Holger Jensen, the international editor of the Rocky Mountain News, has appeared in our communiques in the past. This week, Jensen published two columns with his “impressions of a recent visit to Israel and the occupied territories.” These columns contain so many classic examples of bias and distortion that form a virtual “Encyclopedia of Bias.”
HonestReporting presents Jensen’s columns within the context of the “Seven Violations of Media Objectivity,” found on our website at http://honestreporting.com/a/bias.asp
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VIOLATION #1 – MISLEADING DEFINITIONS AND TERMINOLOGY. By using terminology and definitions in a way that implies accepted fact, Jensen injects bias under the guise of objectivity.
Jensen charges that Israel’s “settlements violate multiple UN resolutions, the Fourth Geneva Convention and the spirit, if not the letter of the Oslo Accords.” Obviously, Israeli legal authorities disagree, as does the U.S. State Department. Secretary of State Madelaine Albright affirmed on the Today Show (October 1, 1997) that Jewish settlements are “legal.”
VIOLATION #2 – IMBALANCED REPORTING. Jensen ostensibly presents both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but skews the picture by presenting really only one side of the story.
In his attempt at presenting a balance sheet, Jensen writes “both sides now regard themselves as victims of a ‘siege.'” But then he quickly interjects, “However, the notion the world’s fourth-strongest military power (sic) is somehow ‘under siege’ by the people it is occupying is patently absurd.”
The absurdity here is Jensen’s refusal to report that Israeli kindergartens, shopping malls, schools, restaurants, movie theaters and synagogues have to post guards against hundreds of Palestinian terrorists and homicide bombers.
Jensen also speaks of Palestinians who allegedly died because of “delays at Israeli checkpoints.” But he doesn’t mention the thousands of Jewish lives saved by halting terrorists at these checkpoints.
While Jensen does describe the Palestinian “anti-Jewish diatribes” in official Palestinian media, speeches and school curricula, he tries to create an equivalence by referring to Israeli calls for the “transfer” of Palestinians. Jensen fails to report, however, that the Israeli inciters are a fringe element, by no means government spokespeople or mainstream media outlets.
VIOLATION #3 – OPINIONS DISGUISED AS NEWS. An objective reporter should not use adjectives or adverbs, unless they are part of a quotation. Also, the source for any facts and opinions should be clear from the report, or alternatively it should be stated that source is intentionally undisclosed.
Jensen contrasts life in the Gaza “hellhole” and Tel Aviv — “a cross between Miami Beach and Los Angeles.” He writes of Tel Aviv’s “denizens; all they know is [Gaza] is full of terrorists, or Palestinians who applaud them.”
Did Jensen poll Tel Avivians? How does he know what they think?
And whose opinion is he espousing other than his own when he writes, “One could argue that the Israelis brought [the siege] on themselves by colonizing territories captured in the Six-Day War of 1967?”
“One” could also argue that the Palestinians brought their plight upon themselves by refusing to make peace with Israel — in 1947, 1948, 1967, and 2000 — but that would run counter to Jensen’s bias.
VIOLATION #4 – LACK OF CONTEXT. By failing to provide background information, Jensen dramatically distorts the true picture. In many of his columns, Jensen loves to quote spokesmen or organizations from Israel’s political fringe. For one of this week’s columns, he trots out an Israeli professor who attacks “the war crimes committed by Israeli occupation forces.”
Jensen badly skews the grave danger of Palestinian arms smuggling: “Because they are ‘terrorists,’ any arms the Palestinians try to acquire are for terroristic purposes and therefore unacceptable. Hence, much was made of the Karine A, a ship carrying 50 tons of arms and explosives. But there’s little condemnation of Israel’s use of F-16s, Apache helicopter gunships.”
Israel’s opposition to the smuggling of offensive weapons like katyushas and mobile anti-aircraft missiles is because it violates Arafat’s pledges, and because these weapons can elevate Palestinian terror to a new dangerous dimension. The Gaza-Jericho Agreement stipulated: “No manufacture, sale, acquisition, importation or introduction of any firearms, ammunition, weapons, explosives, gunpowder or related equipment into the West Bank or Gaza Strip, except for those of the Palestinian Police.” The pledge was repeated in the Wye River Memorandum.
Much “was made” about the Karine A by the United States, as well, because it represented major Iranian involvement in terrorism against Israel.
VIOLATION #5 – SELECTIVE OMISSION. By choosing to report certain events over others, Jensen controls access to information and manipulates public sentiment.
Jensen blames Israel for poverty in Gaza: “The military blockade has cut off the territory’s only economic lifeline — jobs in Israel — and unemployment ranges from 50 percent in the city to 70 percent in the camps.”
Unmentioned by Jensen is the fact that Palestinian terrorism led Israel to stop Palestinian workers — potential terrorists — from entering Israel. Arafat’s military and police could have been deployed to block terrorists; frequently, however, they themselves are the terrorists.
VIOLATION #6 – USING TRUE FACTS TO DRAW FALSE CONCLUSIONS
Jensen catalogs the statements by Israel’s pacifist organizations and peace activists — Gush Shalom, Peace Now, the Committee Against Home Demolitions, and the Council for Peace and Security. While Jensen admits that the “peace camp is still a relatively small segment of Israeli society,” he nevertheless ignores all other Israeli political segments, and fantasizes when he claims that the peace groups’ rallies, “now draw huge crowds from all over the political spectrum.”
VIOLATION #7 — DISTORTION OF FACTS
Jensen staunchly defends the Palestinian rejection of Israel’s generous peace offering at Camp David in July 2000. Jensen quotes Palestinians who claim that Barak “offered only 75 percent of the West Bank, not 95 percent. The Palestinian ‘state’ was broken up into three separate West Bank cantons and a distant Gaza strip.”
Jensen quotes unnamed Palestinian officials that Arafat’s deal-breaking demands for the right of return of Palestinian refugees and a capital in East Jerusalem “would have been negotiable if Barak had offered a Palestinian state that was both contiguous and viable.”
Jensen’s depiction of Arafat’s offers runs counter to all Israeli and senior American accounts of the negotiations. U.S. negotiator, Amb. Dennis Ross, told interviewers:
“[Arafat] when he was at Camp David, never seriously engaged… In fourteen days [at Camp David], Arafat did not just say no. He also created or invented new mythologies that were completely unhelpful… One of his new mythologies that he created at Camp David was, “There was no temple in Jerusalem. It was only an obelisk. When you question the core of the other side’s faith, that is not exactly an indication that you are getting ready to try to end the conflict… The big difference between the two sides was, Barak, in the end, was prepared to confront history and mythology, and make decisions; and Arafat gave no
indication that he was prepared to confront history and mythology and make decisions.”
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