Israel Palestine posts May 25, 2023 10:26 AM   Subscribe

With enormous compassion and respect for the work of moderators on this site, and an understanding that the intent is to avoid polarizing and exhausting debate, I want to ask that we consider the impact of the defacto policy of deleting almost all posts that relate to Palestine and/or Israel.

The context of this defacto policy is within a larger publishing world where articles related to these topics are routinely scrubbed from news sites. Events related to these issues are routinely cancelled by institutions that want to avoid controversy. So Metafilter is not operating alone, but is contributing to silencing discussion on these topics. There is unfortunately no way to remain neutral on this because there is a specific strategic goal of shutting down these discussions by one side.

I recognize the bandwidth for hard topics is at an all time low given the strains on finances and human resources and mental health of the individuals who care for this website, but having 'neutrality' is not an option when 'neutrality' serves the interest of one side.

(This is in reference to the deletion of this post, but there have been many others).

Perhaps there are some creative moderation policies that could be implemented for controversial topics: a cap on how many on a specific topic in a given time period? auto block multiple comments from the same commenter? There has to be a different strategy than essentially a permaban on this topic.
posted by latkes to Etiquette/Policy at 10:26 AM (123 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

I agree with this sentiment, Metafilter does not become any better by becoming more anodyne.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:41 AM on May 25 [11 favorites]


Our usual response for this is that there is no I/P ban but that people need to make posts that acknowledge the very difficult historical status of I/P posts on this site. This is not an attempt at a neutral stance though I understand the feeling that deleting posts on I/P topics gives that appearance. While we are not going to implement any auto-mod types of approaches to this, I think it's worth having a conversation about it. In case people are curious, you can survey undeleted posts that have been tagged with Israel or tagged with Palestine
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:02 AM on May 25 [4 favorites]


I don't know.

This part of your comment seems inarguably true:

I recognize the bandwidth for hard topics is at an all time low given the strains on finances and human resources and mental health of the individuals who care for this website, but

The but however, seems to amount to, "but we should do it anyway" and I'm not sure how you reconcile that with the practical realities of the Metafilter situation captured in the first part of that sentence.
posted by kbanas at 12:52 PM on May 25 [8 favorites]


What went wrong in the linked post? The discussion looks fine to me. Were there deletions?
posted by michaelh at 1:47 PM on May 25 [8 favorites]


There's upwards of 1000 posts tagged with Israel or Palestine. This site has been around for decades by now. Mod guidance would probably be most welcome in compiling an appropriate acknowledgement of past difficulties to attach to future posts, as tackling that on one's own for a post seems awfully intimidating.
posted by otsebyatina at 3:41 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]


In most cases, I imagine a long form article by a descendent of refugees who goes back to his ancestral homeland to try to tell the story of its past and present, while also searching for some personal meaning and connection with relatives, would be an appropriate post. It seems strange that this becomes inappropriate depending on the location.

I am also a little wary of the idea that posts that “spawn” angry reactions are problematic. Aside from posts that are egregiously confrontational (say, sharing an article about why pineapple is the best pizza topping), aren’t the reactions really more the responsibility of the commenters? A post doesn’t have the power to manifest angry comments like a pine tree releasing pollen. The logic here also implies that any post could get deleted if a few people (or in this case, possibly one person) respond angrily. And, as mentioned above, unless things were deleted, nothing seemed particularly angry.

If there’s no policy against posts about this region, I feel like deletion of them should be done according to the standards that mods aim for on posts in general. It’s not clear to me that this is what happened here.
posted by snofoam at 4:44 PM on May 25 [23 favorites]


Moderators, were there comments deleted from that thread?
posted by lapis at 5:45 PM on May 25 [2 favorites]


I don't really understand what it would have looked like for the deleted post to have successfully stayed up with an additional "acknowledge[ment of] the very difficult historical status of I/P posts on this site."
posted by dusty potato at 5:58 PM on May 25 [7 favorites]


It reflects poorly on this community if it's not possible to have a respectful conversation on any topic (respectful does not exclude a passionate and spirited conversation). Unless there were comments deleted, the linked post seemed OK to me, acknowledging there were comments that could lead to aggravation depending on how others reacted to them. It's a topic that is always high risk, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be able to explore the topic anyway.

I've been around long enough to absolutely understand why moderators would be on something of a hair trigger here. I'm not criticising this specific decision, because I suspect there was an attempt to contain the thread by deleting comments before the thread was deleted. But I do wish we were a bit more willing to have conversations that are risky.
posted by dg at 6:00 PM on May 25 [3 favorites]


Speaking as a Jewish person, it hurts my heart that here and elsewhere Palestinian people aren't allowed to write about their own lives without metaphorical scare quotes.
posted by dusty potato at 6:01 PM on May 25 [34 favorites]


I didn't notice the post was deleted until I saw this MeTa. Comparing the deleted post to the one I still have in my browser tabs I see one deleted comment at the end of the thread.
To me, calling it an omission is being incredibly kind. The number of smooth eliding of facts he does here is just another piece of the ongoing narrative of rewriting history chip by chip - and an ugly one. Erasing the Jewish communities of Jaffa as irrelevant. Turning the war of 1948, where Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia all invaded Israel with tanks and bombers and heavy artillery (with Palestinians fighting alongside them), into mere "Arab resistance." Ignoring the fact that hundreds of thousands of Jews were being violently ethnically cleansed from those countries at the same time, because there's no story if there's more than one bad guy in 48. Writing off actual LGBTQ+ pride as propaganda, while Palestinian homophobia is merely "a social death sentence" that just happen to also need "underground networks for shelter." What happened to his Palestinian hookup? He doesn't know... we should assume it's probably something sinister because of evil Zionists. He doesn't even trust his own relative's viewpoint of the situation, choosing instead to project his own opinions on what the man actually felt, but hey, his memory was "hazy" here.

