Violations of the public trust in journalism can take many forms, ranging
from blatant fabrication, like CNN's now infamous Tailwind story, to more
insidious abuses like carefully choosing words to subtly advocate a point of
Such violations are unfortunately not rare, especially at Cable News
Network, and especially when covering Israel. Recent reports, most notably by
Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers, only serve to highlight the network's
continuing anti-Israel bias. On December 14, for example, following a press
conference by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Rodgers accused Israel of not
reciprocating with a "confidence building measure" after a vote in
Gaza affirming that anti-Israel clauses had been removed from the Palestinian
Covenant. According to Rodgers, Netanyahu instead:
cited an entire list of unfulfilled obligations,
or what he calls unfulfilled obligations, which he expects the
Palestinians to live up to, again, before he goes ahead with the peace process
Rodgers' palpable scoffing at Israeli statements is in stark contrast to his
respectful recitation of Palestinian claims. In a January 21, 1998 report, for
example, Rodgers declared:
Here I have something the Palestinians were passing out: a list of 34
Israeli violations of the peace agreement, and some of them, serious.
Thus, in the lexicon of Walter Rodgers, Israelis only "call"
Palestinian obligations unfulfilled, while Palestinians "list" actual
"Israeli violations," some of which are said to be "serious."
Similarly, on the question of the PLO covenant, and its call for the
destruction of Israel, Rodgers consistently treats Israeli concerns as
frivolous. For instance, in the recent December 14 report, he referred to the
covenant as containing "clauses ... which the Israelis
considered offensive." In other words, a document calling for
Israel's destruction through "armed struggle" is not actually
offensive, but is only considered to be so, and only by Israelis.
Unfortunately, it is not just Rodgers' language that is slanted to serve the
Palestinian cause; his reports are regularly littered with false anti-Israel
charges and distortions as well. In the January 21 report, for example, Rodgers
charged that while Israel says it:
never turns killers out of jail, [that] it is only the Palestinians who do
that ... just a few months ago, Mr. Netanyahu himself turned at least half a
dozen Jews out of jail, freed them people who were guilty of
Without quibbling over the fact that Israel's President, rather than its
Prime Minister, has the power to free prisoners, the question remains: had
Israel imitated the Palestinian "revolving door" practice by jailing
and then quickly releasing Jewish murderers of Palestinians? The answer is no.
In the pardons to which Rodgers was apparently referring, two Jewish prisoners
were released, not "at least half a dozen," and they were released
only after having served four years of a ten year sentence hardly an
example of "revolving door" justice.
The bias evident in Rodgers' false charge about Israeli prisoner releases
was also on display in his coverage of the recent Wye Accords. Thus, in a
November 11 story, Rodgers informed viewers around the world that Israel was
superimposing new conditions beyond what they agreed to at the White House
and at Wye.... Netanyahu is back to insisting that the full Palestinian
National Council must muster a ... two-thirds majority vote to revoke clauses
in the Palestinian Charter which the Israelis consider hostile to them.
Rodgers here mixes both forms of bias deceptive language and false
assertions. Once again he refers to calls for Israel's violent destruction as
something "the Israelis consider hostile to them," as if they are
unreasonable for thinking so. But Rodgers also speaks of alleged "new
conditions" demanded by Israel before ratification of Wye. In fact, rather
than placing new demands, the Israelis merely pointed out prior Palestinian
obligations that have yet to be fulfilled. This is in complete accord with the
Wye Agreement, whose first paragraph states that it is:
intended to facilitate implementation of the Interim Agreement ... and
other related agreements ... so that the Israeli and Palestinian sides can more
effectively carry our their reciprocal responsibilities ... [The terms of this
agreement are] subject to the relevant terms and conditions of the prior
agreements and do not supersede their other requirements.
Thus, rather than making new demands as Rodgers alleges, Israel has merely
insisted that the Palestinian side comply with prior agreements under which
Israel has already made far-reaching and tangible concessions.
These concrete Israeli concessions, routinely ignored on CNN, have led to
Palestinian elections, a Palestinian legislature, installation of Yasir Arafat
as President of the Palestinian Authority, PA control of all major Palestinian
population centers and most minor ones as well, an international airport and the
development of a seaport in Gaza, a Palestinian airline, official Palestinian
television and radio stations, internationally recognized passports, a
Palestinian paramilitary police force of as many as 50,000 men (in violation of
agreements, which allowed for at
most 30,000 men), and the release by Israel of almost 8000 Palestinian
Each one of these Palestinian advances required difficult and even painful
Israeli compromises, which were balanced by Palestinian promises. These
Palestinian promises included fighting terrorism, outlawing the "military
wings" of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, collecting illegal weapons, outlawing
anti-Israel incitement (especially in PA-controlled media), extraditing to
Israel Palestinians suspected of planning or carrying out violent attacks
against Israelis, and formally repealing anti-Israel clauses in the Palestinian
Despite Israel's delivered commitments under Wye, the Hebron Accords, Oslo
2, and Oslo 1, none of these Palestinian commitments, with the exception of the
PNC action on the PLO Charter, has materialized. In other words, there has been
virtually no reciprocity on the part of the Palestinians.
It would take a special malice to portray this state of affairs as an
Israeli violation of reciprocity. That, however, is exactly what Rodgers
does in his report of December 14:
Now the Palestinian vote was supposed to be a confidence building measure.
That is to say, if the Palestinians took the vote eliminating clauses in their
charter hostile to Israel, there would be Israeli reciprocity. We do not seem to
hear that Israeli reciprocity tonight.
Rodgers even echoes Palestinian claims that Israel violated the prisoner
release requirements of Wye. According to Rodgers:
the release of those prisoners was supposed to begin with the
implementation of the Wye agreement, but the Israelis by-and-large released
only common criminals, car thieves, not the prisoners who had struggled, not
the men who had struggled to help establish the Palestinian autonomous area.
It is noteworthy that Rodgers reports the issue of Palestinian prisoners
without mentioning that thousands have already been released. Moreover,
contrary to Rodgers' charges Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk stated "It
is our understanding that the Israelis have done in this first stage what they
have agreed to in Wye." (Deutsche Press-Agentur, December 7)
Also, as even CNN reported, Secretary of State Albright affirmed that "...
the Israelis did what they said they were going to do on the prisoners
initially." Thus, while senior US officials confirm that Israel has lived
up to its present obligations with regard to prisoner releases, Rodgers adopts
Palestinian claims to the contrary as fact.
In closing his report, Rodgers discusses the Palestinian-US relationship,
once again adopting Palestinian claims as fact:
Palestinians are skeptical because they know the United States has long been
heavy handed in its support for Israel and only now is coming around to some
recognition of the Palestinian cause...
Notice Rodgers doesn't say "Palestinians claim," or "Palestinians
charge," or "Palestinians say." He says "Palestinians ...
know." The contrast with how he treats Israeli assertions is striking.
Walter Rodgers apparently has become so emotionally involved with the events
he covers that he has abandoned even the pretense of objectivity. If he is
unable to regain his journalistic bearings CNN should replace him with someone
who can cover the important stories of the Middle East with candor, objectivity