Jim Kouri
Covering the eternal conflict: Fox News' Jennifer Griffin on the frontline
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By Jim Kouri
March 28, 2011

When most of the denizens of U.S. newsrooms all but ignored the drug war that exploded on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border, I watched Fox News Channel's national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin on the Mexican side of the border describing the latest confrontation between government troops and the vicious, deadly drug cartels. I turned to a colleague and said, "As far as I'm concerned, the border conflict is now officially a war zone because they've got Jennifer Griffin reporting from the Southwest border."

I repeated that statement during an appearance on Fox News Radio affiliate KGAB in Cheyenne, Wyoming, when the host Dave Chaffin and I discussed the Mexican drug war: The border conflict is now officially a war zone because the best war correspondent in the business — Jennifer Griffin — is reporting from the Southwest border."

Griffin joins the ranks of Kit Coleman, the first female war correspondent, who charged up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders in 1898; and Liz Trotta, who covered the unwinnable war as an "imbedded" reporter — before there was such a term — in the jungles of Vietnam. Griffin is that good.

Whether it's covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the conflict between hawks and doves in the U.S. House of Representatives, one would be hardpressed to find a better journalist than Griffin. She is someone more than capable of explaining not only the story at hand, but also the subtext of the events being covered.

It is her coverage of the Israeli response to Palestinian violence and vice versa that has helped to make Jennifer Griffin a reporter in a class by herself.

It sometimes seems that of all the wars and armed conflicts throughout human history, it is the Israeli-Palestinian tragedy that appears to be — for want of a better term — eternal. And as each day passes, and each attack occurs there are more questions than answers to this complex and often savage human drama.

According to her new book — written with her husband, New York Times reporter Greg Myre — no other conflict in the world has dragged on longer, engendered more bitterness or defied more attempts at resolution than the battle between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Over the past decade, Greg Myre covered this conflict for the New York Times, and his wife Jennifer Griffin covered it for Fox News, and they arrived at the same surprising conclusion: the conflict cannot be solved anytime soon. One of the benefits of having a Griffin and Myre news team is evident in their new book,

This Burning Land: Lessons from the Front Lines of the Transformed Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

In This Burning Land, the husband and wife team address a fundamental paradox: Israel is stronger than it has been at any time in its history; it has a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and a powerful military that suppressed the most recent Palestinian uprising. And yet, it cannot find a way to end its blood feud with the Palestinians. In turn, the entire world supports the Palestinian goal of statehood, and yet no such state is likely to emerge any time soon.

Arriving in Jerusalem shortly before the onset of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, Myre and Griffin soon found themselves reporting not on a new peace deal, but on the worst violence in the long history of this feud. They show how the conflict has changed dramatically in recent years as new physical and psychological barriers have gone up between the two sides.

The couple takes us to the heart of the conflict, where few writers have gone before. They delve into the thinking that motivates some Palestinians to be suicide bombers and other Palestinians to work as informants for Israel's security forces. Myre and Griffin travel to isolated West Bank outposts where Israeli settlers vow never to relinquish the land, and accompany Israeli troops as they stage midnight raids in militant strongholds.

Having also spent two decades chasing wars across Africa, Asia, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East, the authors are students of modern, asymmetrical warfare that has become the norm in today's conflicts. They draw on this experience to offer lessons crucial to understanding the Israeli-Palestinian fighting, and other wars as well.

A Marriage Made in Heaven; A War Created in Hell

Greg Myre and Jennifer Griffin have been covering international affairs since the day they met more than two decades ago. That first meeting took place in 1989 at an overflowing soccer stadium in Soweto, South Africa, where several of Nelson Mandela's prison colleagues received a thunderous greeting following their release from decades in jail.

At the time, Greg was a reporter with the Associated Press, and Jennifer was a college student taking a year off her studies. Several months later, they were present as Mandela himself walked to freedom.

They covered the dramatic final years of apartheid in South Africa before moving to Pakistan in 1993. From their posting in Islamabad, they covered the tumultuous years of Benazir Bhutto's rule. On one memorable day, the man who orchestrated the first bombing of the World Trade Center, Ramzi Yousef, was arrested just a few blocks from their home — and across the street from the bakery where they picked up croissants most mornings.

Greg and Jennifer traveled regularly to neighboring Afghanistan to witness that country's devastating civil war. They more-or-less spent their honeymoon under rocket fire ... for which Greg has never fully been forgiven. They were among the very first to meet and interview members of an obscure group that was just emerging and calling itself the Taliban.

They landed next in Nicosia, Cyprus, in 1995, where they traveled extensively throughout the Muslim world, covering phony elections in countries from Iran to Iraq to Syria.

They headed north in 1996, spending three years in Moscow, reporting on the final years of Boris Yeltsin and the early days of Vladimir Putin.

They returned to the Middle East in 1999, settling in Jerusalem. It seemed like the calmest place they had been in years, and they decided it would be a good place to start a family. They soon found themselves raising two young daughters and covering the worst fighting ever between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

They covered every major event, from the peace talks of 2000 ... to the Palestinian uprising that came later that year ... the terrible bloodshed that included frequent Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli military incursions ... the election of Ariel Sharon ... the death of Yassar Arafat .... the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza ... the rise of Hamas ... and the Israeli-Hezbollah war of 2006.

During this time, Greg was a reporter for the New York Times and Jennifer was the correspondent for Fox News.

In all their years abroad, they traveled to more than 50 countries and reported on more than a dozen wars and conflicts. But they found none so gripping as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and covered it for nearly eight years.

They now live in Washington, where Greg is a senior editor at NPR's Morning Edition program, and Jennifer is Fox's national security correspondent, based at the Pentagon.

© Jim Kouri

 

The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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