After publishing my critique of the JIB Awards competition last night, it seems I struck a raw nerve among many of the right-wing bloggers whose material was quoted here. They came at me with both barrels blazing in the comment thread.
After publishing the post, I also asked the Jerusalem Post to comment on it. Derek Fattal provided some interesting background information about JIBA which, while attempting to reassure me, raised red flags regarding the fairness and openness of the nomination process.
My first post on JIB Awards noted that Aussie Dave’s Israelly Cool was a co-sponsor (he, in fact, created JIBA). It also noted that in the only two JIB Award political categories almost all the nominees reflect a similar ideological slant to Israelly Cool (hardline anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, pro-settlements, etc.). I questioned why a competition calling itself the “Jewish and Israeli Blog Awards” couldn’t do a better job of representing the rest of us who are slightly to the left of Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
Well, now Mr. Fattal has provided some of the answer. Apparently, there IS an ideological criteria for being allowed into the process. Getting nominated isn’t the only hurdle. You have to pass a litmus test of sorts. Here’s how Derek described it:
Israellycool…set up the JIB Awards on the basis that they would not include blogs whose raison d’entre was to criticize Israel. I was assured by Israellycool that blogs that included criticism of Israel would not be barred from the nomination process
Which begs the question: when does a blog cross that threshhold from being one which criticizes Israel to one whose “raison d’etre” is to criticize Israel?? Besides, if the process is as democratic as the Post claims, why should they exclude any Jewish or Israeli blog? Anti-Zionist Jewish blog? So what. Let the democratic process winnow out the cranks and extremists. How many people would vote for such a blog anyway? I think that neither the Post nor Aussie Dave has the courage of their supposed democratic convictions to throw the competition truly open.
Here’s an even more distressing fact from Derek noting that none other than Aussie Dave is the enforcer of these ideological criteria:
The nomination side was handled by Israellycool.com…I have not received any complaint from any blogger that their nominations have been rejected on political grounds. As far as I can see your blog would have been included had it been nominated.
You’ll note that Derek grants that my blog would’ve been eligible if he were the judge. But he wouldn’t be, now would he? Aussie Dave would be the judge. So let me throw out a challenge to him. Since I know he despises me and my progressive Zionist perspective on the conflcit, would he deem me eligible? Further, has he disqualified any blogs on political or ideological terms? And what level of criticism of Israel would be impermissible in JIB Awards?
I’d also like to know if Aussie Dave nominated blogs himself and whether he voted in the competition. In my opinion, if he did either he further eroded the openness and fairness of the competition. I’d have no problem with his involvement in this fashion if he were just another blogger. But he’s a full co-sponsor and in fact the founder of the event. I think that sponsors have an obligation to allow others to judge such subjective questions as whether or not a blog is eligible based on political or ideological grounds.
So my problem with all this is that the Post tells me that Aussie Dave doesn’t control who gets nominated or wins. Maybe so. But theoretically, he controls which nominees get into competition by having veto power over that aspect of JIB Awards. Even if he hasn’t used it (note that Derek says he does not know of any such disqualification which is different than saying definitively it hasn’t happened), he could and that alarms me.
Finally, Derek says “the call for nominations was openly publicized to all readers on the Jerusalem Post site.” All well and good. But this competition is not called the “Jerusalem Post Blog Awards.” It’s called the “Jewish and Israeli Blog Awards,” indicating its pretension to embrace the broad diversity of the Jewish-Israeli blog world. Does the Post believe that its readers constitute a broad enough cross section of Jewish opinion regarding which are the best Jewish and Israeli blogs? What would be wrong with publicizing the event to readers of say, Haaretz.com, Nytimes.com or readers of progressive Jewish blogs? My suggestion that the Post make an effort to recruit broader participation in future met with this response from Mr. Fattal:
I believe that the spirit of the competition is open and democratic, and that our conduct has been correct.
What more need be said? The Post is perfectly happy with a skewed, unrepresentative competition. Who are we to carp about it?