Some of you may know of a very interesting blog aggregator called Global Voices Online. It divides up the blogosphere by country and aggregates some of the best national blogs. Each day, a country editor does a roundup which summarizes particular blog posts. Here’s how the website describes its mission:
Global Voices Online is a non-profit global citizens’ media project.
A growing number of bloggers around the world are emerging as “bridge bloggers:” people who are talking about their country or region to a global audience. Global Voices is your guide to the most interesting conversations, information, and ideas appearing around the world on various forms of participatory media such as blogs, podcasts, photo sharing sites, and videoblogs.
I think this is a terrific and much needed resource for bloggers interested in world affairs. In this day and age, when our nation in particular seems more closed off than ever from voices and perspectives beyond our shores, GVO is a welcome addition.
But I’m slightly flummoxed by the decision to exclude the Israeli-Palestinian category of this blog from GVO’s Israel section. To be fair, the idea of our exclusion isn’t entirely outside the bounds of reason. As managing editor Rachel Rawlins wrote to me:
She [Israel editor Lisa Goldman] concentrates on blogs written by people living in Israel since one of our objectives is to curate conversations generally taking place outside the already very well represented regions of North America and Western Europe.
But the way Goldman explained my exclusion rankled:
I do not include your blog in my roundups on the Israeli blogosphere because you are American, not Israeli…My GVO posts are about the Israeli blogosphere, not the Jewish blogosphere. While blogs about Israel by non-Israelis are often interesting and valuable, they do not, by definition, belong to the Israeli blogosphere
While all this is well and good, it is a false dichotomy in the context of GVO’s Israel section. The reason is that GVO covers only English-language blogs, which means in the case of Israel that the blogs are largely written by Israelis of the English-language Diaspora (U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia, etc.) origin. I’m sure that’s not entirely the case, but I know that it is largely the case. And I’m not saying that these blogs are not ‘Israeli.’ But I am saying that they are not nearly as politically or culturally diverse as the Hebrew-language native Israeli blog world.
It’s for that reason that I think it’s critical to include voices like Tikun Olam. After all, my Israeli-Palestinian section is solely about Israel and its relations with its enemy-neighbor much like the blogs Lisa Goldman reviews for GVO (though to be fair, she does review blogs focussed on non-political issues). But I bring a slightly more independent, disinterested viewpoint to the conversation. If you look at Lisa Goldman’s roundups you’ll see that the politics of the blogs she covers are mostly (though not exclusively) right of center, sometimes far to the right. And when she does include progressive voices she’ll invariably use terms like “leftist” (as she’s done twice in her most recent report) to characterize the blog’s viewpoint. She doesn’t even realize the judgmental nature of the term (and certainly wasn’t intending to offend). But as someone whose views of this conflict have been disparaged numerous times by hardline pro-Israel readers, I know how the term is used and how it feels to have someone spit it at you (not that this was by any means Lisa’s intent).
It’s ironic that Haitham Sabbah, editor of the Palestine Global Voices section does periodically include links to my blog posts about the conflict; but Goldman, a fellow lover of Zion refuses to consider doing so as well. Haitham, my supposed enemy embraces me and she views me as treif.
I disagree with her contention that non-Israeli blogs about Israel do not “belong to the Israeli blogosphere.” It is critical that there be more interaction between these two groups and that those interested in Israel and this conflict should have as broad a representation of opinion as possible. Goldman’s own roundups portray this problem through the relative lack of political diversity in them and her own slight awkwardness in covering blogs she sees as “leftist.” Calling a blogger you don’t agree with a “leftist,” as she’s done twice in her most recent roundup is insulting. I don’t believe she intended this as an insult. But it is condescending and judgmental nonetheless. Has she ever called any bloggers in her roundup “rightist?” I didn’t see that term or even “conservative” used in describing bloggers she covers who are right of center.
In fact, a problem with the English language Israeli blog world is that it is largely (though not entirely) shut off from the progressive end of the political spectrum. That’s why I think letting in ‘outside’ voices (though I do not consider myself outside this sphere) would only expand the dialogue. In addition, within Israeli society voices like mine are not heard clearly because the issue of security seems to put a lid on wide-ranging political discussion. This is something the Global Voices should be willing to address & promote.
My GVO roundups include links to blogs by non-Jewish residents of Israel; some of them are citizens and others are not. My goal is to give a voice to Israel’s complex, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society. I hope that, as a progressive Zionist, you will understand and support my effort to highlight the concerns of Israel’s non-Jewish minority bloggers over those of non-Israelis.
It is good to know that Goldman does not limit her coverage to Jewish Israelis. But if she did this would be discriminatory. So she’s doing a good thing; but it is something I would expect from any competent editor. And why does she make it appear that the decision to include non-Jewish Israeli bloggers in the roundups precludes including folks like me? She’s linking apples & oranges in this case. I say let 1,000 flowers bloom. I would certainly agree if she said she wished to be very careful in terms of the non-Israeli blogs you included because as Rachel wrote to me, you do want to include as much as possible an authentic Israeli voice in this section. But adding my voice will not prevent an authentic Israeli voice from being heard.
By the way, I’m curious how many Israeli Arab bloggers Goldman includes. There may not be many for all I know. But it’d be very valuable to find and include them to the greatest extent possible.