Losing Control: A Blogger’s Nightmare

6 Jan


            When I started this blog a couple of years ago, the thought never entered my mind that I would need to defend the terrain. Although I knew my views were controversial on some issues, I assumed that those who disagreed strongly would stay away, losing interest, or express their disagreements in a spirit of civility. To a large extent this has been true, with the glaring exception of Israel/Palestine. Here my problems are two-fold: (1) very nasty personal attacks that challenge the integrity, balance, judgment, and overall demeanor of myself and those that agree with me; (2) very insistent and determined requests to engage my views from highly divergent standpoints, so divergent that I can find no useful meeting ground or value in such exchanges. By and large, I have excluded defamatory comments from the first group to the extent I have taken the time to monitor the comments section of the blog. I neither feel any obligation to give space on the blog to those who wish me ill, nor do I wish to respond to such allegations unless it seems absolutely necessary to do so. My recent Open Letter to CRIF was an illustration of such a necessity. I have refrained from responding to the UN Watch campaign despite a strong temptation to explain their distortions and deny their falsehoods, which are clearly intended to bring me harm.


            The second cluster of responses has been more troublesome for me: as someone who has enjoyed classroom teaching for almost 60 years I have always welcomed the challenge of divergent viewpoints that differ dramatically from my own, and the valuable sort of dialogic conversations that have so often enlivened my academic career.  At the same time, I do not think that by posting interpretations of events and issues, I am committing myself to debate with those who disagree to an extent that ensures that the interaction of our viewpoints will result in an argument incapable of resolution, and essentially going nowhere. I have always found debate between those with sharply antagonistic views to be, at best, a species of performance art or a theater of ideas that may be useful in some instances to clarify disagreements or to entertain an audience. In my experience debates almost never succeed in finding common ground or even in leading one side or the other to modify their position in significant ways. I raise this issue because some of those who defend Israel most passionately seem to feel that I have a responsibility to enter detailed and frequent discussion with them to consider our points of difference.


            I am sympathetic with the view that because I have this position as UN Special Rapporteur on human rights violation in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 that I have a duty to engage with those who are concerned with these issues. In some ways I wish that my schedule was less crowded and my energies were more extensive, but I have to make choices. It should be remembered that my UN appointment is not a UN staff position. I am in effect an unpaid volunteer, and accept the burden of considerable added work because I believe that the Palestinian people deserve an independent and honest voice to express their grievances on the global stage, and I do this in a manner that tries to take account of Israeli claims relating to its occupation policies. I would also insist that due to my independent position within the UN System, it is entirely appropriate to maintain a blog of this sort that expresses my views as a citizen of a democratic society, which I regard as falling within the sphere of conscience and reflection. I do make an effort to avoid public partisan stands in activist contexts that could create ambiguities as to my commitment to speak the truth as best I can.


            I draw a distinction between those who share some core commitments, for instance, respect for rights under international law or commitments to seek peaceful resolution of disputes, and those that seem to be taunts rather than serious efforts to gain mutual understanding of difficult and complicated issues. Interpretations of the issues that are so completely tilted toward legitimizing the positions and claims of Israel, which occupies the dominant position in the conflict, fall outside the boundaries of useful discussion so far as I am concerned. My sense of fairness is always conditioned by the structure of the underlying relationships, placing me on the side of those social and political forces that are struggling for emancipation from situations of oppression and rightlessness. Given this perspective, siding with the Palestinians is partly a matter of identifying with the party that has for decades been victimized by the cruel play of hard power reinforced by geopolitics. Let me be clear: my underlying commitment is to a sustainable and just peace for both peoples, but I believe this can only happen if ‘facts on the ground’ give way to a full-fledged diplomatic appreciation of ‘Palestinian rights under international law.’


