Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Role of the Anglo-Israeli Blogosphere

A rather interesting article (entitled "We are All Behemoths") was published on Israel's Nana internet portal last Friday. The article, written in Hebrew, purported to provide an overview of the English-language blogosphere in Israel, with one of the more salient points being that as English-language blogs, the bloggers who write them are, in essence offering a skewed view of Israelis and life in Israel, given that these bloggers, by virtue of the fact that they are native English speakers, are not at all representative of the average Israeli.

The article's author, Dana Peer, opts to focus on a few select blog entries from the blogs of relatively new immigrants, including "What War Zone?", "Zabaj" (whose recent blog entry tipped me off about this article), and "Ari Lives in Israel" (a blog which, incidentally, hasn't been updated for quite some time, as the writer is probably too busy freelancing and working as a waiter at one of the hottest cafes in Tel Aviv). The highlighted posts all have one thing in common – each one relays a different immigrant experience, mostly revolving around encounters with native Israelis. Peer then goes on to belittle the bloggers of the Anglo-Israeli blogosphere for choosing to focus on these experiences, and claims that,

"the Israeli image in the global blogosphere is profferred almost solely
from the viewpoint of immigrants and tourists - and it's possible to say a great
deal about them, except for one thing - that they faithfully represent the image
of the average Israeli. Forget representing - most of them don't understand it
at all."

I'm also inclined to question her understanding of some of the posts she mocks, seeing as she seems to have taken Benji Lovitt's (What War Zone?) recent tongue-in-cheek post about the infamous Israeli beach game of "matkot" seriously...

On the one hand, Peer is accurate in her assessment that many of the new immigrant bloggers among us often focus on their unique immigrant experiences and encounters. Just as many of the Hebrew-language bloggers focus on their everyday experiences (an excellent example being this blog written by Amit, the divorced father of a son recently diagnosed with a form of autism), it is entirely legitimate for immigrant bloggers to do the same. However, Peer does a disservice to her readers by limiting her article to these few blogs while ignoring the richness and variety of the Anglo-Israeli blogosphere as a whole, a heterogeneous group of writers whose opinions (political and otherwise) and blog postings cover an incredibly wide range of topics, whether it be politics, current events, local culture, family, and so on.

And, whether Peer likes it or not, Israel-based bloggers who write in languages other than Hebrew, whether it be Dutch, French, Spanish, German, or any other language that I've come across while cruising the local blogosphere, are the face of Israel for readers around the world. We are the writers who put a human face on the "monster" known as Israel, we are the writers who readers turned to during the Second Lebanon War last summer, when people the world over were anxious to dig up any shred of information they could find about the human side of the conflict.

Peer apparently fails to understand that the Hebrew-language blogosphere and the Anglo-Israeli blogosphere serve very different purposes. While the Hebrew-language blogosphere is for domestic consumption, Israeli blogs written in English are often specifically targeted at the world outside of Israel, and these bloggers see their natural role as being that of explaining Israel to outsiders, whether they be Diaspora Jews or anyone else. And, judging by the article itself as well as the numerous talkbacks, Peer and her "Israeli" readers seem to think that these new immigrants, all of whom chose to live in Israel, are not allowed to be critical of their adopted country. A running theme throughout the comments was that if these Americans aren't happy in Israel, then they should just simply pack up and go home. If everyone who lived in Israel was asked to leave if they complained, chances are excellent that within a relatively short period of time, there'd be no one living here (except, perhaps for Ehud Olmert, who clearly lives in a world of his own where everything is good and everyone loves him...). Western immigrants come to Israel because they want to, not because they have to. Israel is where they want to be, but that certainly doesn't mean that life is perfect here. I have been living here for sixteen years. My life is here, my family is here. Do I believe that daily life would be easier in the US? Yes. Do I believe there's a lot to complain about in Israel? Of course. Am I planning to leave? No. Israel is my home, just as it is the home of all these new immigrants that Dana Peer and her ilk seem so keen to mock and send away.

By the way, after reading the article on Saturday, I sent an email to Dana Peer, outlining a number of the issues that I've mentioned here and asking for a response. I have yet to receive one, but I'll update accordingly if she chooses to comment.

Update: I've been contacted by Dana. She sent a response, which I'm currently in the process of translating. The extremely short version of what she wrote is that she realizes that the Anglo-Israeli blogosphere has a lot more variety than what she mentioned in her article, and that her piece was meant to be a humorous, tongue-in-cheek commentary, and not a piece to be taken too seriously.

I hope to have the full translation up in a few days.


amechad said...

Hmm, just read the article. A few comments:

(A) I agree with you on the issue of sarcasm. I thought it was kind of odd that the author picked the most sarcastic Anglo-Israeli blogs around. (Personally, I find Ari's posts obnoxious but he's not representative of a larger class, that's just him) and then couldn't pick up that it was sarcasm.

(B) At the end, though, where it says כנראה אפילו עדיף that this is how the world views Israel (or the Israeli blogosphere), that could be seen as a compliment.

(C) The thing that did piss me off the most and completely offended me as a 20-something Anglo oleh blogger is the distinction between "real" Israelis (i.e. sabras) and "those olim" who just came here to "check out the land and maybe find a Jewish bride." Come on, give us more credit -- but perhaps it is that many of us came to improve Israel and improve the things that native Israelis take for granted (corruption and, well, matkot, as the article itself notes how "the natives" are used to it) which is the most threatening. But that distinction was the most offensive part of the article for me.

Savtadotty said...

Dana Peer's povinicialims is unwittingly representative of many sabras. It disturbs me because she diminishes the marvelous variety of our country, but at least those who don't read Hebrew won't be misled by her.

Sage said...

I am neither Jewish nor Israeli, but I just love reading the Anglo-Israeli blogs. This was a very informative post and quite well written. thanks for the insight.


Anonymous said...

With humour like that who needs thoughtful pieces? Interestingly you very closely summed up my thoughts and feelings on Ireland as well!

Rob said...

I think the English language Israeli blogs are fantastic. Certainly a far richer source of information and insight about Israel than the media. I visit blogs like this one and Lisa's and Yael's every day. It's essential reading for us who live so far away but still want to keep in touch with what's happening over there.