I Bid Farewell to Al-Quds Al-Arabi

This is one of my most difficult moments, dear readers, in that I must bid you farewell.
 
I have written my daily editorials on the pages of al-Quds al-Arabi for more than a quarter of a century but this particular journalistic journey has arrived at its final station.
 
I would not have chosen the first day of Ramadan for such a momentous announcement, preferring rather to congratulate all the sons and daughters of Arab and Islamic nations at this holy time. But events and the requirments of third parties pushed me into taking this life-changing decision.
 
Today my relationship with al-Quds al-Arabi, as its Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, is entirely at an end. I have championed the paper since its inception, we have stood in the trenches with our Arab nation and our creed, we  have fought fierce battles in the face of occupation and foreign domination, we have challenged oppressive dictatorships and corrupt regimes, we have supported the oppressed and the persecuted.
 
Every journey must end and it is natural that I exit this train exhausted and drained and that many stages of this trip were neither particularly smooth nor comfortable.

I have sometimes received death threats from Arab, Western and Israeli security services. The Zionist lobby in Europe and the US has waged a fierce battle against me and now I am unable to visit the US. This lobby has worked hard to defame me and silence my voice by preventing my appearances on television and my words being printed in British opinion columns. My talks and lectures at world famous universities have been targetted by propagandists and sometimes prevented from happening at all.

 

One of the Israeli press attaches even boasted once in an interview with the Jewish Chronicle that one of his main achievements in London was reducing my appearances on famous channels such as CNN, BBC and Sky News as an expert on Middle Eastern affairs. This is the only badge of honor I have received in my life.

I was subjected to smear campaigns by other Arabs and one Arab intelligence service managed to produce a photograph of our 'newspaper's HQ' which was a huge skyscraper. Distinguished visitors  – among them Ministers, politicans and famous journalists – have always been amazed to enter our humble suite of offices which is not much bigger than an average apartment.

When the great Palestinian poet, Mahmud Darwish, came to see me he was shocked and said he couldn't believe his 'favourite newspaper issued from a small cave'. I was delighted when he added, 'But you are not Cavemen but the bearers of the most civilized message!'

I leave al-Quds al-Arabi today with my head held high because I have witnesseed its transformation from its anemic early days as a weakling new kid on the block into one of the most important newspapers in Arabic, whose contents are daily translated into most languages.
 
We are proud that, despite having been banned in several countries like Saudi Arabia, Syria (a strange paradox) and Bahrain, we have become the most widespread and influential Arab paper online,according to statistics from Alexa and Google Agency.
 
This success could never have been achieved without the family of employees numbering just 18 in all from secretary to editor-in-chief. They are not only incredibly gifted but doggedly determined and adaptable in the face of the many challenges we have had to confront. 
 
The press for them has been about the message first, and making a living second. Many of my colleagues have declined much more lucrative offers of employment in order to remain with us; even though sometimes I was unable to pay their (an indeed my own) salaries.
 
This small constellation of journalists, writers and reporters made a miracle in the world of journalism, deploying the whole truth with a small budget but maximum professionalism, objectivity, integrity and independence.
 
Throughout my career, despite the cost in terms of my career or personal life, I have never compromised on what I believe, secure in the knowledge that these beliefs are built on real values, principles and political convictions. Because of this al-Quds al-Arabi filled a niche in the Arab media and for that reason will form part of its history.

 

I admit that I worked hard, and sometimes made mistakes; but I learned from my mistakes and apologize without shame. No one has a monopoly on truth, and every issue can be seen from many different perspectives. We were always careful to allow these different voices to be heard so long as they were not insulting or accusatory.

 
Perhaps a reader, out of care for me, might innocently ask, 'And what is the next step for you, Son Atwan?'. My answer is simply – I will spend more time at home with my biological family (the bigger family is at al-Quds al-Arabi) and give my children more time than the rare ten day holidays I sometimes managed to squeeze into my hectic agenda once a year.

I have never known anything other than journalism and have refused all offers of 'going into business. For me, the press is the most fulfilling and prestigious of all the professions and if I had to live my life all over again I would choose the same career.
 
I have one project on the horizon: a new book, in English, already contracted to a European publishing house.
 
I plan to continue to communicate with readers by posting articles on my website and via Twitter and Facebook. Writing is my addiction, and the greatest joys in my life have been the birth of my first child and the publication of my first book.
 
I wish al-Quds al-Arabi all the best in its next stage of life and know that acting Editor-in-Chief, Sana Aloul, is amply qualififed to captain the ship through turbulent waters.
 
Finally, I repeat my thanks – filled with love and gratitude – for each member of the al-Quds al-Arabi family and last but not least, for you, dear readers.
 
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