            Even if I was inclined to devote more time to responding to hostile and divergent comments on Israel/Palestine I would disappoint other readers of the blog, who are already offended by the degree to which this one conflict sucks up all the oxygen. I have received many emails, that is, a cyber path that avoids direct comments the blog, which have strongly recommended that I not respond to comments at all and that I take steps to avoid this disproportionate concentration of energy on this one conflict. There is, I have discovered, an analogue in the blogosphere to the crude version of Gresham’s Law (‘bad money drives out good money’) so beloved by economists: It is ‘bad comments drive out good comments.’ Some of my correspondents have even gently suggested in response to the uncivil tone of many comments that I abandon the blog altogether and instead create a mailing list that serves as an alternative outlet for my views, which would have the advantage of limiting posts to a community of likeminded persons. Supposedly, this would protect my bruised ego. But I remain foolish enough to sustain the blog a bit longer, and see what happens. I will continue to struggle with balance on a tightrope that keeps the blog open to strangers, including those who disagree and disapprove, while working on behalf of an identity and level of discourse that accords with my values, and is faithful to my initial motivation to engage in the hard work of writing posts on a variety of topics to address some public issues in a manner that seems at variance with mainstream media interpretations. I do this partly because self-expression has always been a satisfying form of self-discovery, somewhat similar in this manner to teaching and scholarly writing. And partly because there might be a few others on the planet that share my worries about the present and future, and seek a community brave enough to hope when there is no hope!


            It is strange that I should also receive complaints as to why I do not discuss wrongdoing in the world other than that of Israel. One of the sharpest criticisms that I receive is that I must be an ‘Israel-hater,’ or worse, ‘a Jew hater,’ because I do not denounce instances of human suffering other than that of the Palestinians with the same vehemence that I accord to Israel’s wrongdoing. It is a strange line of attack for two reasons: firstly, to my knowledge, those who make such an allegation are themselves single-minded defenders of Israel, and exhibit no interest in other issues beyond the rhetorical point that there are other humanitarian ordeals that from their standpoint are far worse than what the Palestinians have endured; and secondly, I have devoted my research and teaching skills to many other international concerns other than those associated with the Israel/Palestine conflict. Even a superficial glance at my CV would show a career emphasis on general international law and world order issues, and far more criticism devoted over the years to American foreign policy than to Israel’s behavior.


                        I am prepared to entertain other ideas about my claim to have a right to control the tone and substance of the comments section of my blog. In effect, I have been reflecting on the presumed basis that I have a proprietary right to exercise control according to my discretion. There are a huge variety of other sites enabling those who wish to denounce me or my views, so why must I make this space available for uncongenial ventures? And why should I have to depend on friends and allies coming to my rescue when the going gets too tough. Hilary Clinton in the 2008 presidential campaign taunted Obama by saying “if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” But I ask myself, ‘what is the point of such discomfort if the heat sheds no light,’ mixing metaphors inexcusably.


            Another response to this kind of squabble is to adopt the ethos of my younger son, who likes to say ‘chill!’  whenever emotions rise above his comfort level. His intention is to encourage ‘letting go,’ ‘backing off’’, ‘allowing a hundred flowers to bloom,’ and the like.  But there are deep feelings at stake when these blog issues are being discussed, and little willingness to grant respect to those who defend positions that seem abhorrent. I include myself in this indictment, often feeling too engaged with the abuse of Palestinian rights to treat controversy as mere differences of opinion, but this is a reflection of my understanding of the relevant facts and law, and not a matter of blind passion or blinkered vision. 

37 Responses to “Losing Control: A Blogger’s Nightmare”

  1. fasttimesinpalestine January 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    Hi Prof. Falk,

    You are absolutely within your rights to ban commenters whose posts are defamatory, racist, proudly and blindly counterfactual, or simply snide, mean-spirited, and unhelpful.

    I made the mistake over the past couple of months of falling into a neverending “dialogue” with an Israeli-American settler who over and over denied basic realities, said horribly racist things, and insulted me. I kept thinking, “Maybe if I try this next tack, something will get through… Who am I to give up on someone?”

    But it was literally as useful as talking to a brick wall (and much less pleasant).

    The people who come to your blog and attack and abuse you are not your target audience. They are just trying to waste time and bring negative energy into what should be a hopeful space full of people who are willing to look at the world without partisan blinders. Who really believe in human rights for all people.

    It’s up to you, but this is my advice, learned from painful experience. There are far better ways for us to spend our time and energy.

    Best wishes,

    P.S. I think one of the reasons why this particular conflict is so compelling is because for people who have any intellectual integrity whatsoever, the cognitive dissonance between what’s actually going on and what our news, government, and commentators say is going on is so enormous, we keep thinking it shouldn’t be too hard to resolve it.

