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March 22, 2013

BBC Bests New York Times on Coverage of Israeli Apology

(March 24 update: After CAMERA contacted the newspaper, reporters improved some of the language for the final version of the article. See here for details.)

Question for the New York Times: Why be imprecise and risk misleading readers when it would be just as easy to be precise and accurate?

Consider the newspaper's sloppy summary in its report on Benjamin Netanyahu's apology to Turkey today. Twice in the first two paragraphs, reporters Jodi Rudoren and Mark Landler inform readers that Israel apologized "for a deadly commando raid" and expressed regret "for the raid." But by nearly all accounts, Israel did not apologize "for the raid" itself, but rather for operational errors potentially tied to loss of lives during the incident.

The difference is substantive. An apology for the raid suggests Israel believes it erred in stopping the ship. An expression of regret about what happened during the raid suggests it acknowledges it could have carried out the operation differently and apologizes "any errors that could have led to loss of life," as an Israeli statement put it.

The New York Times' obligation to avoid misleading readers about the scope of the apology is all the more important when considering that the wording and scope of the Israel's apology was surely a point of dispute between the two parties that had to be carefully negotiated.

An more accurate summary of the apology would have been simple. Consider the BBC's lead paragraph:

Israel's prime minister has apologised to Turkey for "any errors that could have led to loss of life" during the 2010 commando raid on an aid flotilla that tried to breach the Gaza blockade.

Even The Guardian, notorious for its hostility toward Israel, was clear in its lede that Israel apologized "for the loss of nine lives" on board the ship.

As it tends to do, the New York Times also avoided pointing out that the loss of lives on the boat were part of a intense and violent battle between Israeli troops and the activist passengers who attacked them as they boarded the ship. By withholding such context, it leaves the blatantly false impression that Israel simply boarded the ship and attacked peaceful non-combatant passengers.

The BBC report, on the other hand, noted that Israel says "its commandos used lethal force because activists had attacked them." The BBC's reference could have been better. They give equal weight to Israel's description of soldiers being attacked and the denial by some of the passengers, despite the fact that video footage shows the naval commandos being attacked as they were descending onto the ship with their hands still on the rappelling ropes. But nonetheless, its contextualizing of the deaths still bests the New York Times.



Posted by GI at March 22, 2013 04:32 PM

Comments

The BBC report, on the other hand, noted that Israel says "its commandos used lethal force because activists had attacked them." The BBC's reference could have been better. They give equal weight to Israel's description of soldiers being attacked and the denial by some of the passengers, despite the fact that video footage shows the naval commandos being attacked as they were descending onto the ship with their hands still on the rappelling ropes.

So it became an act of war, therefore I do not believe that Isreal owes money for these Turkish deaths.

Posted by: Donfor Jews at March 27, 2013 12:50 PM

That's why after many years subscribing to the NYT, I cancelled my subscription. And they keep on lying and twisting the truth. I think they all should go back to school and learn the first premise of journalism. Fair and balanced!!!
They suck at that re Israel and the others, just like the UN, worthless to learn the truth.

Posted by: Adrianne Taubman at March 27, 2013 02:56 PM

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