Gag Order: An Act of Media Self-Censorship


July 8, 2018

Gag Order: An Act of Media Self-Censorship

by Bob Teoh@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | The gag order placed on the High Court trial of former Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak impairs both open justice and fair reporting. It should be removed at the earliest opportunity.

Image result for Integrity Matters

In the first place, the order is unclear in its scope of restriction. Thus, there is no compelling reason for the media to comply as in doing so it would constitute an act of self-censorship.

This would not only be against the conscience of journalists, it would also be an affront to the new democracy that is emerging after May 9, when the people voted convincingly for a return to constitutional democracy.

Journalists can continue to pursue court reporting in the manner they have always practised in fair conscience. Don’t let anything or anyone gag you. Most of all don’t ever gag yourself again, for that would be a disgrace to your calling.–Bob Teoh

The gag order was issued to ensure a fair trial and to prevent a trial by media, as claimed by the defense counsel. But this is both nebulous and untenable and the order is unprecedented.

This is censorship of the press and, far from preventing a trial of public opinion, the move will only encourage fake news to surface in the ensuing absence of fair and responsible reporting. We must not allow unclear restrictions to shut the door to press freedom and open justice.

Malaysia is a Commonwealth country and our judiciary can follow the open justice convention as espoused by countries like the United Kingdom and Australia where prior restriction to fair reporting is already available.

Likewise, in Malaysia, there are also prior restraints to court reporting like evidence in camera in rape cases where the press is excluded.  There is no need for gag orders.

The Najib trial is about alleged corruption and abuse of power in the highest levels of government. Public interest is best served by the widest coverage through fair reporting. The media has its fundamental obligation to report factually, accurately and fairly.

Such reportage must be contemporaneous and not be kept in abeyance for two months, as the gag order demands.  That would be stale news and indeed likely to constitute an offence according to the international convention of court reporting.

The Aattorney-General Tommy Thomas (photo), as the lead prosecutor, must appeal against the gag order vigorously and urgently. So too must the Bar Council and human rights agencies like the National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) and the National Human Rights Society (Hakam).

The media through their own bodies like the National Union of Journalists, publishers and editors associations and the Malaysian Press Institute too must make their representations to the court in no uncertain terms.

‘Clinical’ reporting

Najib, 64, was charged yesterday with misusing his position to receive a RM42 million bribe as inducement to provide a sovereign guarantee on behalf of the Malaysian government for a loan of RM4 billion from the pension fund Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (KWAP) to SRC International.

He also faces three other charges of criminal breach of trust (CBT) in his capacity as Prime minister, finance minister and advisor emeritus of SRC International, in which he was entrusted with the RM4 billion.

The first offence of bribery under Section 23 of the MACC Act 2009 is punishable by up to 20 years’ prison and a fine equal to five times the bribe amount.

The other charges under Section 409 of the Penal Code (CBT by public servant) are punishable by up to 20 years’ prison, whipping and a fine. Due to his age, if found guilty, whipping would not be applicable.

Najib’s lead counsel, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah (photo) said the gag order is to “ensure nobody makes unfair comments about the merits of the case in order to get it published by media”.

A breach of the gag order would be contempt of court, Shafee said. But he said news organisations would not be barred from reporting “clinically” on Najib’s cases. There is no such thing as clinical reporting. Only fair reporting, the hallmark of journalism, is needed.

The interim gag order expires on August 8 when Najib’s CBT and corruption cases are scheduled to return to the High Court for management. Shafee said the defence team will then argue for a gag order in full.

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas said, “The defence will have to put in an official application for the gag order, which we will be vigorously objecting to.” The High Court had tentatively set trial to start from February 18 next year.

High Court judge Justice Mohd Sofian Abd Razak then granted the interim gag order and fixed August 8 for a hearing on the official application.

Guiding court coverage

In his introduction to an official guide for judges and the media, “Reporting Restrictions in the Criminal Courts April 2015 (Revised May 2016)”, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales writes:

“Open justice is a hallmark of the rule of law. It is an essential requisite of the criminal justice system that it should be administered in public and subject to public scrutiny. The media play a vital role in representing the public and reflecting the public interest. ”

 

In recognition of the open justice principle, the official guide points out that the general rule is that justice should be administered in public.  To this end:

  • Proceedings must be held in public.
  • Evidence must be communicated publicly.
  • Fair, accurate and contemporaneous media reporting of proceedings should not be prevented by any action of the court unless strictly necessary.