    Reality’s right there! Staring everyone in the face! And yet you still have educated people who are otherwise just like you or me saying things like, “Israel gives food and electricity to Gazans and all they get is rockets in return!”

    Your brain just kind of goes, “BOI-OI-OI-OI-OING.”

    It’s like this itch that can never be scratched… this dissociation between reality and what so many people proudly, defiantly believe. You want so badly to reconcile them, and it seems so achingly close to being within reach…

    Alas, these many decades later…

    Things are changing, though. Slowly but surely, and in only one direction. Truth is a one-way valve, once people finally get past the conditioning and really see it. Thanks for being a part of helping this trend along.

    • Fred Skolnik January 7, 2013 at 9:30 am #

      What makes you think that you are the one to determine the basic realities.

      Israel does furnish the Gazans with electricity. The food they buy. Whatever they need they can receive through the Israeli border crossings, whose capacity they don’t even utilize, or even via Ashdod in one of your so-called humanitarian flotillas. They might also have grown some in the hothouses that Israel left them in Gush Katif but they chose to destroy them. But more to the point, before the rockets and the suicide bombings began, there was no blockade and no closed border and 40,000 Gazans worked in Israel every day. If you think the situation in Gaza is going to get any better while it is controlled by a barbaric terrorist organization, then you are simply mistaken. And if you think that the Palestinians will get a state without ending the conflict in a negotiated settlement, you are also mistaken.

      • Brewski January 7, 2013 at 11:30 am #

        The major contributor to the purchase of the greenhouses, James Wolfensohn, former World Bank president, resigned as the Quartet’s Mideast saying the U.S. administration thwarted his efforts, Olmert and Weissglas saw him as a nuisance, and corruption is rife at the Gaza border crossing. His is a more nuanced view than that of CAMERA which you reiterate:

        “”I remember seeing the greenhouses with the chairman and looking at the fruits and everything, and there was a joyous atmosphere: ‘Boy, we’re about to get this going and we’re going to have hotels by the beaches and we’re going to have tourism and it’s going to be fantastic, and the Palestinians really know how to be hosts.’ But in the months afterward, first of all Arik [Sharon] became ill and the current prime minister came in, and there was a clear change of view.”

        At that time, Wolfensohn recalls, powerful forces in the U.S. administration worked behind his back: They did not believe in the border terminals agreement and wanted to undermine his status as the Quartet’s emissary. The official behind this development, he says, was Elliot Abrams, the neoconservative who was appointed deputy national security adviser in charge of disseminating democracy in the Middle East – “and every aspect of that agreement was abrogated……The issue of the greenhouses is especially painful to Wolfensohn because of his personal contribution to them. “Everything was rotting because you couldn’t get the fruit. And if you went to the border, as I did many times, and saw tomatoes and fruit just being dumped on the side of the road, you would have to say that if you were a Palestinian farmer you’d be pretty upset. So my view is to try and not demonize the Palestinians. I’m not denying that there are Palestinians who fire rockets and do terrible things; I know that that happens. But to get a fundamental solution, you have to have hope on both sides.”

        I doubt that there is a society in the World with 50% unemployed in a virtual War zone where unused buildings would remain unmolested.

      • richard January 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

        Skolnik-why are you wasting time and effort here? – People who have got this far are well used to the rantings of your ilk. If you seriously believe the garbage you write, I wish you will find some serious help sometime soon. If you think you will do anything but dig a deeper hole by your outpourings, then you are even sadder than I can possibly imagine. If there is a God, then let’s hope he has some infinite mercy to spare. You disgust me.

      • Miss Costello January 7, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

        Here we go again. Welcome to ‘The Fred Skolnik show’.

        There were around 29 comments from Fred Skolnik on Richard’s (Falk) previous post, ‘An Open Letter of Response.’ Are we to endure yet more of the same mind numbing, energy draining, ‘make it up as you go along’ utter tripe, ‘Write Said Fred’ writes non stop on this blog? Surely it’s perfectly clear by now this man has no intentions of acknowledging so much as a smidgeon of israel’s contemptible treatment of the Palestinian people. Why would he? He’s not here to engage in honest debate, only to deny and villify anyone who dares to challenge his moronic, twisted view of reality. Isn’t it about time to call time on this self deluded Zionist Vampire before he drains the very life blood from such a worthy blog.