Most of all is the sneaky way he reminds us to follow the money. Tel Aviv is "a cinema of avarice." Sacklers, Adelson, and "It pays to be gay in Israel"? Gross.

The Palestinian struggle for freedom is worth more than a oversimplistic hatchet piece like this. I'm surprised it was allowed to stay up.
posted by Tenuki at 6:09 PM on May 25 [4 favorites]


It's my understanding that the biggest reason for this ban was that it was one of three topics that invariably went badly because of a handful of people who simply could not resist being all-out DICKS to each other in the course of the conversation on those topics.

...However...I have also noticed that a good chunk of that handful of people are no longer on the site (either because that wasn't the only things they were dicks to other people about, and they finally got booted over something else, or because they thought the site was becoming too [whatever] for their taste and they flounced off).

So a part of me wonders whether maybe things HAVE indeed changed. ....The wiser part of me suspects we haven't changed enough however.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 PM on May 25 [16 favorites]


That piece hit hard, and justifiably so. If there was a problem, it sounds like it was what EmpressCallipygos identified just above this comment.

I was one of the first commenters (under my old handle, haven't logged out everywhere) and I'm not happy to hear that the post was deleted.
posted by rabia.elizabeth at 10:58 PM on May 25


The context of this defacto policy is within a larger publishing world where articles related to these topics are routinely scrubbed from news sites

No it’s not. This isn’t a news publishing site, and if it were one it would be it would be the equivalent of someone stapling flyers to a very small number of telephone poles.

If the community wants to talk about I/P or is even capable of it is an interesting question, but let’s not pretend posting it here is going to meaningfully affect the world of news dissemination.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:51 AM on May 26 [5 favorites]


I think it's less that we are the context, and more that we exist within it. Broader outside contexts inform how we approach things here - the transphobic norms of the world are the context in which mefi operates, even if we try to be better than that. Trying to be better than that means, requires being cognizant of the broader context and bearing that in mind when examining analyses, takes, opinions, trends.
posted by Dysk at 2:13 AM on May 26 [9 favorites]


(I mention transphobia in the comment above as a hopefully less charged - in this community - example. Realise in rereading that it can come across a little like I've posted in the wrong thread!)
posted by Dysk at 2:47 AM on May 26 [2 favorites]


I appreciate your approving this metatalk post, which I recognize itself may require a higher level of moderation effort.
posted by latkes at 3:23 AM on May 26 [10 favorites]


There has to be a different strategy than essentially a permaban on this topic.

One idea:

We instituted a US Politics filter. I assume that an Israel/Palestine filter could also be implemented. While I don't know the toll on mods to moderate US Politics posts vs. Israel/Palestine posts, certainly I would expect similar intensity, if not volume of discussion to cover. A filter seems justified to me, given the challenges associated with the topic over the long term on the site.

A filter like this would open up a space for discussion for those who wished to engage, as well as offer an easy way to opt out of these discussions for those who do not wish to engage. It won't stop fights, but it would be a step toward making space for discussion without engaging those people who would feel obliged, for whatever reason, to do so, unless they'd taken steps to stand apart from these discussions. I suspect that's a non-trivial number of MeFites.

Should such a filter be created, I think it would be best to call it "Israel/Palestine," not "I/P." This would avoid confusion over Intellectual Property and Internet Protocols, among other things.

I think this is a great question, and kudos to latkes for raising it. I hope this is a productive discussion. I've contributed one idea and am exiting the thread, so please feel free to take issue with this suggestion, but please do not take a non-response amiss.
posted by cupcakeninja at 5:11 AM on May 26 [4 favorites]


Hi, it's the the mod who was handling the thread and made the decision to first leave it up and then delete it.

As a longtime user of the site and the newest mod, the I/P threads have a longstanding dynamic where there is little ability for the participants to either ignore or let the other side say or do something. The reasons for that are deep and complex and very human.

But it always seems to end up in a bitter fight in the comments, or via messages to the mods (as this thread prompted) or in a MeTa (as this thread prompted).

When the thread first appeared, I consulted with the others on Slack and the general line of thought was that it was better to remove it to avoid problems, but it was up to me. So I left it up and monitored the thread, but in the end believed it was creeping towards the fight we've seen so often before.

I'm not saying it was right per se, but the rationale was very much that this is already becoming a drain on mod time. Based on past examples, what good would come for the site if it was left up?

None of the above should be viewed a final and official decision on the issue. It's just a explanation to help foster understanding.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 6:43 AM on May 26 [25 favorites]


Reading that comment that Tenuki quotes, the one that was deleted, and thinking about the mod staffing levels we have right now, I'm not surprised the whole post was deleted. It's an unpleasant reality but Metafilter doesn't have the moderator bandwidth to handle a bunch of fighty threads. (And I thought so before Brandon's comment above.)

I'm not suggesting that latkes did anything wrong but also the framing (or lack thereof) of the post was probably not a help. It's unfortunate that some topics (I/P isn't the only one) require a lot of work to make them viable as posts for Metafilter but that's how it is, between audience, moderation bandwidth, etc. I'm also not saying that better framing could 100% prevent an argument because I/P is one of those subjects where people have strong feelings about the morality of the subject matter and there's also a strong inter-left split, which is a recipe for a lot of fighting on Metafilter.

