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New York Times apologises for Gaza coverage

The changing headlines of the New York Times. Credit: Twitter

October 23, 2023 - 1:00pm

The New York Times today published an editorial note, conceding that its initial coverage of the al-Ahli Hospital explosion in Gaza “relied too heavily on claims by Hamas, and did not make clear that those claims could not immediately be verified”. The blast, which took place on 17 October and which the Gaza Health Ministry claimed killed 471 people, was initially attributed to an Israeli airstrike, but subsequent intelligence from the United States and France has largely concurred that the incident resulted from a misfired Hamas rocket.

Following the al-Ahli explosion, the NYT’s website led with the headline “Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians Say”. The publication later changed this title to “At Least 500 Dead in Strike on Gaza Hospital, Palestinians Say”, and then “At Least 500 Dead in Blast at Gaza Hospital, Palestinians Say”. 

Today’s note said that “the report left readers with an incorrect impression about what was known and how credible the account was.” It ends by stating that “Times editors should have taken more care with the initial presentation, and been more explicit about what information could be verified.”

The retraction follows several similar cases from British media outlets, which attracted criticism from both pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups. Below are the statements put out by broadcasters in the last fortnight.

Sky’s Anna Jones apologised on 21 October for statements made by news anchor Kay Burley earlier in the month which misrepresented the views of Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot. Regulator Ofcom received over 1500 complaints after Burley asked whether Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy would appear at an event with Zomlot given that the latter, in her words, “basically said […] that ‘Israel had it coming’”. Burley repeated the false claim to Labour MP Stella Creasy and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. 

Jones said on Sky that “we recognise that this is not what Dr Zomlot had said in an earlier interview” and that this “potentially gave a misleading interpretation” of his views. Seven of Zomlot’s relatives have been killed by Israeli airstrikes

The BBC’s Maryam Moshiri apologised on 16 October after the channel described pro-Palestine protests in the UK as “several demonstrations across Britain during which people voiced their backing for Hamas”. Moshiri conceded that this was “was a misleading description of the demonstrations”. A statement was also read out on BBC News.

On 21 October, the BBC’s Samira Ahmed referred on air to the same error, saying that “on the BBC News channel on Monday morning a scriptwriter made the mistake of equating support for the Palestinians with support for Hamas.” She later added that “the BBC received complaints drawing a distinction between the Palestinian people as a whole and Hamas.” 

Last week BBC deputy chief executive Jonathan Munro conceded that the broadcaster’s language “wasn’t quite right” in its coverage of the al-Ahli Hospital explosion. Correspondent Jon Donnison stated on air that it was “hard to see what else this could be, really, given the size of the explosion, other than an Israeli air strike, or several air strikes”. 

Meanwhile on 11 October, longstanding foreign reporter John Simpson wrote a piece for the BBC outlining why the channel had used the word “militants” rather than “terrorists” in describing Hamas. He argued that “it’s simply not the BBC’s job to tell people who to support and who to condemn — who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.” The broadcaster has since been pressured into describing Hamas as “proscribed as a terror organisation by the UK Government and others”.


is UnHerd’s Deputy Editor, Newsroom.

RobLownie

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Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
9 months ago

What was interesting about the hospital story was how quickly it was dropped from the news cycle once it came clear the Israelis hadn’t done it. If Islamist Jihadists kill 500 of their own people in a hospital, that is not news at all apparently. And all those pro Palestinian but not pro Hamas demonstrators don’t feel the need to protest about that.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
9 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

When you’re on the right side of history, what’s a little collateral damage ?

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
9 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

The ends justify the means.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
9 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

“Their humanity is at their horizon—and, like the horizon, it always flies before them.” Edmund Burke.

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
9 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

That’s a very good point

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
9 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Yes, Israel killing 500 in a perhaps accidental air strike is important news. Palestinians killing 500 in an presumably accidental air strike not news.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
9 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

When people have a false narrative to paddle, truth is often the victim.

Last edited 9 months ago by Vijay Kant
Derek Smith
Derek Smith
9 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette, after all.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
9 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

The other point is 5 Killed is closer to the truth than 500

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
8 months ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Also mis-/under- reported: It is an Anglican hospital.
(That really complicates the narrative. Can’t have that.)

Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
8 months ago
Reply to  Kelly Madden

Isn’t it Baptist?

Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
9 months ago

BBC Verify is still unable to determine for sure whether or not a small, irregular hole in a burnt out car park was caused by an Israeli missile that leaves circular craters the size of an Olympic swimming pool.
A live video of one of a barrage of missiles being fired from Gaza, malfunctioning and landing on the hospital car park just isn’t enough for the BBC.
The BBC keeping up the equivocating BBC Verify piece when the truth has become patently clear has got to the point of sick comedy
The BBC’s extraordinary arrogance in refusing to admit fault is well known. But its clear hatred of Israel and sympathy for the Palestinian cause is becoming just as obvious and dangerous. The BBCs prejudices and slipshod reporting are enflaming tensions in a region ready to ignite like a tinderbox. They are utterly irresponsible. .

Last edited 9 months ago by Marcus Leach
Hazel Gazit
Hazel Gazit
8 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

No mention anywhere that the Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon, Israel, was hit 4 times by Palestinian rockets (and not just the carpark).

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
9 months ago

Don’t pay the licence fee. I’ve done without terrestrial TV for years and don’t even miss the rubbish. Who in their right mind wants to line the pockets of Gary (strangely quiet at the moment having trousered over a million at that World Cup in Qatar which supports Hamas) Lineker, Claudia (I fronted a film program but appear to know nothing about cinema) Winklemann and motormouth Graham (I’m a millionaire gay man but am scared shitless of a tranny backlash and threw the man who gave me my big break Graham Lineham under the bus) Norton ?

Mangle Tangle
Mangle Tangle
9 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

O Brave New World, that has such people in it…

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
9 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

I cancelled my TV licence almost exactly 15 years ago, following the Brand/Ross prank calls debacle. Nothing since then has moved me to reconsider my decision.

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
9 months ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

I hate BBC liberal bias as much as the next right-wing bigot but when I tried to find another news program on TV, the alternatives were either even woker or they were amateurishly put together. You have to concede that even though the BBC has a liberal bias, their production values are second to none, which is hardly a minor detail. And which other channel has newsreaders like Fiona Bruce, Rita Chakrabati or Sophie Raeworth or the entertaining weather presenter Louise Lear or the likeable Stav Danaos? So in the end I came crawling back.

AC Harper
AC Harper
9 months ago

The deeper issue is not that trusted media make mistakes but that their journalists are too easily seduced by their own biases to accept the story they want to report without checking.
It is also noteworthy how this bias spins and downplays the correction to make it seem like some inoffensive error.

Terry M
Terry M
9 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Even worse, the irresponsible false reporting has sparked numerous demonstrations, some violent, around the world. Some people have been seriously injured in those riots. The NYT and BBC et al should be held criminally accountable for inciting such riots.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
9 months ago
Reply to  Terry M

That’s how these young “journalists” “change the world”.

Simon Tavanyar
Simon Tavanyar
8 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

AC your comment seems to presuppose that journalists think independently of their corporate masters. 😉

Last edited 8 months ago by Simon Tavanyar
Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

Correspondent Jon Donnison stated on air that it was “hard to see what else this could be, really, given the size of the explosion, other than an Israeli air strike, or several air strikes”.
Why stop there? Maybe it was a nuclear strike. Or an asteroid diverted by those wily Israelis.

Sue Whorton
Sue Whorton
9 months ago

The spokesman from the IDF also showed an image of other failed launches covering the Gaza Strip. It was basically red splodges everywhere. I am not in a position to know how accurate that was but surely it is of importance in keeping civilians safe. If it is wrong that is also informative. The IDF also stated that the rockets were fired by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Who are they and how many other different factions are there?

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
9 months ago

It was Prince Philip’s Diana-killing laser wot dunnit!

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
9 months ago

Except equating support for the Palestinians with support for Hamas isn’t actually a mistake, is it? At least not on the streets of London.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
9 months ago

It would be interesting to see the reaction if you proposed to join one of these demonstrations with a placard saying: “Down with Hamas support Palestinians”. Somehow I don’t think you would receive a very positive reaction to your desire to support Palestinians but not Hamas.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I am reminded of a Kurdish guy who went the 2003 Stop the War march with an anti-war, anti-Saddam poster. He was treated very poorly by his fellow marchers.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

You might even get beaten to a pulp with a blunt instrument or, perhaps, beheaded.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
9 months ago

“He argued that “it’s simply not the BBC’s job to tell people who to support and who to condemn — who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.””

Not exactly the BBC approach when it comes to the BBC deciding who are the good guys and who are the bad guys when the subject involves lockdown, mask wearing , global warming, the correct response to global warning, and a whole range of woke issues.

However, personally I agree with the BBC that there is no need for them to describe Hamas as terrorists. It is up to us to conclude whether we think they are terrorists. Their behaviour during their recent incursion into Israel had the hallmarks of a terrorist group rather than traditional state army but the activities of the Russian army in Ukraine might as easily be regarded as terroristic.

It is the selective nature of the BBC’s careful neutrality that tends to stick in the craw.