      • faithfulsceptic January 7, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

        The rules in chess are that if the same set of moves is repeated three times in a row, then the game is over.

        It seems to me that if an argument is going nowhere, and an agreement cannot be reached, to desist from a stereotyped pattern of unfruitful feedback, then a “three strikes and you’re out” clause is reasonably applicable.

        Who would choose to watch a guppy swimming around in a fishbowl, so turbid that you can barely see it unless it brushes against the glass?

        Can the guppy see out? What does it know of the furniture in the room, let alone the wide world outside of the room?

        In the case of a blog, at least, it is possible to liberate the guppy from its bowl, so to speak, by depriving it of the opportunity to continue swimming in small circles.

        Applied to a poster whose behaviour appears troll-like, a reminder of the “three strikes and you’re out” should suffice.

        It’s possible that some posters, whose behaviour is stereotyped and obsessive, would be done a favour by being excluded. It may be that they are suffering some sort of addictive behaviour that causes them to post ad nauseum, just as some are addicted to computer games or other behaviours.

      • faithfulsceptic January 7, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

        The other way of moderating obsessive activity on a blog is to limit posts to a certain number (say 3) within 24 hours, with delay intervals of several hours (say 4). These rule can be applied to all, automatically without fear or favour. Four hours ought to be long enough to come up with an argument or response that is worthy of posting.

      • Fred Skolnik January 7, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

        Dear Friends

        I am simply pointing out the fictions that you are promulgating. Think of it as a service. There are so many postings from me because there are so many fictions from you. But I agree that since all of you ignore what doesn’t support your biases, I really am wasting my time.

    • Jumana January 30, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

      My name is Jumana Al-Dalou Brown and I am the autor of Winter Flowers; an awesome true life story about israeli-palestinian conflict, which will encourage the world to move forward together toward peace, working to end the apartheid in Palestine, for the good of Israel, Palestine, the Middle East, and the world.

      Read my story here:http://www.amazon.com/Winter-Flowers-ebook/dp/B009AX52C4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1357090721&sr=1-1&keywords=winter+flowers

  2. wingsprd January 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    Richard. You now stand even higher in my estimation. Peace and blessings.

  3. Edward Gordon January 6, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    Richard, As you know, I have admired your intellectual integrity and commitment to open discussion for over fifty years. Even so, I find it difficult to share your tolerance of the boorish, callow and (here I speak specifically as a Jew) embarrassingly unlettered and utterly ferblunget drivel that your criticism of Israel evokes. In its best manifestations, Jewish culture encourages the freest minds to speak the truth to convention, to power and to self. At its worst, alas, it encourages a sense of perpetual martyrdom such that any criticism poses an existential threat, and any critic is, perforce, inimical. It was that way in 18th and 19th century Europe, when the threat was posed by secular learning and unsettling insights available only in vernacular texts. It was that way when I was growing up and some – a few – members of our orthodox synagogue could only interpret as disrespect the fact that our young, American-born rabbi chose to address the English-speaking congregation in English. At one time or another, Israel has evinced both traditions. You are not alone in thinking that it is now dominated by those who are captive to the inferior one, or that it is not only the right, but the duty, to speak truth to Israel and the Israelis.

    • Fred Skolnik January 7, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      You misunderstand the issue. Prof. Falk attacks Israel and people like myself defend Israel on the grounds that his facts are not facts but unsubstantiated assertions revealing a bias that should not be apparent in someone holding his sensitive official position.

  4. Erica January 6, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Dear Richard,

    Have you ever considered putting up a code of conduct page up on your blog that states what you will and will not tolerate in the comments section of your blog. That way when someone complains and asks why their comment was deleted you can just direct them over to that page.

    Sending you my best wishes for the new year,


  5. Bill Liscom January 7, 2013 at 12:21 am #

    Dear Professor Falk,

    Well talk about “world order issues” — gaining control with the power/independence of a blog vs losing control with open comments in the Web 2.0 era… The challenges of coping with this conflict must be so agonizing, we should all appreciate that and empathize with you.

    First and foremost, I applaud you for your blog; it’s a true service to the planet when you so easily and understandably could be “retired” in the traditional sense. However, I’m
    not surprised you’re still doing such impressive and constructively-oriented work while adapting to the evolving technologies.

