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New York Times Corrects Widely Mocked Headline That Exaggerated Gaza Death Toll

Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas, in this handout picture released on Jan. 2, 2024. Photo: Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS

The New York Times has corrected a print headline that erroneously claimed more people had died in the current war in Gaza than in any Arab conflict in the past 40 years.

The headline was widely mocked online. “The NYT is now just making [stuff] up,” Aviva Klompas posted on X/Twitter, in a tweet that amassed more than 773,000 views. Her post included an image of the blatantly inaccurate headline, which read, “Gaza Deaths Surpass Any Arab War Losses in 40 Years.”

Actually, even if you accept the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry’s count, now at about 23,000 — a big if, because the ministry has every incentive to exaggerate — the Gaza toll pales beside other conflicts. In the Iraq War, estimates range from 100,000 to more than 1 million deaths. In the Syrian civil war, estimates of deaths range from 350,000 to “more than 500,000.”

A Times spokeswoman pointed out to the Algemeiner in response to a query that the Times had, on Dec. 28, published a print correction of the headline. That correction read: “A headline with an article on Dec. 22 about fatalities in Gaza reaching nearly 20,000 referred incorrectly to the historical significance of the Arab death toll of the Israel-Hamas war. The total is the heaviest loss on the Arab side in any war with Israel in 40 years, not in any war involving Arab countries in that time frame.”

“The error did not appear in the online version of the article,” the Times spokeswoman said.

The online pushback to the headline attracted a large audience. Eli David noted, “Over half a million were killed in Syria. 300,000 killed in Yemen.” He said the New York Times “has turned into a parody of itself.” That post attracted 1.3 million impressions on X/Twitter.

By contrast, a Jan. 9 post by New York Times corporate communications drawing attention to the correction attracted a mere 4,600 impressions.

With their social media posts, Klompas and David tapped into a widely shared view among Jewish and pro-Israel readers that the Times pays far more attention to deaths inflicted by Israel than to deaths inflicted by other armed forces. That approach by the Times plays into anti-Israel and in some cases antisemitic propaganda that portrays Israel as bloodthirsty or indifferent to the deaths of Palestinians.

The terrorist group Hamas is using civilians as human shields in part for that propaganda purpose. Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers are dying daily in part because of Israel’s attempt to minimize civilian casualties by going building-by-building in parts of Gaza rather than leveling the entire area.

Neither the Times headline nor the correction distinguished between civilian and combatant deaths.

Give the Times some credit, I suppose, for issuing the correction after being publicly called out. But the frequency of such errors raises questions about the processes that create them. As I’ve written in previous Algemeiner articles about the many previous Times corrections on these topics, “the frequency and number of the corrections make Times readers wonder whether the Times team is capable of getting the news right the first time around.”

No wonder that when readers accuse the Times of “just making [stuff] up” or of becoming “a parody of itself,” rather than reacting that the erroneous headline was an honest mistake committed by imperfect humans who deserve the benefit of the doubt, a lot of people saw it as evidence of Times bias, a kind of deliberate smear of the Israel Defense Forces. With its coverage of the Israel-Hamas war, the Times has been eroding whatever remaining trust it had among pro-Israel readers. Whatever reservoir of goodwill the paper once may have had among its audience for innocent mistakes is long gone.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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Washington Says It Will Not Back Expanded IDF Operations in Rafah

Displaced Palestinians, who fled their homes due to the war provoked by Hamas’s terror attacks, shelter in a tent camp, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, December 29, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Shadi Tabatibi

i24 NewsMedics reported that Israeli airstrikes overnight in Gaza’s Rafah claimed the lives of 17 individuals on Saturday.

The attacks come as tensions escalate, with over a million Palestinians densely packed into the border city, awaiting a potential full-scale offensive amid widespread destruction across the enclave and limited avenues of escape.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced plans for military action, aiming to evacuate Rafah’s population and dismantle four Hamas battalions allegedly stationed in the area.

As IDF prepares for an intense ground operation in Rafah, its efforts to create safe corridors for Palestinian civilians are made more difficult by the fighting ongoing throughout Gaza. @mcauliffe_marym joins @Nicole_Zedek with the latest updates:

— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) February 10, 2024

Unlike previous conflicts where civilians were urged to seek refuge in southern Gaza, the current situation presents a dilemma as there are no relatively unscathed areas left, leaving residents with nowhere to flee. Aid agencies have warned of the potential for a significant loss of civilian lives should an assault on Rafah occur.

Reports from Gaza City indicate intensified fighting on Saturday, with residents reporting clashes amid the ongoing hostilities.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters, disclosed plans to coordinate the relocation of Rafah residents northward in anticipation of potential military action. However, Egypt has stated its refusal to permit mass displacement of Palestinians into its territory,.

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Numerous Weapons Discovered in UNRWA Premises in Gaza

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

i24 NewsThe IDF revealed that it had discovered, in the areas of Shati and Tel al-Hawa in northern Gaza, twenty terrorist infrastructure sites including a tunnel entrance near an UNRWA school. The tunnel, an “important part of Hamas’ military intelligence services,” passed under the building which serves as the main headquarters of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip.

Large quantities of weapons were found in rooms of the building, including rifles, ammunition, grenades and explosives. Intelligence and documents discovered in the offices of UNRWA officials confirmed that these offices had also been used by Hamas terrorists, the military claims.

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Qatar Says Hamas ‘Promises’ Hostages Received Medicines, But Offers no proof

One of the digital billboards of Hamas hostages that were taken down in London. Photo: Provided

i24 NewsIn a recent development, Qatar has informed both Israel and France that Hamas has purportedly agreed to ensure that hostages receive the essential medicines delivered to them in the Gaza Strip.

Last month, Qatar facilitated the transfer of these crucial drugs to Gaza following a comprehensive list compiled with input from the hostages’ respective doctors. The medications in question are deemed “vital,” primarily aimed at addressing chronic illnesses among the hostages.

This development comes amidst ongoing efforts to address the welfare and medical needs of the hostages held in Gaza, with international stakeholders closely monitoring the situation for further updates.

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