Tuesday 22 April 2014

Farewell Ma’alem, à toute...

Fawaz C. Najia: 1935-2014
Middle East Publisher, Editor and ArabSaga blogger Fawaz C. Najia lost his battle against cancer and passed away peacefully in London early on Sunday morning (April 20).
As one of the greats in the Arab English-language media, he was known to all of us who worked with him and were close as the Ma’alem – the teacher, the master.
Indeed, the Ma’alem was an encyclopedia in the region’s politics since the 1950s. He either participated in or covered the Middle East, especially Palestine, through his various publications -- Monday Morning weekly and Ike daily in Beirut, Lebanon, then Mideast Mirror newsletter in London.
But he was also a Ma’alem in life. Apart from journalism, in the 40 years I was with him he taught me generosity, humility and kindness. He was an avantgardist always ahead of his time, a feminist, an advocate for human rights and the rights of the Palestinian people and a firm supporter and believer in the Syrian people’s current battle.
Although creating a blog was on his mind for some time, he started guest-posting on my blog Mich Café at the start of the Arab Spring, as events began to unfold in Tunisia and then Egypt. Encouraged by the high number of readers, and with the help of Mohammed Kharroubi who set up the blog for him, ArabSaga was launched in January 2012. It was his way of communicating the saga of the Arab world to an English-reading public.
The war in Syria deeply affected the Ma’alem. He could not believe the silence and inaction of the international community. After working on a Syria post, he was left drained. Two weeks ago, when I visited him in hospital in London, I was often not able to understand what he was saying. But one morning, he whispered something about Latakia. Even then, the plight of the Syrian people was on his mind.
ArabSaga kept him going during his eight-month battle with cancer. It is only at the beginning of February, when his eyesight let him down and he was unable to read, that he stopped writing.
The Ma’alem had three personal posts he had not yet published – “Brawn or Brains?” “My journalism mentors before the Internet,” and “Life lessons from Costi Zurayk and Rafic Hariri.” Whenever he was about to post one of them, a more important current event would take precedence.
I will publish these three posts to add to the 625 he produced over two years, the majority of which are still relevant and will most probably be well into the future. They are a record of the events of the past two years, he Lebanon civil war and the Arab saga.
Among his most painful he wrote was the six-part series about “The cost of gagging Beirut.” Those who were “gagged” were personal friends he always remembered. 
There is so much to say, but for now farewell Ma’almi, à toute and May you now rest in peace.