    Second, with all objectivity — having experienced four of your Princeton courses 1974-76, several of your books (starting with “This Endangered Planet”), roughly 50 hours of lectures, and now your blog nearly 40 years later — I cannot recall a single sentence or spoken word that has not come from an experienced, considered and above-all constructive perspective. Your views are guaranteed to be highly thought-provoking regardless of whether one more or less agrees or disagrees with you in the end.

    That is, however, so long as one has a shred of open-mindedness in their thinking. Sadly many people do not, and in my opinion you should not be trying to solve that or worry about it (much easier said than done, of course).

    As the ways of the Universe go, I happen to be working right now with a very talented 19-year-old Australian singer-songwriter who’s just releasing her debut album and website. She’s written a song in the aftermath of receiving her first “troll” comments on her prolific YouTube channel. So to read/hear a youthful perspective from someone trying to deal with this problem in music, when she’s never lived in a world other than what Web 2.0 presents for better and for worse, her lyrics are highly recommended (even if her “alternative” musical style doesn’t suit) — “You’re Not Right” at http://www.TianiMusic.com/lyrics-05

    I’ll close with a half-joking but half-serious idea, taking a “page” out of the (Face)book
    business model but adapting it with an “innerpreneurial” perspective: why not start charging $1 a month to “subscribe” to your blog, as I’m sure that would filter out most if not all of those who are here with nothing constructive to contribute?! When a year at Princeton is $50,000+ these days, those of us who’d subscribe at such nominal cost would remain all too happy in the knowledge we’re receiving extraordinary “value for money”!

    Just a thought, in the most constructive spirit… and in any case, please hang in there, we’re so fortunate to continue to benefit from your thoughts. Happy New Year

  6. faithfulsceptic January 7, 2013 at 1:55 am #

    Those who, for whatever reason, must advocate for the current (and in my view unjust) dominion of the Israeli government over Palestine may well feel that ground has been lost as a result of Palestine gaining UN recognition.

    I expect many of these people will respond with increasing hatred and desperation. I pity their small-mindedness, and I’m regretful that they have no idea what it means to see an issue from from beyond the murky waters of their claustrophobic little fishbowl.

    I hope that you decide to keep on with your blog.

    Kind regards

  7. imleif January 7, 2013 at 2:14 am #

    I don’t like the subscription idea, in worst case the trolls could pay a dollar and be entitled to comment on the blog.

  8. Olga Stavrakis January 7, 2013 at 2:43 am #

    Dear Richard Falk, I read your blog regularly and have shared it with many friends and on facebook. Some of my friends and relatives are in fact Jewish and share your views.

    I think you should continue doing what you are doing. You do it well. There is no need to get involved in the conflict in Cambodia or Rwanda and there is no reason why you cannot pick this conflict — which tends to consume so many passions of single minded people who by criticizing you want to protect and defend Israeli wrongdoing and illegal actions. Either we all live by law and morality or we do not. Simple.

    There is no issue of “chill out” here. You have the right to express your opinion and you need to ignore the crazies. Reach as wide an audience as possible and not target the converted. The tide of history will change as it has in the past. Justice moves forward albeit slowly.

    Look at the simple concept of Democracy in the US. There was a time we called it “democracy” but we were hunting the Native American like an animal, the Black Man was private property, and women were chattel. We have come a long way and this conflict will also end. But it will end only when voices such as yours are raised for it is the strategy of the pro-Israeli lobby to hammer at anyone who dares to criticize Israeli policy.

    I went to a Jewish wedding recently. My niece married a Jew whose father is originally from Israel and some of his kinfolk came to the wedding. They were arguing that the US should but out of their business. My position is fine. We will but out. But then don’t take any more of our hard earned money. Become financially and militarily independent. While you take my money, I have a say in the way you use it. Punto!

    So, my suggestion is to ignore the crazies and continue to blog as you do. You provide a valuable intellectual service and a voice that is still only rarely heard and when raised is stomped out by the pro-Israeli shouting.

    Go for it. It is a difficult row to hoe but what you are doing is necessary for future peace and very valuable.

