Reuters journalist responds to criticism

Reuters reporter Jeffrey Heller has responded to HonestReporting’s critique of Heller’s recent articles. (Joining his parents, who also wrote us regarding it.)

Tue, 20 Apr 2004


Thank you for your comments on my Washington-datelined article.

I am sorry you misconstrued my use of the phrase “flaunt in the face of opponents”. I had no intention of portraying Prime Minister Sharon as a caricatured, vindictive figure, as you suggested. Remember the Brannif Airlines commercial of 1969 ? “If you’ve got it, flaunt it?” It was meant in that spirit, following what was hailed in Israel as a major diplomatic triumph by the Israeli leader. But it’s our job as journalists to keep it simple, and if you couldn’t understand it, then perhaps I could have said it better.

As for the “sum of all (Palestinian) fears”: Forget the expressions of Palestinian outrage over a significant shift in policy by the United States, the world’s only superpower and the main sponsor of Middle East peace efforts. How about an official in Sharon’s own entourage who remarked to me about the “shock and awe” President Bush’s statement was causing among Palestinians and in the Arab world? Bush’s public recognition that Israel could not be expected to part with all of the West Bank or take in Palestinian refugees was far from a mere setback for the Palestinian Authority.

And finally, the Likud platform’s reference to the “unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel”: If that’s not rooted in the Bible, then I guess I read the wrong book before immigrating to Israel and making the Jewish biblical homeland my home.

Jeffrey Heller
Editor in charge
Reuters Jerusalem


Thank you for your personal response to our recent critique.

Regarding your points:

– We apparently disagree regarding the effect of the phrase ‘flaunt in the face of opponents.’ The phrase you use here, ‘hailed in Israel as a major diplomatic triumph’ seems to me much more accurate, non-judgemental, and appropriate for a news story. It describes the objective fallout, not something personal about the Prime Minister’s (arrogant) behavior.

– ‘sum of all (Palestinian) fears’ – OK, let’s agree that the effect falls somewhere between ‘setback’ and ‘sum of all fears’. But ‘sum of all fears’ it was not. As such, we feel this stretching of reality crosses the line of impartial reporting.

– Likud platform: As any student of Zionist history knows, there’s an important distinction between ‘rooted in the Bible’ and ‘given by God to the Jews’. The megilat ha-atzmaut, and the Likud party in its spirit, understands the Jewish Biblical claim as primarily a historical matter, not a religious mandate from God with direct political ramifications for our day (as you suggest). That’s Gush Emunim, and since the 70’s the Mafdal. You know that, so why conflate the Likud platform with the Mafdal’s? The effect, as in the last example, is stretching the truth to create a more dramatic showdown. Good drama, but at the expense of the facts.

Again, thanks for responding.


Michael Weinstein
Manging Editor, HonestReporting