Michael F. Brown
The Electronic Intifada / September 28, 2023
The New York Times is unwilling to make clear for its readers that East Jerusalem is part of the West Bank, which Israel has occupied militarily since 1967.
On 24 August, Dana Rubinstein and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, with Jerusalem bureau chief Patrick Kingsley contributing reporting, wrote that New York City Mayor Eric Adams “made no attempt to visit the Palestinian territories” – the term the newspaper uses for the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
That “no attempt” claim is a false statement.
Mayor Adams visited East Jerusalem as the mayor’s own tweets visually displayed.
A photograph accompanying the article in The New York Times also made clear Adams spent time in occupied East Jerusalem.
But the caption for that photograph confused matters for readers, stating, “Mayor Eric Adams included several spiritual stops during his trip to Israel, including a visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.”
The phrasing conveys that all of Jerusalem is in Israel and that the Western Wall, which is in occupied East Jerusalem, is as well.
Under international law, no part of Jerusalem is considered part of Israel, including West Jerusalem. Zionist militias forced out of West Jerusalem some 10,000 Palestinian families in 1948 and took de facto control of that part of the city. Today, those Palestinians and their children face a dual system of law that prevents their return, even as Israeli settlers use discriminatory Israeli law in an effort to move into the homes of Palestinian refugees in East Jerusalem.
The vast majority of countries and the UN Security Council do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The United States and a tiny number of other countries that have recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital are the isolated outliers from this long-standing international consensus.
Immediately after Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, its forces expelled hundreds of Palestinians from the Moroccan Quarter to make way for the Western Wall Plaza, a fact the newspaper doesn’t raise.
The Electronic Intifada’s emails to Kingsley, Rubinstein and Fitzsimmons went unanswered. Nor did the foreign desk or corrections desk respond to requests for an explanation.
For a good part of the past 22 years, this writer has requested corrections from The New York Times, from time to time receiving them. On one occasion in 2003, an editor called me “stubborn, “obstinate” and “bull-headed” during a disagreement over the arrest status of Fadel Abu Hein, a psychologist.
Quite simply, it’s impossible to know what kind of reception – angry, accommodating or non-responsive – the newspaper will give.
But what’s clear in this case is that the newspaper doesn’t want to grapple publicly over the status of occupied East Jerusalem, not even to mention that earlier in August the newspaper ran a caption – generally not the responsibility of the journalist writing the article – referring to “Arab neighborhoods in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.”
The newspaper needs to pick: international law or lawbreaking as pushed vigorously in the region on behalf of Israel by the Trump administration.
The fact that The Times – which is proud that it has maintained a house manual of style and usage since 1895 – needs to be regularly corrected on such a closely watched topic cannot be the result of mere negligence. Rather, it indicates that at least some of its staff and decision makers view it as their mission to advocate for and launder Israel’s misrepresentations and international crimes on behalf of the so-called newspaper of record.
There was a time when The Times would at least respond to serious inquiries and sometimes reverse a position when presented with a compelling case. Those days appear to be in the past. Their current silence on East Jerusalem offers further confirmation of profound bad faith and demonstrates the hubris that comes with being beyond the reach of informed inquiry.
It is a very short step from here for the newspaper to one day move portions – or all – of an illegally annexed West Bank into maps of Israel if Israeli politicians add formal annexation of that territory to the de facto annexation that exists now.
This is transpiring in the context of escalating violence by Israeli settlers – routinely defended by the Israeli military – ethnically cleansing Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank.
How long that will be the case is in question with The New York Times awarding occupied East Jerusalem to Israel and displaying no willingness to discuss the matter.
Nor did Kingsley address Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 1948 and 2023 maps erasing Palestine during his speech to the UN General Assembly last Friday, though he did write an analysis piece about Netanyahu’s visit to the US.
There, Kingsley attributed to “analysts” – longtime pro-Israel advocates with not one Palestinian given space – that the six-day jaunt “revitalized and potentially emboldened” Netanyahu and “polished his reputation as a heavyweight player on the global state [sic].”
Kingsley’s avoidance of the maps stands in stark contrast to his writing earlier in the month about the anti-Semitic comments of Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, that generated outrage because they blamed Jews for the genocide perpetrated against them by Germany and its allies during World War II.
“Mr. Abbas’s false claim drew swift condemnation from Israeli and European officials. It also fueled accusations that Mr. Abbas – an architect of interim peace agreements between Israelis and Palestinians in the 1990s – is not genuinely committed to resolving the ongoing conflict,” Kingsley wrote.
The New York Times said nothing similar about Netanyahu’s anti-Palestinianism or his commitment to “resolving the ongoing conflict.” The news about Netanyahu and his erasure maps wasn’t even reported by the newspaper of record, seemingly because the concerns of Palestinians and Arabs don’t merit mention in the same way as European and Israeli voices.
Instead, The New York Times acted as a cheerleader for a trip that actually served to highlight Netanyahu’s racism and expansionist plans for an apartheid state of Israel.
Then, this week, the newspaper covered the filmmaking of Israeli Amos Gitai, specifically citing his documentary House. Farah Nayeri describes the film as being “about a stone house in West Jerusalem that had been abandoned by its owner, a Palestinian doctor, in 1948, then requisitioned by the Israeli government and lived in by a succession of Jewish families.”
But that’s it. The year 1948 is stripped of all its context, the home owner reduced to being a nameless Palestinian doctor who “abandoned” his house. There’s no mention of the Nakba and the ethnic cleansing of some 800,000 Palestinians who fled their homes in fear first of Zionist militias and later of the Israeli military.
Of course, the nameless doctor did have a name and a story as was conveyed by The New York Times itself more than 40 years ago. Mahmoud Dajani says in the film his family fled from fear of the fighting and from fear that another massacre of Palestinians like the one at Deir Yassin, not far from them, could transpire.
That New York Times article from 1981 notes “in April 1948 the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the Jewish paramilitary force that at that time was led by Mr. [Menachem] Begin, attacked the Arab [Palestinian] village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem, killing about 250 villagers. The attack, which caused panic among the Arab population, is a part of history that most Israelis prefer to forget, and it is rarely discussed openly.”
In other words, Dajani and his family left their home amid ethnic cleansing by Zionist militias.
This reporting is reduced in 2023 to a house “abandoned” according to The New York Times, a newspaper which owns property in West Jerusalem sitting on top of the childhood home of Ghada Karmi. Approaching Zionist militias caused her family to flee in 1948.
The newspaper bought into the ethnically cleansed property in the 1980s in a transaction overseen by columnist Thomas Friedman, making it a protagonist in the conflict as the “air rights” to a property belong to the owner of the ground.
Karmi, speaking of geographically erroneous reporting about Israel’s apartheid barrier, told The Electronic Intifada in July that “Whether it’s 1967 territory with the wall or 1948 territory with my childhood home, they [The New York Times] are complicit in Palestinian dispossession.”
The newspaper did not reply to a question about the property earlier this month from The Electronic Intifada, another in July or to one in February 2022 asking if it “intends to return the upper level to the rightful owners.”
As this article went to publication, The New York Times Magazine, with its different editors, published an article that included East Jerusalem in the West Bank for the purpose of totaling the number of Israeli settlers.
“One faction, led by Bezalel Smotrich, an ultranationalist zealot and Israel’s current finance minister, represents the interests of the growing settler movement, which numbers more than 600,000 in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”
The newspaper should get on the same page as the magazine. East Jerusalem is, after all, part of the occupied West Bank.
A more accurate appraisal, however, is that there are 700,000 settlers in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.
Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist