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May 17, 2010

NY Times Public Editor Weighs in On Jerusalem Terminology

Clark Hoyt, public editor of the New York Times, discusses the labeling of Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem located over the 1949 armistice line (Green Line) as settlements:

No subject arouses reader passion more consistently than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and The Times navigates a semantic minefield with almost every story on the subject. When Cooper wrote this month about a lunch that Obama had with Elie Wiesel, the Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor, she said the president was trying to mend fences with American Jews upset at the administration’s stance against construction of “Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem.�?

Nathan Dodell of Rockville, Md., said it was “tendentious and arrogant�? to use the word “settlements�? four times in the article when the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has explicitly rejected it in relation to East Jerusalem. Obama has used the term himself to refer to construction in East Jerusalem, and Cooper told me, “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.�?

But to Dodell, she was taking sides. He asked why she didn’t use a neutral term like “housing construction.�?

Settlement is a charged word in this context, because it suggests something less than permanent on someone else’s land. Israel argues that all of Jerusalem is its undivided capital, a claim not recognized by the United States and most of the world. Articles by Times reporters in Jerusalem do generally use words like “housing�? instead of “settlement.�? Still, Ethan Bronner, the bureau chief, said it would be unwise to adopt a hard and fast rule, because some areas of the city taken by Israel in 1967 had long been Jewish neighborhoods while others, built more recently, had the feeling of settlements.

I think Cooper should have found a more neutral term.

(Hat tip: Yisrael M.)

Posted by TS at May 17, 2010 03:01 AM


Why is every open field and undeveloped piece of land immediately Arab East Jerusalem? The Jewish neighbourhoods established since 1967 were mostly built on wasteland.

Posted by: Andy at May 19, 2010 12:55 PM

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