Posts

Steven Sotloff: An Israeli-American who reported on the ‘Menace of Jihad’

sotloff

Image courtesy of the Palm Beach Post.

ISIS murdered its first Israeli American, 31 year old Steven Sotloff.  Sotloff, z”l , made aliyah to Israel and attended the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC ) in Herzliya from 2005 to 2008. He took off when the Arab Spring erupted to follow developments in Egypt, Libya,  Turkey and ultimately Syria, where he was abducted by criminal elements and likely ‘sold’ to ISIS.

Ynet.com report, “Steven had Israel in his blood, says close family friend”, revealed his Jewish background and  his amazing feat of practicing Jewish observances while in captivity.   The information was purposefully impounded until his  murder at the hands of a barbaric ISIS  executioner.  The executioner may possibly be the same British jihadi who murdered the late American journalist, James Foley.  We recall the heart rending video plea by Sotloff’s mother in Miami asking that ISIS spare  her son’s  life.

The Sotloff family deserves our deepest expression of rachmonis (compassion) for the brutal murder of their son Steven at the hands of Jew-hating Salafist Jihadis in Syria. The Ynet.com report noted that this comment:

A former editor recalls: ‘Some of the stories he did had connections with Israel, including stories done ahead of the curve on the jihadi movement taking over in Sinai.’

Not professionally trained as a journalist, nevertheless, Sotloff  wrote  prescient reports on the rise of jihadist savagery in the region, perhaps as a warning to both fellow Israelis and many in the West.

The Ynet account noted some evidence of Sotloff’s sojourn in Israel and what may have motivated him to undertake a valorous short-lived journalistic career:

“He was not an outcast. He grew up in an Israeli home with a Jewish upbringing. Israel was in his blood,” said a businessman close to the family of a murdered Israeli-American journalist who  was  in touch with Syrian opposition officials.

“Steven entered Syria to report that Assad was massacring his own people. What was he trying to accomplish? To show the world that genocide is being committed against the Syrian people – that children are being slaughtered.”

Steven Sotloff – the Israel-American journalist executed by Islamic State militants Tuesday in reprisal for US air strikes in Iraq – was a highly esteemed journalist whose colleagues claim warned of the threats radical Islamic terror posed.

Note this from a colleague at The Media Line:

Sotloff  made Aliyah in 2005 and studied at the IDC’s Foreign Relations program, a friend from school confirmed forYnet. Little information regarding his time in Israel is known,.  After he was captured in Syria it seems any connection to Israel was deleted from his online presence in a bid to prevent the information reaching his captors.

However, Felicia Friedson, the president of The Media Line, who knew Sotloff when he wrote for the online publication recalled him.

“I met him in 2009, and he began working for and contributing to The Media Line in 2012,” Friedson said.

“He is one of the most courageous, talented and insightful journalists that I have met. He covered many countries in the Mideast since 2009, including stories on the Arab Spring, and then again in 2012 he was covering stories for us from Libya, Egypt, Turkey and Syria; where he was subsequently abducted by al-Qaeda and then transferred,” she said.

[…]

“Obviously the most important thing is that we harshly condemn the barbaric killing of our colleague and friend and it is important that the world wake up – and this was Steve’s wish – that they wake and read what he was writing.”

According to Friedson, “He read the streets perfectly (and) did a lot of writing on terror, especially about jihadists taking over in Syria and Libya. He was sounding the alarm and was frustrated that no one was listening; he said people in these countries were asking for funds to fight radical Islamic movements.

“Our condolences go out to his family with who we’ve been in contact throughout the year, but also to the world because this is an attack on civil society,” Friedson aptly concluded

A fellow student at the IDC, Mike Sapir, portrayed Sotloff who created his own form of journalism that enabled him to survive a midst Muslim extremism:

“Basically Steven  … created a journalistic career out of thin air, he said this is what he want to do and he is going to do it sell his story to who ever takes it.

“He wasn’t a formal journalist. It’s not like he took his resume and went back to US and tried to be employed by New York Times. He told me he wanted to see what was happening in the Middle East so he picked up and went to Egypt to cover the Arab Spring, then he went to Benghazi and followed the revolution and just covered it.

“Steven went there and was part of the people, he wasn’t like the reporters in Gaza sitting in their hotel room, Steven was part of the scenery, part of the people, and his friends were Arabs.”

Giving further insight into Sotloff’s style, Mike explained: “Steven lived what he was reporting. His friends were Muslims, and he never said he was afraid, he actually said that he was able to get people to open up, he was able to get in to see their side.”

One wonders whether Sotloff, in addition to filing stories, might have inadvertently supplied valued insights to counter-terrorism analysts in Israel. Perhaps warning them of the rise of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Both terrorist groups are  now wreaking havoc on the northern Golan frontier, having infiltrated both the West Bank and Gaza prior to the recent Operation Protective Edge.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.