The Times of Israel is an online newspaper published in English, Arabic, French, Chinese, and Persian which covers "developments in Israel, the Middle East and around the Jewish world", according to the site's nameplate.
The Times of Israel was launched in February 2012. Its founder and editor is David Horovitz, formerly of The Jerusalem Post and The Jerusalem Report, a veteran journalist who had covered the Middle East and the Arab–Israeli peace process for thirty years.
Several Times editors had previously worked for Haaretz. Haaretz English edition editors Joshua Davidovich, Raphael Ahren, and Yoel Goldman joined The Times as news editors, and Haaretz Arab affairs correspondent Avi Isaacharoff joined as Middle East analyst.
The Times of Israel launched its Arabic edition, edited by Suha Halifa, on 4 February 2014, its French edition, edited by Stephanie Bitan, on 25 February 2014, and its Chinese edition, edited by Jingjing Li, on 28 May 2014.
Both the Arabic and French editions combine translations of English content with original material in their respective languages, and also host a blog platform. In announcing the Arabic edition, Horowitz suggested, The Times may have created the first Arabic blog platform that "draw[s] articles from across the spectrum of opinion. We're inviting those of our Arabic readers with something of value that they want to say to blog on our pages, respecting the parameters of legitimate debate, joining our marketplace of ideas." In order "to avoid the kind of anonymous comments that can reduce discussion to toxic lows", comments on news articles and features in all of the newspaper's editions can only be posted by readers identified through their Facebook profiles or equivalent.
In February 2014, two years after its launch, the newspaper claimed a readership of two million.
We are independent; we're not attached or affiliated with any political party. [The Times of Israel is] an independent, fair-minded journalistic venture, and I think it's incredibly important to give people a sense of the options that Israel faces and create an informed and constructive debate.
In addition to the online newspaper, The Times of Israel hosts an open blog platform for any writer who applies and is approved to become a blogger on the site. The Times generally does not edit blog posts submitted by approved writers, and accordingly, it takes no responsibility for such blogs, which are not necessarily in line with the newspaper's editorial stance.
On 1 August 2014, a blogger posted a piece entitled, "When Genocide Is Permissible" in which he argued that the war between Israel and Gaza was being misunderstood and misrepresented by the global media. He put the nub of his argument, as it related to the headline, this way: "Hamas has stated forthrightly that it idealizes death as much as Israel celebrates life. What other way is there to deal with an enemy of this nature other than obliterate them completely?" Within minutes, The Times reacted by removing the post and discontinuing the writer's blog, saying the post had breached the website's editorial guidelines and that the newspaper "will not countenance blog posts that incite to violence or criminal acts." The writer soon issued a public apology.
On 8 March 2015, an article was posted on The Times of Israel titled "America Desperately Needs a Hate Speech Law", arguing at great length that the United States needed to outlaw "hate speech" in accordance with "international human rights law". The article was posted by an unknown individual using the bogus name "Dinah Silverstein" and a picture of columnist Nancy Goldstein. The article was deleted and the blogger banned, but the incident led to The Times of Israel being criticized for not verifying the identities of its bloggers.
On 9 April 2015, an article titled "Understanding the Idea of Israeli Land Under Talmudic Law" was posted on The Times of Israel's blog platform. The article described in great detail how Israel should "exterminate" the Palestinians, who were described as "cockroaches" and "vermin". The article was submitted by a person who had impersonated Australian lawyer Josh Bornstein. The article sparked outrage across social media and, since it was posted under Bornstein's name, it led to him receiving a large amount of abuse and death threats, with at least one of them coming from an individual appearing to be associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) militant group. The Times of Israel later scrubbed the article and issued an apology. Bornstein would later write an article in The Guardian describing the affair. It later emerged that the hoax article was written by Jewish-American alleged troll Joshua Ryne Goldberg, and that the "ISIS threats" were also perpetrated by Goldberg's Australi Witness jihadist online persona.