NYT correction: Actually, Palestinians paying terrorists' families isn't a far-right conspiracy theory

Israel’s consul general in New York calls it the correction of the year. Still eight months to go but it’s hard to imagine it’ll be topped.

Honestly, this is worse than Vox’s infamous “Gaza bridge” thought-fart.

It seems, after diligent investigation and rigorous fact-checking, the paper of record has concluded that terrorists and their families receiving stipends from the Palestinian government is not in fact an invention of Infowars.

Correction: April 23, 2018
An earlier version of this article erroneously included a reference to Palestinian actions as an example of the sort of far-right conspiracy stories that have plagued Facebook. In fact, Palestinian officials have acknowledged providing payments to the families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks on Israelis or convicted of terrorist acts and imprisoned in Israel; that is not a conspiracy theory.

The craziest thing about that is that not only is the “Martyrs’ Fund” not new, it’s actually been in the news recently right here in the U.S. Exactly one month ago Congress passed “The Taylor Force Act” in honor of an American veteran murdered in a spree stabbing in Jaffa by a Palestinian. The bill cuts off certain types of U.S. aid for the Palestinian Authority so long as the PA continues to provide stipends to Palestinian prisoners and the families of terrorists. Six weeks ago, in an address to AIPAC, Bibi Netanyahu claimed that the Palestinian government pays “about $350 million a year to terrorists and their families.” The same day, a Knesset committee chairman noted that the PA was increasing its “martyr” budget by $56 million. That is to say, this subject isn’t obscure. If you wanted to find out if the PA subsidizes terrorism — “pay to slay,” as it’s called — all you had to do was google.

But WaPo fact-checker Glenn Kessler did decide to fact-check it after Netanyahu’s AIPAC speech. Verdict: It may not be the case that literally every prisoner and next of kin who gets paid out of the Martyrs’ Fund is a jihadi, but a whole lot of them are.

Yet at the same time, Palestinians acknowledge making payments to the families of suicide bombers and people convicted of heinous attacks. Hakim Awad — the then-18-year-old militant mentioned by Netanyahu who murdered five family members in a West Bank settlement — receives about $14,000 a year. But because payments increase with the length of incarceration, Awad would be paid more than $1.9 million if he lived to 80, the male life expectancy in Israel…

[E]ven if one accepts Palestinian complaints about due process, there is little doubt that the system allows people to be rewarded for what many Americans would call terrorism; Human Rights Watch labeled the suicide bombings as “war crimes.” Israeli government officials point to interrogations that they say show the payments are considered an inducement. “The important thing is that I will die and they will kill me, so that my children will receive a [PA] allowance and live happily,” one would-be terrorist reportedly said.

A Palestinian sentenced to three to five years in an Israeli prison can expect $580 per month, noted the Jerusalem Post last month, which is equivalent to the average Palestinian income. A worse offender can expect much, much more: “The families of those who committed more severe crimes and were involved in killing Israelis receive five times that each month for the rest of their lives.” They don’t call it “pay to slay” for nothing.

Now you’re wondering “Hasn’t the New York Times reported on Taylor Force or the Martyrs’ Fund”? Surely their own archives would have debunked the “far-right conspiracy theory” idea before publication. The answer is yes, they’ve reported on it — but from what I can tell from searching their site, not often. The last reference to Taylor Force or the Martyrs’ Fund comes in a story published last year about the GOP pressuring Trump to get tough with the PA over payments to terrorists. Passage of the Taylor Force Act this year wasn’t noted at all. Even if the paper has largely blinded itself to “pay to slay,” though, presumably any Times correspondent based in Israel or the Palestinian territories could have confirmed this for the paper before it published the suggestion that it was a conspiracy theory. And of course a cursory fact-check of other sources would have blown the idea out of the water. The Kessler piece I linked above was published a little more than a month ago. It wasn’t hard to find.

What happened here? Did the author — and her editor, *and* the Times fact-checking desk — all just assume that the, ahem, “good guys” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict couldn’t possibly be guilty of something as disgusting as “pay to slay”?