I'd like it if we could discuss I/P topics civilly on the blue but I'm also a realist about our resources. The question that keeps coming to my mind is: if we as a community really want to have an I/P thread, what would we have to/be willing to give up mod time/coverage on to have it and keep it from going bad?
posted by gentlyepigrams at 7:17 AM on May 26 [3 favorites]


...I thought mod staffing levels were...normal? After the fundraiser? Perhaps I am wrong.
posted by tiny frying pan at 7:20 AM on May 26 [6 favorites]


I think there's coverage all the time but the whole discussion about paid staff vs volunteering leaves me with the impression we still have hard limits.
posted by gentlyepigrams at 7:40 AM on May 26


As someone who falls on the “Let More Things Stay Up, Delete Less” side of Metafilter, I am ostensibly in agreement with this post. The deleted thread reads as unproblematic to me. So does the deleted comment that is reposted in this thread, which is doing nothing more than sharing passionate critique of the linked article, which is par for the course for how Metafilter works, not breaking any rules (probably could have done without the “I’m surprised it was allowed to stay up” line at the end).

I am a little put off by the framing of this request, though.

“There is unfortunately no way to remain neutral on this because there is a specific strategic goal of shutting down these discussions by one side…having 'neutrality' is not an option when 'neutrality' serves the interest of one side. ”

It’s possible I’m reading this wrong, but this reads to me as if the OP is wanting Metafilter to essentially endorse a position here. To pick a side. It makes me suspicious of the motivation behind putting up the initial post, since this framing places it less as “Here is an interesting article I came across” and more as “Here is a Call to Action”.

I still believe the post should have stayed as I’m not a fan of “pre-deleting” in anticipation of hypothetical future ugliness. I’m also not a fan of the suggestion that the entity of Metafilter needs to plant a flag in the ground on every controversial political issue and state a position as seems to be suggested by this Meta. Again, it’s possible I’m misreading that.
posted by The Gooch at 7:58 AM on May 26 [6 favorites]


Not to threadsit, but it's important to consider moderator resources beyond pure financial terms and time. Having to repeatedly deal with a collection of posts, flags, comments, emails, and metas about single subject can be draining on a number of levels.

The question remains, IMO, what good is being done for the site in terms of having these posts?
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 8:02 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]


I did and do...but in general don't think I'm the only one who is fuzzy on why this would likely be a huge drain on moderator time/energy enough to preemptively close it.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:06 AM on May 26 [5 favorites]


what good is being done for the site in terms of having these posts?

For having these posts that express the viewpoint of an oppressed, marginalized community under the thumb of occupation?

You might want to step back and have a think about this one. And perhaps extend your "logic" to other discussions of oppression from a minority perspective.

As someone who has worked in Palestine, on Palestine, with Palestinians, I find your comment and approach here obtuse and incredibly ignorant. And that's being generous.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 8:23 AM on May 26 [34 favorites]


It’s possible I’m reading this wrong, but this reads to me as if the OP is wanting Metafilter to essentially endorse a position here.

I believe you are misreading the OP. They were saying that prohibiting/limiting the discussion on this issue, the site is effectively supporting the more powerful side (i.e. Israel). Like, for example, a ban on posts about the treatment of Uyghurs in China effectively supports the Chinese government. Allowing posts creates a space for people on all sides of an issue to discuss it. If anything, the OP is suggesting that site management stop taking a side on the issue, even though they are only doing so implicitly/indirectly.
posted by snofoam at 8:56 AM on May 26 [28 favorites]


The question remains, IMO, what good is being done for the site in terms of having these posts?

It gives users a chance to read about one of the most important geopolitical issues of the last century? It gives users connected to this place and this conflict the opportunity to share their perspectives? It gives us a chance to learn, reflect, and discuss? These are the reasons MetaFilter exists, in my opinion. The goal is to share things and have discussions, even difficult ones. Moderation itself is a means to achieving these goals, right? Moderation is done to make discussion possible. The goal is not to limit discussion to make moderation easier. (Although obviously being civil and doing other things to make moderation easier are great things to do and ultimately facilitate discussion.)
posted by snofoam at 9:08 AM on May 26 [41 favorites]


Why not just let the posts stay, and if people are really becoming terrible and impossible to moderate and flags are being thrown left and right, just close out the damn thread. "Sorry kids, you blew it, the thread is becoming impossible to moderate. We're locking up comments because we don't have the bandwidth." I personally can easily tell when any other thread is going to become super contentious and divisive, for some reason they are allowed to stay up but I/P gets pre-deleted? I'll be candid, it makes the site look like shit much more than any mean or fighty comments do.
posted by windbox at 9:19 AM on May 26 [18 favorites]


Why not just let the posts stay, and if people are really becoming terrible and impossible to moderate and flags are being thrown left and right, just close out the damn thread. "Sorry kids, you blew it, the thread is becoming impossible to moderate. We're locking up comments because we don't have the bandwidth."

It's my understanding that that's what came BEFORE the blanket Israel/Palestine posts ban, and that the ban only came along because the mods were having to close out EACH AND EVERY thread on the topic.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on May 26 [2 favorites]


Also, from what I understand, similar bans are in place about the topics of cat declawing and circumcision. So it's not solely a political stance.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:20 AM on May 26 [6 favorites]


It gives users a chance to read about one of the most important geopolitical issues of the last century? It gives users connected to this place and this conflict the opportunity to share their perspectives? It gives us a chance to learn, reflect, and discuss? These are the reasons MetaFilter exists, in my opinion. The goal is to share things and have discussions, even difficult ones. Moderation itself is a means to achieving these goals, right? Moderation is done to make discussion possible. The goal is not to limit discussion to make moderation easier. (Although obviously being civil and doing other things to make moderation easier are great things to do and ultimately facilitate discussion.)

