|An Open Letter to my Blog
I have been disturbed by the recent exchanges of personal attacks inthe comments section of my blog. I realize that the subject-matter, and my views, are controversial, and attract strong responses for and against. I have tried to be broadly receptive to this broad range of opinions, and have excluded only those that have no substantive serious content. From my perspective some of these views are quite extreme, and as such provocative and deeply objectionable to those who see things differently. This tension among readers of the posts, not surprisingly, is mainly in relation to the Israel/Palestine conflict, and relates to both my views and to those of some of those who take the trouble to submit comments.
I had the hope that the comment section could serve as a dialogic channel for the exchange of views, but I increasingly realize that this was an unrealistic wish. In my long academic experience I have found that dialogue is only mutually beneficial if there is a minimum of shared underlying understanding. If such an understanding is absent, the discussion quickly deteriorates, and becomes an exchange of angry views, and accusatory claims directed at the opinions of those who views are rejected. To be more concrete references to ‘Jew-hater’ and the like, or merging criticisms of the Zionist project with Judaism as religion or Jews as a people, create an atmosphere of discussion that I find unacceptable.
In the interests of full disclosure, I acknowledge that I am deeply critical of many aspects of Israeli behavior, especially in relation to the Palestinians, and strongly supportive of lawful Palestinian resistance to a prolonged occupation (that, incidentally, has become an increasingly transparent cover for annexation and apartheid) and to the overall Palestinian struggle to realize their inalienable right of self-determination, as well as other rights under international law, including those pertaining to Palestinian refugees.
My main motivation to write posts for this blog, a considerable investment of time and energy, is to have a self-monitored outlet for my views on a wide range of issues having long ago realized that the mainstream media in the West would generally not publish what I have to say. This conclusion was not fanciful, but is substantiated by a pile of rejection slips and equally frustrating experiences of having submissions accepted on condition that I soften my views if I was to be permitted to pass through various gates of informal censorship maintained, with great arrogance, by the NY Times and other august media establishments.
Some comments are critical of posts in view of my position as Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine for the UN Human Rights Council, and my failure to repudiate certain comments due to this affiliation. It should be understood that my UN appointment is an unpaid position that has certain guidelines in terms of the conduct of the mandate to which I adhere. I have done my best to fulfill my fundamental duty to the UN by doing my being truthful, accurate, and comprehensive in reporting on Israeli violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. I do not claim a UN credential in composing this personal blog, and consider it to be an exercise of my rights of free expression as a citizen of a constitutional democracy. At the same time, the implications that I am anti-Semitic or a covert self-hating Jew are deeply offensive, and seem to me consistent with many other efforts to confuse the domain of criticisms of Israel and Zionism with various forms of hate speech and racist emotions so as to insulate Israel and Zionism from various lines of criticism. It is also the case that certain pro-Israeli NGOs have consistently harassed me by issuing a variety of defamatory allegations, including pulling excerpts from the blog out of context and elaborating on their meaning in an inflammatory manner.
On this basis, I have decided to become much stricter about approving comments dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict. There are many influential outlets for those with strong pro-Israeli, pro-Zionist viewpoints, and my modest blog is not needed to get such positions into the public domain. Consider the positions on the Israel/Palestine conflict adopted by the two main political parties in the United States to get a sense of the extent to which extremist pro-Israeli sentiments dominate the dissemination of views about the conflict.
Of course, there are other spheres of sharp controversy that overlap with my posts, for instance, the assessment of Turkish governance and foreign policy in recent years. Here, too, there are ultra-critical voices of current AKP governance that I find too ‘extreme’ and so far from my perceptions as to produce, at best, merely recurrent arguments, that is, various recycling of respective viewpoints, and not an engagement with substance within a framework of shared fundamental perceptions and presuppositions. In effect, one litmus test of a polarized society is that the abyss separating the essential worldviews are not reconcilable, and discussion excites emotions but it does not foster deeper understanding of the policy conflicts, but rather at best clarify the factual and normative foundation of the respective contradictory interpretation of current patterns of Turkish governance. I do not deny that many people enjoys such debates, but I am not one, and do not intend to allow this blog to become such a vehicle for polarized debate. I will, however, continue to publish comments that responsibly express even extreme viewpoints if they do not engage in personal polemics.
I hope that those with substantive interests will continue to submit comments, including harsh criticisms directed at my interpretations and analyses. I am interested in the connections between knowledge and policy, but not in argument or debate with those whose standpoint is radically different than from own, especially on the Israel/Palestine conflict. In relation to this conflict, I am deeply interested in an exchange of views with those that share my basic suppositions, and even within this constrained framework of inquiry, there are sharp disagreements, for instance, as between various one-state and two-state solutions, and their nature. My blog ethos can be summed up: Let many flowers bloom, but recognize that on this particular soil certain flowers will not flourish.