    Best Regards, Olga Stavrakis

    On Sun, Jan 6, 2013 at 9:55 PM, WordPress.com

  9. mary January 7, 2013 at 3:35 am #

    The issue seems to be that of finding a way to continue to have lively discourse with divergent points of view without entertaining abuse or unkindness. I suggest doing what blogger Richard Silverstein has done – he has established comment rules, and violators are banned. This is the best way to allow people to express their points of view without becoming abusive.

  10. Fred Skolnik January 7, 2013 at 4:19 am #

    How can you complain about one-sided or “tilted” defenses of Israel when your attacks on Israel are one-sided in the other direction, and how can you complain about the language used by your detractors when under a veneer of civilized discourse you are throwing around wild and obnoxious epithets like “Nazi,” “rascist,” “apartheid” and all the rest, not to mention the language of your admirers? The reason you are being attacked is because you hold a responsible UN position that demands fair and objective reporting and has the potential to do great harm and are by your own admission not objective, and that certainly goes to the issue of integrity as does the nature of the “authorities” you quote in these reports. I for one do not expect to enter into a dialogue with you, other than pointing out the manner in which you distort the realities of the Middle East conflict. I too have a youngest son. He did not say, “Chill,” to me. He said, “Why do you bother? These people aren’t interested in the truth or in the Palestinians. They just want to curse Israel.” Well, it is out of a sense of outrage which is very natural when falsehood is being spread.

    • richard January 7, 2013 at 4:53 am #

      “wild and obnoxious” – well you’d know all about that – pretty much sums up the current Israeli state.

      “Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon?

      “Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions?” [Desmond Tutu]

      Seems they have. Sigh……………

    • mary January 7, 2013 at 6:51 am #

      How can anyone not use terms such as “apartheid” and “Nazi” when discussing Israel and and ongoing, brutal occupation and siege? I don’t know what sort of language would be acceptable to you, but I assume your semantic pickiness is simply an excuse to try to make a rather bankrupt argument. Dr. Falk’s job is not to kowtow to the interests of Israel and zionism, despite your wish to the contrary. And often harsh rhetoric is not necessarily abusive, but instructive. For example, what else can Jewish-only roads and settlements be but a form of apartheid? How to deal with human rights abuses which are clearly set forth in the Geneva Conventions as war crimes? How can fact be argued except as fact? You cannot blame Dr. Falk for writing about what is the reality in Palestine.

      • Fred Skolnik January 7, 2013 at 7:40 am #

        You don’t seem to be aware of what the Nazis actually did, nor of what the Palestinian terrorists have done to warrant Israel’s security measures, nor of what the Arab armies have done to warrant an occupation.

    • Miss Costello January 7, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

      Fred Skolnik; ” fair and objective ”
      Just what would you know about that, Fred?

      ‘youngest son’.”They just want to curse Israel.”
      Chip off the old block, eh? The sins of the fathers…..

  11. Gene Schulman January 7, 2013 at 4:35 am #

    Richard doesn’t need any compliments from me. His dignity should be sufficient reward in itself.

    What I don’t understand when reading these blogs about the Israel Palestine conflict is why so many people automatically assume that when one criticizes Israel, such criticism is assumed to be anti-Semitic (in its generic term of meaning Jew hatred). Why are Zionists so insecure that they have to bring all of Judaism as their witness?

    When Richard, or others, criticize Israel for its racist policies, they are not criticizing Judaism or its religion, rather a political policy enforced by a political movement, just as one might criticize the Nazis in Germany, or the Boers in apartheid So. Africa, or the French in Algeria. Nothing at all to do with religion. But one couldn’t tell that from reading some of the commentary from the hasbarists, who do nothing but make fools of themselves.

    Onward, Richard!

    • richard January 7, 2013 at 4:50 am #

      “Why are Zionists so insecure that they have to bring all of Judaism as their witness?”

      Because they know they are wrong at a deep level, and can’t face it? I don’t know?
      best r

  12. richard January 7, 2013 at 4:48 am #

    Dear Richard,
    I logged on to send my sympathetic support for you – and find the previous post, from one Fred Skolnik, summarizes the apparent hopelessness of any discourse or dialogue with the astonishingly narrow-minded Zionophiles who attack you and others.

    I come from the UK, so narrow-mindedness is not a strange phenomen, but I fear that the background of “my God has given this to me, no man can take it” lies beneath so much of the ills herein, and only serves to re-inforce my deep distrust of Doctrinal Religion of ANY origin. [I appreciate that Desmond Tutu does much to assuage this with his courageous and passionate stance on the issue.]

