Economist accepts false Palestinian claim at face value

An Aug. 26 article in the print and online editions of the Economist (“The challenge of making Palestinian wine”) represents another example of how journalists often fail to fact check claims by Palestinians on the impact Israel’s occupation of the disputed territories.

The piece focuses on a small winery in Bethlehem called Philokalia that’s owned by Sari Khoury, a Palestinian who, in 2014, readers are told, gave up his job as a Paris architect “to return home to requite his passion for wine”. He now fills 10,000 bottles a year, made only from “indigenous grapes”.

The requisite anti-Israel hook begins in the fourth paragraph:

The business of wine-making is testing enough at the best of times. The headaches of production under military occupation are even more painful.

Mr Khoury is short of labourers because Palestinians can earn five times as much across the wall in Israel. And it is virtually impossible to get a permit from the Israeli authorities to expand his type of business physically. “I can’t even build a shed for my tools,” he explains. “I have to bring them with me in the car every time.”

However, Bethlehem is in Area A of the West Bank, which means that the Palestinian Authority has completely administrative and military control of the area where Khoury’s winery is located – a fact the Economist has acknowledged in previous reports.  So, Israeli permits to expand his business in the city are not needed.

What’s espcially puzzling about this error is that the three Economist correspondents covering Israel and the territories (Gregg Carlstrom, Nicolas Pelham and Anshel Pfeffer) have decades of experience in the region.  So, while normally we’d ask how such a basic error got past the outlet’s Middle East editor, it’s baffling how any one of the three journalists (The Economist has a policy of not identifying the writer of their articles) accepted Khoury’s claim at face value in the first place.

We’ve complained to the Economist asking for a correction.

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