NY Times sides with Obama and Palestinians on reference to 'settlements'

Clark Hoyt, the ombudsman/public editor of the New York Times, devotes his Sunday, May 16, column to use of words that prompt sharp criticsm from some readers ("Semantic Minefields" page 10 Week In Review section).

Among such controversial words, he points out, is "settlements" as a synonym for Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. Helene Cooper, a national correspondent of the Times, used the term "settlements" four times in reporting that President Obama invited Elie Wiesel to lunch at the White House to mend fences with American Jews upset at the administration's stance against construction of "Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem."

Nathanan Dodell of Rockville, Md., complained that it was "tendentious and arrogant" on Cooper's part to use the word "settlements" when Prime MInister Netanyahu has rejected it in relation to East Jerusalem. Hoyt noted that Obama had used the term "settlements" himself in reference to East Jerusalem and asked Cooper why she also used it.

Cooper refused to acknowledge that she had shown any bias by adopting Obama's terminology against Netanyahu's. "I called them settlements because that's the heart of the dispute between the Israelis and the United States: settlement construction in Arab East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want for an eventual Palestinian state," she told Hoyt.

To his credit, Hoyt writes that "settlement" is a charged word in the context of East Jerusalem and concludes that Cooper should have used a "more neutral" term -- like "housing" instead of "settlement."

When Hoyt queried Ethan Bronner, the Times' Jerusalem bureau chief, Bronner acknowledged that some parts of East Jerusalem had long been Jewish neighborhoods, far pre-dating 1967 when Israel ended a 19-year occupation by Jordan. Still, Bronner counseled against adopting a hard and fast rule, because some Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem have "the feeling of settlements."

In her response to Hoyt, Cooper not only confirmed her anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian bias by defending Obama's use of the term "settlements" as synonymous with Jewish neighborhoods anywhere in East Jerusalem. She added another example of anti-Israel bias by unreservedly calling East Jerusalem "Arab East Jerusalem." That's just as biased and tendentious as using "settlements" to describe Jewish neighborhoods in the city. East Jerusalem includes the Old City of Jerusalem with its holiest Jewish shrines -- Temple Mount and the Western Wall -- plus the Old City's Jewish quarter pre-dating the Jordanian occupation by centuries, plus the Mount of Olives, the oldest Jewish cemetery in the world with graves that are the resting places of several Biblical prophets dating back some 3,000 years.

According to Cooper, none of this matters. All these places are part of "Arab East Jerusalem." Not only does she embrace Obama's "settlements" terminology, she goes him one better and declares that all of East Jerusalem rightly belongs to Arabs.


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