CAMERA Prompts NY Times Correction on “March of Return”

After corresponding with CAMERA, the New York Times updated a news story that had mischaracterized ongoing demonstrations and clashes in the Gaza Strip. 

The story had initially claimed that the Hamas-organized “Great March of Return” was meant to protest of Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. “The demonstrations were part of a mass protest against Israel’s decade-long blockade of Gaza,” wrote Times reporters David Halbfinger and Iyad Abuheweila.

This was a substantive error of omission. As CAMERA noted earlier this week, after an article in Time Magazine had similarly mischaracterized the march, Hamas leaders and other organizers have clearly noted that the primary theme of the demonstrations is the Palestinian demand for a so-called “right of return.” (Time subsequently corrected their piece.)

CAMERA’s article explained:

Organizers have dubbed the campaign the “March of Return.” So when Time, in an April 6 story, described it only as “a six-week protest against the long-standing blockade” on the Hamas-ruled territory, they missed the main point. As the “March of Return” moniker makes clear, the protests are primarily meant to promote the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” — the influx into Israel of thousands of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war and their millions of descendants.

return march logoThe stated purpose of the campaign is no minor detail. The demand for “return” is widely understood as a call for the elimination of Israel by demographic means. “Implementing the ‘right of return’ means eradicating Israel,” explained Israeli author Amos Oz, a leader in the country’s peace movement. Or as Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti has approvingly acknowledged, “If the refugees were to return, you would not have a two-state solution, you’d have a Palestine next to a Palestine.”

This — the “return” and the consequent “Palestine next to a Palestine” — is the primary goal of the March of Return. The Associated Press correctly reported at the start of the demonstrations that “the protest campaign is meant to spotlight Palestinian demands for a ‘right of return’ to what is now Israel.” And per Reuters, “The demonstrators are demanding that Palestinian refugees be allowed the right of return.”

Indeed, this reporting reflects repeated statements by Hamas leaders.

The article goes on to quote Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh, and Fawzi Barhoum, as well as the civilian organizer of the march, Ahmed Abu Artema, and the International Coordination Committee of the Great March of Return, all of whom unambiguous describe the march as a demand for a “right of return.”

Interestingly, an interactive feature co-authored by David Halbfinger and also published today on the Times web site is much more clear about this demand. It forthrightly noted that protesters

also want to reassert the rights of refugees and their descendants to reclaim their ancestral lands in Israel, 70 years after hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were displaced.

In Israel’s view, there is nothing benign about the Palestinian claim of a right of return. It would amount to the destruction of Israel by demographic means.

It is unclear why this more accurate language did not initially appear in Halbfinger’s article. The corrected version of that piece, however, does now fully inform readers, noting that Palestinians gathered on the border are “seeking to revive international interest in Palestinian claims of a right of return to the lands they were displaced from in 1948.”