Open main menu

Jonathan Saul Freedland (born 25 February 1967)[1] is a British journalist, who writes a weekly column for The Guardian. He presents BBC Radio 4's contemporary history series, The Long View. Freedland also writes best-selling thrillers, mainly under the pseudonym Sam Bourne.

Jonathan Freedland
Jonathan Freedland, 2013 (cropped).jpg
Jonathan Freedland in 2013.
Born (1967-02-25) 25 February 1967 (age 52)[1]
Alma materWadham College, Oxford
Spouse(s)Sarah Peters[1]


Life and journalism careerEdit

The son of Michael Freedland, a biographer and journalist, and Sara Hocherman,[2] he was educated at University College School, a boys' independent school in Hampstead, London. As a child, Freedland periodically accompanied his father for broadcasting work. On one occasion, his father was interviewing Eric Morecambe, who comically assumed the 10 year-old Freedland was married.[3] Later, he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Wadham College, Oxford. While at Oxford, he was editor of Cherwell, the student newspaper.

The younger Freedland began his Fleet Street career at the short-lived Sunday Correspondent. In 1990 he joined the BBC, working as a news reporter across radio and television, appearing most often on The World at One and Today on Radio 4. In the summer of 1992, he was awarded the Laurence Stern fellowship[4] on The Washington Post, serving as a staff writer on the national news section. He became Washington Correspondent for The Guardian in 1993, remaining in that post until 1997 when he returned to London as an editorial writer and columnist. Bring Home the Revolution: The case for a British Republic (1998), Freedland's first book, argued that Britain should reclaim the revolutionary ideals it exported to America in the 18th century, and undergo a constitutional and cultural overhaul. The book won a W. Somerset Maugham Award for non-fiction and was later adapted into a two-part series for BBC Television.

Between 2002 and 2004, Freedland was an occasional columnist for the Daily Mirror and from 2005 to 2007 he wrote a weekly column for the London Evening Standard. He writes a monthly column for The Jewish Chronicle. He has also been published in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, Newsweek and The New Republic magazines.

Jacob's Gift (2005) is a memoir recounting the lives of three generations of his own Jewish family as well as exploring wider questions of identity and belonging.[5] In 2008, he broadcast a two-part series for BBC Radio 4 – British Jews and the Dream of Zion – as well as two TV documentaries for BBC Four: How to be a Good President[6] and President Hollywood.

In March 2014, it emerged that Freedland would assume the role of executive editor of the opinion part of The Guardian from May. His responsibilities included the comment section of the newspaper and the development of longer articles for the paper and the website.[7] Freedland remained in this role until early 2016. He continues to write a Saturday column for the newspaper.[8]

Thriller writerEdit

Freedland has published nine books: two non-fiction works under his own name and seven novels, six of them under the pseudonym Sam Bourne.

The Righteous Men (2006), is a religious thriller published under the Bourne nom de plume. His book, The Righteous Men, was described as "The best thriller I've read in years" by Piers Morgan and "The biggest challenger to Dan Brown's crown" by the British newspaper Daily Mirror.[9] It is about a half-British news reporter Will Monroe (Jr) whose normal life is disrupted when his wife is kidnapped while he is reporting a story of a militia man found dead in his isolated log cabin. Further investigation into the death brings Will to the conclusion that the dead militia man shared an attribute with a New York pimp, who was also recently murdered. They were both described as being "righteous". As more murders of 'righteous men' happen across the globe, time seems to be running out for Will and the old and current friends he has enlisted. With a series of clues from a mysterious source, twists and religious factors Will soon finds himself in the middle of a plot to bring about nothing less than Judgement Day. Righteous Men includes the Hassidim, and Wikipedia is also referenced. The book made a brief appearance in the gossip columns when a damning review by Michael Dibdin,[10] originally written for The Guardian, appeared instead in The Times. The Guardian's readers' editor[11] discovered that when Dibdin originally submitted his review to The Guardian he offered to withdraw it if it were deemed too awkward – an offer the editor, Alan Rusbridger, accepted. The Righteous Men was picked as a Richard and Judy Summer Read in June 2006 and soon rose to the top of The Sunday Times best-sellers' list. It stayed on the list for several months and has now sold more than half a million copies in the UK; it has been translated into 30 languages.

