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A farewell from +972 Magazine's editor-in-chief

A reflection and goodbye from Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, +972 Magazine’s outgoing editor-in-chief.

Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, August 29, 2019. (Edo Konrad)

Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, August 29, 2019. (Edo Konrad)

When I began working at +972 Magazine nearly seven years ago, I was the organization’s first full-time employee. It was the eve of the 2013 Israeli elections, and looking back all these years later, things felt very different.

True, Netanyahu had already been prime minister for a few years but Ehud Barak was his main partner and Tzipi Livni would join him a few weeks later. The world was just learning who Naftali Bennett was. The Kerry peace process hadn’t yet spectacularly imploded — it hadn’t even begun. The Palestinian popular protests against the wall — and the joint struggle — were a weekly source of inspiration.

The biggest difference between then and now is that back then, hope was a lot easier to find. On the heels of Israel’s social justice movement, for many Israelis there existed a lofty idea of what might be possible. There was a peace process to speak of, and although many of us here at +972 Magazine were among its loudest critics and skeptics, even Benjamin Netanyahu still claimed to support Palestinian statehood. The most horrible summer most of us can remember, the summer of 2014, hadn’t yet happened. The Dawabshe family still existed.

The list of tragic and deflating developments could go on and on, and indeed it does. But there have also been moments of great — and small — hope. For me, much of that hope could be found in grassroots movements that refuse to give up.

There was the protest movement that halted the Prawer Plan, the largest forced displacement of Palestinians planned by Israel at least since 1967. There were the years of protests and organizing that fought back Israel’s policies toward African refugees and ultimately stopped their mass deportation. And although it was subverted and ended in a massacre, a grassroots movement in Gaza reminding the world that real men, women, and children live there (the Great March of Return) was one of the boldest and bravest initiatives to challenge the status quo that I’ve ever seen.

And then there is one of the biggest changes, the hardest to pinpoint or see, and which only history will be able to judge: the long-time-coming transformation of the way the world talks about Israel-Palestine, the occupation, and “the conflict.” To be sure, not all of that change is good. One of the most terrifying developments to watch has been the success of efforts to brand nearly all criticism and nonviolent activism against Israel as anti-Semitism. On the flip side, that polarization has also brought with it opportunities. By ripping off their mask and forcing the world to take sides, Netanyahu and his allies around the globe have opened up new political spaces for those fighting for justice and equality.

In that same period, +972 Magazine has grown beyond anything the site’s founders and early writers could have dreamed. From a volunteer collective of bloggers, it now has three full-time editors and a broad, diverse, and growing network of paid writers. Since launching nine years ago, we have reached over 10 million people who have read our articles more than 36 million times. Along with the Hebrew-language site we helped launch, our reporting has had tangible impacts not only on real-life events but also on the way other media outlets here and abroad discuss Israel-Palestine. We have been a part of changing the perceptions and lexicon of regular readers, the local and foreign press, and politicians and diplomats. We have done nearly a decade of work of which I, and all of my colleagues, are immensely proud.

Alas, the time has come for me to pass the baton onward. As of Sept. 1, +972 Magazine’s long-time deputy editor, Edo Konrad, will be taking over as editor-in-chief. After working together for nearly seven years, not only do I have absolute confidence in Edo’s vision and leadership, but I look forward to witnessing — as a reader, and hopefully at times as a writer — the new heights and directions he leads the publication.

+972 Magazine was never just a publication, however. Partly due to its roots as a collective, partly due to our approach to amplifying diverse voices and the work of activists on the ground, and partly just because of who we are, +972 has also always been a community. That community exists behind the scenes, but it is also something our readers are a part of and helped create. And for that, I must thank all of you, our loyal, supportive readers. It’s not just that we couldn’t do this without you — we do it for you.

So thank you all for these incredible years. To paraphrase my father, who probably paraphrased someone else, it’s a rare and special thing to be able to feed your soul and your stomach in the same place, and +972 Magazine has been that special place for me. Good luck and thank you to Edo, Henriette, and everyone who has been a part of +972 over the years. To say that it’s been a pleasure is an understatement of epic proportions.

Signing off,

Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Itshak Gordine

      It was omitted to state that 972mag is largely financed from abroad …

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        It was omitted to state that not enough Israelis care about basic human rights, or even know what it is, to fund 972 totally from Israeli sources.

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          As long as these kinds of sites are financed from abroad, they will provoke distrust. So no concrete result. And if so few Israelis feel concerned that the situation from the point of view of freedom is not so bad, no offense to some leftists who can freely preach in the desert unless they violate the laws in force.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “And if so few Israelis feel concerned that the situation from the point of view of freedom is not so bad”

            A classic. “It’s no so bad for me, so who cares?” Narcissistic self-centeredness and basically, racism, personified. The same song sung by white Southern Confederates 150 years ago, by Afrikaners 50 years ago, by Chinese now (in regards to subjugated Uighurs in vicious Chinese concentration camps), by Jewish Israelis now. See Noam Sheizaf’s statement below about why going outside, in English, is necessary. Q. E. D.

            “unless they violate the laws in force”

            Another classic Orwellian statement. (By a major violator in force of international law.) I wish to point out that ‘Itshak Gordine’ constantly cloaks his kahanist agenda in vague, creepy-sounding Orwellian euphemisms because he knows at some level how extra bad it sounds if he just comes right and states what he really means forthrightly.

            “As long as these kinds of sites are financed from abroad…”

            Of course, Israel Hayom, the Bibi-ton, is not largely financed from abroad, it is 100% financed from abroad. By a guy in a casino hotel in a desert in the far west of North America. With a secretive budget that is unknown but clearly many thousands of times greater than that of +972 Magazine. And massively distorts Israeli politics.
            Doesn’t bother ‘Itshak Gordine’ a bit.

            Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        First you click “About” and then you click “How We Are Funded”:

        https://972mag.com/about/#finan

        No conspiracies, nothing is hidden, nothing is omitted.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        In contrast to liberal democracy, fascism organizes society around the vilification of outsiders. And we see this vilification of outsiders routinely in comments such as this by ‘Itshak Gordine’.

        In 2012 Noam Sheizaf, +972’s editor in chief at the time, noted that only about 20 percent of the magazine’s readers are Israeli, and said “I think there’s still a chance to resolve things but it’s not going to happen without dramatic pressure from abroad. Left on their own, Israelis will continue the occupation and the current political trends forever. It’s good to internationalize the conversation. I believe in this thing we do. I think to bring honest, grassroots voices in English out of Israel, is of the essence.”

        Reply to Comment
        • As an outside reader, I agree. At the same time, it is an Israeli friend who told me to read 972. She lives in Haifa.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Ben

      Michael, good luck to you in your next endeavor. Good to see Edo taking over. The Magazine is a fantastic example of excellence. And it just gets better and better. I will continue to donate.

      Reply to Comment
    3. 972 is a most courageous enterprise precisely because domestic readership remains a minority of total readership. Journalists hope for careers, and speaking against the day’s current does not augment career opportunity at home. Speaking truth to power is hackneyed from overuse; but certainly it applies here. I cannot see the political topography improving, rather fearing the position of 972 will undergo new onslaughts. It is far easier to hate and hinder than advocate the open-ended life of others.

      Perhaps you will let 972 readers know something of where you land.

      Reply to Comment