WASHINGTON - Martin Fletcher has covered reality in the Middle East for 26 years at NBC News, but says he turned to writing fiction as a way to humanize the tumult in that part of the world. In his new novel, "Promised Land," Fletcher recounts what life was like for two brothers and a refugee in Israel during the nation's emergence after World War II.
Fletcher tells NBC News' Chuck Todd that he started out to write a non-fiction book but found it too limiting for the story he wanted to tell.
“As journalists, we’re always talking about what happened to whom, where, how, but you don’t really get into what was it like to be that person, what was it like to be there at that time? And I just thought fiction was a better vehicle for that,” Fletcher said in the latest episode of "1947: The Meet the Press Podcast."
The book is the first part of a planned trilogy and covers just the first 20 years of Israel’s emergence, ending with the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. Fletcher says that readers will have to wait for the second book to see more on Israel-Palestine relations.
“In the first 20 years of Israel’s existence, the Arabs and the local Palestinians were really almost of no import, they were ignored completely … I wanted the book to reflect reality,” Fletcher says.
Fletcher also discussed present-day events, including President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press and how they follow similar rhetoric from Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu.
“I wouldn’t say he learned it from Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, but Bibi Netanyahu has been presenting ... the press as the enemy of his government for a very long time. In a sense, Trump is playing off of Bibi’s playbook on the media,” Fletcher says.
Fletcher also says that Trump’s rhetoric is impacting other countries in the Middle East, “giving free reign to dictators in the area to treat their media the same way.”
While Trump has not gone as far as calling for journalists to be jailed, Fletcher says it still makes it “increasingly difficult” for the U.S. to call out countries like Myanmar, which, earlier this month, sentenced two Reuters journalists to seven years in prison.