NYT Rewrites Accurate Occupation Headline

Non-violent protesters came up with a novel way to protest Israeli plans to build more settlement colonies in the occupied West Bank: They occupied the land themselves. The Bab Al Shams tents went up on Friday on privately owned Palestinian land  in what Israel designates as the E1 part of the West Bank. Israel’s announcement of a plan to build new colonies in that part of the West Bank was especially controversial.


The New York Times reported the news on Saturday. But the most remarkable thing is what they did with the headline.

The headline on the earliest versions of the story was “Palestinians Set Up Camp in Israeli-Occupied West Bank Territory.” Such acknowledgments of the West Bank as “occupied” territory are relatively rare in corporate media, as Seth Ackerman pointed out in Extra! (1/01).

But then, as Ali Abunimah wrote (Electronic Intifada, 1/12/13),  at some point it was changed to “Palestinians Set Up Tents Where Israel Plans Homes.” (Twitter user @jamiesw was credited with spotting the change.)


The Times story, and the one the next day, both refer to “Israeli-occupied West Bank territory.” So why was this fact removed from the headline? The decision is certainly a curious one–a casual reader would likely react very differently to the idea that Palestinians are protesting an occupation, versus placing tents where someone would like to build “homes.”

It seems like a good issue for Times public editor Margaret Sullivan. If you’d like to know more about why the Times changed an accurate headline,  you can email her at public@nytimes.com.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.