Wednesday, October 04, 2006

To thine own self be true?

Lately I’ve been thinking about my responsibilities as a blogger in general, and more specifically, as an English-language Israeli blogger. It is important to make the distinction here between English-language Israeli bloggers and Hebrew-language Israeli bloggers, as while the latter write for domestic consumption, the former, quite obviously, are allowing their thoughts to be known on a much wider scale. Through our blogs, we are presenting the world with pictures of Israel that they might not ordinarily have access to, and for better or worse, this is an exceptional accomplishment whose importance in the arena of world opinion should not be negated or minimized.

Blogging about Israel can be tricky. It isn’t always easy to write about a country whose very existence is often questioned, and I’ve discovered that I must carefully study nearly every word I write in order to ensure that my intended point is coming across. Even so, I’ve found that in the end, people will see what they want to see, and it may indeed be a far cry from the original meaning. People are always looking for the hidden meaning, always looking to trip you up. If you are critical of one group, they will surely let you know it, sparing no feelings while engaging in harsh, often personal, attacks. And it is quite amazing, really, how many people I’ve managed to irritate through my writing. There is clearly something about Israel that brings people to the very brink of sanity, where passions become enflamed to the point of combustion. It doesn’t matter where on the spectrum you are, there will always be someone to your right or to your left who will find fault in your words, and thus find it imperative to knock you down. It’s astonishing to witness the reaction when the subject of Israel is brought up, and it amazes me to see how many people have chosen the Arab-Israeli conflict as their cause celebre. For Jews and Arabs, I can see the attraction, but what is it about Israel that makes Irish academics feel the need to boycott Israeli universities? What have they to do with me and the country in which I live? Why do people feel this burning need to single out Israel as the focus of their scorn, when there are so many equally if not more tragic situations occurring in many parts of the world? I’m not trying to minimize the gravity of the situation here, but surely, there must be universities to boycott in other countries. One only needs to read this piece in order to put Israel’s role as an aggressor into some semblance of perspective.

And where does this leave me, an Israeli leftist blogger, as I wrestle with my convictions on a daily basis, as my unwavering love for my country is sorely tested by a dysfunctional government and its questionable policies? Ultimately, as a blogger I write for myself, exercising my mind and my skills, at times working through my frustrations, and often capturing my mood of the moment, whether it be happy or sad, angry or contemplative. Ultimately, I am responsible only to myself and my ability to look myself in the mirror each morning. Unfortunately, the situation is not so black and white, given the speed at which information moves around the world these days, and one must consider the greater implications of one’s words. Jostein Gaarder (remember him?) paid a price for failing to make this consideration, when he assumed that by writing in Norwegian for a Norwegian newspaper, that his words would not make it out of Norway and would only reach their intended audience of Norwegian citizens.

One cannot foresee in advance where words will go, or which words will make it to which reader. It is this point that leads me to the crux of the matter. What factors must I take into account when writing an entry? If I am being critical of Israel, must I take care to be balanced or less critical, for fear that the piece will end up in the “wrong” hands, so to speak? Should I be worried about people who might use my words against my people and my country, twisting the meaning to suit their own needs, using my writings as ammunition against Israel or the Jews? Quite frankly, I just don’t know. I am not comfortable with the thought of drawing a line for myself in the sand, a line that I will not allow myself to cross, especially when I believe in what I write. I do not write for those who hate, and do not relish the thought of having to consider their intentions. They will do as they wish, and I cannot control the tools that they use to further their hatred. In this day and age, anything is possible, and there will inevitably always be people who will seek out the bad in things that are good. Should we be hesitant about making medical advances for fear that people will use the advances for less than ethical means? In cases where the good outweighs the bad, I think it is important for people to take bold steps, despite the potential pitfalls, otherwise we are simply running in place. We cannot move forward if we do not take chances, if we do not make leaps of faith in hopes that the eventual outcome will be a positive one.

10 comments:

tafka PP said...

it is quite amazing, really, how many people I’ve managed to irritate through my writing. There is clearly something about Israel that brings people to the very brink of sanity, where passions become enflamed to the point of combustion. It doesn’t matter where on the spectrum you are, there will always be someone to your right or to your left who will find fault in your words, and thus find it imperative to knock you down.

Ooh, and how! So true... I'm weighing up my next "serious" post, and I'm even fretting about the reactions from across the spectrum/world as I write.

Once again, you hit the nail right on the head: Bold steps are the only way forward.

Yael said...

Absolutely. Your blog rocks sweetie, keep blogging your conscience!

Sage said...

