The New York Times made a cringeworthy mistake that says it all about how the media misrepresents the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesThe New York Times headquarters.
  • The New York Times issued a massive correction about Palestinian payoffs to terrorists.
  • But the mistake should never have been made.
  • When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, many in the media choose to disregard the unpleasant realities.

It’s one thing for a writer or editor to mistake a name, or a spelling, or the age of someone being profiled. It’s one thing for a caption to attribute the photo to the wrong source. It’s one thing to write years when you mean months, or days when you mean nights.

But it’s something entirely different when a mistake seems to function as a cover for the decision to wilfully disregard basic and undisputed – albeit unpleasant – facts.

That’s what happened in the case of a massive correction on a New York Times story on Facebook’s Campbell Brown. The story, which was entirely unrelated to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, waded into the issue in one tangential sentence.

“Ms. Brown wants to use Facebook’s existing Watch product – a service introduced in 2017 as a premium product with more curation that has nonetheless been flooded with far-right conspiracy programming like ‘Palestinians Pay $US400 million Pensions For Terrorist Families,'” the story said.

The idea that a people would fund or in any way reward terror does indeed seem like a concept so outrageous that it must have been cooked up by conspiracy theorists. But the reality is an ugly one, and even – and especially if – it complicates the picture some progressives have drawn of Israel as the evil oppressor, we should not ignore the truth.

The best reporting on this issue has been done by Lahav Harkov of the Jerusalem Post. In March of this year, she reported that in 2017, the Palestinian authority had paid terrorists and their families more than $US347 million.

The details are disturbing, as Harkov wrote: “Terrorists who have been sentenced to three to five years in Israeli prisons receive the average income of a Palestinian, about $US580 per month. The families of those who committed more severe crimes and were involved in killing Israelis receive five times that each month for the rest of their lives.”

The Palestinian Authority does not deny these payments. On the contrary: They are used to incentivise violence.

On Monday the Times issued a correction:

“An article on Sunday about Campbell Brown’s role as Facebook’s head of news partnerships erroneously included a reference to Palestinian actions as an example of the sort of far-right conspiracy stories that have plagued Facebook. In fact, Palestinian officials have acknowledged providing payments to the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis or convicted of terrorist acts and imprisoned in Israel; that is not a conspiracy theory.”

It’s great that the Times came clean on what was a colossal mistake. But this kind of blatant misrepresentation of fact should never have made it through the editorial process in the first place – and says just about all you need to know about the media’s assumptions on the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

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