Strongly agreed.

I personally learned a lot from both the post itself and from the comments critical of it.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:11 AM on May 26 [9 favorites]


So...this comes down to, mods don't want to mod these discussions? Isn't that the job?

I mean, despite all the community talk, MeFi is a business so I suppose it does come down to what paid staff want to do, but personally don't understand why a "historically" difficult topic can't proceed with caution. It's also not like we are the same community since the beginning of MeFi. If someone behaves badly this time around, they can have a time out or a ban.
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:18 AM on May 26 [15 favorites]


what good is being done for the site in terms of having these posts?

Depends a bit on who/what we see ourselves and our values as. In the grand scheme, having difficult but well-structured conversations is important. If, as one of the perhaps best-moderated open sites on the internet, even we can't discuss this topic, that's certainly a larger problem for the world.

Seeds of Peace
posted by eviemath at 10:24 AM on May 26 [4 favorites]


I don't normally read metatalk but I came over here actually to find out why I never see anything on meta about occupied Palestine. Last night I was up really really late for Shavuot (Jewish holiday when we stay up really late studying and talking and eating dairy to celebrate receiving receiving the bible) so I was around a lot of people who support the occupation and assume that the people around them do as well.

I don't support the occupation because, well, my mom didn't raise a genocide denier. When other people bring up Israel a lot it makes me think about the assumptions we make about who agrees with us and why, and how I think it's important to make space in our communities, if we are committed to them and want to be able to bring our full selves to them, for conversation about why we hold our varies values.
posted by Summers at 11:18 AM on May 26 [22 favorites]


It’s possible I’m reading this wrong, but this reads to me as if the OP is wanting Metafilter to essentially endorse a position here. To pick a side. It makes me suspicious of the motivation behind putting up the initial post, since this framing places it less as “Here is an interesting article I came across” and more as “Here is a Call to Action”.

The status quo is that we can't talk about Palestine or Palestinians without assholes taking a giant shit on them, so the site has already staked a position. It certainly doesn't help that both the Israeli government and US Jewish organizations like ADL and the COP have taken a maximalist position that even recognizing the Nakba is itself antisemitism.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of Jewish Israeli journalists, academics, and activists using words to describe the current oppression in terms such as "apartheid," "genocide," and "fascism." The fact that Haaretz can say that but no one here can should be a sign.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 12:07 PM on May 26 [11 favorites]


Anyway, in regards to the thread in question, it seems like there was only one person there doing the threadshitting, why not just ask them to step back and let others share their opinions?
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 12:11 PM on May 26 [4 favorites]


There's upwards of 1000 posts tagged with Israel or Palestine.

That's a bit disingenuous as it includes the site's early years, before the mods started actively discouraging or deleting posts about one of the most striking and consequential civil rights issues of our time. Since the start of 2017, say, a quick look at the last 6.5 years shows 27 posts on the blue tagged with Palestine (many about art or tagged Palestine in a relatively ancillary way), and 26 posts tagged with Israel (some are tagged both). That's not a whole lot.

I would very much like to know what it was about the deleted thread or the deleted comment that could have been edited to meet Jessamyn's "people need to make posts that acknowledge the very difficult historical status of I/P posts on this site" requirement. What would that look like?

Brandon, I think this deletion was a mistake, and it's time the site rethought its simplistic approach to Palestinian issues on the front page. Let relatively calmly framed posts stand, and if individuals start insulting members or showing that they're otherwise unable to engage in discussion in good faith, give them a timeout.
posted by mediareport at 12:53 PM on May 26 [7 favorites]


Meant to add: a trial period would be a good start.
posted by mediareport at 12:54 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


It certainly doesn't help that both the Israeli government and US Jewish organizations like ADL and the COP have taken a maximalist position that even recognizing the Nakba is itself antisemitism.

Prejudicial hyperbole is one of the reasons I/P threads get so hot so quickly. If you decide to flatly and broadly characterize all US Jewish organizations as "maximalist", as opposed to "put the events of 1948 in context with everything that happened in the two decades preceeding it, not to mention the decades afterwards", that could cause a problem. And yes, that can be an anti-semitic response, just as it is possible for a well-meaning person to have a racist response without realizing it.

there are plenty of Jewish Israeli journalists, academics, and activists using words to describe the current oppression in terms such as "apartheid," "genocide," and "fascism."

But they are not on this site and they aren't the moderator's problem. If you want to have a discussion about Israel and Palestine that (a) does not become a free-for-all of personal attacks, and (b) doesn't exclude the many and varied voices of American and international Judaism from participating, I would ask posters to avoid using language that automatically assume evil intentions.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 1:11 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]


Also, as far as I know mods here simply don't have some of the tools suggested above for moderating I/P threads. There's no way to give members a time-out from specific threads, only to ban from the site. There's no way to cap how many I/P posts can be made in a given time period, or auto-block multiple comments from the same commenter.

These tools exist on other sites with more robust message board technology, but not here.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 1:18 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


I only brought up the rough count of tagged posts to highlight how ambiguous the demand to "acknowledge the very difficult historical status" came across to me. That's a lot to survey, even if only to sift through for particularly relevant posts, and also doesn't include whatever deleted posts that maybe most exemplified past difficulties?