Therefore, unless there are exceptional circumstances laid down by statute law and/or common law, the court must not:

  • Order or allow the exclusion of the press or public from court for any part of the proceedings.
  • Permit the withholding of information from the open court proceedings.
  • Impose permanent or temporary bans on reporting of the proceedings or any part of them.

The official guide also points out that the courts and Parliament have given particular rights to the press to give effect to the open justice principle, so that they can report court proceedings to the wider public, even if the public is excluded.

Guidance is based on the recommended approach to take when making decisions to exclude the media or prevent it from reporting proceedings in the courts. The guidance takes the form of an easy reference checklist for use in court.

In the light of this, what is clear is that the High Court gag order in the Najib trial is unclear. An unclear court order is a bad order. This does not serve open justice and fair reporting.

Journalists can continue to pursue court reporting in the manner they have always practised in fair conscience. Don’t let anything or anyone gag you. Most of all don’t ever gag yourself again, for that would be a disgrace to your calling.


BOB TEOH is a media analyst and a readers’ advocate.

Why some people hate journalists


July 4, 2014

Image result for fourth of july 2018

Why some people hate journalists

by Eric Loo@www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | Soon after last week’s shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, numerous trolls ‘celebrated’ the targeted murder of the four journalists and a staffer. One troll declared: “Dead journalists can’t spread leftist propaganda.”

Since Donald Trump was elected President in November 2016, attacks on the ‘fake news media’ are becoming more common with right-wing media platforms emerging bolder and stronger.

Trump’s anti-journalist rhetoric is not entirely blameless in riling predatory attacks on journalists by nut heads such as the shooter at the Capital Gazette whose unresolved grievance with the paper escalated into him murdering an editor and three other journalists on June 28.

Trump’s Nixonian loathing of the American media has effectively created echo chambers for the white supremacist agenda, the most recent being Milo Yiannopoulos’s red flagging to “vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight”.

Rightist contempt for the liberal press has degenerated to such a state that the New York Police Department felt it necessary to deploy armed police to news organisations across Manhattan.

It is unthinkable that journalists need police protection in a democracy that gave us Watergate, Walter Cronkite, the Pulitzer and Edward R Murrow who famously said: “We cannot make good news out of bad practice.”

Even as we look to the US as the beacon of press freedom, bad media practices are being mainstreamed, notably at Fox News and Breitbart News Network. The partisan media exchange is empowering hardline conservative attack machines in the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

The political left also has its share of anti-Trump media platforms and late night TV shows in the Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert genre.

The polarised American portrayal of the Trump Presidency – which has led to Trump supporters publicly hating the liberal media – reminds me of my short journalism lecturing stint in Alabama many years ago.

My brief was to expose the American students to a more “international perspective” of journalism practices and cultures. The final year students, unsurprisingly, said the media were blatantly biased (such as Fox News), that journalists generally lacked integrity, that the news was overly negative, sensational and obsessed with celebrity trivia.

Image result for The Eagle the symbol american power

That cynical judgment on the media is not exclusive to the US. Journalists I had worked with at training workshops in developing countries cited similar gripes.

Which underlines my point that knowing what is bad and lacking in professional journalism does not necessarily motivate reporters to do something concrete to fix it for various reasons.

As a senior Malaysian journalist said: “When you have unqualified editors running the newsroom, our hands are tied.”

Personal costs

Yes, editors ought to lead, inspire and exemplify in their editorials and in-house policies what good journalism practically means. Good journalism goes beyond a reporter’s ability to ask questions and string sentences into a readable news story.

Image result for edward r. murrow

 

Good practices are forged in the newsroom by fair-minded journalists whose primary obligation is to their readers, rather than to those in power; journalists who know that they should not become part of the story but recognise that they could be caught up in issues that conflict with their core values.

The journalist’s task, therefore, is to recognise his blind spots and preconceptions that influence his judgment of what’s right and wrong, of what’s fair and unfair.

