Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1160, (15 - 21 August 2013)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1160, (15 - 21 August 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Obituary: Penning Palestine

 Graham Usher

Al-Ahram Weekly

My heart is heavy as I am assigned to write the obituary of a dear friend and colleague, Graham Usher, who thrust his way to the top of our profession, journalism, without compromising his ideological orientation. Usher was born in the late 1950s, and died after a short battle with illness.

He left his native England and the British press corps to devote his life to the cause of the downtrodden and dispossessed Palestinian people.

He saw no reason why Palestinians should be relegated to the prosaic position of second class citizens in their own ancestral land that was forcibly appropriated by European settler colonists.

It is primarily for this reason that Usher became Al-Ahram Weekly’s correspondent from Palestine, virtually from the paper’s inception. His articles invariably hit the headlines; the lead pieces on the front pages of the paper.

Usher was disparaging of the signing of the Oslo agreement between Palestine and Israel in 1993. He understood that the entire “peace” process was a charade designed to forestall the achieving of Palestinian statehood. He lived among the Palestinians and literally gave his life to the Palestinian cause. He authored Palestine in Crisis: The Struggle for Peace and Political Independence. I personally consider this particular work to be an insightful reference book, unfortunately underrated in the West.

Usher’s Palestine in Crisis, a highly acclaimed, succinct overview of the Palestinian predicament, proposes a fresh framework for understanding the pain of the long-suffering Palestinian people. Usher had a prognosis and a prescription for the Palestinians’ ultimate triumph over Israeli oppression. However, he was never naively rhapsodic about the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

He was scathingly critical of certain unscrupulous Palestinian politicians who “gambled all on a presumption that once the PLO got a toehold in the territories, cash from international donors and a Palestinian police force under [Yasser Arafat]’s control would immeasurably improve his bargaining position vis-à-vis the Israelis”. Usher understood that the Israelis would capitalise on the ambiguities and lacunae of the PLO leadership.

“The New Hamas” was a groundbreaking piece he penned and so was “Israel’s Palestinians and the politics of law and order”. When he, with his now widow, and dear friend of mine, Barbara Plett of the BBC, moved to Pakistan, Usher showed a keen interest in the controversial shortcomings of the United States’ “war on terror”. His “Catche’s Mitt” is a classic.

“Pakistan is at the heart of President Barack Obama’s plan to wind down America’s war in Afghanistan,” Usher noted. The last time I met the couple in Cairo, I prepared lunch at my place and we discussed the fast-paced political situation in Egypt. I never suspected that it would be the last time I would set eyes on Graham.

Gamal Nkrumah

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