For the second time in five months, media watchdog organization CAMERA prompts a New York Times correction of an article which incorrectly referred to Israel “illegally” occupying land.
The most recent instance, a Jan. 13 article by Rick Gladstone, (“U.S. Church Puts 5 Banks From Israel on a Blacklist”), had erroneously referred to “settlement construction in what most of the world considers illegally occupied Palestinian territories.”
CAMERA was recently informed about the January editor and immediately contacted editors last week. As CAMERA wrote toThe New York Times, this “language is at best partisan, falling short of requirements for objectivity, and at worst inaccurate, misstating the status of occupation under international law.” CAMERA’s Gilead Ini continued:
Nicholas Kristof was correct when stating several years ago in The New York Times that “many international legal scholars suggest that Israel’s occupation of the territories is not itself illegal.”
One such scholar, George P. Fletcher, the Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence at Columbia University School of Law, also writing in The New York Times, asserted that “it isnot illegal for victorious powers to occupy hostile territory seized in the course of war until they are able to negotiate a successful peace treaty with their former enemies.”
Noam Lubell, formerly of B’tselem and currently a professor and Head of School at the University Essex School of Law, put it as follows in his BBC-commissioned report on international law in the Arab-Israeli conflict: “The term ‘unlawful occupation’ can be a misguided and confusing term, as it conflates the question of the resort to force with the rules of conduct, and obscures the distinction between the two.”
After critically exploring, and then rebutting, various arguments floated in favor of calling the occupation illegal, Lubell concluded that “the term ‘unlawful occupation’ is not a helpful term, and while there may be reasoning for using it – particularly on account of the link to denial of self-determination – this term is highly debatable.” (A couple of paragraphs earlier, Lubell quoted Alain Pellet, who Lubell calls “a notable expert on international law” and who, like Lubell, is a sharp critic of Israel, saying: “Even if the deprivation of its right to self-determination infringes an imperative norm of international law, occupation remains a legal institution, governed by the rules of law.”
In response to CAMERA’s correspondence, editors quickly and responsibly corrected the online article. The updated, corrected article now refers to “settlement construction in occupied Palestinian territories. Most of the world considers those settlements illegal.”
In addition, editors commendably appended the following correction to the bottom of the article:
Last October, The Times’ Jodi Rudoren likewise referred to the Golan Heights and the West Bank as “illegally occupied.” In that earlier case, CAMERA elicited a correction as well. That initial correction read:
Correction: October 14, 2015
An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the Golan Heights. While most of the world officially considers it to be occupied, and the settlements there illegal, there is no consensus that the occupation itself is illegal. The same error appeared in an earlier version of a caption with the accompanying slide show.
Hopefully, after two corrections on the topic, Times editors have internalized the fact that “there is no consensus that the occupation itself is illegal.”