Good journalists are known by their ability to weigh the evidence to illuminate the truth of the matter – all these are based on the trust that journalists place on their sources to provide the information that can be checked and verified for its contextual and factual accuracy.

Journalists, though, seldom work in isolation. They work with their sources in uncovering the truth.

In authoritarian states, journalists uncovering the truth come with personal costs. At this time of writing, two Reuters journalists are still in detention in Myanmar for their investigation of military brutality against the Rohingyas in Rakhine State.

 

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has warned journalists critical of his administration that they “are not exempted from assassination”.

Further away in the Czech Republic, which I visit occasionally, the rightist President Milos Zeman was reported to have turned up at a press conference with a fake Kalashnikov inscribed with the ominous words “for journalists”.

And in Egypt, Al Jazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein has been detained since December 2016 for allegedly “disseminating false news and receiving monetary funds from foreign authorities in order to defame the state’s reputation”.

You can read details of ongoing threats against journalists here.

Image result for dan rather 2018

Dan Rather–The Icon  of Journalism of the Edward R. Murrow,Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley Mold

Renowned American journalist Dan Rather (photo above) had sounded out to journalists in the US to “stay steady… relentless and remain aggressive” against Trump’s persistent attack on the media.

“That’s the proper role of the press… to be part of the system of checks and balances, to ask questions, keep on asking the tough questions, do deep investigative reporting. I think the public (including the people who voted for Trump) understand that that’s a vital role,” Rather said.

What’s what our journalists ought to do with the nascent freedom to report and probe since May 9. Journalists should keep on asking the tough questions that cut through the political spin and to closely watch that real reforms, as promised to the people in the Pakatan Harapan campaign manifesto, are delivered beyond the 100 days.

Sycophantic “bodek” journalism that had sustained the BN kakistocrats for decades certainly qualifies the mainstream media as the “enemy of the Malaysian people”. This must now end.


ERIC LOO is Senior Fellow (Journalism) at the School of the Arts, English & Media, Faculty of Law Humanities & Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia. He is also the founding editor of Asia Pacific Media Educator.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

Top 10 Malaysian Political Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2018


Malaysia’s Top 10 Political Bloggers

Top 10 Malaysian Political Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2018

Malaysian Political Blogs List.

The Best Malaysian Political Blogs from thousands of Malaysian Political blogs on the web using search and social metrics. Subscribe to these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with frequent updates and high-quality information.

These blogs are ranked based on following criteria

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

Best 10 Malaysian Political Bloggers

CONGRATULATIONS to every blogger that has made this Top Malaysian Political Blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best Malaysian Political blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world.

Malaysian Political Blogs

1. Malaysians Must Know the TRUTH

Image result for malaysia must know the truth

Kota KInabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, About Blog I am Mohd. Kamal bin Abdullah, who resides in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. I hold a post-graduate law degree from the United Kingdom. I blog to tell MALAYSIANS THE TRUTH.
Frequency about 168 posts per week.
Since June 2010
Website malaysiansmustknowthetruth.b..
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a. View Latest Posts ▸

 

2. Din Merican: the Malaysian DJ Blogger » Politics

Image result for The Malaysian DJ Blogger

Kuala Lumpur Malaysia About Blog Hi, my name is Din Merican. I am originally from Alor Setar, Kedah Darul Aman, Malaysia. I like to use this opportunity to remind readers and commentators that this is a serious public affairs blog. Read all the latest political happennings on my blog
Frequency about 15 posts per week.
Website dinmerican.wordpress.com/cat..
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a. View Latest Posts ▸

3. OutSyed The Box

Image result for outsyed the box

 

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia About Blog Professionally in descending historical order a Blogger, Advisory Panel – Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission, businessman, property developer, author (three books todate), company director, newspaper columnist, NEAC economic consultant and banker. Also less erratic TV appearances and political analyst. My main interest is Malaysian peoples’ scientific, industrial, economic and social advancement. Everything else is disposable.
Frequency about 21 posts per week.
Website syedsoutsidethebox.blogspot.com
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a. View Latest Posts ▸