The book was followed by another Sam Bourne title, The Last Testament (2007), this time set against the backdrop of the Middle East peace process. It draws heavily on the author's experiences in that region, both as a reporter for over twenty years, and also a Guardian newspaper sponsored dialogue which was influential in the 2003 Geneva Accords. The central character, Maggie Costello, finds herself involved in a mix of the modern political situation and ancient revelations. The third title, The Final Reckoning (2008), was based on the true story of the Avengers: a group of Holocaust survivors who sought revenge against their Nazi persecutors. The Final Reckoning just missed the peak of The Sunday Times best-seller list. Just before The Chosen One (2010), the fourth thriller by Sam Bourne was published in the UK, The Bookseller reported in April 2010 that HarperCollins had signed Freedland for three more Bourne books, describing the author as "the UK's bestselling thriller writer with sales of well over one million ... in less than five years."[12]

HarperCollins published "Pantheon" in July 2012. Freedland's sixth novel, The 3rd Woman, was published by HarperCollins in 2015.

His sixth novel, under the name Sam Bourne, To Kill a President, was published by HarperCollins on 4 July 2017.[13] The seventh novel under the Sam Bourne pseudonym is due for publication in 2019 by Quercus.

Bourne frequently makes references to the Internet in his novels. Both The Righteous Men and The Final Reckoning mention Wikipedia. In The Last Testament, the online game Second Life is central to the story, and in The Final Reckoning the main characters also use Facebook.


Freedland was named 'Columnist of the Year' in the 2002 What the Papers Say awards and in 2008 was awarded the David Watt Prize for Journalism,[14] in recognition of his essay 'Bush's Amazing Achievement', published in The New York Review of Books.[15] Nominated on seven occasions, Freedland was awarded a special Orwell Prize in May 2014 for his journalism.[16][17] In 2016, he won the “Commentariat of the Year” prize at the Comment Awards.[18]


Israel, Zionism and antisemitismEdit

A leading liberal Zionist in the UK,[19] he wrote in 2012 that he only uses the word Zionism infrequently. He explained:

Of the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict he wrote: "Israelis want security, yet their government’s actions will give it no security. On the contrary, they are utterly self-defeating." Freedland has called for negotiations to end the cycles of violence: "The only real security is political, not military. It comes through negotiation, not artillery fire" because "in trying to crush today’s enemy, Israel has reared the enemy of tomorrow."[21] Of "the notion that Israel’s right to exist is voided by the fact that it was born in what Palestinians mourn as the Naqba – their dispossession in 1948" he wrote in April 2016:

He expressed the hope that in time Israel will "acknowledge, respect and atone for through word and deed" the "desperately high price" Palestinians paid for its creation".[22]

Freedland has written about the Labour Party and antisemitism on several occasions since Jeremy Corbyn became party leader in September 2015,[23] and has accused the Labour Party of being in denial on the issue.[24] "The left was meant to understand that racism is best defined by those who experience it", he wrote in October 2017.[25] "Yet oddly many leftists felt comfortable making an exception for antisemitism, believing that they, rather than Jews, were best placed to say what was — and what wasn’t — prejudice against Jews".[25] He has urged the left to treat Jews "the same way you’d treat any other minority".[22]

In March 2016, he wrote that "many Jews do worry that" Corbyn's "past instinct, when faced with potential allies whom he deemed sound on Palestine, was to overlook whatever nastiness they might have uttered about Jews", such as Holocaust denial. "Thanks to Corbyn, the Labour party is expanding", he wrote and includes new members "with hostile views of Jews".[26]

A couple of months after the article was published, in June 2016, Corbyn's leadership was the subject of a Vice News online documentary. He was shown on a mobile phone conversing with Seumas Milne, his director of strategy,[27][28] responding to Freedland's "big negative" article that day (which has been identified as the article from March 2016)[27][29] in which he accuses The Guardian journalist of "utterly disgusting subliminal nastiness" and says he is "not a nice guy at all" and "kind of obsessed with me".[29][30]

