The New York Times has stood by its description of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip as “disputed territories,” the terminology preferred by the Israeli government but overwhelmingly rejected internationally.
Referring to this week’s controversial debate at Brooklyn College, a New York Times’ report includes a summary of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel in the third paragraph, saying that “[the BDS movement’s] goal is to pressure Israel to restore disputed territories and grant equal rights to Palestinians.”
I wrote to the paper pointing out that: (a) the BDS call has three clear goals: an end to Israel’s occupation, equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees; and (b) the use of the term “disputed territories” is highly problematic as it is language that masks the fact that the West Bank and Gaza Strip are in fact occupied.
Replying on behalf of Greg Brock, senior editor for standards, his assistant Zach Jonk informed me that after discussions, the paper had “decided not to issue a correction.”
We paraphrased the overarching goal of BDS, and it was not an inaccurate description. Those territories are indeed disputed.
Let us leave aside the fact that it is not difficult to simply cite the explicit three goals of the BDS call — rather than paraphrase or surmise an overarching goal. The paper’s doubling down on the “disputed territories” formulation is troubling, as it is a phrase promoted by the Israeli government in order to deny the reality of occupation.
Needless to say, Israel is totally isolated in its description of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as “disputed” rather than occupied: the latter view is upheld by the UN, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and so on.
Despite re-emphasizing that point to The New York Times, the article remains uncorrected — while the paper’s professional standards are severely compromised.