Graham Strugnell
Graham Strugnell
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Global warming is not a woke issue. It is a fact. Don’t muddy the waters with generalised comments

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
9 months ago

I didn’t say it was a woke issue. It is simply one of the range of issues where alternative evidence particularly regarding causes and remedies to the orthodox line are not permitted to be fairly canvassed. The BBC definitely wants to let you know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. Of course, when you happen to agree the particular line it is tempting like the BBC to think there is in fact only one proper line and only the bad guys want to put forward alternatives.

Terry M
Terry M
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The Beeb is anti-semitic. Does one need more proof than their coverage of this terrorist incident?

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
9 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Yes, that remark from Simpson would have been ok by me if it was even partitially true instead of being totally false. Where’s Marianna Spring when you need her?

Hazel Gazit
Hazel Gazit
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

No mention of the fact that Britain, amongst a number of other countries, actually proscribe Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
9 months ago

BBC Verify is unable to discern from the pictures and subsequent radar footage that the rocket was fired from within Gaza, that could not possibly have killed anything like 500 people, given that it landed in a car park.
BBC Vilify is comfortable reporting that Israel is to blame, and 500 innocents – at the very least – have been callously murdered having been targeted even whilst they sought shelter in a hospital.

Last edited 9 months ago by Paddy Taylor
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
9 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

In fairness, a lot of the evidence for the misfired rocket does depend on trusting the radar traces, phone intercepts and military opinions given out by Israel and its allies. I am pretty sure by now that this explanation is actually correct, but part of the reason is that I do not believe that competing explanations – such as a hellfire missile fired deliberately or recklessly by Israel – are inherently credible. Others might legitimately have different opinions here.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
9 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The BBC could have, and should have, reported at the time the cause was yet to be verified. Instead it immediately suggested that it was Israel – one of their reporters stating that “it was difficult to see how this was other than an Israeli missile strike.”
I’m conflicted about all this, but I expect objective reporting. Or rather, objective reporting should be the standard. My expectation is that the BBC will create a narrative and follow that.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

No disagreement there.

Graham Strugnell
Graham Strugnell
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

The BBC purports to be non partisan, but try listening to Radio 4 comedy at 630 pm and it is all flabby satire mocking anyone who might want to control migration, or have small c conservative views. The orthodoxy is blatantly leftist, and you will wait a long time to hear conservative ideas unless it is someone ridiculing them.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Objective reporting? That went out with disco.

Derek Smith
Derek Smith
9 months ago

My wife and I watching the BBC report on YouTube the day after the event. It mostly consisted of drone footage from the burnt-out car park.
Even as they were taking about the missile hitting the hospital we were asking ourselves where the struck buildings were. We were seeing minimal damage to surrounding structures. Why not show the collapsed/collapsing hospital? At some point came the realisation that it was only the car park that was struck even as they kept banging on about the hospital.

Philippe W
Philippe W
9 months ago

Given how few people trust establishment media these days, apologising for misinformation in the form of an editorial note pretty much guarantees 4 people will read it.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
9 months ago

500 people are down to between 10-50. The misfired missile from Islamic Jihad fell in the parking lot, burned a few cars, but didn’t even break the stained glass windows in the hospital nearby.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
9 months ago

Remarkable resistance among the media of our great British Isles towards showing any support or indeed sympathy for the Israeli people (or, whisper it, Jews in general).
Instead, a series of blunt-headed instances of misjudgement which appear only to create more mischief and likely additional friction.between Israel and the Arab peoples surrounding her.

Last edited 9 months ago by Tyler Durden
Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
9 months ago

You peasants should remember that these are the trusted sources that get to censor everyone else.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
9 months ago

This is getting quite old. The NYT should publish 2 newspapers per day. The first with all the false/misleading headlines and the 2nd with all the retractions/corrections.

William Cameron
William Cameron
9 months ago

At what stage will the media stand back and ask itself “why does our bias appear common to most MSM ? Could it be that we all group think the same ? Could it be that we don’t dare have questioning minds lest we be cancelled ? ”

It is extraordinary to me that they are all anti Israel and choose to take the side of proven murderers of babies and families- that takes some extraordinary level of conviction.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
9 months ago

“Here’s an update on last week’s nursing-home expose, ‘Geezers in Freezers.’ It turns out the rest home was adequately heated. The footage you saw was of a fur-storage facility. We’ve also been told to apologize for using the term ‘geezers.’ Now, coming up next, ‘The Case of the Cantankerous Old Geezer.'”

