Sunday’s print edition of The New York Times includes a map of the Middle East in an article by David D. Kirkpatrick about how “unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets have carried out a covert air campaign, conducting more than 100 airstrikes inside Egypt, frequently more than once a week,” with the approval of Abdulfattah al-Sisi, the Egyptian army chief who seized power in a 2013 military coup.
It’s a fascinating article in line with recent reporting by Kirkpatrick on efforts by the Egyptian government to prime its population to accept US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
But cartographers at the newspaper have detracted from the article and raised serious questions about the paper’s editorial policy by publishing a map of the region that includes Israel, but has wiped away the West Bank.
Questions from The Electronic Intifada to the foreign desk Sunday afternoon had received no response at the time of publication.
Is this a new policy by The New York Times or simply an egregious error?
If a mistake, how did it happen?
If Israel annexes the West Bank will the newspaper show the West Bank as Israeli?
Will the newspaper’s decision depend on whether the Trump administration accepts such an annexation?
Misleading the public
Notably, the online article does not include the map, but includes a different image of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, apparently attending a Jerusalem Post event, in which he is standing in front of a map of the region:
That map has also depicted the region as if the West Bank does not exist. It is difficult to tell, but it appears the occupied Golan Heights are included as part of Israel – and the Dead Sea is missing just as it is in the print newspaper’s map.
The photo caption included by The New York Times does not comment on the omission of the West Bank in the map behind Netanyahu that he appears to be using as part of his December 2017 presentation.
The online and print maps in question do depict the occupied Gaza Strip.
One possible conclusion is that Netanyahu and The Jerusalem Post are promoting a future in which some two million Palestinians are squeezed into a Gaza Strip bantustan while even more Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) are forced into a greater Israel in which they may or may not have voting rights.
By carving away Gaza, Israeli leaders may conclude that they can maintain a Jewish majority far into the future. Demographic indicators all the way back to 2005, as reported by The Electronic Intifada at the time, suggest Palestinians between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea may already outnumber Israel’s Jewish population.
Whether Palestinians are a majority or not, the “two-tier system” of laws and services identified by Human Rights Watch in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem – is one clear marker of the apartheid that Palestinians face.
Having run the photograph of Netanyahu in front of a map erasing the West Bank, The New York Times owes its readers an explanation as to what this signifies.
And, having run almost precisely the same map itself, the newspaper must promptly explain to readers whether it accepts Israel’s erasure of the West Bank. The absence of a public editor is keenly felt at such times.
The New York Times has previously shown the occupied (and Israeli-annexed) Syrian Golan Heights as part of Israel and has made no move to issue a correction.
In a private letter to the newspaper about that illustration, I noted, “The map raises concerns for me that should Israel ever unilaterally annex all or part of the West Bank that New York Times maps might begin to show that annexed territory as part of Israel rather than as occupied territory seen as such by much of the international community.”
The map printed on Sunday dramatically escalates those concerns and, in fact, outstrips the pace at which I feared the newspaper might contribute to further dispossessing Palestinians.
If this new map was an error – as it could well be – a correction and explanation should quickly be presented to readers, many of whom will be alarmed at the West Bank’s disappearance and wondering why the newspaper has accepted the efforts of Netanyahu and The Jerusalem Post to mislead the public.
The New York Times published a correction on 8 February stating, “A map with an article on Sunday about a secret agreement between Egypt and Israel to allow Israeli strikes against Islamist militants in Egypt’s Northern Sinai omitted the boundaries of the West Bank.”