He’s been bombed, shot at and severely beaten. His reporting over 30 years in the Middle East has earned him many awards – and as many enemies.
In his book The Great War for Civilisation, he describes the way that, in the years since the American-led invasion of Iraq, he wakes to the sound of the wind swishing through the branches of the palm trees outside his window and thinks: ‘Where will today’s explosion be?’ (Answer: on his doorstep. Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon, was murdered on 14 February 2005, probably by the Syrians, only yards from Fisk’s home, in an explosion so fierce the aforementioned palm trees dipped towards him as if ‘in a tornado’.) It is, then – at least on the page he writes – a place of peace and tranquillity, of quiet before the permanent storm that is life in the Middle East.
Robert Fisk is one of the most famous journalists in the world, and one of the most divisive. Many revere him both for the muscular quality of his reporting – in a world numbed by 24/7 television, he makes news seem gripping and important and full of pity – and for his refusal to shy away from saying that which few other writers dare to put down on the page. No one escapes the heat of his ire: neither Bush nor Blair, neither Israel nor the Arab dictatorships. For him, journalism is about ‘naming the guilty’ and sod the consequences. In his more than 30 years as a Middle East correspondent – during which time he has survived bombs, bullets, two kidnap attempts and, perhaps most notoriously, a thorough beating at the hands of a group of Afghan refugees in Pakistan – he has won more awards than any other foreign news journalist and has written two best-selling and acclaimed books: Pity the Nation, a devastating history of the Lebanese civil war, and The Great War for Civilisation, a 1,300 page history, with eyewitness accounts lifted directly from his own notebooks, of the ‘conquest’ of the Middle East (his latest book, The Age of the Warrior, a collection of his journalism, has just been published). Fisk’s lectures sell out across the world; at his book signings, the queue extends out of the door.
From Beirut to Bosnia is a three part documentary by Robert Fisk shown on the Discovery Channel focusing on Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and Bosnia. It spans different nations and different peoples, but the problems and tragedies, the false hopes and betrayals, these are always the same. Muslims all over the world bear the brunt of Western foreign policy and local dictatorial rule. They pay the price of these policies and adventures with their land, freedom, property and lives. This mixture, of oppression, poverty and abuse has alienated millions of Muslims from their own governments as well as from some in the West. Today we witness a region on fire, plagued with instability. Robert Fisk analyses some of the root causes of the conflicts and tragedies we hear about daily.