Ian Black, one of the best-known and highly respected of Jewish journalists in England, has died at the age of 69. Black, who spent most of his journalistic career at The Guardian which he joined in 1980, also did a stint at The Jerusalem Post, arriving at the paper ahead of his cousin Jeff Barak who subsequently joined the list of the Post’s editors-in-chief.
“When I started at The Jerusalem Post, my modest claim to fame was the fact that I was Ian’s younger cousin, something I was – and still am – very proud of.”Jeff Barak
“When I started at The Jerusalem Post, my modest claim to fame was the fact that I was Ian’s younger cousin, something I was – and still am – very proud of,” Jeff Barak said on Monday.
“Back then, Ian was already a well-known journalist, making his reputation as The Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent. He was a great writer – his final book Enemies and Neighbors is a masterpiece of research and storytelling – but I also had the privilege to know him as someone who was fun to be with and very caring to those close to him.”
Ian Black: Not a Jewish journalist, but a journalist who wrote a lot about and from Israel
Black, who lived with his family in London‘s Jewish heartland of Golders Green, also authored several books. He was not a Jewish journalist in the sense of writing for Jewish publications, but he wrote a lot about and from Israel. He also reported extensively from Syria, Libya, Egypt and Iran, and covered the Arab Spring.
His books included Israel’s Secret Wars, written together with another former Jerusalem Post reporter, Benny Morris. Published in 1991, the book sheds light on Israel’s intelligence services from the period of the early Zionist pioneers.
Ian Black (1953-2023) pic.twitter.com/9p6eP1bS1m— Ian Black (@ian_black) January 23, 2023
During his long career at The Guardian, Black served as reporter, Middle East correspondent, diplomatic editor, European editor and leader writer.
He retired from The Guardian in 2017, the year in which his last book, coinciding with the centenary of the Balfour Declaration was published. The book, Enemies and Neighbors: Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Israel 1917-2017, presents a comprehensive and absorbing history of the conflict between two Peoples occupying the same territory.
Following his departure from The Guardian, Black became a visiting senior fellow at the Middle East Center of the London School of Economics.
During the final years of his life, he suffered from a rare neurological disease, the key symptom of which was the shrinking of the brain, about which together with his wife Helen Harris, he wrote in a moving article in The Guardian in October of last year. “It is hard to ignore the increasing realization that my brain is shrinking, so is my world,” he wrote but said that he was enjoying his life while he still could.
He had first noticed that something was amiss in the summer of 2020 when in the course of a television interview, he found himself at a loss for words. His illness was diagnosed soon afterward, and from that point on, he continued to degenerate.
The recipient of various awards, the one that probably meant most to him was the Peace through Media Award that he received in 2010 from the International Council for Press and Broadcasting at the 6th International Media Awards ceremony in London.
But in the ensuing years, he lost hope for peace in the Middle East.
“You have spent the past three-and-a-half years on a one-state reality, whereas I spent my years with the underlying assumption that a two-state solution was possible. And that’s gone.”Ian Black
In an exchange in 2021, with Oliver Homes, one of his successors in covering the region, Black said “You have spent the past three-and-a-half years on a one-state reality, whereas I spent my years with the underlying assumption that a two-state solution was possible. And that’s gone.”
Black is survived by his wife Helen, two daughters and a son from a previous marriage.