My overall point is that more clear guidance ought to come from the steering committee/mods, rather than leaving it to the poster to find a way to contextualize the subject to prevent past issues recurring. I suspect that, absent firm guidelines from mods, that context would be disregarded anyway if it got in the way of making a comment someone felt strongly enough about to post.
posted by otsebyatina at 1:20 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


A day off from the site is what I was suggesting, Pluto, if someone is behaving badly in an I/P thread. Mods certainly have that tool, and have used it many times.
posted by mediareport at 1:21 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


But they are not on this site and they aren't the moderator's problem. If you want to have a discussion about Israel and Palestine that (a) does not become a free-for-all of personal attacks, and (b) doesn't exclude the many and varied voices of American and international Judaism from participating, I would ask posters to avoid using language that automatically assume evil intentions.

Without getting into rest of this, then what about the many and varied voices of American and international Judaism right here on this site who feel that what is going on is evil?
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 1:41 PM on May 26 [8 favorites]


Prejudicial hyperbole is one of the reasons I/P threads get so hot so quickly. If you decide to flatly and broadly characterize all US Jewish organizations as "maximalist",

They didn't do this, which I think should be obvious from the fact that there are US Jewish organizations that do not take the position described.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:44 PM on May 26 [15 favorites]


I wish we got to have other kinds of discussions here about Israel and/or Palestine—ones the site does well, like "this story reminds me of a story..." or "I happen to know a thing or two on this subject..."

I'd love to hear from someone who wrote their dissertation on that weird old novel that Hawa starts with, or who's been involved first-hand with the push for gay tourism in Tel Aviv. That's the kind of human context I come to MetaFilter for, and that I can't really get anywhere else. For whatever reason, we just excel at it.

But when that region of the world comes up, we end up having conversations that we are, as a site, pretty terrible at having—like "Is this article 100% factually correct?" or "is the writer acting in bad faith?" or "who gets to decide what counts as good faith?" or "are the very terms of the debate being manipulated for someone's benefit?" or etc etc etc.

Those are important questions too. We just suck at them. We don't have the right culture or the right expertise to handle them well. Our mods aren't fact-checkers, mediators, editors, debate judges, conflict resolution professionals, or philosophers. And you can't tackle those questions without having people onboard who can do at least one or two of these things. So when I want to hear about them, I go elsewhere. (That's true for other parts of the world too. Metafilter is swapping weird facts about congressional districts? Great. Metafilter is bitterly parsing out how we should determine who gets to decide exactly which positions on gerrymandering are acceptable to express? Yeah, no, if I want that level of adversarial intensity, I can get it more clearly and sanely elsewhere.)

If there was a way to open up room for human-context conversations about Israel or Palestine, I'd be all for it. I mean, fuck, I'd be delighted, because that's a part of the world I'd love to know more about at a human scale. If the goal is just to Enable Debate on those meta-political questions that are way outside our expertise... no thanks.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:34 PM on May 26 [9 favorites]


The idea that MetaFilter has some specific characteristic that makes it “bad” at discussing Israel/Palestine has always struck me as ridiculous. I/P discussions are contentious and emotional everywhere that has open and free discussion. The issue isn’t some weird quirk or failing of MF as a whole, it’s just a decision that we don’t tolerate discussion of contentious subjects unless there is a fairly well established orthodoxy among MF posters, e.g., gun control or abortion. Outside of the orthodoxy, you can argue about which bands suck, or what foods are tasty, just nothing that’s going to be that important to anyone. Those are the conversations we allow, but it’s not that MF is not good at ones we don’t allow, we just don’t tolerate the arguments about anything people here care about. There are other places people have such discussions or arguments, and they’re not qualitatively better, they just allow people to disagree vehemently and even dislike each other over their opinions. For whatever reason, MF doesn’t tolerate disagreement about anything important.
posted by skewed at 3:07 PM on May 26 [50 favorites]

Anti-BDS laws in the United States

Proliferation of anti-BDS laws in state legislatures.
As of 2021, 35 states have passed bills and executive orders designed to discourage boycotts of Israel.[4] Many of them have been passed with broad bipartisan support.[5] Most anti-BDS laws have taken one of two forms: contract-focused laws requiring government contractors to promise that they are not boycotting Israel; and investment-focused laws, mandating public investment funds to avoid entities boycotting Israel.[6] There has been debate over whether the laws violate the right to free speech and organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) have challenged many of them in court cases.[7]
There is a conspiracy to silence discussion of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, as well as a conspiracy of silence.

This conspiracy was orchestrated from Israel with the support of the Israeli government:
The spread of anti-BDS laws in U.S. states is largely due to the lobbying of the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF), an umbrella group of Israel lobbies headquartered in Jerusalem that has received funding from the Israeli government.[25] In 2015, in response to South Carolina's anti-BDS law, IAF announced that it had drafted a model act, combining the anti-BDS bills in South Carolina and Illinois. A model act is a "template bill" that can be enacted in many legislatures with little or no modification. IAF also announced that 18 more states were "committed to introducing" similar legislation in their states.[26]
I can’t think of another topic of broad public interest which has experienced this kind of outright censorship in my lifetime, and I would like Metafilter to defy that censorship, not by taking a stand one way or another, but simply by being open to discussion of the issues involved.
posted by jamjam at 3:21 PM on May 26 [8 favorites]


The question remains, IMO, what good is being done for the site in terms of having these posts?