    I’m afraid that Zionism is probably beyond reasoned discourse, but your continued efforts to illuminate the injustices apparent are vital, and I wish you all strength in your endeavours.

    [“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
    ― Edmund Burke.]

    And sod you to the horrible Zionist extremisists who, cocooned in their vast American subsidies, have lost any sense of proportion.

    It’s important to remember the very many Jewish people the world over who are as appalled as the rest of us at this flagrant disregard for any sort of justice. It is the Netanyahu-ists who exacerbate anti-Semetism, to the great distress of all decent folk, and do so much harm in the course of their actions.

    My deep respect and good wishes,

    Richard Jennings

    [and Mr Skolnik – wake up before time runs out – the tide is turning, and finally the world is getting the true picture]

    • Paul Wapner January 7, 2013 at 7:14 am #

      I’m saddened by Richard’s struggles to conduct a civil conversation. I’m dismayed because his posts almost always shed light on world affairs and life in general, yet the most vociferous responses often sidetrack rather than deepen inquiry.

      Two comments about the ongoing discussion:
      First, on being accused of anti-Semitism: My understanding is that social critics show their love by being critical since criticism is one of the ways we grow. Aristotle says that a friend is one who cultivates the highest good in another independent of receiving anything in return. Richard doesn’t gain anything by criticizing Israel (or the US or the many other regimes he has taken to task over the years). If anything, as this blog shows, he pays a price for it. The best social critics, like Richard, are friends of those they criticize, wanting to call such regimes to their highest ideals. My sense is that Richard would want nothing more than Israel’s (and the world’s) deepest commitments to justice, peace, and humane governance to emerge. This isn’t anti-Semitism or Israel hating. It is humanity-loving.

      Richard has never hid his Jewish identity. Rather, he has acknowledged it as a part of who he is, but has never been completely beholden to it. While accusers of anti-Semitism see this as a liability, it’s sad that they cannot see it as a form of insight. Thank goodness Richard can see beyond the narrow confines of an ethnic or historical or even religious identity. If more of us could transcend our identities as citizens of a particular state, ethnic group, religious affiliation or whatever, the world would be a better place. We could still celebrate human diversity, but wouldn’t be captured completely by our differences.

      Second, on facts. Richard has been dogged about being loyal to “facts on the ground.” Such loyalty is the only way meaningful dialogue can take place. Thus, it is important to point out questionable facts. In the comments to Richard’s previous blog, Fred Skolnik, claims that “Israel has not built new settlements or expanded the boundaries of the old ones since the early 1990s.” This is blatantly false. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (as reported by the Jerusalem Post [12/30/10]), Israel has constructed five settlements between 1990-1999. This figure does NOT include outposts, expansions of existing settlements (settlement populations have more than tripled from 1992-2010 [see same article]), or, crucially, settlements in East Jerusalem. Furthermore, Israel has recently announced plans for new settlements in the E-1 zone and continues to lay new foundations for additional housing across the West Bank to this very day. The Palestinians have made one condition for entering into negotiations: stop the settlements. If Fred and other fundamentalist defenders of Israel are interested in negotiations and peace, they should stop falsifying facts about settlements, and work to stop all forms of Jewish expansion into Palestine.

      • Fred Skolnik January 7, 2013 at 7:49 am #

        The last new setttlement was founded in 1991, if I am not mistaken. The outposts are neither here nor there as a serious factor. Two-thirds of the settler population is living either in extensions of Jewish Jerusalem or in three towns in the vicinity. Plans for build in E-1 exist since the mid-‘nineties and will clearly not be implemented now either. I have indicated how the settlement issue will be resolved in negotiations. Leaders who want a state for their people do not look for excuses not to get one.

  13. Moji Agha January 7, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    God Bless you Prof. Falk! I can be a witness to your recent endorsement of the “Mossadegh Legacy Institute” ( http://mossadeghlegacyinstitute.org/ ) which is clearly beyond Israel/Palestine. Those who attack you are morally bankrupt.

  14. Claudia Damon January 7, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    I am a believer in this: if the purpose of the comment is just to attack you, don’t allow the comment maker’s future comments. It is one thing to develop ideas through discussion. It is quite another to hurl stones in the form of hateful, vituperative, threatening words.

