New York Times Refuses to Report the Straight Facts

Despite dramatic public exposure of the  New York Times’ questionable policies in handling repeated deceptions by one of its reporters, the newspaper has again misled its readers, this time about the terms of the “Road Map.” Instead of reporting the actual terms of the peace plan drawn up by the “Quartet” (United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia), the Times has injected its own language.

In his May 12, 2003 article about Colin Powell’s meetings with Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas (“Powell Consults 2 Premiers on Mideast Peace”), correspondent Steven Weisman misrepresented the terms of the road map proposed by the “Quartet.” Weisman wrote:

Among the other issues discussed today was the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. The peace plan calls for their dismantling, a point reiterated in recent days by Mr. Powell.

The road map does not call for the “dismantling” of the settlements (developed towns, villages and communities.) It calls only for the dismantling of outposts established since March 2001, and a freeze on new building. According to the text of the roadmap released by the U.S. State Department on April 30, 2003, the requirements of the Government of Israel vis-a-vis settlements are as follows:

-GOI (Government of Israel) immediately dismantles settlement outposts erected since March 2001.

-Consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).

The premise of Weisman’s article — that the Israeli prime minister would  not comply — was based on the erroneous assumption that complete settlement dismantlement is required by the road map.

CAMERA contacted the foreign desk of the the New York Times to urge an immediate correction but were told that Mr. Weisman maintained that his assertion was correct as the permanent status agreement calls for an end to “the occupation that began in 1967.” He based this on the following passage of the “roadmap,” as released by the U.S. State Department:

Parties reach final and comprehensive permanent status agreement that ends the Israel-Palestinian conflict in 2005, through a settlement negotiated between the parties based on UNSCR 242, 338, and 1397, that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and includes an agreed, just, fair, and realistic solution to the refugee issue, and a negotiated resolution on the status of Jerusalem that takes into account the political and religious concerns of both sides, and protects the religious interests of Jews, Christians, and Muslims worldwide, and fulfills the vision of two states, Israel and sovereign, independent, democratic and viable Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security. (emphasis added)

Nowhere, however, does the road map talk of a complete withdrawal to the 1967 borders, nor does it refer to Jewish presence in the territories being eradicated. According to the document, the future of the Jewish settlements is to be negotiated at the Second International Conference convened by the Quartet at the beginning of 2004 in order to:

endorse agreement reached on an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and formally to launch a process with the active, sustained, and operational support of the Quartet, leading to a final, permanent status resolution in 2005, including on borders, Jerusalem, refugees, settlements. . .

If, as the article suggests, the outcome of the negotiated resolution on borders and settlements is already known now, what then is the point of the Second International Conference?

The New York Times itself has published corrections of its erroneous characterizations of UN Security Council Resolution 242 on occasions, clarifying that the UN document requires Israel to withdraw from “territories” to “secure and recognized borders,” not from “the territories” or “all the territories” captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. Final borders are to be determined by negotiation.

Rather than acknowledge that he was substituting his own view of the outcome of negotiations for the actual terms of the document, the New York Times correspondent repeated his deceptive road map language in a front page article on May 21, 2003 (“Bush Weighs Mideast Trip as Peace Plan Ebbs”).

Describing a helicopter trip Sharon took with Stephen Hadley and Abrams, Weisman reported:

In fact, the officials said, the helicopter trip was partly intended for them to get a bird’s eye view of Jewish settlements to see which ones would eventually be frozen or even dismanted as part of the peace negotiations. The peace plan calls implicitly for settlements to be dismantled as part of a final settlement, its drafters say. (emphasis added)

This time, the reporter tried to qualify the erroneous statements by vaguely attributing intent to nameless “drafters” although the terms of the road map were explicitly stated.

Unlike other media outlets which immediately corrected similar errors about the road map, the New York Times compounded their deception by publishing the following paragraph, billed as a “correction” on May 23, 2003 :

A front-page article on May 12 about Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, his talks in Jerusalem and the Bush administration’s efforts to bring peace to the Middle East referred imprecisely to the peace plan drawn up by the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. The plan, known to diplomats as the road map, is understood by its authors and by Israel and the Palestinians to entail the eventual dismantling of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. But that understanding is not stated explicitly.

The New York Times‘ refusal to report the facts straight can only serve to mislead its readers.

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