Jared Malsin: the kid next door reports from Bethlehem

Click to listen to Chris’s conversation with Jared Malsin. (27 minutes, 16 mb mp3)

Jared Malsin looks, sounds and writes like your bright and earnest American kid from down the street. Until two months ago, he was reporting in the Palestinian Territories for Ma’an News Agency. A dozen voices like his in our ears, telling the day-to-day story of Palestinian life under Israeli occupation, might force us to change a cruel, foolish and dangerous misuse of our power in the region. Which must be part of the reason Israeli authorities detained Jared Malsin in January, without charge, kept him in jail for a week and then denied him re-entry into the West Bank.

So he’s cooling his heels back home, and we’re getting to know a model reporter before he’s famous. Three years out of Yale, Jared Malsin is the child of teachers in Hanover, New Hampshire, and a graduate of Hanover High School. After college, his news instinct pointed him to Bethlehem, because “you look to the side of the story that’s not being told.”

… As a journalist your natural inclination is to give voice to people who don’t have a voice. There’s nothing like being on the ground and seeing what’s happening with your own eyes. You can read about the settlements and the wall. It’s another thing to be in Bethlehem, the city I lived in for two and a half years, and see how the wall cuts across the main road to Jerusalem and wraps around the gas station and then cuts between two house and through an olive field and has just completely mangled the city. Something about being there, and seeing it with your own eyes — there’s truth to it that you can’t argue with. The challenge is to get that across in reporting, in writing, in photography or whatever medium you’re working in.

The story in Palestinian these days, Jared Malsin remarks, is not the consuming flap around new housing for Jews in East Jerusalem. It’s that four teenagers have been shot by the Israeli Army in the last few days — deaths that will not be explained or investigated. “If you’re on the ground you get a different sense: you can sense the wind shifting and right now I get the sense the conflict is in one of those periods where it’s going to start becoming more violent.”

If you’re living in the West Bank or Gaza, your water gets shut off for a week or ten days at a time, in the summer, routinely. Which means that if you live in a refugee camp in Bethlehem, for a week or ten days in the summer you can’t wash yourself; you can’t wash your children. You can’t take a shower. You can’t cook food. It’s incredibly dehumanizing, but it’s one of these issues you just don’t hear about because there are no explosions going on. It’s one of these daily lived ways that people live occupation. And that’s what I think the real meaning of it is… Those are the stories I’m interested in.

Where, I wondered, is the Palestinian Gandhi between the warring Fatah and Hamas factions?

People ask me that question a lot: ‘where is the Palestinian Gandhi?’ My response is that he’s in jail. There are lots of people who are champions of non-violent modes of political protest. Palestinians have a huge tradition of non-violence. They protest every day, every week, in the West Bank, everywhere, and in Gaza also. Most of the tradition of Palestinian resistance to occupation has been non-violent, and yet most of those people who are leading those protests wind up in Israeli prisons, most of them. Boycott campaigns, protest marches, all the same techniques used by the Civil Rights movement in this country, Palestinians are always using today. But they’re met with tremendous violence.

Jared Malsin in conversation with Chris Lydon at Brown, March 24, 2010.

One of those might-be Gandhis, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, was scheduled to speak at Brown this week until his US visa was unaccountably held up. When he gets here, we’ll ask for a conversation.

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  • Potter

    Israel has lost its way.. even if that goal was mere survival. Israel is still asking the rest of the world to make exceptions, and not to judge it ethically or morally. And increasingly the rest of the world, including many Jews here in the USA who love Israel, are unable to do that.

    Now there is a question as to whether Israel is really a democracy.

    Michael Oren, the Ambassador to the US, said to be a good historian wrote a NYTimes op-ed piece pleading for more support which means enabling of this path that Israel is on:

    “Because we share fundamental values — democracy, respect for individual rights and the rule of law — our friendship can sustain occasional disagreements, and remain unassailably solid.”

    Jared Malsin’s is one of a group of stories in the news, each so shocking still, of the right wing government’s repression of criticism of itself and it’s policies and suppression of information about what is going on in the occupied territories.

    Words like “fascism” and McCarthyism are being used to describe this state of affairs.

    Where are the Israeli people? Some are dressing up in tennis outfits to celebrate Purim and the Mossad.

    I too am looking for more daylight between the US and Israel- to sober Israelis.

    Netanyahu is now exposed as talking out of both sides of his mouth and as unworthy a partner in peace as any on the other side that gets so accused. Obviously Netanyahu is stalling to get more facts on the ground that will become pre-conditions, caving in to sheer bald-faced greediness and the delusion that military might will, in the end, triumph. Another intifada will give all the reasons necessary to “finish the job.”

    And for the rest of the world, including diaspora Jews, It’s getting harder to swallow resistance to occupation as unjustified terrorism. There will be more movement towards “boycott, divestment, sanction” (BDS) and the labeling of Israel a pariah nation unworthy of membership in the EU (for instance).

  • partha from kolkata

    all this things are quiet natural, as it seems to me. The governments who ever in power only understand the language which are in favor of power. In our country or in pakistan, bangladesh ,china everywhere the basic rights of people are crushed by the governments .Recently in West Bengal , in Paschim Medinipore district ,lalgarh area in the name of crushing Maoist insurgence , our central and state government both are taking upper hand denying basic human rights. Even they did not ready to hand over the body of those who are killed by paramilitary.What is amusing that when a writer and his friend went on a march to show their solidarity ,police arrested them on 25th march.

  • Emily Corwith

    So little time to write, but thanks as always Chris for the best conversations on the internet …