    • pipistro January 7, 2013 at 10:30 am #

      They knew very well how to make enemies, and Nakba had been an effective way. Then they kept on whining that they were surrounded by enemies, in order to annihilate them, playing, in the meanwhile, the anti-semite card to block any international critics. And they said, “we must defend ourselves.” More and more people – be they Jewish or not, it doesn’t matter – at last figured out the trick. Someone got it long before, anti-semitism had nothing to do with the issue, but it was a painful path.
      Send you my best, Richard.

  15. sherrimunnerlyn January 7, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Hi, I truly enjoy reading your blog, but I wanted to let you know I am surprised you are not writing now about the hunger striker Palestinian political prisoners for whom there is an international 24 hour hunger strike called for today, with thousands participating in. I am speaking about Samer Issawi and there are four other prisoners and there is a link below to one of the Facebook pages about the hunger strike and a discussion I started about the cases on a discussion board. Samer was released in the hostage exchange deal and was redetained in July and is in about day 160 of his hunger strike. His crime, he traveled between one Palestinian village and another, both villages in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, that is what I understand, what international law tells us is the Occupied Palestinian Territories, East Jerusalem and the West Bank and Gaza. Israel is or may be seeking to reinstate his original sentence, claiming he was not supposed to leave East Jerusalem, or at last have scheduled a hearing to address that. It seems to me that sort of action might well be a violation of the prisoner exchange deal and violate international law in perhaps other ways, it appears he was only traveling within the Occupied Palestinian Territories, The Fourth Geneva Convention and international treaties grant a people living under Occupation basic rights of movement within occupied territories. There are no other charges against him, that I am aware of. There are four other prisoners, one is dealing with similar facts and the other three are held under administrative detention which I believe everyone agrees violates international law, as carried out by Israel.



    I just wanted to let you know about these cases, if you were not aware of them. It seems like we are not getting virtually any MSM coverage of the cases.There is a woman in the United Kingdom who went on a hunger strike in solidarity with these prisoners around Christmas, who may also be living in the elements and be in difficult circumstances right now, I have been told, and I am trying to find out more information about that, too.


    Sherri Munnerlyn

    • Fred Skolnik January 7, 2013 at 11:11 am #

      Samer Issawi is a convicted terrorist who broke the conditions of his parole after he was released. If he chooses to go on a hunger strike, that is his business. Israelis blown up in buses are not given the choice whether to live or die.

  16. Brewski January 7, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    To Professor Falk.
    I remember we had a similar discussion when you began this blog and I brought up the example of Mondoweiss which, at the time was not moderated. I see Phil has now made certain subjects taboo. These are deleted without comment.
    Personally, I regard the trolls as a necessary nuisance. On the one hand it is tedious and distracting but on the other, it is an opportunity to provide other readers with links to articles and facts that contradict troll’s tropes – case in point being the James Wolfensohn quote above. This is not done in any vain hope to change a troll’s attitude, it is in the hope that the rebuttal will become more widely disseminated in the absence of a fair media. This, of course, is foot-soldier’s work which I am happy to do but, should you decide that the trolls are best ignored, I am happy to desist. In any case, I will be returning to my remote posting shortly and be out of internet contact.

    All the best.

  17. Francis Oeser January 7, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    Richard, I share your disquiet. Maybe we should acknowledge that the internet has no rules of decorum (that’s hardly an excuse!). But it’s reason why I avoid many comments sites: they are too rude, thoughtless and bogotted and NOT (as you rightly state) a place for discussion.
    Of course there’s a crying need to engage with climate change, inequality, greed, ignorance . . . Be comforted that MANY share your viewpoint, many cheer you on. The problem is greater than 60 years teaching you seem to admit, maybe greater than the sum of us all. But protest and debate are the only way forward. Success is certainly not fordoomed!!
    Francis Oeser

  18. mary January 7, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    I notice that you all have the good sense to know hasbara when you see it (Fred Skolnik) and to refuse to respond to it. Kudos.

    • imleif January 7, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

      Countering hasbara is like playing chess against a computer which doesn’t follow the chess rules. When you strike down an illegal move, another illegal move is attempted, or a captured piece is smuggled back on the board again. Such a game is futile and worthless.

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