CAMERA’s Impact Upsets The Intercept

We can thank The Intercept, at least, for recognizing CAMERA’s efforts and successes.

Their January 2024 article—a polemic that’s one part defense of Hamas, one part rant against CAMERA, and one part insinuation that an editor’s late father pulls the New York Times strings from beyond the grave—is unsubtle in its hostility toward Israel. We’d expect nothing else from The Intercept. The tenor of the piece is conspiratorial. Again, not a surprise considering the source.

And still, authors Daniel Boguslaw and Ryan Grim get some things right. It is true, for example, that CAMERA has “successfully lobbied for hundreds of corrections in major media outlets.” (Hundreds yearly. We cleared the record of 303 published errors in 2023, and another 246 in 2022. But who’s counting.)

And indeed, we’ve pressed the New York Times specifically to get it right, as the authors note.

The Intercept credits CAMERA with (or rather blames us for) a 2021 editors’ note in the Times that admits miscoverage of Refaat Alareer. Guilty as charged. The paper had published a glowing feature on Alareer, an unhinged, antisemitic poetry professor in Gaza, casting him as a bridge-builder who encouraged students to empathize with Israelis. But when CAMERA tracked down video of Alareer teaching his course, it became clear that the man who had argued online that “most Jews [are] evil” was hardly any better in the classroom.

We confronted editors with the video and, after a week with the overwhelming evidence in hand, the Times finally admitted that its feature “did not accurately reflect” the professor’s teachings. (The Intercept, in its Intercept-ish way, spun the story to encourage outrage: “According to CAMERA, the piece … described Alareer in too positive a light. The Times was quick to agree….”)

The Intercept piece noted CAMERA’s responsibility for another significant New York Times editors note. A story had made the case that, due to Israeli restrictions on the Gaza Strip following Hamas’s takeover, the fishing industry there was “devastat[ed],” ”shrinking,” “collaps[ing],” “decreasing,” with boats removed from service and people forced out of the industry. In fact, as CAMERA noted, the number of fishing boats has doubled; the fishing catch has markedly grew; and the number of fishermen has significantly increased since the blockade. (Again, The Intercept minimized the problem in an effort to spin the correction as objectionable overreach: “CAMERA scored an editor’s note for an article on Gaza’s ailing fishing industry in 2022 that omitted certain statistics about the annual catch….”)

When the New York Times mischaracterized a State Department official’s words, changing her comment about overall Gaza casualties to instead be about civilian casualties there, CAMERA tracked down, transcribed and shared the actual statement. The newspaper came clean with a correction. When a Times reporter characterized the Israeli army as “Israeli occupation forces” in the manner of the Iranian press, Hamas leaders, and anti-Israel activists, CAMERA reminded the paper of journalistic norms, and the paper amended the passage. (Or in The Intercept’s evasive account, “The Times removed the use of the term ‘occupation’ from a description of Israeli military forces and made a correction to language describing Palestinian deaths in Gaza.”)

Yes, CAMERA did prompt the newspaper to amend a caption stating “Israeli soldiers fired rifles at Palestinian stone throwers” so that it correctly noted the soldiers in the image were firing rubber bullets, a globally used crowd control tool. And The Intercept is correct in noting that “the Times made a CAMERA-inspired change to an article describing Jesus as living in Palestine … and a correction for conflating property seizure with violence.” (Contrary to the authors’ claim, though, we did not prompt “a change to an article that failed to describe the Western Wall as the holiest site in Judaism.” The Western Wall isn’t Judaism’s holiest site. What we did urge is impartiality in an article that described the Temple Mount as the third holiest site in Islam but concealed that it is the holiest site in Judaism — a slant that the newspaper appropriately redressed.

In The Intercept’s telling, this collection of corrections is proof of a “concerted harassment campaign” that forces the Times to “succumb to pressure” and “soften its coverage of Israel.” Which is quite a way to say they would have preferred the errors and mischaracterizations remain on the record.

More Corrections, and Non-Corrections

At any rate, the Intercept didn’t have to stop there. CAMERA recently secured corrections to the newspaper’s false claim that “most countries consider the occupation … illegal under international law”; the false claim that Israel’s seat of government is Tel Aviv; the false claim that the United Arab Emirates was the only Gulf state to normalize relations with Israel. When the newspaper claimed that the so-called Green Line between the West Bank and Israel was drawn in 1967, CAMERA brought it to the attention of editors and the error was corrected. When an editorial downplayed the extremist goals of the BDS campaign by claiming it merely calls for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, CAMERA prompted the paper to acknowledge activists’ opposition to Israel’s very existence. And so on.

The Intercept authors hedge their bet on the question of whether CAMERA has special powers over the New York Times, without which the newspaper would not correct its errors. They insinuate as much — “Emblematic of CAMERA’s influence at the Times is the fact that [Executive Editor Joe] Kahn’s father, Leo Kahn, was a longtime member of CAMERA’s board” — before eventually conceding that “there is no evidence that [Joe] Kahn himself has changed the paper’s overall handling of requests from CAMERA.”

The innuendo continues: “The Times’s record of acquiescing to CAMERA’s relentless requests, however, is striking in contrast to its historic resistance to correcting its stories,” the authors argue. Never mind that 38 separate articles published from Jan. 28, when the Intercept piece was appeared, through the end of the month a few days later were corrected by the Times. And never mind that The Intercept is clueless about “the Times’s record of acquiescing” to CAMERA’s calls for correction—to know that record, they’d need to be know our record of calling for corrections.

While we’d be delighted to have the coercive powers The Intercept endows us with, our success boils down to meticulous reading; hours of research; perseverance even in the face of stonewalling and evasion; and an audience that shares our hope for a more fair-minded newspaper.

Even with all of that, there’s no guarantee the paper will deliver. Reporters recently mischaracterized an Israeli soccer player’s gesture of solidary with the hostages and other victims of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, describing it as a commemoration of the start of the war. They refused to correct their absurd framing. After publishing stories that falsely reported or uncritically echoed claims that the daily death toll in Gaza exceeds the daily death toll of all other conflicts in recent years, and in particular the 2003 Iraq War, they refused to correct. (Numbers by Iraq Body Count and the Project on Defense Alternatives point to the toppling of the regime in Iraq as having been much more deadly than what Hamas claims about the Gaza war.) The newspaper refused to correct its false charge that “700,000 Arabs were forced from their homes” during the 1948 war, despite the fact that this same paper had previously highlighted historiography showing that many who fled did so on their own, including those from the largest source of refugees, Haifa, where the Jewish mayor had begged them to stay. The list of uncorrected errors and distortions, too, could go on.

Which means that, however the The Intercept may feel about CAMERA’s impact, the list of New York Times corrections should be even longer than it is. We’ll keep working.

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