Trump’s Middle East plan: Decoding a century of failed deals

Country/area: Qatar

Organisation: Al Jazeera

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 18 Feb 2020

Credit: Mohammed Haddad

Project description:

One of the biggest stories in the Middle East of 2020, Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan was supposed to solve the decades long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Just a few days after Trump’s announcement, Al Jazeera produced “The failed deals of the century” – a comprehensive text-based data visualisation that analyses all 181 pages of Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan to find out how his ‘deal of the century’ compares with the last 100 years of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Impact reached:

This in-depth data visualisation provides Al Jazeera’s global audience with a complete visual interpretation of the notable documents that have featured in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We accomplished this by condensing over 100 years of historical agreements into a single, searchable experience. This strategy proved effective, bringing over 100,000 visitors in English and 50,000 visitors in Arabic to one of the most politically complex stories in the region – and in the world. The story qualitatively changed viewers’ ability to navigate and understand difficult issues, providing them with historical references, analytic tools and bases for comparison that have largely been absent in traditional news coverage of this story. 

Techniques/technologies used:

The text analysis was performed in R using topic extraction and sentiment analysis. Particular attention was spent on highlighting the contextual meaning of key topics including “occupation”, “refugees”, “settlements” and “Jerusalem”. 

The interactive experience was built in React to allow readers to quickly sort and discover keywords and main concepts.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The most difficult part of this story was writing, producing and developing English and Arabic versions of a complex, detailed narrative – and doing so within two weeks of Trump’s announcement by one person. 

What can others learn from this project?

Data can take many forms. This story demonstrates how important language, in the form of text, can be in shaping political discourse.

The result is a series of graphics that reveal how the use of key topics has changed over the past century.

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