Caught in the Middle – A Matter of Principle

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We started Israel Blogger for a simple reason – we wanted to create a space that was, in the truest sense of the word – censorship free. We wanted (and got) bloggers from all over the world. Literally, we have people in the US, people in Israel, we even have someone in Australia! We are getting tens of thousands of hits and adding new bloggers, new voices, on a regular basis. One of the reasons why I felt so strongly about launching Israel Blogger was because I have had my work censored in one way or another for most of my writing career. After being censored by the Times of Israel several times (posts not published, delayed, and finally forced to be edited), I decided to channel my anger into a response. Rather than let them win by silencing me, I actually rejoiced on the day they disabled my account and handed me a list of conditions which would allow the account to be reinstated. On that day, the seeds of Israel Blogger were truly born. It was and is and always will be, their loss.

The world isn’t always pretty, but a writer needs to write and so I and many other bloggers collect a list of sites to match the various types of articles we may write. That is a measure of hypocrisy and censorship, something Israel Blogger was dedicated to avoiding. In less than a year, the site has proven itself again and again. Here on Israel Blogger, I am free and so are the other bloggers. It’s worked well. Except…

Today, an author published an article sharing her story. It started out as her personal reason for something she did recently. Beyond that, was another story that has been unfolding for quite some time now. She used her rights to blog here to tell her half of the story. The other half of the story is printed elsewhere. Beyond the blogger, there are two men. One is a well-known journalist who writes for a well-known media site/paper who says he was “libeled” (in quotes because I’m not a lawyer and this is his claim). He works with The Gatestone Institute, which issued this statement in support of the journalist and another blogger wrote two articles in his defense.

The second man is less well known to me (and to others). He has a political agenda, an idea, and believes Israel should help him achieve his goal. Both sides are claiming libel; both sides threatening to (or have already consulted with) lawyers. And somehow, little Israel Blogger got caught in the middle, as did I.

Libel will be proven in a court of law, apparently. The well-respected journalist, who I will not name, is threatening…no, threatening is perhaps not the right word. I have been told that he has taken action against the politician (or would-be-politician). This second person, the “politician” has been accused of making fake Facebook accounts, attempting to befriend others. I have received several of these “fake” invitations myself and, indeed, each time, something inside of me has prevented me from accepting the friendship request. I was asked to help promote something on this man’s behalf. Needless to say, having learned a bit about the conflict between these two men, I decided not to get involved.

To balance the article that our blogger posted, I offered to reprint two articles that detailed the conflict from the journalist’s point of view (again, half the story). I was given permission, which was then rescinded and was essentially told that once they saw what I wrote here, I might get permission again. Never mind, I said. I don’t want to get involved. I didn’t before. I don’t now. So I agreed to post a link to those articles. You can read more here:

Mudar Zahran the Confidence Man 

Mudar Zahran and the Right Wing Jewish Conspiracy  

Notice by Gatestone Institute

The Downfall of “Jordanian Option”

Apparently, that wasn’t good enough. Despite explaining about Israel Blogger. and about how I abhor censorship, I was essentially threatened. I was told that one of the other news platforms that ran the man’s story (against the journalist) has already offered to pay him 25,000 NIS as a settlement. I was told that Gatestone Institute is paying for the journalist’s legal fees. I have also been told that I should apologize for any inaccuracies that may appear in this post…and, in fact, I do. My goal has always been to write the truth – a task made easier when people are open and willing to speak to you.

There is a concept in Israel that I have always hated. The first time I heard it, I thought the person was joking. A policeman once quote this principle and I laughed at him. “Don’t be right, be smart,” he told me. Seriously? Can you imagine a policeman saying that someone should care more about being smart than doing what is right? Then again, can you imagine a journalist threatening a platform for publishing someone’s views? It’s a strange world. But that’s what happened. I was told the journalist would be “glad” to take more than 25,000 NIS from me and that I had two hours to remove his name from the site.

