Photo Credit: MFA
Graphic by Israel’s MFA

How many Israelis have had to flee Islamic Jihad rocket fire this weekend? It’s an easy question with a simple answer, and yet media giants Associated Press and Reuters reduced one million fleeing Israelis to “tens of thousands,” while The New York Times cited just “thousands.”

Following communication from CAMERA’s Israel office today, both Reuters and AP commendably corrected their reports. As of this writing, the “Paper of Record” has yet to correct.

Initially, Reuters’ story today (“Palestinian rockets reach west of Jerusalem on third day of Gaza fighting“) grossly underreported that Islamic Jihad “rocket salvoes have sent tens of thousands Israelis to shelters.” (Emphasis added.)
In fact, Islamic Jihad rockets have sent more than one million Israelis running to shelters, at locations including Ashkelon (population 140,000); Ashdod (226,000), Rishon Lezion (260,000), Holon (194,300), Bat Yam (130,000), and Sderot (28,000), in addition to the countless smaller yishuvim and kibbutzim. Tel Aviv, where a siren sounded yesterday, has a population of 461,000. Today’s new targets include the populations of Mevaseret Zion (25,000); Abu Ghosh (8,000) and Har Adar (5,000), among others.
(This writer was on her way to Shabbat lunch yesterday when the siren went off, forcing her to run to a neighbor’s home and crowd into their family’s protected room to wait out the Iron Dome interception. She lives in the central city of Modiin, 67 kilometers away from Gaza. In that city alone, she was one of 100,000 residents compelled to flee to safety.)
Notably, this was not the first time that Reuters made this identical error. During a 2019 round of violence very similar to this week’s, Reuters corrected after similarly misreporting that rockets were “sending thousands of people to shelters.”
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In response to communication from CAMERA about today’s error, Reuters amended the text to more accurately report that “rocket salvoes have paralysed much of southern Israel and sent residents in cities like Tel Aviv and Ashkelon to shelters.”

Yet, contrary to common journalistic practice including Reuters’ own, the news agency did not append a clarification alerting readers to the change. In addition, it’s notable that both today and in 2019, the corrections avoid stating the actual correct figure — one million fleeing Israelis — although the original number had indeed included a specific (and wrong) figure of tens of thousands.

As for the Associated Press, it had originally erred yesterday (“Explainer: What is Driving the Current Israel-Gaza Violence“): “Islamic Jihad fired over 200 rockets and projectiles at Israeli cities and towns in the south and center, disrupting life for tens of thousands of people.” (Emphasis added.)

By that time yesterday (12:12 pm GMT), Islamic Jihad’s rockets had reached Ashkelon, Ashdod, Rishon Lezion, Holon, Bat Yam and Modiin, in addition to all of the smaller towns and communities in the south.
In response to CAMERA’s follow up, AP commendably amended the text, citing rockets “disrupting life for hundreds of thousands of people.” Its correction, like Reuters, was also stealth, with no appended note alerting readers of the change.
Times of Israel, which had also published the AP story, commendably fixed its copy even before AP did. Its corrected copy accurately refers to rockets “disrupting life for well over a million Israelis.”

Meanwhile, The New York Times further minimized the threat to Israel’s population, erroneously reporting yesterday (“Israeli Airstrikes Hit Gaza For 2nd Day; Militants Respond With Rockets“): “One airstrike on Friday killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza, and prompted the group to return fire with several rocket and mortar barrages that sent thousands of Israelis into bomb shelters overnight Friday.” (Emphasis added.)

By Friday night, the residents of Bat Yam, Holon, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Rishon Lezion, and Sderot, plus all of the small communities in the Gaza envelope area, had already visited their bomb shelters.

{Written by Tamar Sternthal and reposted from the CAMERA site}

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CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, is the foremost media-monitoring, research and membership organization promoting accurate, balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East. CAMERA holds the media accountable with proven effect, and is responsible for thousands of published corrections and countless other improvements. Its analyses can be read online at camera.org, on Facebook at CAMERAorg, and on Twitter at @CAMERAorg.