What good is being done for the site in terms of having any posts? Presumably they encourage engagement, interaction, and reflection.
posted by lapis at 4:34 PM on May 26 [13 favorites]


...bans are in place about the topics of cat declawing and circumcision.

i have probably contributed to the unpleasantness surrounding the topic, but it has never been satisfactorily explained to me why anyone woud want to circumcise a cat and it makes me so mad
posted by logicpunk at 5:21 PM on May 26 [25 favorites]


It seems worthwhile to take a time out from Israeli/Palestinian issues to note that antisemitic incidents in the U.S. rose by 36% in 2022, and are at an all-time high. Although hate crimes overall rose by 12% between 2020 and 2021, and "American Jews account for only 2.4% of the U.S. population, they are the victims of 63% of reported religiously motivated hate crimes, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

Schools and synagogues are also a growing target.
  • [T]he number of bomb threats towards Jewish institutions, including schools and synagogues, spiked from eight to 91. It is the highest number of bomb threats since 2017.
  • Young children and educators in K-12 schools were victims of threats or assaults in 494 incidents. Meanwhile, 219 incidents were reported on college campuses.
  • People who presented as Orthodox Jews were targeted in 59 of the assault incidents nationally.
The White House is taking this seriously enough that yesterday the Biden administration released the country's first national strategy for combating anti-semitism.

posted by Violet Blue at 6:07 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]


It seems worthwhile to take a time out from Israeli/Palestinian issues to note that antisemitic incidents in the U.S. rose by 36% in 2022, and are at an all-time high.

This is always worth paying attention to, but I am not sure why you are bringing it up in this context, unless you think that any criticism of Israel must be anti-Semitic.

I wasn't aware of this soft ban on I/P posts. I read the linked essay before the post was deleted and I had some issues with it (if I understood his allusion correctly, community solidarity and extrajudicial murder of perceived collaborators are uncomfortable yokemates) but nonetheless thought I also learned some things from it. The commenters, bar the last one, seemed to be trying very hard to engage with each other respectfully. I think it's unfortunate that the mods seem to have allowed a heckler's veto here.
posted by praemunire at 6:25 PM on May 26 [32 favorites]


I vote to continue the ban on certain topics. Mifi is a nice place, handles some things better than almost any other, maybe stick to what works.
posted by sammyo at 6:26 PM on May 26 [3 favorites]


As someone who hasn’t been particularly involved in the I/P threads but has also taken classes with very nuanced tales on the subject, I will say that it is not that all criticism of Israel is automatically antisemitism, but that antisemites often also dislike the policy of Israel, and thus in any given article opposing Israel’s actions, you’re likely going to have either quotes from antisemites, antisemitic comments, or pictures of people with antisemitic signs. Which makes this whole thing even more fraught at a time when mod resources are at their lowest.

I am not sure how to handle that. I think discussion of the topic is important; I also feel like there are a lot of places to have those conversations elsewhere and that Metafilter historically does worse at This Is Important And Everyone Must Look posts.

I was also a mega user of the Us politics threads and saw firsthand that those were literally impossible for mods to moderate without massive burnout; I don’t think that we can do something like that again.
posted by corb at 6:41 PM on May 26 [10 favorites]

I will say that it is not that all criticism of Israel is automatically antisemitism, but that antisemites often also dislike the policy of Israel, and thus in any given article opposing Israel’s actions, you’re likely going to have either quotes from antisemites, antisemitic comments, or pictures of people with antisemitic signs. Which makes this whole thing even more fraught...
... when anti-Jewish harassment occurred in 94 countries in 2020, and is on the rise here.
posted by Violet Blue at 6:47 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


Would it be appropriate to start posting statistics of violence against Palestinians here? I'm unclear what people are getting at above; it seems to be an insinuation that any criticism of Israel can't help but lead to antisemitic violence.
posted by sagc at 7:07 PM on May 26 [17 favorites]


I unfortunately must preface the following statement by sharing that I am Jewish:

The two comments referencing US anti-Semitism appear to be off topic to this post.

Additionally, the allegation that "any given article opposing Israel’s actions, you’re likely going to have either quotes from antisemites, antisemitic comments, or pictures of people with antisemitic signs" is demonstrably false.

While anti-semitism is an important topic, these comments appear to be a derail of the topic of this post.
posted by latkes at 7:49 PM on May 26 [24 favorites]


I’m unclear what people are getting at above; it seems to be an insinuation that any criticism of Israel can’t help but lead to antisemitic violence.

It’s a bit of a reflection of how US-centric Metafilter can be. But also seems to be in response to the comments that point out the power differential between Israel and Palestine. Global antisemitism is certainly a background to the foundation of the state of Israel, and thus somewhat relevant, though I think the context of the state relations between Israel and Palestine/Palestinians is a separate thing, and that care should be taken to avoid conflating Israel with Jewish people around the world in general because that conflation actually exacerbates antisemitism (antisemites in other countries use such a conflation to argue that Jewish citizens of their own country are either not really citizens/have divided loyalties, or have more social and political power within countries other than Israel than they in fact have). That is, I support being able to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the systemic power differentials within that conflict distinctly from discussions of antisemitism within the US. However, it is not confusing or unknowable why folks would bring up antisemitism in the US within such a discussion, and one way we can work together to have more productive conversations on this topic would be to make a very strong effort to avoid hyperbole, or to phrase questions that we have more clearly as personal questions. That could mean using some otherwise awkward language or what might feel in most contexts like over-exaggerated humility, eg. “I’m not, personally, understanding the relevance of this yet; could someone please explain it to me in more detail?” instead of phrasing our perspective as if it were more objective. “This doesn’t make sense to me” versus “this doesn’t make sense [implied objectively]”. (Concurrently, of course, each of us as readers needs to make the effort to observe the difference between those two statements and not also engage in further hyperbole in any reactions.)

