As we continue to prepare this site for its future full launch, we’ve noticed some conversations about this site that have been a little disconcerting.
First, when we linked to an article written by Carlo Strenger, someone with a reputation for strong left-wing and anti-religious views, we received a tweet pointing out how he was very left. Thank you, we know. We still decided to share his article, because it’s interesting. Strenger was commenting on Peter Beinart’s op-ed and book, and comes from a very different position than most of the people who have commented so far, which makes it interesting to us. What is the most interesting is that Strenger’s conclusions are not that different than the others who have commented on the book, even if he is far to the left of many of those who have commented.
Second, there have been a number of people tweeting about how Peter Beinart changed the name of his blog from Zion Square to Open Zion, casting all kinds of aspersions at this site and those of us who run it. We’ve discussed our view on this form of ‘debate’ before, and will re-emphasize that ad hominem attacks and name-calling should not have a place in the public discourse, especially on such an important issue as the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Some of those out there may be armchair generals in your parent’s basement, but we live in Israel and this is a very real and important issue for us. Of course, with Jews recently murdered in Toulouse by an anti-Zionist, perhaps we’re not the only ones whose lives are directly influenced by what goes on here.
We were reminded of this through a less serious interaction recently. In a direct message on Twitter, we shared a movie quote with someone (you know who you are). The quote happened to be by a character played by Mel Gibson. It had actually crossed our minds when sending that out that we, like much of the Jewish nation, are not Mel’s biggest fans these days. It didn’t help that he’s a mean drunk and a raving Antisemite. Maybe he’s gotten past those anger-management issues by now, we don’t know, but we imagine we’re not the only ones to hold a grudge. It also occurred to us (and many others we’re sure) that we actually liked a lot of his movies in the past. Do you know how many times we’ve seen Mad Max? Too many, we assure you. Now we may not have rushed to the movie theater to see The Beaver, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy seeing movies with him in them that happen to be on cable (except, maybe, you know, The Passion). Mel isn’t making less money if it’s on TV and we don’t watch it. So you know, if Mad Max is on, we might still watch it (for the umpteenth time).
We consider ourselves open-minded here at Zion Square. Those who have attacked us seem to be a bit less accepting of different opinions. Right, left, secular, religious, progressive, conservative – they are just labels. After we mentioned before, these labels are actually a form of ad hominem attack. People dismiss what a person says even before listening because they perceive those who disagree with them as having nothing of value to say. That’s a mistake, and a big one. Being ignorant of many of the perspectives that might exist on a given subject is not bliss – it’s ignorance.
When Alan Dershowitz and Norman Finkelstein got into a dust-up a few years back, how many Finkelstein supporters went out and read Dershowitz’s books? How many Dershowitz supporters went out and read Norman Finkelstein’s books? Not too many, we’d wager. Sure, we all have limited time. Unlike some other sites, those of us here at Zion Square are not paid to do what we do, so if we want to read books to be up on a topic, it comes out of our own time. Of course we can’t read every book, every journal, every news site, every blog…it’s not possible. That still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to keep our reading list as broad as it can be. Reading 20 sites with the same point of view isn’t going to improve your knowledge of a subject. We try our best to be open to different ideas, different philosophies, and different points-of-view, and we hope those reading this site, and those among the broader community of Israeli and Palestinian activists would do the same and keep an open mind. If you see something you disagree with on this site, or any other site, instead of tweeting some immature ad hominem attack, maybe post an intelligent response in the comments section. We welcome debate on this site, and we mean that in the most open way possible. If someone tweets a link to an article by someone you don’t agree with, don’t tweet back something bad about the author – try reading the article. If you still disagree, write a comment why you disagree and explain your reasons. If the site doesn’t offer comments, then explain on Twitter or on other social sites. At all times, we encourage you to refrain from personal attacks, ad hominem attacks, and even just dismissing something because of who said it. There is more interesting information out there when you’re willing to open up a bit.