is like entering a different world. Nowadays, the border fence that marked the 1967 border between Israel and Jordan (Jordan ruled the West Bank from 1948 to 1967) is gone, but that border is still present.

In an attempt to unite the city, Israeli governments build huge Jewish neighborhoods, some in the size of small cities,  in the eastern part of Jerusalem. The Israeli government some decades ago aimed to create a Jewish majority of 90%  of the city. That plan failed.  If the current birth rates and immigration patterns stay as they are, in about 20 years Palestinians will be the majority in the city of Jerusalem, “the eternal capital of Israel”.

No “Savior of Journalism” Here

by Genevieve Long for the Foreign Policy Association

There is little in this world that I find more confounding than when Rupert Murdoch is portrayed as the last great hope for journalism. First of all, no single person should be allowed to own as many media as he does. There are a plethora of rationale for a statement like this, not the least of which is that being a good businessman with an international media empire doesn’t equate to being a champion of the free press. In fact, some could argue that it is quite the opposite.

Not satisfied with simply owning almost all of the print media in Australia, and newspapers and broadcasting companies in the U.S. and the U.K., Murdoch is now toying with the idea of charging for online media content.

During an investor relations meeting on Aug. 5, Murdoch mentioned that good journalism costs money. This rationale might be feasible if coming from the mouth of a seasoned news editor trying to save their struggling city newspaper. But out of the mouth of the man who owns FOX, whose news reports and programming have been widely criticized for being horribly biased on the right, it seems flippant.

Yes, good journalism can cost time and money, but a great deal of outstanding work is done by intrepid reporters all over the world, under widely varying circumstances. For many of these reporters, the defining factors that ensure their quality of work fall under a few categories: 1) They are a hard-working, honest reporter 2) They are backed and supported by a solid editor 3) They work for a media that believes in telling the truth. To say nothing of the many, many journalists out there who do excellent work for independent media or as freelancers and are making little to no money.

Money is necessary fuel to keep the engine of a news company running. But it certainly is not, never has been, and never will be the foundation of what makes good journalism.


A thaw in U.S.-North Korea relations?–Radio Smart Talk, Thursday, August 6


Written by Scott LaMar

Is it a sign of progress?  Former President Bill Clinton’s publicly unannounced trip to North Korea Tuesday, that secured the release of two American journalists, may have opened the door for better cooperation between the two rival nations.

The White House stated that Clinton acted as a private envoy and wasn’t negotiating with North Korea.  The U.S. and several other nations have denounced North Korea for it’s on-going attempts to develop nuclear weapons.  The communist regime of Kim Jong Il launched a long range rocket, conducted a nuclear test, and test fired missiles earlier this year.

It’s not clear if President Clinton discussed nuclear proliferation with Kim.
Will this episode lead to at least the resumption of talks between the U.S. and North Korea?
John Park, Sr. Research Associate, Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, U.S. Institute of Peace
Genevieve Long, a contributing editor for The Epoch Times and a blogger on foreign affairs for the Foreign Policy Association