4. Rebuilding Malaysia

Image result for rebuilding malaysia

Kuala Lumpur Malaysia About Blog Welcome to mariammokhtar.com. Like you, I am an ordinary member of the Malaysian rakyat and I am concerned about many disturbing social, economic and political developments in Malaysia. UMNO-Baru politicians use meaningless, slogans which are created by public relations companies and paid for by the taxpayer. This site hopes to unmask them and expose them for what they really are.
Frequency about 4 posts per week.
Since Apr 2014
Website mariammokhtar.com
Facebook fans 4,852. Twitter followers 233. View Latest Posts ▸

5. Lim Kit Siang

Image result for Lim Kit Siang blogspot

 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia About Blog First elected Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka in 1969, Lim Kit Siang is one of the most senior members of the august house.
Frequency about 6 posts per week.
Website blog.limkitsiang.com
Facebook fans 371,388. Twitter followers 368,671. View Latest Posts ▸

6. rocky’s bru

Image result for rockybru

Puchong, Malaysia About Blog Rocky’s Bru is Malaysian journalist Ahiruddin Bin Attan, who advises the mole.my and any blogger in need of free counsel
Frequency about 3 posts per week.
Since May 2006
Website rockybru.com.my
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers 17,024. View Latest Posts ▸

7. Malaysia Flip Flop

Image result for Malaysia Flip Flop

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia About Blog A Homemaker with a voice. Suffered too long and am dismay at the level of corruption and flip flop laws in Malaysia and arrogant and greedy politicians.
Frequency about 3 posts per week.
Since Apr 2008
Website malaysiaflipflop.blogspot.com
Facebook fans n/a. Twitter followers n/a. View Latest Posts ▸

8. Malaysia Chronicle » Politics

Image result for malaysia chronicle logo

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia About Blog Malaysia Chronicle was started on June 1, 2010, by a veteran journalist. The team of one has since expanded to include other seasoned and well-known editors, writers and reporters. Malaysia Chronicle focuses on Politics, with Business news also a core feature since the pulse of a nation is often its economy.
Frequency about 168 posts per week.
Website malaysia-chronicle.com/?cat=2
Facebook fans 30,037. Twitter followers 25,806. View Latest Posts ▸

9. CILISOS – Current Issues Tambah Pedas! » Politics

Image result for cilisos logo

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia About Blog Here at CILISOS, we believe that the only way to consume information is with a serious dose of flavour. Our aim is to make mundane things like news, current events and politics entertaining and informative in equal measure
Frequency about 3 posts per week.
Since Mar 2014
Website cilisos.my/category/politics
Facebook fans 66,552. Twitter followers 1,772. View Latest Posts ▸

10. The Malaysian Insight

Image result for the malaysia insight

Kuala Lumpur City About Blog The Malaysian Insight provides an unvarnished insight into Malaysia, its politics, economy, personalities and issues of the day, and also issues sidelined by the headlines of the day.
Frequency about 168 posts per week.
Website themalaysianinsight.com
Facebook fans 38,344. Twitter followers 11,448. View Latest Posts ▸

 

Congratulations to Malaysiakini–The No.1 News Portal in Malaysia


June 28, 2018

Malaysiakini is No.1 News Portal in Malaysia: A Profile in Courage

http://www.malaysiakini.com

 

Image result for Malaysiakini Team

Note: Malaysiakini was born in 1999, in the crucible of the Reformasi movement that sprung up in the wake of the arrest and imprisonment of then-deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran started the online news portal to give Malaysians an unvarnished view of what was happening in the country — the kind people were unable to get from the government-controlled mass media newspapers and TV stations at the time.

The little outlet is now one of Asia’s most influential news sites. But the journey has been perilous. In its two decades of operations, Malaysiakini has been raided by police numerous times, dragged to court and most recently faced the threat of seeing its founders incarcerated for their work.

Yet, it has also won numerous awards for its journalism and has a special place in the hearts of Malaysians the world over. More than 17 million people used the site to track the Malaysian election results on May 9 and a multitude more followed along on social media. Anwar Ibrahim, on his release from prison on May 16, after obtaining a royal pardon, specifically thanked Malaysiakini for its work and its journalism.

https://www.mumbrella.asia/2018/05/after-spending-20-years-fighting-for-malaysias-democracy-whats-next-for-malaysiakini

 

Image result for Malaysiakini Team

Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran of Malaysiakini

Malaysiakini is the most popular media portal in Malaysia, according to the 2018 Reuters Digital News Report presented today at the East-West Center International Media Conference in Singapore.

