On Open and Fair Discourse

| March 16, 2012 | 2 Comments

This site launched this past Sunday into beta, as we continue to build the site, organize ourselves, and find experts on Israel and the Middle East that we think have important things to contribute to the ongoing dialogue.

Perhaps it was rash of us to launch the site before it was finished, but we had several reasons for doing so which we think are important to explain. This site has been in the planning stages for some time, but was not nearly ready for prime time. When we read on Saturday evening that another similar site was launching that was using the same name, and was backed by a major news organization and a large non-profit foundation, we realized that we ran the risk of losing all the value of the name we have been planning on using, and for which we own the Internet domain.

As such, we chose to launch what little we had ready on Sunday, in the hope that we would at least be placing our stake in the ground, if not actually building our entire site immediately.

One decision we made was not to list our names on that site at this early stage. The reason for this was quite simple. As with almost any site or organization dealing with Israel and the Middle East, we knew there would be irrational people out there would seek to attack us even for the most silly inane things. While we look forward to opening a dialogue on all issues connected to Israel, we were hoping to avoid this ugly side of the debate for at least a little while.

Those running this site are all unpaid volunteers, funding the site out of our own pockets. We are building this site to discuss issues that are important to us, and which we feel are sometimes not covered thoroughly enough elsewhere. We knew that listing names on the site, even before it was fully operational, would invite hordes of irrational people to attack us personally, which frankly we don’t have the time to deal with while we build the site. It’s purely a bandwidth issue. We volunteer our time to putting this site together, and if we had to constantly respond to personal attacks we would never finish. We also felt it was unfair to our families since undoubtedly people would be googling us and anyone close to us in order to find something to attack us on. It’s a sad reality that some people out there lower themselves to such ‘debate’ but it is certainly the case.

It seems we were both right and wrong in our decision-making process. We were wrong to think that shielding our names, even if temporarily, would prevent attacks on us. We were clearly right to do it, however, since we were attacked on a major Jewish media site just two days after we launched the site. The real shame is that we generally like the site that attacked us, even if we don’t agree with everything they publish.

In light of this bizarre attack on this site and those of us running it, we feel it necessary to explain a bit about our view of open and fair discourse. While we cannot directly influence others to follow similar guidelines in carrying out discussion on Israel, we hope to at least influence indirectly by our example.

We don’t believe in calling people names. We’re not in kindergarden anymore.

We believe in respecting the opinions of everyone, and not belittling them. Moreover, we don’t believe in ad hominem attacks where when someone has no argument to debate, they choose to attack the individual instead. We believe this belittles the attacker considerably more than the attacked.

We are strong proponents of freedom of speech. Everyone has a right to say what they want, unless what they say is hateful or incites violence. We believe in a zero-tolerance approach to incitement.

Creating falsehoods and straw-men to bolster your case never actually helps your case. Presenting a photograph as one thing when it is another, or saying something happened that didn’t just because you think no one can verify your claim, are dishonest and dishonoring.

We generally disdain labels, as we feel they are a form of ad hominem attack. When someone says that a person is right-wing, left-wing, progressive, conservative, a peacenik, a war-monger, a settler, communist, fascist, religious, secular, haredi, ashkenaz, sephardi, or anything else, they are trying to place those people in a box, and it’s a box they have defined. These kinds of labels belie the true complexity of the situation here in Israel, and everywhere else for that matter. People are much more complex than any label.

It is the goal of this site to open a dialogue on Israel and the Middle East in general, and we hope that everyone who is involved in that dialogue will stay focused on the important issues at stake, and not stray off into personal attacks and nonsense. If that is the one thing this site can accomplish, then it will have accomplished quite a bit. We hope everyone will bear with us as we complete the building of the site and bring real content online.

The Zion Square Team

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Category: Announcement

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