The Egyptian Sandmonkey is one of the most widely read bloggers on the planet because of his direct, witty, insightful, courageous commentary on nearly everything, but in particular the stupidity of his country's government, the insanity perpetrated by the Islamists ("Jihadi fucks" as he calls them) and recently, Irael's less than smart management of the war with Hezballah. He does this with honesty and some risk to himself. He doesn't worry about bringing criticism on his country -- he is one of its critics while also taking great pride in things Egyptian.

That makes for a good blogger worth reading.

lisoosh said...

I just wish more people would approach it with as much introspection and self awareness as you are here. There are a lot of people good at finger pointing who never really think about their own motives or their own effect on the level of discourse.
I think as long as you carry that awareness, you can stay true to yourself. You are right, there is not much you can do if someone wants to take your words and twist them to suit their own perceptions.

Savtadotty said...

I sympathize. I think there is something about wanting to be understood that makes us write blogs. So when readers take our words and shape them to their own purpose, it kind of defeats the purpose and is a disappointment. However, that being said, it's also important to make the right enemies :-)!

RR said...

"There is clearly something about Israel that brings people to the very brink of sanity, where passions become enflamed to the point of combustion."

I had already copied and pasted that awesome quote to put in this comment when I saw that PP did so as well- but I'm still going to put it here because I think it bears repeating.

So true, so true. People who don't really have much to say about other, much more pressing world affairs suddenly come to life when the word "Israel" is mentioned. Those ridiculous boycotts puzzle me, too.

Keep being true to yourself in what you write. Like you say, there are always people with their own agenda who really don't care about what you (not just you, I mean the collective "you") say- they believe what they want to believe and nothing, not even the truth, will change their mind.

Rock on!

rami said...

'click click' clicking my fingers..

INTERESTING topic.

A writer can never satisfy everyone, and that no matter what is said, there's someone out there that will object to it.

Like you say, there are so many out there who seize the slightest chance to tell you that you missed this or that fact, you're wrong about this or that, ..etc.

Anyway.. i think whats so interesting about blogging is the dialouge its creating. Reading peoples reactions is something I barely experience in my everyday life because everyone is being polite.

you know.. no need to compliment anyone, say what you want because no body will say it for you.

One thing out of personal blogging experience, is that at some point i decided not to show opinions because they change. but not anymore, my opinion today is my opinion today and could be changed tomorrow.

One more thing.. I think that its a common thing in the middle-east that people tend to be extra sensetive when they are talking about serious matters. Perhaps its thousands of years of oppression, believing in conspiracy theories, the hirachial way of living, perhaps people in the middle east feel inferior to others, i dont know what it is, but i dont like it when people get so sensetive and react in extreme ways.

Ami Isseroff said...

Hi,
Writing about Israel or taking any other stand can be tricky. I have been called an anti-Semite, a "peace now MF" and a Zionist warmonger, Mossad agent and everything else in-between.

A certain percentage of people are hopeless neanderthals - nothing to do about that. However, as a tech writer (and Marcom?) you should be aware of how needless adjectives and emotive words can get you into trouble and put you in posititons you do not really want to defend. Also remember that mentally challenged or evil-minded people on both sides will gleefully excerpt what you wrote to prove whatever they like.

When you write:
"The more I hear about Israel's actions in the recent conflict in Lebanon, the more horrified and disgusted I become. How must the world perceive us? How arrogant are our politicians and our military? Our leaders claim to want peace, but sometimes I wonder."
---
People will consider it as if you only wrote that. They will note the words "disgusted" and "horrified" and also the lack of reference to anything that either the Hezbollah or the Lebanese government might have done to provoke this response.

So of course, "Zionists" who live in Los Angeles will pillory you as a self-hating Jew. If you are "lucky" then a Hezbollah groupie will catch your blog and cite it, with a preface like, "See, even the Zionazis admit they have gone to far in Lebanon and committed war crimes."

Beth said...

I dropped out of a night class on international development after learning that the instructor had signed that letter. In my "resignation" letter I stated that this person obviously has a personal bias and could not be expected to transmitted information without tainting it. I never received a reply. Many Irish tend to identify very strongly with Palestinians because they like to draw parrallels to the North (Israel = British occupation = bad). I am constantly amazed when Palestinian flags are flying out of windows around the city to prove how Irish some households are!

Udge said...

Quite right. The people who hate [you/Israel/the Jews] because of who & what they think you are, will continue to do so no matter what you say. So (if I may speak plainly for a moment) fuck 'em.

Write the truth as you see it, and let the readers sort it out according to their own prejudices and preferences. Isn't that what happens anyway?

A good post.