Tiny island of sanity

There is only one major news site that both pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians read

August 4, 2014
August 4, 2014

This post has been corrected.

One reason the views on the latest Israel-Hamas conflict are so polarized is that people on each side of the opinion divide get their news from different places. Few things illustrate this as well as the map above, compiled by Gilad Lotan, the chief data scientist at Betaworks, a New York startup incubator.

The map depicts Twitter accounts that tweeted about the Israeli shelling of a UN school in Beit Hanoun on July 24th. Palestinian sources said it killed some 15 people; Israel said it was a response to anti-tank fire from the school and that only one mortar landed in the schoolyard, which was empty at the time. Whatever the facts, it was one of several events that set off a firestorm of media coverage and tweets.

The Twitter accounts are arranged according to how many connections they share; the closer two accounts are, the more accounts they both follow. The bigger the circle, the more followers that account has. What emerges from this is distinct groupings: “pro-Palestinian” in green on the right; “pro-Israel” in blue on the left. Lotan has colored most of the international journalists and media outlets in gray; they clearly have more followers among the pro-Palestinian side. The dark blue group in the upper left are American conservatives and Tea-Party types, while the lighter blue are Israeli media outlets and blogs, and American Zionist figures.

The standout here is Ha’aretz, the left-wing Israeli newspaper. While closer to the pro-Israel side, it clearly has a lot of pro-Palestinian followers. It’s fair to say that readers of Ha’aretz’s English edition include the only groups of people from the two sides who are reading the same news.

Unfortunately, Ha’aretz is struggling, squeezed both by the general decline of print newspapers and the growing rightward tilt of Israeli opinion. In 2012 the paper and its business supplement, the Marker, laid off some 100 people. Though its columnists include a range of voices from the hard left to the moderate right, the leftist views are becoming increasingly unpopular, especially at times of war. Last month an article by Gideon Levy, the paper’s most left-wing columnist, excoriated the Israeli fighter pilots who fly bombing runs over Gaza as a “death squadron.” Hundreds of Israelis reportedly called in (link in Hebrew) to cancel their subscriptions.

Correction: An earlier version of this post mistakenly said that Ha’aretz had laid off 100 people last year (2013) instead of in 2012.

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