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May 21, 2009
NYT admits error on Netanyahu
The New York Times now admits that in reporting the Obama-Netnayahu summit, it misquoted the Israeli prime minister when it falsely asserted that he conditioned resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
As I previously pointed out to the Times, Netanyahu offered immediate resumption of peace talks "without pre-conditions" of any kind.
Thus, it helps that the Times restored a bit of credibility by running an appropriate correction that it "paraphrased incorrectly" Netanyahu's position on this matter (page 2, Corrections column, May 21 edtion) and by acknowledging that "he did not say that Israel was prepared to resume negotiations only if the Palestinians recognized Israel as a Jewish state."
So, bully for the Times.
But unfortunately, a single correction of a single error still leaves readers of the Times' May 21 edition astray on two other issues -- Netanyahu's exact position on settlements and proper use of "terrorism" when it's clearly warranted.
In "Keeping Score on Obama vs. Netanyahu," a childish exercise on whether the president got "suckered" by Bibi, the Times reports that while the prime minister "got his timetable" for tougher U.S. action against Iran, "Mr. Obama did not get his settlement freeze" and that Bibi told him it would be politically difficult "to halt the construction of settlements."
At best, this is sloppy reporting; at worst, it leaves a very distorted impression of Netanyahu's real position on settlements.
For starters, it apparently escaped the Times' Washington bureau reporters that Netanyahu already has decided, and said so publicly, that there will be no further construction of settlements on his watch. The bureau could have, should have, alerted the Times to Bibi's position to "freeze" settlements at their current number and definitely not to start any new ones.
Netanyahu also is on record as supporting further construction within existing settlements to keep pace with normal growth. But in toto, when it comes to "freezing settlements" or halting "construction of settlements," Bibi's position is identical with that of his centrist predecessor, Ehud Olmert.
So, why use tendentious and misleading formulations about Bibi's real position on settlements, presumably to reinforce the wild notion that he "suckered" Obama, instead of providing straight reporting of the prime minister's real policy with regard to settlements and letting readers judge whether it's all that much at variance with the president's call on Israel to "stop settlements"?
As for the Times' problematic use or lack of use of the "T" word -- terrorist or terrorism -- that also tarnishes the paper's credibility by continuing a semantic double standard --terrorism, according to the Times, happens in lots of places, but not when Israeli civilians are targeted.
In the May 21 edition, the Times leads on the front page with a scoop about a Pentagon report that one in seven prisoners already released from Guantanamo has returned to terrorism. In fact, the "T" word is used no fewer than 10 times in the article, including identification of particular detainees who, after leaving Gitmo, committed "verifiable terrorist acts."
Yet, in the same edition, Jerusalem bureau chief, Ethan Bronner, in a piece about internal Fatah wrangling (Palestinians Try to Prune Branches of Core Party" page A11,) describes Marwan Barghouti as a favorite successor to Mahmoud Abbas who happens to be "in an Israeli prison." No mention by Bronner that Barghouti was a prime instigator of the second intifada and, after a rigorously proper trial, is serving five life terms for his role in five different lethal attacks on Israeli civilians.
In other words, Barghouti has at least as much blood on his hands -- and proably much more -- as the terrorist recidivists from Gitmo, yet Bronner won't describe him with the "T" word.
And this is by no means the first time that the Times at most describes members of such outfits as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, as PC "militants."
When Israeli civilians are harmed or killed, that's the work of "militants" or people who just happen to be in an Israel prison, according to the New York Times. But when civilians in the U.S., Britain, Spain, Morocco and in various other countries other than Israel are harmed or killed, that's the work of terrorists?
Why the double standard?