Fairness and balance in policies, views, and reporting
An Interactive Editorial
By Nick Austin and Hassan El-Najjar*
In interactive editorials, the editor of Al-Jazeerah answers questions and or responds to comments of readers, which are more general than readers' responses to specific articles or issues. It is an effective method of interaction in electronic journalism.
Nick, Austin USA
Your photos on your "info" page show how biased your organization is. Where are the pictures of dead and dismembered Israeli civilians that have been murdered by Palestinian homicide bombers? It is fine if you wish to report about the suffering of Palestinian civilians and children in the occupied territories, but be fair and balanced and talk about the Israelis who suffer as well. Neither side is innocent of atrocities, but in war people die, don't make it sound like the PLO, Hamas, etc are fighting a just cause. Shooting at armed Israeli soldiers is one thing, blowing up a bus full of Israeli civilians is terrorism. USA sympathy for the PLO is gone, as it is for Iraq and soon Saudi Arabia. Al Jazeerah has a chance to become a respected media in Christian civilized world if you become more fair and balanced in your reporting, don't blow it. And where is your reporting of the corruption of the current Palestinian leadership? They have pocketed millions of dollars and spent nothing on their people. How disgraceful. This is why we want Arafat and his associates out, and new democratic supporting Palestinians in.
I cannot agree more with you concerning the need to be fair and balanced in what we do and say. We have reported and will continue to report on the victims of this conflict in numbers (casualties section), articles, and photos, whether these victims are Palestinians or Israelis. Most of the victims of the last bus bombing (Haifa-Safad) you're referring to were soldiers.
However, I ask you to be fair and balanced in how you think about the conflict. This is not a war, like you have described. A war is usually between two countries who have armies combating each other. Rather, it is an Israeli war against the Palestinian people to break their will to accept the Israeli military occupation. Israel has all the weapons made in the US, including F-16s, Apache helicopters, tanks, submarines, and weapons of mass destruction. Palestinians have nothing of the above. Is it fair to provide the aggressive and oppressive Israeli military establishment with all of these weapons in addition to the almost about $4 billion in annual aid, to subjugate the Palestinian people after dispossessing and uprooting them in 1948? Is it fair to encourage the perpetrator and blame the victims if they demand their freedom? Think.
If you don't think that Palestinians are not fighting a just cause, then you are taking the side of the British against the Americans in the revolutionary war of independence. You are taking the side of the Germans against all European nations they invaded, in WWII. You are taking the side of the White minority rule of South Africa against the vast majority of black South Africans. And this is not the winning side. The movement of history is towards more freedom, not more oppression of foreign ruler. Israelis and their supporters have been trying to stop this historical movement, but they will never succeed, simply because it is wrong to do so. The sooner Israel withdraws from the Palestinian territories and leaves the Palestinians alone, the better for the two peoples and the less suffering for them.
You say that the USA has no sympathy for the PLO and Iraq, and soon for Saudi Arabia. How is that related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? Why do you assume that the US should take the Israeli side of the conflict? Only supporters of Israel want that to happen. They want to see Americans fighting Arabs and Muslims so that Israel can extend its territory and get rid of Arab governments that may have the potential to stop the Israeli expansionist policies. What did Iraq do to earn the status of a US enemy? The Bush administration has never presented any evidence linking Iraq to September 11 attacks. If you are concerned about weapons of mass destruction, you lost your way. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that possesses weapons of mass destruction. And if you are really concerned about fairness, then you should call for ridding the world of these Israeli weapons. Then, what about Saudi Arabia, the US ally for more than half a century? Now, you are threatening Saudi Arabia because Saudis won't go along with the US in its threatened attack on Iraq. If you are truly looking for fairness, then you have to blame closer US allies, NATO countries, who have expressed their rejection of participation in any attack on Iraq.
You used the term "Christian civilized world" implying that civilization is only connected to Christianity. What about other religions, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, Buddhism, ... etc., can't they be associated with civilization, too? For your knowledge, what is called civilization started in the Middle East, on the banks of the Nile, Tigress, and the Euphrates, long before the emergence of these religions. Christianity also started there. Let's not change even the most sacred values to suit changing politics of an administration or another. I invite you to be more understanding of others. The world is wonderful and big enough for all of us. Arabs and Muslims are not going to drink the oil, they will sell it. There is no need for blood for oil.
Finally, you said you wanted Arafat and his associates out because they pocketed millions of dollars and did not spend them on their own people. You also said that you wanted a Palestinian democratic leadership. I don't know where did you get your information about these areas. I promise to publish them in Al-Jazeerah if you provide me with information about who pocketed how much, mentioning your sources so we can check them. The Palestinian Authority used the millions of dollars to build the buildings Sharon has been destroying since March 29, 2002, in addition to salaries of its employees and administration of its institutions that have been destroyed by the Israelis. Concerning democracy, I didn't wish you mentioned that because Arafat was elected as a President by 85% of votes. The 1996 elections were observed by international observers, including President Jimmy Carter, who testified about their fairness and soundness. As you are an American, you don't want me to tell you the percentage of votes any American president gets in elections, whether he is a Republican or a Democrat. Corruption is bad and should be condemned everywhere and for fairness, we should mention Enron, Halliburn, and Worldcom.
Nick, I welcome the dialogue to continue with the intention of achieving more understanding, not just to deliver threats to Arab countries, one after another. It is easy to make enemies but it is wise though harder to maintain, let alone acquire, friends. Peace to you.
* Nick is a reader from Austin, Texas, USA.
** Dr. Hassan El-Najjar is the editor of Al-Jazeerah.