Other issuesEdit

Freedland sees the Grenfell Tower fire as an example of rich people disregarding the interests of poor people. Freedland states that warnings from residents were ignored or met with legal threats. Freedland wrote about, "a local authority and its arm’s length management company that decided to save a grand total of £4,750 by opting for the cheaper and more flammable version of cladding for this tower." Freedland maintains, "Grenfell Tower should mark a point of no return. No return to the frenzied deregulation, cost-cutting and rampant inequality of the last four decades. These are not new evils. They have been lurking for many years. But it took the light of a burning building for the whole nation to see them. (...) And [the local authority and the management company cut costs] even though the risk was plain to see to anyone paying attention. The management company RMS, for example, which specialises in modelling catastrophes risk, has detailed a recent spate of fires in China involving similar cladding acting as an accelerant, engulfing entire skyscrapers in flames within three or four minutes."

Freedland wrote further, "So Grenfell Tower threatens to stand forever as a warning against four of the defining features of our era. First, deregulation – elevated to an ideal by the free marketeers of Thatcherism and pursued ever since. Protections for consumers or workers or residents have long been recast and despised as “red tape”, choking plucky entrepreneurs. A favourite slogan of the right was the promise of “a bonfire of regulations”. Well, they got their bonfire all right. (...) But most obviously, Grenfell Tower is a story of inequality, of the poor herded into a cramped building made unsafe because it was prettified to improve the view of the nearby rich."[31]

Freedland sees the setbacks for the Conservative Party in the 2017 general election as evidence the British public are tired of austerity. Freedland maintains the people were first told austerity was to be temporary but later found it was intended to be permanent. Freedland maintains the British are, "sick and tired" of "cherished public services" like schools and policing short of money. People dislike seeing libraries closed, children's centres empty, nurses forced to go to food banks, teachers bringing in food for hungry pupils. Freedland maintains if the Conservatives do not want further election setbacks they should improve public services and fund this by taxing, "the better off". Freedland writes, "The alternative is to be branded forever as the party of meanness and neglect of the public realm, in an era when people are hankering for something better."[32]

Freedland is concerned that flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey is getting far more publicity than disastrous flooding in Asia, though the Asian flooding is causing far more casualties among poorer people. Freedland is also concerned about suffering and death in Yemen and notes that western governments including the UK government have supplied Saudi Arabia with weapons used in the Yemen.[33]

Freedland maintains that reduced funding for the police is a factor enabling terrorism in the United Kingdom. He also blames Internet giants for doing too little to prevent terrorist material spreading. In the second week in September 2017, Freedland wrote "the response to the failed bomb attack at Parsons Green underground station included a fully briefed Daily Mail front-page story headlined, 'Web giants with blood on their hands'. How much easier to make that the topic of debate rather than, say, the cutting of 20,000 police officers since 2010?"[34]



  • Bring Home the Revolution: The Case for a British Republic (Fourth Estate, 1998) ISBN 1-85702-547-4
  • Jacob's Gift: A Journey into the Heart of Belonging (Hamish Hamilton, 2005), ISBN 0-241-14243-1
  • The Righteous Men (HarperCollins, 2006) ISBN 0-00-720328-4
  • The Last Testament, published elsewhere as The Jerusalem Secret (HarperCollins, 2007) ISBN 978-0-00-720333-8
  • The Final Reckoning (HarperCollins, 2008) ISBN 978-0-00-726649-4
  • The Chosen One (HarperCollins, 2010)
  • Pantheon (HarperCollins, July 5, 2012)
  • The 3rd Woman (Harper August 4, 2015) ISBN 978-0062207555 (first published under real name J. Freedland, not Sam Bourne)
  • To Kill the President (HarperCollins 12 June 2017)
  • To Kill the Truth (2019)


  • "Trump's Chaver in Jerusalem" (review of Anshel Pfeffer, Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu, Basic Books, 2018), New York Review of Books, vol. LXV, no 13 (August 16, 2018), pp. 32–34. "As Pfeffer concludes, 'His [Netanyahu's] ultimate legacy will not be a more secure nation, but a deeply fractured Israeli society, living behind walls.'"