The annual study of news consumption in various markets showed Malaysiakini ranking first in Malaysia with 44 percent of weekly usage by local users, followed by The Star Online (32 percent) and Berita Harian Online (24 percent).

Media Prima’s TV3 topped the TV, Radio and Print category with a 49 percent weekly usage, followed by The Star (at 31 percent) and Astro Awani (at 29 percent).

International provider Yahoo! News was voted the most trusted brand with a 6.12 overall score.

Media analyst Zaharom Nain, from the University of Nottingham Malaysia, said, “Malaysiakini with 44 percent reach has maintained its reputation for providing independent news and continues to retain the trust of many Malaysians, especially those tired of propaganda.”

Zaharom added that news portals such as Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insight, however, still faced a problem in getting consumers to pay for online news.

He noted that the circulation figures for two Media Prima newspapers – the New Straits Times and Berita Harian – continued to decline due to two reasons they being political alignment and the transition from print to digital consumption.

“They were openly aligned and strongly supportive of the former Prime Minister, Najib Abdul Razak, at a time when he was embroiled in one major financial scandal after another. This made Media Prima-owned properties become increasingly unpopular with Malaysians.”

The 2018 Reuters Digital News Report also showed that 72 percent of those polled used social media as their source of news while the total percentage of users reading online, including social media, hit 89 percent.

Tribute to Syed Shujaat Bhukaria, journalist killed in his line of work


June 27, 2018

Tribute to Syed Shujaat Bhukaria, journalist  killed in his line  of work

Image result for Syed Shujaat Bukhari

COMMENT | A journalist friend, Syed Shujaat Bhukari, who is also the founding editor of Rising Kashmir, was killed on June 14 by unidentified gunmen outside his office in Srinagar.

I first met Shujaat in 2008 at the Asian Center for Journalism at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines. He was then enrolled in a distance-learning subject, International Reporting, in the Master of Journalism programme, which I taught for a semester.

The subject involved weekly online discussions on the challenges that journalists faced in reporting on politically volatile issues.

Shujaat had survived three assassination attempts for his work. He had written about the constant “battle between pens and guns” in Kashmir in a guest editorial for the Paynesville Press in Minnesota.

“It is difficult to exist with recurrent, harassment, and intimidation,” he said. “But amid the daily grind of violence, life goes on (but) with a difference. It is stressful and sleep is difficult. Who knows about tomorrow?”

Replying to one of Shujaat’s queries on managing the risks of reporting in conflict zones in one of the subject’s weekly online forum in March 2008, I wrote:

“Dear Shujaat: I can only imagine reporting in conflict-ridden countries, and the risks you face daily. I believe journalists are as good as where their conscience leads them, and the risks they are able to take to tell their stories and uphold what’s right, fair and just. In reality, a journalist is also a husband, a wife, a parent, a son, a daughter. With the constant threats and risks of investigative journalism – as in the Philippines, Pakistan, Kashmir – you might ask whether the story is worth risking your life.

“I suppose when journalists have invested time, conviction and emotion into researching the story, bullets and death threats would only strengthen their resolve to push on. This professional disposition can only be acquired from field experience.”

Part of the solution

As a tribute to his journalism, here’s an extract from one of his assigned essays on how journalists could do better in reporting on development issues. Shujaat wrote, in part, on March 11, 2008:

“Commercialisation in the media has diminished the role of journalists in covering the issues that matter to the public… autonomy to a journalist in the newsroom is still elusive. The newsrooms are more or less governed or regulated by the interests of the owners.

“Journalists cannot shirk their responsibility towards the profession. Going beyond the routine material for news, which is generally dished out by government sources, journalists have a responsibility to look at the bigger picture and its ramifications on the people.”

