Writing this blog, especially when I first began in 2003 was an often lonely venture. I knew what I wanted to say. But I didn’t know who was reading and how to encourage more people to read it. I didn’t know whether I was having any impact on anything or anyone; though I’d come to the realization that while this mattered a lot, it was secondary to my burning need to say what I had to say about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So I began to develop an idea to create an online forum that would allow progressives to discuss the conflict in what I hoped would be a supportive community environment. I pitched this idea to Brit Tzedek as an organizational project for its members. They weren’t interested. I thought that was a mistake, but hey it’s not my organization and they have to decide what their priorities are.
In talking about this with online blogging friends I discovered that Andrew Schamess of Semitism.net shared my vision. So we began developing Israel Palestine Forum. Originally, I conceived of the site as both a blog aggregator for Israel-Palestine peace blogs, an archive of important news and commentary about the conflict, and a discussion forum. Andrew, being an MD, had to drop out of the project for lack of time but I carried on.
After devoting hundreds of hours to the project, I decided that it was perhaps too ambitious and too complicated for people to get their minds around. It just didn’t have a threshold of support or interest in the online community. I worked hard as well at the discussion forum. But initially the debate was extremely contentious between anti-Zionists and a few right-wing pro-Israel types and I felt caught in the middle. It got to the point where I was thankful when a few particular members either lost interest or decided to move elsewhere. I knew my feelings of relief weren’t a generally good sign. I didn’t seem able to recruit the right people who would create the right balance of discussion, debate and sharing. So I basically let the discussion forum run itself and left it to its own devices. Until last week.
For the past year or so I’ve been contributing to Democratic Underground, which has one of the most active Israel-Palestine discussion forums. I see participating there as a good way both to inform the site’s members about my views of the conflict and to enable members to become more aware of my blogs.
Then Violet Crumble, an active DU member, wrote me an e-mail asking what I thought of the idea of creating a progressive Israel-Palestine discussion forum. She felt frustrated with the level of vitriol in the debate directed at progressives there by the right-wing participants.
I replied: “Don’t re-invent the wheel, take my site.” We decided to jointly operate the forum and try to revive interest in it. So if you haven’t ever visited Israel Palestine Forum’s discussion board please do. Please consider joining. And if you ever did visit but didn’t join consider doing so now. If after visiting you have any thoughts about either the conflict or what your vision of the forum could be please share that either on the boards or directly with me. Violet and I welcome your participation.
Personally, I am a progressive Zionist who supports a two state solution. But there is no litmus test defining who is welcome to join the site. But generally we’re looking for people who embrace the notion that there are two legitimate sides to this conflict and that the national rights and needs of both sides must be guaranteed and recognized. We’re especially looking for progressive Palestinians, Arabs and Israeli Jews to join us to represent their personal experience on the boards. We’re definitely not looking for people who believe that the fault for the conflict lies completely on one side or the other. And we’re not looking for people who have a dogged need to persuade us of the fact that their side is wholly right and the other wholly wrong.
And since there are alas right-wing trolls who seem to read this blog religiously, I warn them that we will moderate the blog intensively. Trolls will be banned.