Does USA Today even fact check? That is the question after its October 13 piece, “Israeli military calls for evacuation of all civilians in Gaza City ahead of feared ground offensive: Updates.” The article is plagued by numerous egregious errors which demonstrate a complete lack of care for accuracy and unfamiliarity with the conflict.
First, the article claimed: “The war has already claimed over 2,500 lives on both sides.” Earlier, it stated, “The Israeli bombardment has killed more than 1,500 people in Gaza.”
Yet, on October 12 – the day before the USA Today article – it was already being reported that 1,300 Israelis were killed in the Palestinian terror attack. Furthermore, the figure leaves out that the bodies of 1,500 Palestinian terrorists had already been discovered inside Israel after the attack. USA Today is thus dramatically understating both the number of Israelis killed and omits the number of Palestinian terrorists killed attacking Israel.
Relatedly, the article claims: “On Saturday, about 1,000 Hamas fighters stormed across the Israeli border by land and sea in an attack that caught Israel’s military off-guard.” Yet, as alluded to above, Israel had by then found the bodies of 1,500 terrorists inside Israel. USA Today’s figure thus significantly understates how many terrorists crossed into Israel.
Third, the article states: “Hamas says Saturday’s attack was partially a response to Israeli police activity at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam. The Jerusalem mosque is located on a holy site for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.” The Temple Mount isn’t just a holy site – it is the holiest site for Jews (see, e.g., correction from New York Times here). Depicting the site as the “third holiest site in Islam,” while downplaying it as just “a” holy site for Jews, is highly misleading and distorts the nature of the dispute.
Fourth, the article provides that, “The State Department designated Hamas a terrorist group in 1997. Several other nations also consider it a terrorist organization.” This again dramatically understates it. The entire European Union has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization. That’s 27 countries just right there, far more than just “several other.”
Fifth, and perhaps most egregious, the article states: “The current war is a culmination of decades of conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territory, which has been occupied since Israel was founded in 1948 and where Hamas rules the Gaza Strip.” Unless USA Today has taken the extremist position that all of Israel is “occupied Palestinian territory,” this statement is flatly inaccurate. Israel did not control the West Bank or Gaza Strip until after its defensive war in 1967, not 1948. Israel then unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
Finally, the article states, in reference to the 1948 war, “War quickly broke out between Israel and its Arab neighbors, leading to Israeli expansion three-quarters of Palestinian mandate territory.” War didn’t “break out.” War was declared on the State of Israel by its Arab neighbors the very moment the former declared its independence.
The number of erroneous and seriously misleading claims contained in just this article raises serious concerns about USA Today’s commitment to accuracy. That the errors all seem to downplay Palestinian terrorism or distort the Israeli and Jewish history similarly raises concern about USA Today’s commitment to fairness in reporting.