Shujaat’s journalism of “reason and dialogue” underlines the risks that investigative journalists in the region take in their stride. Massoud Ansari, a Newsline correspondent in Pakistan, in an interview for my book on ‘Best Practices of Journalism in Asia’, said:

“Whatever benefits journalists enjoy in Pakistan is because of the struggle they had put in over the years. The government is trying its best to gag the media, but… technological development has made it very difficult to control the flow of information.

“Those who work and live in Pakistan do have to live under a lot of pressure. As a journalist, you are a critic of society. And when you criticise, either society or any organisation, or for that matter any individual, you tend to create enemies. The challenge is to stick to your commitment, and keep doing the work that you think will ultimately benefit society in the long run.”

The risks that bold journalists in Kashmir and Pakistan take in their investigative work remind me of the journalist’s moral duty to do the right thing and tenaciously investigate into matters of public interest, to expose social injustices, to unravel the truths behind the cover-ups of poor governance, systemic corruption and falsehoods peddled on social media.

In the Malaysian environment, our journalists should persevere in spite of pressures from special interest groups and politically affiliated editors.

Conscientious journalists should be part of the solution to racial politics in the country, failing which, in spite of a new Pakatan Harapan government, the communal divide wrought by decades of BN rule will just get wider and wider.


ERIC LOO is Senior Fellow (Journalism) at the School of the Arts, English & Media, Faculty of Law Humanities & Arts, University of Wollongong, Australia. He is also the founding editor of Asia Pacific Media Educator.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

A Tribute to Dr. Charles Krauthammer


June 25, 2018

A Tribute to Dr. Charles Krauthammer

Image result for Charles Krauthammer

A final, personal conversation on the eternity of Israel, with the greatest columnist of this generation, who passed away Thursday night.

By David M. Weinberg
June 21, 2018 21:17

Dr. Charles Krauthammer, perhaps the most luminous and incisive columnist of this generation, announced two weeks ago that he was stricken with terminal cancer and had only weeks to live.

I feel an obligation to pay homage to this incredible man, and to add a Jewish, Zionist and personal angle to the many tributes to him that have rightly poured forth.

For 38 years, Krauthammer’s columns, essays, and lectures have stood as pillars of conservative principle and moral clarity.

 

Image result for Charles Krauthammer and Ronald Reagan

Dr. Charles Krauthammer (in 1984) died on June 21, 2018 at 68.

On foreign policy matters, he was unquestionably the most radiant intellectual hawk in America, and on Middle East affairs he was the most consistent defender of Israel and the US-Israel special relationship. Two examples of his razor-sharp writing regarding Israel and American Mid-East policy will suffice, among hundreds of exhibits.

Krauthammer wrote in 2014 about “Kafkaesque ethical inversions” that make for Western criticism of Israel. “The world’s treatment of Israel is Orwellian, fueled by a mix of classic anti-semitism, near-total historical ignorance and reflexive sympathy for the ostensible Third World underdog,” he wrote.

He understood that eruptions featuring Palestinian casualties (such as recent Hamas assaults on the Gaza border) were “depravity.”

“The whole point is to produce dead Palestinians for international television; to deliberately wage war so that your own people can be telegenically killed; indeed, moral and tactical insanity,” he said. “But it rests on a very rational premise. The whole point is to draw Israeli counter-fire; to produce dead Palestinians for international television, and to ultimately undermine support for Israel’s legitimacy and right to self-defense.”

Krauthammer’s profound understanding of Jewish history, his admiration for Israel, and his very deep concern for its future were on fullest display in a magisterial essay he published in The Weekly Standard in 1998 entitled “At Last, Zion.”

In 2015, he repeatedly skewered then President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, calling it “the worst agreement in U.S. diplomatic history.”

Image result for barack obama

To Obama, he wrote accusingly: “You set out to prevent proliferation and you trigger it. You set out to prevent an Iranian nuclear capability and you legitimize it. You set out to constrain the world’s greatest exporter of terror threatening every one of our allies in the Middle East and you’re on the verge of making it the region’s economic and military hegemon.”

Krauthammer’s profound understanding of Jewish history, his admiration for Israel, and his very deep concern for its future were on fullest display in a magisterial essay he published in The Weekly Standard in 1998 entitled “At Last, Zion.”

