Periodically, my blogs gets comments. I always have published them (I have the option to publish or delete comments sent to my blog.) From the start, I vowed to myself to publish any comments irrespective of their content. Yet last week I broke that vow and did not authorize the following comment to be published:
“Why don’t you make a film about today’s even-worse torture and genocide of Palestinian Muslims by the current crop of Zionist war criminals headed by the vicious war dog thug Olmert?
We know why – you have no fundamental morals beyond your next pay check from the Zionist-controlled western MSM media.”
It was written in response to my July 28th blog, Karadzic and Us, in which I wrote about how I feel we all abandoned Bosnia, including people like me, who were involved in covering the war and producing films, investigating war crimes. The blog ended with a link to an excellent article by Ed Vulliamy, a British TV journalist, who revealed the existence of the Bosnian concentration camps. In this moving article, Vulliamy describes his recent visit to Fikret Alic, whose emaciated image behind the barbed wire fence of a concentration camp in northern Bosnia shocked the world.
I kept visiting this comment trying to understand why I was so quick to reject it. It could not be just its tone. After all comments like blogs are an exercise in free speech and I cannot approve only comments that are nice and kind to me. We cannot publish every crackpot comment on our site I said to myself. Here is a guy who has no idea who am I or about my work. (For the past 25 years, I have done many films with Palestinians and Arabs that have been very critical of Israel, some even getting me into trouble with Jewish and Israeli organizations.) Even worse, he has no idea who the Maryknoll Media Productions is ; a progressive Catholic organization that has never done work on the Palestinian Israeli conflict, calling them “Zionist controlled Western MSM Media.” take guilt by association to a new height. No, at the end I decided that I was so quick to reject the comment because it was hateful. Based solely on my name, the writer went to attack me as some abstract representative of the “Zionist War Criminals” who is “working” for the “Zionist-controlled Western Media.” This, I decided, was not a critique but hate talk. When I first discussed with Mark his blog from Death Row, he asked me if he was going to be censored. No, I responded, we will publish everything short of “hate talk.”
As you can see, this week I decided to quote his comment and give it a space, though without mentioning the identity of the author. I did it after reading the articles and watching the videos (see the front page of the site) on the rise of hate crime in Russia. I found myself glued to the chilling interviews with Russian skinheads. They are “crackpots” too but see how dangerous they are and how much damage and suffering they inflict.
So I decided that it important to expose the comment because of the state of mind it reveals. There is nothing wrong with protesting Israel’s invasion of Gaza or Israel’s role in its conflict with the Palestinians. But it is wrong to develop conspiracy theories about Zionist war criminals and lump Ehud Olmert and me together just because we are both Israelis.
Mark Stroman told me many times how wrong it was for him to do what he did. He told me how he knows he was living in an environment of hate and how wrong it was to lump everyone together as “Arabs,” including poor Pakistani and Indian immigrants as well as an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh.
The distance between hate talk and hate crime is indeed short. Dealing with people as racial or political abstractions and not as individuals always have led to the worst atrocities in history.
It is this state of mind we have to fight.