Date: 26 July 2014
Author: Alphan Kırayoğlu
Client: Self-published

History of Israel-Palestine Through the Lens of NYT Chronicle

Chronicle was created by Alexis Lloyd at the nytlabs to graph the usage of words in the New York Times’ reporting over time. As Alexis pointed out (here), Chronicle demonstrates political shifts and historical events through the language used by New York Times journalists and editors to describe the world around us. I wanted to look at the Israel-Palestine conflict through the lens of Chronicle.

The purpose of this exercise was not to prove or disprove any bias in the reporting of the New York Times (however there is no denying the role language plays in shaping public opinion) but to see how the language used to describe the conflict has evolved over time. I also would like to emphasize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a very complex issue, and I am not trying to draw conclusions on who is right or wrong in the conflict in four simple graphs.

We can see that following the declaration of the State of Israel, there is a significant increase in the share of articles containing ‘Israel’. The preferred name of the region has changed from Palestine (Mandate of Palestine) to the name of the newly established state. We should note that in recent decades it makes sense to see 'Israel' used more frequently due to factors such as the Israel-US partnership in business and trade; however, it is interesting to see the swift switch immediately following 1948.

Following the Oslo Peace Accord, Gaza and West Bank were used more frequently than Palestine, furthering the renaming of the land into its partitions: Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

Moreover, we can also see that ‘Palestinian Authority’ is mentioned less frequently than Gaza and the West Bank. Instead of the name of the self-government body, names of the regions where events such as the Second Intifada or the Operation Pillar Edge are taking place are used instead. This reflects the increasingly disjointed control of the Palestinian territories, Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Finally, we compare the name of the state to the name of its people. We see that when referring to ‘Israel’ the preferred choice is the name of the state. The state represents its people. However, when we look at ‘Palestine’, the preferred word refers to the people rather than the state.

Data for the project is here and the code is on github.