The essay conducted a sweeping analysis of Jewish peoplehood, from Temple times and over 2,000 years of Diaspora history to the modern return to Zion.

Krauthammer understood that American Jewry was dying. “Nothing will revive the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe and the Islamic world. And nothing will stop the rapid decline by assimilation of Western Jewry.” The dynamics of assimilation were inexorable in America and elsewhere, he wrote.

Israel, Krauthammer understood, was different. “Exceptional,” he called it – because Israel was about “reattachment of Russian and Romanian, Uzbeki and Iraqi, Algerian and Argentinean Jews to a distinctively Hebraic culture,” and this gave it civilizational and societal staying power for the long term.

Israel “is now the principal drama of Jewish history,” he wrote. “What began as an experiment has become the very heart of the Jewish people – its cultural, spiritual, and psychological center, soon to become its demographic center as well. Israel is the hinge. Upon it rest the hopes – the only hope – for Jewish continuity and survival.”

However, because the “cosmology of the Jewish people has been transformed into a single-star system with a dwindling Diaspora orbiting around,” Krauthammer was apprehensive. It frightened him that “Jews have put all their eggs in one basket, a small basket hard by the waters of the Mediterranean. And on its fate hinges everything Jewish.”

Israel’s centrality, he feared, was a “bold and dangerous new strategy for Jewish survival” because of the many security threats posed to the country, chiefly among them the specter of Iranian nuclear weapons.

Indeed, Krauthammer’s essay “thinks the unthinkable” and “contemplates Israel’s disappearance.” And while Jewish political independence has been extinguished twice before and bounced back following centuries of dispersion, Krauthammer doubted that the Jewish People could pull the trick again. “Twice Jews defied the norm [and survived Diaspora]. But never, I fear, again.”

I challenged Krauthammer about his pessimistic perspective on the survival of Israel and the Jewish People at a Tikvah Fund seminar in 2016, where he engaged the Fund’s erudite chairman, Roger Hertog, in the deepest of conversations on strategy and identity.

In this lengthy conversation (which you can watch and read online; search Charles Krauthammer At Last Zion Tikvah), Krauthammer admitted to “trembling doubt” about God alongside belief in some transcendence in the universe, and then he repeated his sobering solicitudes about Israel’s precariousness. He spoke of the impossibility of a fourth Jewish commonwealth – were Israel, transcendence forbid, to be crushed.

I gently reproached Krauthammer on theological terms, by saying that “those of us who moved to Israel out of a grand meta-historic sense of drama believe that our third Jewish commonwealth won’t fail. Whatever it takes, we’ll make it work.”

I sensed that Krauthammer was glad for my emotive intervention, since he immediately and poignantly responded (in Hebrew): “Netzach Yisrael lo yishaker [The eternity of Israel will not lie, or fail].”

Krauthammer: “That’s what my father used to say when he talked about Israel. I too feel as an obligation to make sure of that throughout my life. I have done what I could, because that prospect [Israel’s disappearance] would make everything I’ve done lose its value. There’s nothing more important than that.”

And then referencing my aliyah, Krauthammer said, “I honor your choice… I commend you for that.” (He went on to describe how he too considered moving to Israel after college, at the urging of his then-philosophy professor David Hartman).

And then Krauthammer asked me: “I wonder what it’s like, and maybe you could tell me, to be an Israeli putting your kids on a school bus, raising them while knowing that one day Iran could have the bomb? Once the nuclear bomb is in the hands of genocidists – then what does that feel like? Do you think there might be emigration as a result? Do you have a feeling about that?” I answered: “My personal sense is that Israeli society is becoming more traditional, more deeply rooted, more ideological than before. I’m talking even about secular Israeli society. So we’re digging- in for the long term, and not being frightened away despite the shadow that you’re talking about.”

And Krauthammer responded to me, again in Hebrew: “As you people say, ‘kol ha-kavod [Well done].’”

So now it’s time for me to return the compliment, and say to Dr. Charles Krauthammer in his dying days: kol ha-kavod to you! On behalf of so many Jews, Americans and Israelis alike, thank you for your resilience, brilliance and steadfast support. We miss you already.

The author is Vice Ppresident of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, jiss.org.il. His personal site is davidmweinberg.com.