I have not published his name and I after thinking about my life in the coming months (two business trips, a conference to coordinate, a son in the army, a daughter concentrating on her last year of high school, five grandchildren, a husband that I’m trying to spend more time with, a new painting hobby, full time job…I decided it wasn’t worth it), so I decided to be “smart” and accept the threat. After speaking to the author, I removed the second part of her article found here. I will surrender to the abhorrent. I will be smart. It could well be that the journalist is right. The other man is threatening to sue the journalist for libel as well and I’m sure the courts are going to love this whole mess. Me? I have lost all respect for this esteemed and noted journalist. Perhaps he does care about freedom of the press and freedom of speech, but apparently it would appear that is primarily when that relates to HIS freedom and HIS speech.

After the threats made this morning, I can tell you only about what I feel. I condemn libel and would not like to see this platform used to deliver it. I condemn slander and likewise would like to see this be avoided.  But I also condemn censorship. I have no proof that there was any libel in the original article, no proof that slander was ever intended. What I do know is that censorship has been forced onto a platform that I have come to honor, to respect, to love. When a policeman tells someone to be smart rather than right, I condemn that. When a journalist uses force to remove words, that is censorship.

Israel Blogger will go on and become even stronger. We will continue to fight censorship. The removal of sections of the original article was done with the knowledge and full cooperation of the author. I expect little of lawyers other than to play their game of legalese. I expected more from a noted journalist, someone who dances close enough to a world that practices censorship while living and prospering in a country that is, for the most part, infinitely superior to those which surround her.

There is shame today and a bit of anger as well, I will admit. But at the end of the day, for perhaps the first time in my 24 years in Israel, I chose smart over right. When the policeman told me to be smart, not right, I refused. I went with right and proved that there was nothing they could do. I walked away and celebrated honor. Today, I yield. I was smart. I removed, without any proof, without a court order. And the shame of that, the censorship of that…goes on this man and those who suggest he is the one in the right. Until today, he had my respect. Today, he has my “smart”. His loss.

And perhaps the greatest loss of all is that both of these men misunderstand my position. One things (the politician), that I support him – I don’t. If anything, I fear that what he is trying to do will cause more trouble and pain for my country. The second – perhaps he thinks that in having me remove a section of the article, I have handed him a victory. I didn’t. What I have done is stepped out of a bad situation in which neither side is likely to win. What I did in making this stand was simply to try to remind myself…and them…and each of you…that we all have a right to speak. If we speak lies, words should be used to show the truth. That is what I had expected of this journalist. When you censor the liar, you simply make him go underground. The lies remain unchallenged.

The journalist has a choice – he can fight this in a judicial court or he can fight it in the court of public opinion. Doesn’t have to be on Israel Blogger…but the greatest of lies can triumph when the simplest of truths remain untold. What the journalist should have done this morning was to tell his story (or have his lawyer’s tell it). Censoring, demanding that things written be “unwritten” simply strengthens the side who is talking. Already the article that appeared here has been posted to another site. I would have countered the article with the journalist’s position because I believed from the start that the post represented just half the story.

Two quotes – both very true.”When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie (Yevgeny Yevtushenko)” and “When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.” (George R.R. Martin).

That. Exactly. That.

 

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4 Comments

  1. I clicked through when I saw that you posted this, because I know how important this issue is to you, as well as Israel Blogger. But I have to tell you that this article doesn’t explain the situation clearly to someone reading it from the outside. In the attempt to leave out any specific names, the pronouns are muddled and I am left with no understand of who did what to whom or what it is you are yielding to. It comes across as emotion, but not a clear narrative. I say this to help, not hurt you, but the reader who hasn’t been following what is clear drama isn’t able to glean the decision making here that has you upset. Perhaps you can review it with an attempt to read like an outsider.

    1. Rachel Avraham

      If you read the censored parts of the article on the Israel Pundit website, it is clear whom she is referring to. The link is attached. Also, the links to Gatestone and Elders of Zion indicate it as well but I agree you have to open up the links to see it. I suggest you read my piece on IsraPundit as the other side lacks all credibility the second they start attacking journalists and news websites. https://www.israpundit.org/why-i-agreed-to-speak-at-the-jordan-option-conference/

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