On 2 February, morning commuters across New York City received a free “supplement” to the day’s edition of the New York Times announcing an editorial policy change regarding coverage of Israel and Palestine. Activists from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Jews Say No! (JSN) distributed 10,000 print copies of the parody paper to New Yorkers and some lucky “subscribers” even received the following notice of the policy change via email.
Dear Valued Reader,
The New York Times has decided to make several changes in our editorial policy with regard to coverage of events in Israel-Palestine. These changes are an attempt to address both realities on the ground and the concerns readers have expressed about fairness in our coverage.
We want to hear your thoughts. Explore our new Israel-Palestine supplement and tell us what you think. Write to us at [email protected] or join the conversation on Twitter.
Cleverly highlighting the New York Times’ historic pro-Israel bias, the email included an explanation of the policy change, written by the editorial board. It said that after spending months meeting with leaders of “Palestinian and Jewish peace organizations,” the board had come to the conclusion that past accusations of bias were “well-founded.”
The activists behind the project used statistics from the paper’s actual coverage of recent violence in the occupied territories and Israel as a poignant example of this bias: “It has come to our attention that, during the period of September–October 2015, eighteen headlines depicted Palestinians, while none depicted Israelis, as instigators of violence…. We used the word ‘terrorist’ to describe Palestinians 42 times, but only once to describe an Israeli,” the notice explained.
Titled “Rethinking our 2015 Coverage on Israel-Palestine: A Supplement,” the paper’s print and online readers found the day’s headlines complete with targeted advertisements and a “Corrections” section. As evidenced by their titles, the featured stories covered a range of issues—“IDF Generals Blame Israeli Government for Recent Violence,” “Congress to Debate U.S. Aid to Israel,” and “Mayor De Blasio Confronts Islamophobia Following Trip to Israel” to name a few—and satirically presented facts about the conflict.
According to the news site Salon, activists from the New York chapter of JVP and JSN spent months writing and fact-checking the articles, composing the four-page paper, and building the website. The group’s Twitter account, @nyt_ip, included photos of activists distributing the paper across the city. Although the stunt’s website and Twitter account were shut down by the evening, , the website is archived and it is still possible to view some of the articles at web.archive.org.
As JVP and JSN did not take credit for the stunt until Wednesday, 3 February, social media users shared the paper’s headlines on Facebook and Twitter throughout the launch day, wondering who was behind the project. In addition to social media, countless American news outlets picked up the story.
On 4 February, JVP released a short video on the group’s YouTube page documenting the experience. Candace Graff, a member of the New York chapter, spoke about the issue of media bias: “This isn’t just the New York Times. American media across the country all fail to give context to what’s going on in Palestine and Israel. And the context is this: It’s occupation, it’s siege, it’s discrimination—institutionalized violence by the state [of Israel] against the Palestinian people.”
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