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February 25, 2019 10:01 am

New York Times Issues Correction to Front-Page Attack on Netanyahu

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avatar by Ira Stoll


The New York Times logo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times has already issued a correction to its latest front-page attack on Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

“An earlier version of this article misidentified Moshe Kahlon, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. He is the finance minister, not the foreign minister,” the correction says.

If the Times is candid with its readers — a big “if” — it’ll be the first of several corrections eventually appended to the article.

The Times writes, “The pact between Mr. Netanyahu and the Kahanists set off a predictable eruption from liberal Jewish groups like J Street and Americans for Peace, as well as the Union of Reform Judaism, which normally stays out of Israeli politics.”

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The correct name of the group the Times is referring to is not “Americans for Peace” but “Americans for Peace Now.”

The Times also writes, “In Israel’s chaotic parliamentary system, small parties like the ultra-Orthodox Shas can be make or break when it comes to forming a majority coalition after an election, and Mr. Netanyahu has routinely struck deals giving them outsize influence.”

Shas has declined in recent years, but for the purpose of general historical context such as the Times is attempting to provide, it is not a “small” party. In 2013 it won 8.75 percent of the vote, enough for 11 seats in Israel’s parliament. In 1999 it was the third largest political party in Israel, winning 13 percent of the vote and 17 seats in the 120-member Knesset, drawing not only “ultra-Orthodox” voters. In 1999, the politician who struck a coalition deal with Shas wasn’t Netanyahu but rather Ehud Barak of the Labor Party. This may seem like a minor detail, but it undermines the point of the Times article, which is that Netanyahu caters to extremists or fringe elements in Israeli politics. It’s not a characteristic unique to Netanyahu; rather, it’s a standard feature of coalition politics in Israel regardless of the individual or party forming the coalition.

All these errors erode the credibility of the Times coverage. If the newspaper can’t get basic factual points right in a front-page news article, why should readers believe the rest of the newspaper’s narrative?

What’s more, such factual errors aren’t rare exceptions, but are typical of Times coverage of Israel and Jewish matters. Some previous examples include what the Israeli consul general in New York, Dani Dayan, called the “correction of the year,” about Palestinian payments to families of terrorists; confusing Orthodox and Conservative Judaism; and a seven-sentence, “epic” correction of a hatchet-job profile of a prominent critic of the Iran nuclear deal.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of his media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.


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