William Hickey
William Hickey
9 months ago

The NY Times’ newsroom was devoted for two years to promoting the ludicrous, lunatic fantasy that Donald Trump was a willing agent of Vladimir Putin and a traitor to his country. It devoted literally hundreds of articles — not just one headline — to that patently obvious lie.

When that fraudulent narrative collapsed, its promoters glided smoothly into pushing another lie: that blacks are the central figures of all of American history. (The newsroom meeting where this switch was announced has been well documented.)

Last week’s tendentiously misleading headline doesn’t surprise me at all. I’m used to it. I read the Times knowing that it reports to confirm its biases everyday.

And the “apology” just makes me laugh.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
9 months ago

What we need isn’t an apology for substandard journalistic practices but an explanation for why these journalism errors always seem to cut against Israel and the West in general and in favor of terrorists.

Jacques Rossat
Jacques Rossat
8 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

The New York Times, with the fifth generation Sulzberger at it head ,is not known as a typical pro-Hamas newspaper…

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
9 months ago

Mission accomplished, they torpedoed the planned summit of the US, Egypt, Jordan, and the PA, and inflamed millions of Arabs against Israel at a time when the Hamas atrocities might have caused some reflection.
I am sure the folks at NYT, BBC, Sky, and everyone else who ran it are very pleased. And no repercussions!! Perfect!!

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
9 months ago

Last Wednesday at our local pub quiz, two of our team members got into a heated discussion about who was responsible for the blast at the hospital. One said, ‘The Israelis say the Palestinians did it’ to which the other replied, ‘Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?’ I’m guessing that when we meet again this week neither will know who was right because it has become such a non-story. You have to go looking for it to find out that the general concensus among experts is that Team Palestine did it.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
9 months ago

Nevertheless people, including women and children, are being murdered in their hundreds. This is is an abomination on all mankind.

Elizabeth Hamilton
Elizabeth Hamilton
9 months ago

Yes, that’s what war is.

Terry M
Terry M
9 months ago

Deliberately and horribly attacking, torturing, and killing non-combatants are war crimes. That is what Hamas has done. Targeting military facilities and command centers is part of war. That is what Israel does.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
9 months ago

Audio of two terrorists discussing the misfired missile:I’m telling you this is the first time that we see a missile like this falling, and so that’s why we are saying it belongs to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.What?They are saying it belongs to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.It’s from us?It looks like it.Who says this?They are saying that the shrapnel from the missile is local shrapnel and not like Israeli shrapnel.What are you saying, (name)?SilenceBut God bless, it couldn’t have found another place to explode?Nevermind, yes, (name) they shot it from the cemetery behind the hospital.What?They shot it from the cemetery behind the Al-Ma’amadani Hospital, and it misfired and fell on them. There’s a cemetery behind it?Yes, Al-Ma’amadani is exactly in the compound.Where is it when you enter the compound?You first enter the compound and don’t go toward the city and it’s on the right side of the Al-Ma’amadani Hospital.Yes, I know it.

Last edited 9 months ago by Samuel Ross
Simon S
Simon S
8 months ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

This “intercept” was a complete fake

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
8 months ago

No, they STILL don’t have the right headline.
It should read:
“Contrary to Terrorist Lying Liars, Hamas Itself Responsible for Explosion at Christian Hospital Caring for Hamas-Oppressed Gazans”

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
9 months ago

Oh, so what? They publish what they want to be true. Even when it is proven to be false, they know the politicians they own will still cite the accusations as fact, and the media will say no more.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago

Interesting how the news media continues to give credence to the figures given by the Gaza Health Ministry for casualties caused by Israeli bombing even today, though the numbers seem to be greatly exaggerated to the point of being nonsense. But I guess if that’s all you have, you report it.

Last edited 8 months ago by Carlos Danger
Xeno Spinoza
Xeno Spinoza
9 months ago

Sounds like a reasonable action of correction for a mistake made. The problem here is really that news organisations seek news within time lines that are unreasonable.
People are often accused before the full facts are known and rumours are.taken seriously. Organisations like the BBC are the target of manipulation , and rather than deliberate untruths tend to leave out knowledge that doesnt fit the claim.
If you people commenting here want to get wound up I suggest you go to the BBC website and type in Great Britain, notice how all the results.are sports.related. Now type in Britain, see the difference. That was a secret editorial decision about three years ago.
Becase Great was seen as controversial.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
8 months ago

The legacy media is the gift that keeps giving to those of us who have known for years that they have been captured by the left and reflect that viewpoint with precision on just about every question you can imagine.

starkbreath
starkbreath
8 months ago

Instead of endlessly pointing out their obvious mendacity and hypocrisy, isn’t it incumbent on us to just ignore these outdated purveyors of corporate bullshit and seek out alternatives?