A Jerusalem Court ruled last week that the Israeli airline El Al may no longer ask women to change seats due to the requests of ultra-orthodox men who don’t want to sit next to women. Renee Rabinowitz, an 81-year-old Holocaust survivor, was asked by a flight attendant, after she had boarded an El Al flight in 2015, to move to another seat at the request of a haredi man sitting next to her. She agreed, but subsequently sued the airline over the incident. The court ruled that asking a women to move seats due to her gender amounts to illegal sex discrimination.
We highlighted the word “ask” for a reason.
As multiple reports made clear, Ms. Rabinowitz was not forced to move seats. She was asked. The court still ruled that it’s illegal for a flight attendant to just ask a woman to move – solely because of her gender – at a man’s request, but the plaintiff wasn’t claiming that the Israeli airline forced her to move seats at the behest of the ultra-Orthodox passenger.
Nonetheless, Times of London’s report on the court’s ruling botched this crucial detail. Here’s the original headline of a story written by Gregg Carlstrom:
An 83-year old woman has won a case against Israel’s national airline after it forced her to move at the start of a flight because an ultra-Orthodox man did not want to sit next to a woman.
We tweeted Carlstrom and lodged an official complaint with editors, arguing that the words “make” and “forced” (in the headline and article respectively) were inaccurate, and thus in violation of the Editors’ Code. The following day, we received word that the headline had been changed. Here’s the new (rather cheeky) headline.
The opening sentence also removed the word “forced”. However, the new word “pressured” is only a small improvement, and still is inconsistent with the facts.
The Guardian also reported on the case, and, like Times of London, erroneously claimed in their headline that the airline “made” women change their seat. We complained to Guardian editors on Thursday, but haven’t yet received a reply.