Holger Jensen

Mittwoch, 5. Juni 2002 14:57


Dear Mr. Broeckers,

My sympathies. Yes, I can confirm that I personally talked to Amos Oz by
telephone and he confirmed to me that he never interviewed Sharon. That said,
there are still many different opinions on Oz's now notorious anonymous
interviews -- some believe he made them all up, others believe his claim that
they were all real people who wanted anonymity so they could speak more
candidly (leading to many guessing games about who was Sharon, who Begin, who
Eitan etc) and still others still believe that it really was Sharon and Oz is
now covering his ass. However, as a responsible journalist I had to go with
what the author told me, hence my mea culpa below.
If it's any consolation, many people have made the same mistake over the
years -- a prominent Canadian author and journalist on the Toronto Globe and
Mail made the same mistake two days after my mea culpa was published and I
received a sympathetic e-mail from Israel Shamir, another prominent
Russian-Israeli journalist and author, saying dozens of Israeli journalists
had attributed those quotes to Sharon in the past. So you are in good company.

The full text of my mea culpa is below in case you haven't read it:

By Holger Jensen
News International Editor
  This is a mea culpa.
  I made a grievous error in not verifying the authenticity of 20-year-old
quotes attributed to Ariel Sharon that I used in my Saturday column on the
Israeli leader. As it turns out, they were made not by Sharon but another
unnamed Israeli soldier who died 11 years ago.
  The interview in question was conducted by Amos Oz, one of Israel's leading
authors and prominent in the Peace Now movement. He had access to many
Israeli generals and politicians of that era but identified some of his
interview subjects only by letters of the alphabet, leaving it it up to his
readers to decide who they were.
  The interview with “Z” was published in the Israeli newspaper Davar on
Dec. 17, 1982 (Davar ceased publication in 1996) and later republished in
Oz's collection of interviews titled “In the Land of Israel.” I was in both
Beirut and Israel that year and remember the uproar it caused.
  When the interview first appeared after the invasion of Lebanon, “Z” was
widely assumed to be Sharon because the interviewee was described as a
military man “with a certain history,” about 50 years of age, heavyset and a
prosperous farmer. All this fit the stocky Sharon, who had a farm, was the
right age and certainly had “a history.”
  Sharon had lost his job as defense minister after being held indirectly
responsible for a massacre of Palestinian refugees by Israel's Lebanese
Phalange allies in Beirut. The military man interviewed by Oz justified the
invasion of Lebanon, dismissed the massacre of Palestinians as one of the
harsh realities of war — “how can you call 500 Arabs a massacre?” — and
spoke contemptuously of Israeli pacifists as those with “soft and delicate
  Oz never revealed who “Z” was, saying he had promised to protect his
identity. He held to that promise when I telephoned him Monday, but confirmed
that it was not Sharon.
“I have never met or interviewed Sharon,” Oz said.
The Middle East is full of mythology. History is rewritten to promote the
viewpoints of Israelis or Palestinians and both sides in the conflict suffer
from selective recall when it suits their purpose.
  My job is to cut through mythology, not add to it.
  So there it is. Another myth exploded, leaving much egg on my face. My c
ritics will doubtless be delighted, and my supporters disappointed — but
not nearly as disappointed as I am in myself for not going to the source of
those quotes in the first place. After 33 years in this business I should
know better.
  My apologies to all.

Holger Jensen