Commentator Robert Cohen grapples with the unintended fallout of publishing his views about what goes on in this tiny, yet troubled, corner of the globe.
He’s especially bothered by the unwelcome, hateful, and sometimes downright scary reader comments that seem to track even the most rational of discussions: “[I]t doesn’t take long for political discourse, online and on the street, to degenerate into tribal confrontations“, Cohen has discovered. And his solution, perhaps inevitable, may surprise you. You can go straight to his full comments HERE.
This is very much a follow-up to my last post a few days ago, highlighting Cohen’s interview with Israeli activist Jeff Halper published on the Patheos web-site. There, indeed, some truly outrageous reader comments showed up (along with Cohen’s forceful dismissal of them). One reader of my page was concerned enough that he wrote in with a query about my own leanings; you can read our exchange in the comments section here.
Robert Cohen is a UK-based progressive Jewish blogger. Many of his earlier writings, always though-provoking, are to be found on his own web-site, Micah’s Paradigm Shift. He says of himself:
I’m a Jewish, religiously liberal, politically dissident (on Israel at any rate) supporter of Palestinian rights. I come at the issue from a Jewish diaspora perspective that sees not only an on-going physical and political threat to the Palestinians but a spiritual and cultural threat to Judaism and the Jewish people both today and into the future.
Now, in his latest offering (again on Patheos), Cohen’s focus is on the perils of blogging, and the troubling responses –from all sides!– which his articles have sometimes triggered. He says, in part:
I’ve toughened up since my early blogging days and now understand the online neighbourhood in which I’ve chosen to take up residence.
If you talk about Israel/Palestine, you soon discover there are very few people engaged in the subject who are politically nuanced or emotionally detached. The issue does not attract neutral observers. Get into this game kiddo, and you need a firm opinion pretty quick. Ambivalence and uncertainty are unwelcome guests in the Holy Land. […]
To concerned Jews I would say: don’t let the presence of anti-Semitism (in its major or minor varieties) blind you from seeing the big picture of Palestinian rights which should be addressed as a totally separate issue. Challenge the racism when you see it but recognise there is an urgent and legitimate debate about Israel that should not be stifled by our ‘official leaders’ or by attempts to reduce it to a new strain of anti-Semitism. And, how ever uncomfortable it may feel to you, recognise that Zionism, perhaps noble in its original intentions, has in practice played out in racist ways. So the boot is not always on someone else’s foot.
To the Pro-Palestinian movement, I would say this: the presence, or even perception, of anti-Semitism is the biggest threat to building a global movement of Palestinian solidarity. A very vocal and visible zero tolerance is essential. That means better guidance from organisers on how to demonstrate on the street and a sensitivity to language in every context, especially online. Also, be careful about the company you keep.
Returning to my own online existence, I’m a supporter of free speech, but not when in becomes incitement to hatred and violence or perpetuates racism of any kind.
So from now on I will be banning all Arab haters, islamophobes, genocide mongers, Holocaust deniers, as well as besmirchers of Kafka’s literary reputation, from my Patheos pages. I’ve had enough of the racist cuckoos attempting to lay their eggs in my online nest.
The above is just a sampler. The entire post is well worth a read.
Purely as an aside, I have sometimes wondered how many scary, fringe-type people might be Google-ing “blow up dome of the rock” (or something similar)– and wind up reading my 2011 post, here: https://israelpalestineguide.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/the-man-who-wanted-to-blow-up-the-dome-of-the-rock/ !