A Message of Partial Concession
After the past week of comments on the blog I am a loss as to how to be a constructive filter. Constructive in the core sense of disallowing insult and injury clearly meant to discredit adversaries in debate. What I have found is that there is a tendency by both Israel’s defenders and critics to have such a deeply rooted distaste for each other as to make it almost impossible to disentangle substance from ad hominem invective.
Of course, as should be obvious I do not regard the critics and the apologists as equally justified in giving vent to their frustrations. There is a reality to be reckoned with, and for me that reality must begin with an acknowledgement of the intrinsic inequities of the oppresser/oppressed structure as a precondition for any valid discussion of the Israel/Palestine struggle. The master who whips and lynches should never be equated with the slave who resists abuse by whatever means are at his or her disposal. Such a relationship is wrongly conceived as a ‘conflict,’ which implies some sort of equality of status. For the Palestinians the issue is increasingly best understood as a choice between resistance and surrender, while for the Israelis the issue increasingly presents a choice between weaponry and tactics to suppress and respond with the earlier claim of a choice between peace and war being superseded long ago.
I recognize that there is a difference of opinion among blog regulars as to whether it is preferable to have open unrestricted debate however uncivil as against seeking through monitoring comments a more sanitized dialogue that confronts issues, not the persons who take those positions. As I have often pointed out I welcome good faith disagreement, and find that I learn more from those who express their differences in well-reasoned and principled prose than from those who are in agreement.
These consideration lead to modify the position adopted in my ‘Note on Blog Etiquette’ that has itself generated a flurry of responses. Instead of seeking to exclude all comments that contain insults and innuendo, I will limit my filtering effort to those comments that combine an angry tone with a focus on the personal. I will allow incidental invective to pass through my filter. This is my compromise, and I will see how it works.
Perhaps, better than a filter is an appeal to those who value the blog conversations that I aspire to nurture that civility is almost always more edifying than vilifying exchanges that inevitably degenerate into dialogues of the deaf.
Part of the issue here, I believe, is similar to the problems I encountered while serving the UN as Special Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine. Those that sought to defame and discredit were completely disinterested in the substance of the issues being discussed in the official reports, and participated only to rally support for my dismissal, and beyond this, for the end of any role on the part of the UN Human Rights Council in monitoring and appraising the Palestinian ordeal by reference to international law and human rights standards. In the blog context, those inveterate detractors are seeking to defame and discredit me, but beyond this, to darken the reputation of the blog and of those that support my posts.
I am sure that many followers of this blog find these reflections on blog etiquette tedious, even superfluous. To some extent I do myself. I feel, however, that social media in the digital age engenders new forms of social responsibility, and my attempt here is both to act responsibly and to make beneficial use of this platform for the expression and exchange of ideas. Nothing less, nothing more.