When is a correction not a correction?

On July 23, CAMERA requested a clarification to that day’s Washington Post article “Jewish Settlements, Outposts Expanding Despite Pledges; Growth Most Striking in Gaza Strip, Report Says.” Correspondent John Ward Anderson claimed that “a little more than 8,000 settlers occupy approximately 40 percent of the land in the Gaza Strip; about 1.3 million Palestinians live on the remaining 60 percent.”

CAMERA pointed out that in 2002, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics put the built-up area of Jewish towns and villages at 26.5 square kilometers out of the Gaza Strip’s 365 square kilometers, or 7.3 percent of the total. Tanya Reinhardt, an Israeli academic critical of the settlements, wrote in the Israeli daily Yediot Ahranot that the total was 54 square kilometers, or just under 15 percent. CAMERA said that “Post readers ought to know on what calculation – showing the specific area occupied by settlers – the 40 percent claim is based, and why it shows a more than five-fold jump in two years from the Palestinians’ own statistics.”

On July 28, The Post published this correction: “A July 23 article misstated the amount of land in the Gaza Strip occupied by Jewish settlers. Although there is disagreement on the exact amount, estimates range from about 12 percent to about 15 percent.” Estimating that Jewish residents occupy 12 to 15 percent of the Gaza Strip is quite a retreat from the 40 percent assertion.

But wait. The correction adds that “when Israeli military installations, roads and security zones are included, estimates range from about 15 percent to about 38 percent.”

Do the otherwise unidentified “security zones” include areas inhabited by Arabs? Do Arabs as well as Jews use the roads mentioned? Would the “Israeli military installations” included exist had the Palestinians accepted the Israeli-U.S. offer of a West Bank and Gaza Strip state in 2000? And just how much of Gaza do they take?

The high end of the Post‘s new range, 38 percent, is both two and a-half times the Post‘s low end and more than five times an official Palestinian figure – but nearly equal to original article’s 40 percent. Basically, the correction returns readers to the original mistake.

On July 12, CAMERA wrote the Post, requesting a correction to that day’s report, “Attack Shows Need for Wall, Sharon Says; Court Ruling Condemned After Fatal Blast in Tel Aviv.” Correspondent Anderson wrote that “the blast was the first Palestinian attack in Israel since a double-suicide bombing March 14 at the seaport in Ashdod that killed 12 people, including the two attackers.” CAMERA pointed out that on June 29 the Post itself reported a terrorist attack that murdered two Israelis just north of the Gaza Strip.

The newspaper’s July 14 correction read: “An article July 12 on a bombing in Tel Aviv misstated the date of the most recent previous Palestinian attack on Israeli territory. A rocket attack on June 28 killed a boy and a man in Sderot.” But the correction omitted the key fact that the July 12 bombing, like the June 28 rocket attack, was fatal. It killed a 19-year-old off-duty female soldier.

So when is a correction not a correction? Often, when it’s a Washington Post attempt to remedy a mistake in the paper’s Arab-Israeli coverage.

Post ombudsman Michael Getler agreed with a general criticism of the paper’s corrections in his July 18 column, “The Wilson-Plame Affair (Cont’d)”. “‘The Post‘s corrections are maddening,’ wrote one reader. ‘Sometimes the most trivial errors are corrected but significant errors are ignored. Sometimes blame is fixed, especially if The Post was not at fault, but most often it is not. Sometimes the corrected information is cryptic almost to the point of secrecy in not providing more details [about what was printed originally].’ Now,” wrote Getler “there is something we can all agree on.”

And we do.

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