I suspect that an ‘Israel/Palestine conflict history 101’ together with at least a link to a guide on forms that organized antisemitism often takes in the US, similar to the trans 101 guide, could be useful for helping us as a community have better discussions on this topic.
posted by eviemath at 8:05 PM on May 26 [17 favorites]


This shitshow thread is the best proof by demonstration that the current policy is absolutely right. Mods, I want you should keep banning I/P posts!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 10:59 PM on May 26 [6 favorites]



I unfortunately must preface the following statement by sharing that I am Jewish
-latkes

I'm laughing at the idea that a non-jew would chose the nickname 'latkes' for themself.

Anyways, it's odd to me that a couple of commenters in this thread are insinuating that any criticism of Israel is necessarily antisemitic since at least a couple of the voices here speaking in support of Palestine are Jewish. It does seem like metafilter isn't prepared to have these convos in an intelligent way. Personally I avoid them in mixed company, because they mostly constitute an emotionally fraught waste of time, but I do discuss with my Rabbi, friends, and even pro-israel individuals who I have relationships with.

I would rather that we have messy arguments than simply ignore "controversial" violence that is clearly near to many of our hearts for a variety of reasons. I think ignoring the topic mainly serves the right-wing Israeli interest of erasing the culture and struggle of Palestinians and allows ostensibly neutral parties to remain in denial about an ongoing genocide that is funded in large part by the US government.
posted by Summers at 3:00 AM on May 27 [17 favorites]


I’d like to say that I didn’t see the post before it was deleted and instead read it and the article because it was linked here. It was interesting and I learned things. I’m not an expert, I don’t know the nuances and I don’t think I’d ever post a comment in an Israel/Palestine thread because it is so damn complicated and so damn full of pain and anger and history. But I want to be able to read articles like this one and articles from other perspectives.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:13 AM on May 27 [11 favorites]


Maybe part of the problem is that MetaFilter is a “101” or “Basic” level discussion site, because anyone can participate, regardless of familiarity with the topic. This is often a feature, because it introduces people to neat things and ideas. But some topics, I/P among them, really require a “201” or “Moderate” level of knowledge, because it’s a tangled mess of antisemitism, colonialism, racism, politics, history, religion, identity, etc and a lot of groups are invested in muddying the waters for their particular goals. I’d be leery of posting anything on the topic that I hadn’t fully vetted, and I’m not sure I have the time or expertise to do that. It’s a topic that does not have a simple answer, nor one amenable to discussion in brief comments.

Which doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be posts on it, but those posts might have to be more heavily moderated, including closing or deleting the FPP. If you want 201 posts, you need to bring 201 knowledge and attitudes. I don’t think I/P is the only topic in this category, but I’ll stop here.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:07 AM on May 27 [10 favorites]


I think there are kind of three vectors here.

One is, do I/P posts add to the site enough to make up for the impact on readers/users/members? That's a complex decision to make and I don't have useful thoughts at this time, but having actual metrics at some point would help, where traffic could be measured and maybe things like searches on 'how do I close my account" going up on particular days etc.

I will say that I think banned topics also impact on getting new members and keeping people engaged, because it adds to the load of figuring out how and when to participate. But I'm not sure any one topic can be the root of that.

Two is, I/P posts and the impact on moderators.

I think moderator burnout is complicated, and banning contentious topics (or megathreads, which kind of were their own thing) is definitely one way to address it at a slightly more systemic level. However...one thing I suspect mods deal with is that they are often thrown into the position of making the Decision On The Side Of Social Good overall, and if you think about the number of topics moderators would then need -- to build on GenjiandProust's point -- 201 knowledge about could be kind of overwhelming, especially if the organization isn't really able to provide training and support for that. I think that's why a lot of places limit their moderation to specific guidelines more geared towards interaction than content, or else have subject matter experts moderating their own subjects (i.e. Reddit).

But looking at that is a big question about site direction. (Direction three)

For now, because Jessamyn's been thrown into running the site without formal community advisors, while I kind of agree with latkes's request that a rethink would be good, it might be a case of maintaining the status quo until those resources are in place.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:15 AM on May 27 [4 favorites]


Deleting the original post just led to a 60-comment post over here, which presumably also needs to be moderated.
posted by kingdead at 7:44 AM on May 27 [5 favorites]


do I/P posts add to the site enough to make up for the impact on readers/users/members?

Asking this in all sincerity, because clearly there are some subterranean topic restrictions I don't know about: what other subject matters are required to prove they can pass this test? (The politics megathreads were an issue because of scope, not subject matter, and I don't believe FPPs that happen to fall within the topics discussed in those threads are restricted as a matter of course.)

Another question of sincerity, this time with an apology for my ignorance: has Mefi ever consulted its Palestinian readers/users/members to see what the impact is on them of banning discussion of their lives and politics? What about Israelis generally?
posted by praemunire at 9:13 AM on May 27 [19 favorites]


Not to threadsit, but it's important to consider moderator resources beyond pure financial terms and time. Having to repeatedly deal with a collection of posts, flags, comments, emails, and metas about single subject can be draining on a number of levels.

