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New York Times

Error (New York Times, Op-Ed by Rashid Khalidi, 1/8/09): Israel still controls access to the area, imports and exports, and the movement of people in and out.

Fact: Although Israel naturally controls it's own border with the Gaza Strip, the Gaza-Egypt border is controlled by Hamas and Egypt, and not Israel. This has been made clear by Egypt's periodic opening of the crossing point without regard to Israel's wishes. You can find a detailed discussion of this issue here.

Error (New York Times, editorial, 5/20/04): Also, despite widespread international condemnation, Israel persists with its policy of demolishing hundreds of Palestinian dwellings in what looks like a heavy-handed form of collective punishment.

Fact: As New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief James Bennet reported on May 21: “There is no sign of systematic demolition of hundreds of homes, which Israeli officials said last week the army might eventually undertake to widen an Israeli-patrolled zone on the border.”

Error (New York Times, Thomas Friedman, 3/25/04): Suicide bombing totally undermined Labor’s Ehud Barak and helped elect Ariel Sharon in 2001.

Fact: While there had been countless Palestinian terror attacks–shootings, stabbings, and roadside bombs–against Israelis from the start of the Intifada in September 2000 until the elections on Feb. 6, 2001, there was just one suicide bombing in that period. The Oct. 26, 2000 bombing in the Gaza Strip did not manage to kill anybody aside from the bomber, and slightly injured only one person. How could one suicide bombing, in which no one aside from the bomber was killed, and only one person was slightly injured, “totally undermine” Barak and lose him the election?

Error (New York Times, James Bennet, 10/19/03): So far, the Israeli Army reports finding three such tunnels during this operation, and a total of 48 during the current three-year conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Fact: Bennet understated the army’s figure for weapons-smuggling tunnels found in the three-year conflict. According to an Oct. 16 press release from an army spokesperson, “Since the beginning of the current armed conflict, IDF forces have discovered some 70 weapon smuggling tunnels.”

Error (New York Times, AP reporter Hussein Dakroub, 5/31/03): While the United States lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group, Lebanon regards it as a political party fighting Israeli occupation of a tiny piece of land in south Lebanon.

Fact: “A tiny piece of land in south Lebanon” under Israeli occupation is presumably a reference to a region called Chebaa Farms. However, in its June 16, 2000 report of the Secretary-General (S/2000/590), the United Nations ruled that Israel had fully withdrawn from Lebanese territory. According to the United Nations, Chebaa Farms is Golan Heights land which Israel conquered from Syria in the 1967 war, and thus is not part of Lebanon at all. In a Feb. 21, 2001 correction, the New York Times was clear on this point.

Error (New York Times, Ian Fisher and Alan Feuer, 4/5/03): . . . perhaps half of its [Jordan’s] five million people are Palestinian refugees.

Fact: While half of the Jordanian population is Palestinian, it is critical to note that most Palestinians in Jordan are not refugees. In actuality, approximately 1.7 million Palestinians, or only one-third of Jordan’s population of 5.3 million are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) as of Dec. 31, 2002. Moreover, not all of those registered with UNRWA are actually refugees. UNRWA itself has acknowledged that its statistics on refugees are inflated:

UNRWA registration figures are based on information voluntarily supplied by refugees primarily for the purpose of obtaining access to Agency services and hence cannot be considered statistically valid demographic data; the number of registered refugees in the Agency's area of operations is almost certainly less than the population recorded. (Report of the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East - July 1997 - 30 June 1998)

Because what is now Jordan was part of the British Mandate of Palestine until 1921, many Jordanians of Palestinian descent cannot be described as refugees. They never fled, or were forced to flee, their original homes because of war. A New York Times foreign editor agreed that the April 5 report was incorrect, and promised to print a correction, but none ever ran.

Error (New York Times, headline, 3/25/03): An Arab Boy Tossing Stones is Shot to Death in West Bank

Fact: This headline accompanied a story by James Bennet which made clear that although Palestinian sources claimed that the boy was merely throwing stones at an Israeli tank when it opened fire, Israeli sources said that soldiers opened fire after he climbed on top of the tank and tried to steal its machine gun. The soldiers, according to the Israeli source, believed that their lives were in danger.

According to an AP report, the Israeli army spokesman stated that the boy was throwing a firebomb at soldiers. In any case, the circumstances of the boy’s death were far from clear.

While Mr. Bennet was careful to report both the Palestinian and the Israeli version of how the boy was killed, the headline gave credence to only the Palestinian version. A New York Times foreign editor agreed that the headline was inaccurate, but decided not to run a clarification.

Error (New York Times, Ian Fisher, 12/20/02): Also today, in the Gaza Strip, an 11-year-old Palestinian girl was killed, apparently by a stray Israeli bullet, at her home near the Egyptian border crossing at Rafah. Witnesses said she was hit in the chest while looking out a third-story window.

