Study reveals disturbing truth about the New York Times’ coverage of the Gaza war

Out of a total of 1,398 headlines since October 7, 647 expressed sympathy towards Palestinians, and only 147 expressed sympathy towards Israelis


The New York Times office

For the vast majority of Israelis, the foreign coverage of the war against Hamas is a huge slap in the face. How is it possible that in a war instigated by an incredibly barbaric massacre, the most criticised party has become Israel itself?

The question is usually very emotional, but the answer lies in the cold numbers – the sheer quantity of posts that give a skewed picture of the war – and as many Jewish people will know, we’re not just talking about bots and social media conspiracy theorists. Bias against Israel is very much present in mainstream Western media outlets.

A recent study collected and analysed all the main headlines in the New York Times relating to the war in its first seven months. A troubling picture emerged.

Out of a total of 1,398 headlines, 647 expressed sympathy towards Palestinians, and only 147 expressed sympathy towards Israelis, including the hostages.

Even more troubling was that out of the 647 headlines that expressed sympathy towards Palestinians, only two adopted a critical tone towards Hamas. Thirty three expressed criticism of both Israel and Hamas, and a whopping 479 expressed criticism exclusively of Israel (the rest were not critical of anyone).

This skewed reporting was particularly concerning when it appeared in the “Top News” section, which gives maximum exposure to the three articles considered the most important of the day.

Out of 276 Top News headlines posted in the first seven months of the war, 55 per cent showed sympathy towards Palestinians, and only 5.8 per cent to Israelis. In addition, 60 per cent of the 276 top headlines criticised Israel, while only 3 per cent criticised Hamas, and 5 per cent criticised Iran. Does that sound logical?

The sympathy towards Israelis, including the brutally kidnapped hostages, lasted for about one week following October 7. While the charred remains of the massacre victims were still being counted and identified, the coverage in the New York Times was more or less balanced between criticism of Israel and criticism of Hamas. After that first week, the gap started to grow, as the newsroom lost interest in news criticising Hamas or empathising with Israelis. The truly important topic became the state of the Palestinians, which was covered obsessively from every possible angle, as well as the relentless criticism of Israel.

It is completely legitimate to criticise Israel, especially for its extremist government. There is also nothing wrong with empathising with Palestinians. The question is why Israel is so excessively blamed for all Palestinian misery, while their terrorist leaders literally get away with murder.

Over time, the focus on Palestinian suffering and Israeli wrongs creates a clear impression in itself. It implies that Israelis are not really threatened, frightened or endangered by the terror proxies of Iran. It implies Palestinians should be the only cause of worry, and that their elected leaders are not responsible for their situation at all. This is not necessarily expressed in a single article, but clearly expressed by the overall coverage.

When it comes to specific topics, the things become even less logical. The major headlines in the Times dedicated only 20 headlines to the fighting in the north, the displaced Israelis and the aggression of Hezbollah. That counts for about 1.5 per cent of the war coverage and does not in any way portray the true proportions of the actual war, since the bombardment of the Israeli north surpassed that of the south long ago.

Another good example is the coverage of the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Out of 172 Times headlines that covered it in the first seven months, not even one focused on Hamas thugs raiding the aid trucks or preventing the goods from reaching civilians.

An accumulation of such stories, over time, presents a false picture. They explain the inexplicable wave of hatred towards Israel while it is being attacked by terror organisations orchestrated by Iran and backed by Qatar.

Proportions matter. They deliver a clear message about how the newsroom interprets a major, ongoing news event. The Times’ coverage cannot be explained through simple, professional arguments. According to its own emphases, the fighting in the north was marginal and the unprecedented Iranian attack was a significantly less important issue than the aid to Gaza. Meanwhile, the rape on October 7 was not something to dwell on, nor were the civilians who have been imprisoning Israeli hostages in their homes for Hamas.

In response to the study, a Times spokesperson said that “It’s moments like this when our independent reporting matters most. The New York Times has invested more than any other U.S. newspaper to help readers understand the complexities of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict over the past decade and we have some of the world’s most experienced reporters, photographers and analysts on the ground to ensure our reporting of the October 7 terrorist attack in Israel and the ongoing Israel-Gaza war is nuanced, steeped in context and expertise”.

The writer is an Israeli author and journalist, and Professor Eytan Gilboa’s co-researcher in a Bar Ilan study about the coverage of Israel in the New York Times

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