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At the New York Times, Special Words Reserved for Certain Territories


Western Sahara, according to The New York Times, is “disputed territory.”

Not that there's anything wrong with that. The status of the large swath of land between Morocco and Mauritania is indeed disputed. Morocco claims Western Sahara as its sovereign territory; the international community does not agree. There is also an ongoing dispute between Morocco and the Polisario Front, a rebel group that has declared a state of its own on the territory. And the Polisario Front has its own dispute with the international community, which does not recognize its state.

Beyond Western Sahara, the Times over the past year hasn't hesitated to tell readers about “disputed territory” in Kashmir, claimed by India and Pakistan; the Scarborough Shoal, contested by China and the Philippines; the Spratly Islands, torn between a number of southeast Asian countries; the Yirga Triangle between Eritrea and Ethiopia; Nagorno-Karabakh, contested by Azerbaijan and Armenian separatists; Bartica, claimed by Venezuela and Guyana; and even territories in Syria and Iraq.

But in its coverage of one particular dispute, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, there is a striking difference in the newspaper's language: News editors have recently acknowledged what amounts to a new policy of avoiding the term “disputed territory,” even when describing the land most obviously in dispute—the ground on which Israeli settlements in the West Bank are built. In fact, editors go so far as to insist that this land rightfully belongs to the Palestinians.
 

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