were two crucial moments in the career of journalist Michael Adams, who
died recently at the age of 84. The first was the Suez crisis of 1956,
which he reported for the then Manchester Guardian , an event which
transformed him from something of a dilettante into a serious
correspondent. The second was the Six Day War in 1967, after which he
travelled to the West Bank and Gaza and became the first journalist to
question the myth of Israel’s “benign occupation”. This experience
persuaded him to spend the rest of his active life campaigning for a
cause which was then highly unpopular, the rights of the Palestinian
Michael was born in Addis Ababa and educated at Sedbergh
School and Christchurch, Oxford. After a year at university he joined
the RAF, but in 1940 was shot down and consigned to a German prison
camp for the rest of the war. Later he became a scriptwriter for the
BBC European Service until his appointment as The Guardian ‘s Middle
East correspondent in Cairo.
Although Adams had no previous
experience of the area, this was a highly successful placement. He
instinctively knew that the Anglo-French position was both morally
wrong and dangerous to British interests, and his stance was endorsed
in The Guardian ‘s leading articles.
Subsequently Adams reported
from both Beirut and Rome, but left the paper when a financial crisis
led to the abolition of his post.
After a few years spent working
for Voluntary Service Overseas and writing a delightful book, Umbria ,
he returned to the Middle East in 1967, writing freelance articles for
The Guardian , and a BBC radio series. He was appalled by the brutality
of the Israeli Army, and by the fury with which the Zionist lobby
reacted to any criticism of the occupation, so, with a group of
like-minded individuals, including some MPs, he set up the Council for
the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU)n to counter the
pro-Israeli bias in the media and in public life. In 1971 he became
editor of a new magazine, Middle East International .
years at CAABU and MEI, Adams did much to change the climate of opinion
in Britain. His articles, speeches and talks helped convince people
that the Palestinians did have rights and might even deserve a home.
Although he was subjected to constant malevolence and even insinuations
of anti-semitism, he reacted with an extraordinary serenity, retaining
his innate gentleness and decency in the face of all attacks. He was
loved by his colleagues: each of his successive deputy editors at MEI
regarded him as one of the kindest men they had ever known.
by his wife Celia, their three children, and a happy family life, in
1984 Adams retired to Devon, where he had been given a research
fellowship at Exeter University. His books include Chaos Or Rebirth ;
Publish It Not: The Middle East Cover-Up , which he wrote with
Christopher Mayhew, and an autobiography, The Untravelled World.