This post was written as part of CULA’s “Liberal Icons” essay competition; the winner and runner-up will be announced once all entries have been posted.
“He don’t miss.” On the face of it, the notification I just received from a friend makes little sense. Invariably, however, it’ll be followed by a tweet from Oz Katerji with a based take on a foreign policy issue. The kind of take that doesn’t confirm what I already thought, but instead forces me to challenge and re-contextualise my own opinions. The kind of journalism often sorely missing from the foreign policy space.
Oz is a freelance journalist: he’s been a war reporter in both Lebanon and Iraq, he produced the excellent “Corbynism: The Post-Mortem” podcast, and he has written a large number of insightful articles, mostly on conflicts in the Middle East, human rights and foreign policy.
Writing about war is, inherently, a fraught topic: the stakes are so high and the sides so entrenched that finding quality, unbiased, “based” pieces is difficult. Oz has no time for the genocide-denying gremlins or Assad-sympathising gargoyles that inhabit parts of the left; nor does he push for ill-conceived, destructive intervention by Western powers dead set on repeating the mistakes of the past.
Instead, Oz approaches some of the greatest humanitarian crises from an all-too-rare perspective: one of deep empathy and care for the victims. Yes, he has a fantastic knowledge and understanding of the Middle East and its politics, but he combines that with an innate understanding that the point of intervention, of foreign policy, and of politics in general is to make people’s lives better.
Closer to home, Oz—who is himself a member of the LGBT+ community—was viciously attacked for defending strongly the rights and dignity of trans people. It was inspiring watching someone so committed to using his platform to support some of the most vulnerable in society—at a great emotional cost to himself.
Oz certainly isn’t a Liberal Democrat—I expect he’s much closer to Labour. I don’t even know if he’d describe himself as a liberal. But he’s my liberal hero because to me he represents the very best of the free press. I hope to be able to read his comprehensive dunks and insightful journalism for years to come.