  1. ^ a b c "'FREEDLAND, Jonathan Saul', Who's Who 2012, A & C Black, 2012; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2011 ; online edn". Retrieved 9 November 2012.
  2. ^ Jonathan Freedland "In death – as in life – my mother was rescued by love", The Guardian, 18 May 2012
  3. ^ Freedland, Jonathan (3 May 2018). "A lifetime of life writing". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  4. ^ "List of previous fellows". Laurence Stern Fellowship. City University.
  5. ^ Anthony Juluius "The bearers of memory", The Guardian, 19 February 2005
  6. ^ Freedland, Jonathan (14 September 2008). "How to be a good president". Documentary. BBC.
  7. ^ Jason Deans "Janine Gibson appointed editor-in-chief of",, 7 March 2014
  8. ^ "Are Blairites being purged from the Guardian?". The Spectator. 21 January 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  9. ^ "The Righteous Men". The Mirror. 3 October 2006. Retrieved 24 August 2007.
  10. ^ Dibdin, Michael (11 February 2006). "Conspiring against credibility". The Times. London. Retrieved 9 October 2015. (subscription required)
  11. ^ Mayes, Ian (10 April 2006). "Open Door". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2015.
  12. ^ Page, Benedicte (16 April 2010). "Three Sam Bournes for HC". The Bookseller. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  13. ^ "To Kill the President: The most explosive thriller of the year | Harper Collins Australia". Harper Collins Australia. Retrieved 16 June 2017.
  14. ^ "Awards 2008". The Guardian. London. 23 June 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  15. ^ Freedland, Jonathan. "Bush's Amazing Achievement". The New York Review of Books.
  16. ^ Martin Williams "Two Guardian journalists win Orwell prize for journalism",, 21 May 2014
  17. ^ Katie Rosseinsky "Double win for Alan Johnson as This Boy receives the Orwell Prize", Daily Telegraph, 21 May 2014
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ Antony Lerman "The End of Liberal Zionism: Israel’s Move to the Right Challenges Diaspora Jews", New York Times, 22 August 2014
  20. ^ Jonathan Freedland "Yearning for the same land", New Statesman, 18 July 2012
  21. ^ Freedland, Jonathan (26 July 2014). "Israel's fears are real, but this Gaza war is utterly self-defeating". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 October 2015.
  22. ^ a b c Freedland, Jonathan (29 April 2016). "My plea to the left: treat Jews the same way you'd treat any other minority". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  23. ^ Freedland, Jonathan (17 September 2018). "Friends who are enemies". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  24. ^ Freedland, Jonathan (27 September 2017). "Labour's denial of antisemitism in its ranks leaves the party in a dark place". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  25. ^ a b Freedland, Jonathan (3 October 2017). "The rows about antisemitism are bad for us all". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  26. ^ Freedland, Jonathan (18 March 2016). "Labour and the left have an antisemitism problem". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  27. ^ a b Doherty, Rosa (1 June 2016). "Corbyn takes aim at Jewish journalist in new documentary". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  28. ^ Mance, Henry (1 June 2016). "Jeremy Corbyn warns of Brexit risk to workers' rights". Financial Times. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  29. ^ a b Rosenberg, Yair (3 June 2016). "Jeremy Corbyn Slams Jewish Journalist for Writing About Anti-semitism in Labour Party". The Tablet. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  30. ^ Peck, Tom (1 June 2016). "Jeremy Corbyn Documentary: Why won't they just let me fail on my own?". The Independent. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  31. ^ Grenfell Tower will forever stand as a rebuke to the right The Guardian
  32. ^ Here’s what the Queen’s speech needed to say – but didn’t The Guardian
  33. ^ There’s a disaster much worse than Texas. But no one talks about it The Guardian
  34. ^ It isn’t just tech giants that disown responsibility for terrorist attacks The Guardian

External linksEdit