NYT Editorial Errs on BDS and Settlements

March 13 update: CAMERA has prompted a New York Times correction to its error about U.S. policy regarding settlements. See further details here.
Today’s editorial in The New York Times, “Israel Says Dissenters Are Unwelcome,” errs in claiming that the United States “has consistently held that settlement building in the occupied territories is illegal….” It fact, ever since the end of the Carter administration, it has consistently avoided designated settlements as illegal.
In 1981, President Reagan, even while criticizing settlements, said explicitly that they are “not illegal.” This position has not been reversed by subsequent administrations. That’s the reason a New York Times news story last month about the U.S. position on settlements, titled “Decoding U.S. Stance on Israeli Settlements,” refrained from claiming the US has viewed settlements as illegal.
Referring to a Trump administration statement on settlements, the Times explained that

the statement was a departure from the policy of previous administrations, which viewed settlements as an obstacle to peace, and particularly from President Barack Obama’s determination that the settlements are “illegitimate.”

The choice of words here, and by recent administrations, is careful and intentional. Recall that John Kirby, the State Department spokesman under the Obama administration, explicitly backtracked after he “misspoke” — his word — about settlements being illegal:

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) you said that the settlements were illegal, are you backtracking on that?
KIRBY: I had — I — in an interview the other day I misspoke. I referred to them as illegal and I put out a tweet clarifying it shortly thereafter…
KIRBY: … our position is that they’re illegitimate.

Taking into account the position of the current administration, and the Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Reagan administrations, it is simply incorrect to claim the US has “consistently” dubbed settlements illegal. In recent months, CAMERA prompted corrections to this claim by the Associated Press, ABC News, and the Times of London.
The opening sentence of the New York Times editorial likewise errs in claiming that the new Israeli law “will bar entry to any foreigner who supports the B.D.S. movement … against Israel for its occupation of the West Bank.” Putting aside that the B.D.S. movement’s self-described aims go well beyond ending Israel’s “occupation of the West Bank,” the characterization of the new law is inaccurate and misleading.
The controversial new law calls for barring only someone “who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott – if the issuer was aware of this possibility.” Under the wording of the law, which is more narrowly focused than similar US law, someone can certainly “support” the B.D.S movement and still be granted entry to Israel. 

CAMERA has called on The New York Times to correct the two errors.

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