Mar
09
2012

Israel in the NYT Corrections Box

Anyone who doubts the extent of pressure on media outlets when it comes to covering Israel should pick up the New York Times.

In yesterday's Times (3/8/12), we saw this correction:

Because of an editing error, an article on Wednesday about a large lobbying effort on Capitol Hill Tuesday by delegates to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee referred incorrectly to the organization, known as AIPAC. It is a pro-Israel lobbying group that works in the United States to advance Israel's interests. It does not work directly for the state of Israel or its government.

This strange correction didn't go unnoticed, but it's still kind of puzzling–in large part because readers might not be able to figure out what the story said that warranted a correction. The offending reference seems to have been calling AIPAC an "Israel lobbying group." AIPAC is a powerful lobbying organization that just held its massive annual conference, which as usual was followed by a day of congressional lobbying about Israel. The Times seems to want to let readers know that AIPAC is not officially part of the Israeli government. Given that the piece talks about American citizens visiting members of Congress, it's unlikely that many people would be confused.

The next day (3/9/12), the Times issued another correction:

A picture caption on Thursday with an article about the increasing marginalization being felt by Palestinians in the West Bank referred incompletely to the action of the Israeli soldiers shown. While the soldiers, whose activity was not recounted in the article, were indeed firing rifles at stone throwers in the West Bank town of Al Ram last month, the rifles contained rubber bullets.

The photo in question, which appeared on the front page, was this one (courtesy Mondoweiss):

The caption read, "Israeli soldiers fired at Palestinian stone throwers in the West Bank town of Al Ram, near East Jerusalem, last month."

So the caption was "incomplete" because it failed to note that the soldiers were firing "rubber" bullets. ("Rubber bullets" are actually steel with a thin coating of rubber; dozens of Palestinians have died from being shot with them.)

This reminds me of a piece Seth Ackerman wrote (Extra!, 3-4/01) about the pressure campaigns on media outlets to tilt coverage in Israel's favor:

To a notable degree, anti-Palestinian media criticism consists of elliptical reasoning and baffling non-sequiturs, not to mention clumsiness with facts. The tone of much of the criticism is illustrated by a Jerusalem Post letter to the editor (12/19/00) that complained that CNN correspondents "constantly refer to innocuous 'stone-throwing' by Palestinian kids, instead of calling them what they really are: rocks."

Whoever complained about the failure to identify the bullets as being rubber should have also pointed out the flagrant bias in referring to Palestinians throwing "stones" instead of rocks.

UPDATE: Typo corrected.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.