CAMERA Prompts NY Times Correction on West Bank Status

After incorrectly referring to the West Bank as “Palestinian territory,” the New York Times today published a correction underscoring that there is no current sovereign in the West Bank. The correction was prompted by CAMERA after discussion with editors at the newspaper.

The paper’s April 20 story, “Netanyahu’s Power Is Extended as Rival Accepts Israel Unity Government” by David Halbfinger and Isabel Kershner, had initially referred to the Israeli prime minister’s intention to annex portions of the “occupied Palestinian territory.” The corrected version refers instead to “occupied territory” in the West Bank, and a correction appended to the story reads,

Correction: April 22, 2020
An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to West Bank territory Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel would like to annex. The land is occupied by Israel. The Palestinians want it for a future state but do not have sovereignty over it.

A 1957 map in the New York Times depicts the West Bank as part of Jordan.

Israel captured the West Bank in 1967 from the Kingdom of Jordan, which had occupied the territory since its 1948-49 war with Israel. (While the West Bank was under Jordanian occupation, the New York Times incorrectly referred to the land as “Jordanian territory.”) Prior to 1948, the West Bank, like Israel, was administered by the United Kingdom. 

In the 1990s, when Israeli and Palestinian leaders signed the Oslo peace agreements, the sides agreed that the status of the West Bank would be decided in negotiations between the sides, and today its rightful and ultimate disposition remains under contention.

Meanwhile, as CAMERA has previously noted in The Tower magazine, the New York Times has referred to other disputed territories without using prejudicial language that assigns ownership of the land to one side or another:

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.

In the Tower piece, CAMERA had criticized the New York Times for using a different standard when reporting on Israel and the Palestinians.   

Other newspapers have published corrections after describing disputed lands as belonging to the Palestinians. Last year, the Los Angeles Times published a correction that read, “An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to ‘Palestinian territory’ in the Jordan Valley. The land in question was seized from Jordan in 1967 and has been occupied by Israel. Palestinians want it as part of a future state.”

A 2014 correction in the Washington Post asserted, “A Sept. 5-A section article about Jordan agreeing to buy natural gas from Israel incorrectly referred to Israel’s occupation of ‘Palestinian lands’ in the West Bank. The Israeli-occupied territories are disputed lands that Palestinians want for a future Palestinian state.” Both corrections were secured by CAMERA.

We commend the New York Times for correcting its prejudicial language and ensuring its descriptions of the West Bank remain impartial and objective.