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