Fact: It was not “apparent” that the stray bullet was Israeli. The Los Angeles Times reported this death much more cautiously, stating: “It was not immediately clear whether the fatal shot was fired by Palestinian gunmen or Israeli soldiers. Her family said the bullet came from the direction of an Israeli army observation post about a quarter-mile away. The army said it had exchanged fire about that time with Palestinian gunmen hiding in an abandoned building, according to spokeswoman Capt. Sharon Feingold, who said she had no information about the girl’s death” (“Palestinian Girl Is 3rd Gaza Youngster Killed in 3 Days: The source of gunfire that struck 11-year-old is unclear,” Laura King, Dec. 20).

In reporting the death, AP and AFP both noted that reports that the stray bullet was Israeli originated from Palestinian sources. AP’s Pamela Sampson wrote: “Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip town of Rafah, an 11-year-old Palestinian girl, Nada Madi, was shot to death while watching a funeral from the window of her home, her cousin Mohammed Madi said. He said she was shot by Israeli soldiers” (Dec. 19). Similarly, AFP indentified Palestinians as the source for the claim that Israel was responsible for the girl’s death: “Nadi Madi, 11, from the town of Rafah on the Israeli-controlled border with Rafah, which has become one of the deadliest flashpoints in the protracted conflict, was hit in the chest by automatic gunfire which strafed her house, Palestinian security sources said” (Adel Zaanoun, Dec. 19). 

Because the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Palestinians are so often contentious, it is important to identify allegations as such, and to note their source. Furthermore, unless Mr. Fisher has sources or details beyond the Los Angeles Times, AP and AFP, he clearly does not have enough information to assert the bullet was “apparently” Israeli. The notion that a relative who witnessed the shooting could identify the source of the stray ballistic traveling at such a rapid speed is questionable.

Error (New York Times, Michael Wines, 12/3/02): Islamic Jihad mounted a second attack in Gaza this afternoon, an official of the group said in an interview. It fired two mortar shells at any army outpost near Beit Hanun, in an industrial zone near the northern border of the Gaza Strip.

A spokesman for the Israeli military said troops did not respond because the shells fell short. An Islamic Jihad official said an Israeli shell fired in response killed one man and wounded another.

Fact: Palestinian security forces as well as Israeli officials discount Islamic Jihad’s claim that an Israeli shell was responsible for the man’s death. According to AFP, “Palestinian security sources said the man was killed accidentally Monday by mortars fired by Islamic Jihad in an attack on Israeli troops” (“Islamic Jihad denies killing Palestinian worker in Gaza,” Dec. 3). Similarly, AP’s Mark Lavie reports: “The fourth Palestinian, a sanitation worker at the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel, was killed when a mortar fired by Palestinians at an Israeli position fell short of its target, Palestinian security officials said” (Dec. 3).

Error (New York Times, James Bennet, 9/25/01): Mr. Sharon imposed a new condition: 48 hours of “absolute quiet” before any talks.

Fact: In fact, 48 hours of absolute quiet is not a “new condition.” Since the Mitchell Agreement, Sharon has demanded (and the U.S. agreed) that any talks must be preceded by one week of “absolute quiet.” Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, Sharon has actually reduced this condition -- requiring 48 hours of quiet instead of one week.

Error (New York Times, Serge Schmemann, 8/26/02): In 1757, to put an end to the endless squabbling [regarding holy sites in Jerusalem], Turks, then Jerusalem’s rulers, proclaimed a status quo for all holy sites in the city, which was confirmed in 1852 and has been enforced by all succeeding conquerors–including, since 1967, Israel.

Fact: Between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan controlled the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, including the Old City, there was, in fact, gross violation of the “status quo” with regard to Jewish holy places. Fifty-eight synagogues, the oldest built in 1267, were destroyed or desecrated. Many of the tombstones in the ancient Mount of Olives cemetery were ripped out and used as building material in Jordanian military facilities. The Tomb of Simon the Just was used as a stable.

Although the Jordanians had signed an agreement (Article 8 of the 1949 Israeli-Jordanian Armistice Agreement) specifically guaranteeing access for Jews to the Western Wall, Jews were prohibited for 19 years from going there, the first time since the Roman conquest in the first century that Jews were subject to such a restriction.

In addition, Christians and Muslims resident in Israel were prevented from visiting their holy sites. While these were open to visitors from outside Israel between 1948 and 1967, the thousands of Muslims and Christians in Israel could not, for example, visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock or the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Error (New York Times, Deborah Sontag, 6/2/01): Some [Palestinian] youths stoned an unmanned Israeli police station and attacked a house in the Muslim compound of the Old City owned by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. A Jewish tourist fired tear gas at a group of Palestinians, sending them to the hospital. But by the middle of the evening, that had been the extent of the troubles. . . .

Fact: These incidents were not the extent of the troubles by the middle of the evening. As the AP reports, “Palestinians also smashed security cameras at the Old City’s Damascus Gate, and looted and set ablaze a Jewish-owned shop, police said. No one was injured. At another shop, a Jewish tourist sprayed tear gas at would-be looters, witnesses said” (Nicole Winfield, June 2).