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March 8, 2022 12:04 pm
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New York Times Correction Gets Close, but Can’t Quite Acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

avatar by Ira Stoll

Opinion

A man walks next to a road sign directing to the US embassy in Jerusalem, February 18, 2019. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad.

For the second time in three months, the New York Times has published a correction after mistakenly describing Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel.

The March 8 New York Times carries the following correction: “A subheading with an article on Sunday about a meeting between Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Israel and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia referred imprecisely to Tel Aviv, implying that it was the seat of Israel’s government. Israel’s government is in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv.”

The January 9, 2022 New York Times had carried a similar correction: ““A review on Dec. 19 about “Master of the Game: Henry Kissinger and the Art of Middle East Diplomacy,” by Martin Indyk, referred imprecisely to Tel Aviv, implying that it was the seat of Israel’s government. Israel’s government is in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv.”

Journalist Gary Weiss drew attention to the more recent Times error in a tweet that included a photo of the print pullquote, which said, “Tel Aviv tries to keep good relations with Ukraine and Russia.”

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Weiss’s comment: “I guess Times editors don’t know the capital of Israel is Jerusalem. This is like saying in a story on US policy — ‘New York tries to keep good relations with Ukraine and Russia.’” He went on: “There’s so much ignorance and prejudice packed into this one block of type. A Times editor or editors doesn’t/don’t like Israel, don’t like its capital being Jerusalem so they deny Israel’s capital is that city. Which it is. They don’t like it, so they lie. In print. Joyously.”

A former national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, replied, “When will the New York Times drop its bias against Israel the Jewish state. It is after 75 years no longer simply an error or ignorance. The NYT cannot bring itself to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Shame!!!”

“Playground level bias,” commented Gilead Ini of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis.

Some media watchdogs found the Times correction less than completely satisfactory. “No, the Times did not refer to Tel Aviv ‘imprecisely.’ The paper was very precise in its use of an anti-Israel trope that denies Israel’s right to choose its own capital,” Weiss later wrote.

“Even in the correction they can not bring themselves to just say ‘Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,’” remarked Mirabelle Ward.

The correction is better than nothing, but there’s no transparency with Times readers over why or how this mistake happened twice. Is it just ignorance? Or does it reflect a kind of ideological bias — a belief that Jerusalem-is-Israel’s capital is something only former President Donald Trump or a Likudnik, Zionist-settler-colonialist would actually believe, rather than an undeniable physical and historical reality?

There’s a kind of arrogance involved in the idea that if only the few remaining New York Times copy editors stubbornly draw a line in the sand and refuse to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, then somehow the Knesset, the Israeli Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s Office, the foreign ministry headquarters, and the president’s house will all somehow magically disappear from the map and re-appear in Tel Aviv.

At other powerful institutions, when there is a pattern of embarrassing mistakes, the Times investigates and holds people accountable. The newspaper used to have a “public editor” who played this role, but the Times eliminated the position. Instead, readers are left to reach their own conclusions about how these mistakes happen and why.

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

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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