After several months of referring to settlement lands and the rest of the West Bank as “Palestinian territory,” The New York Times appears to have departed from its tendentious language. To assign the entire West Bank to one side or the other in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, as the newspaper has done in a number of articles this autumn and earlier this winter, ignores international agreements signed by both parties that assert the status of the land is to be negotiated. Partisans may make arguments supporting one side or the other’s claim to the land, but a serious newspaper is expected to report impartially on the dispute, not to adjudicate it.
To its credit, the Times in recent weeks has shifted to more objective descriptions of these disputed lands.
The apparent return to impartial language comes after an extended correspondence between CAMERA and Times editors, and the subsequent publication of a scathing essay in The Tower exposing the newspaper’s partisanship.
Editors had initially stood by the newspaper’s references to settlements being “Palestinian territory,” telling CAMERA that as a matter of policy they refuse to use the objective term “disputed territory,” in part because anti-Israel activists reject that language.
Although there’s no evidence that the newspaper has abandoned this unsupportable policy of avoiding the word “disputed,” recent stories have avoided language that assigns all of the West Bank to the Palestinians. A story published online last Friday, for example, accurately described the Palestinian claim to the whole territory as just that: a claim. It informed readers that “the Palestinians claim the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war, as part of a future independent state.” Another recent piece accurately referred to settlement growth as occurring on “land the Palestinians claim for a future state,” and another straightforwardly referenced “settlements in the West Bank.”
The new language is a significant step in the right direction, toward evenhanded and objective treatment of the conflict. Still, the paper has much more ground to cover. Egregious falsehoods continue to appear in the pages of The New York Times. The newspaper in recent weeks falsely claimed, for example, that Palestinian leaders accept the principle of “two-states for two peoples.” (In fact, Palestinian leaders are explicit in their rejection of the principle.) It reported on a nonexistent “vow” by Donald Trump. And it rewrote a statement by world leaders to include demands on Israel that don’t actually appear in the communiqué.