The question remains, IMO, what good is being done for the site in terms of having these posts?


as we move towards a model of community governance, i think we need to have a hard conversation about whether this is a place where moderation expectations inform the discussions we have, or a place where the discussions we have inform the moderation decisions. the benefit of having those posts is allowing the adults who post on this website to discuss the ongoing apartheid project happening right now.
posted by JimBennett at 9:30 AM on May 27 [21 favorites]


I'm concerned about the comments here claiming this thread is a shitshow or unmanageable or the like. This thread has seem reasonably measured and respectful about a charged topic, and emotion is not always "bad" or unproductive. Disagreement and respectful conflict are not bad or to be avoided. I think a lot of users and moderators of the site need better skills in managing conflict (not squashing or avoiding it, not just resolving it, not just ignoring it), because otherwise we're going to get to a place (or are already in a place) where any contrary opinion on anything is seen as dangerous. (I'm not including hate speech in this; hate speech should not be allowed.) That's not a welcoming "101-" or even a "201-level site" either, that squashes diversity and inclusion, and it leads to endless unspoken/unwritten rules about how people need to behave that are not based in fairness but just subjective "niceness."
posted by lapis at 9:53 AM on May 27 [34 favorites]


what other subject matters are required to prove they can pass this test?

That's a really good question praemunire.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:03 AM on May 27


I suspect that an ‘Israel/Palestine conflict history 101’ together with at least a link to a guide on forms that organized antisemitism often takes in the US, similar to the trans 101 guide, could be useful for helping us as a community have better discussions on this topic.

Does the trans 101 guide randomly contain a link to some unrelated feminist issue that's also a heavily exploited TERF talking point? I really hope it doesn't. Similarly I am Jewish and would not like to be instrumentalized against Palestinians in the way you're suggesting.
posted by dusty potato at 10:18 AM on May 27 [19 favorites]


It's also not at all lost on me that suddenly the site has a keen interest in Jewish safety when there's an opportunity to gag-rule some Palestinians, whereas when I once expressed concern on the Blue about posted PR for the Azov Battalion-- actual nazis who are in the most literal sense possible the descendants of the people who pogromed my ancestors in the same region-- I was basically told by the site's Ukraine War season ticketholders to stop yucking their yum.
posted by dusty potato at 10:42 AM on May 27 [18 favorites]


I don’t understand what you mean, dusty potato, about being instrumentalized against Palestinians. Could you please give a bit more detail? I suspect that there has been some communication gap on one side or the other here, since I also agree that brings up antisemitism in the US is often not relevant to discussions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, just as bringing up Israeli apartheid or repression against Palestinians would be both off topic and (depending on context) potentially contributing to antisemitism in a discussion of antisemitism in the US. But following my own suggestion, I’d like to ensure that I understand what you’re saying before responding.
posted by eviemath at 10:45 AM on May 27 [1 favorite]


I think that one thing we should all additionally be careful of in threads discussing difficult subjects is to avoid generalizing from some commenters to Metafilter or a discussion thread as a whole.
posted by eviemath at 10:47 AM on May 27 [5 favorites]


eviemath, I apologize if I misunderstood your post. It seemed to me to be expressing something a little opposite to what you just explained, but I may have gotten overheated and misinterpreted. I don't really think an "Israel/Palestine guide" is something that Metafilter either could do competently nor needs in order to discuss Palestine in an adult way, so I suppose I've let the cart run away with the horse anyhow.
posted by dusty potato at 10:53 AM on May 27 [3 favorites]


I think latkes post is here is well put and rings quite true. Deleting I/P posts absolutely does benefit the powerful at the expense of the powerless and it reproduces and reinforces a political project in the US that has aimed to shut down this discussion for decades. We don't have to accept this framing.

I can't help but think that we wouldn't accept this if we were talking about trans issues. Can you imagine if we said we would not have posts about trans issues because people were fighting in the threads? I think the only difference is there are fewer Palestinians here.

I'd like to see a hard line on discussions about anti-semitism in the US on I/P threads. It's not relevant and it's yet another example of the constant need to view every issue through a US-politics lens, which is quite tiresome for those of us from the rest of the world (as has been discussed at length). Of course, we're all aware of the argument as to why anti-semitism is relevant, but we don't have to, as a community, accept it!

I think if we deleted those discussions as off-topic, that would go a long way towards making these threads tenable. I'm aware this would take some work, especially to start, but it doesn't feel like an unreasonable approach, compared to letting things develop to the point where fights are starting and then deleting.
posted by ssg at 1:23 PM on May 27 [12 favorites]


Why do people always bring up trans stuff like the site is super deferential and helpful and correct on trans stuff?? It's simply not true and most of the examples of how trans issues or concerns "would be" treated are fantastical and not based in reality.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 1:56 PM on May 27 [9 favorites]


It makes sense to me to say "bringing up US antisemitism is not relevant to Palestinian struggle for liberation" and having some other guidelines for staying on topic when Palestine comes up. Good idea from ssg
posted by Summers at 3:01 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


I agree strongly with latkes (and also, yes, extremely funny the person with this username felt the need to specify that they are Jewish), and those pointing out that it's a bit disturbing that I/P posts are quickly removed, while other controversial topics are not - if a user is being unproductive to a conversation, I don't quite see why it's so hard for the mods to tell them they need to butt out (I've seen this done in other threads), and if they don't, ban them for a day. Metafilter doesn't ban users from any other marginalized from making posts related to their struggles or situations, so this seems like bad policy (I gather that's why people are brining up "trans stuff" - not to suggest the site is perfect on it, but that those posts are allowed, as they should be, even if they generate work for the mods).
posted by coffeecat at 3:19 PM on May 27 [4 favorites]


Agree that we should avoid analogizing different struggles. But speaking broadly, Metafilter has changed moderation strategies over the time I've been here (since 2006) from 'open debate' to recognizing that some issues should not be just broadly opened to debate. Trans issues are one example. Your mileage may vary on current moderation of comments and posts that discuss trans people, but we do have a very different culture around this than 20 years ago. This site change involved the moderators deciding to 'pick a side'.

On the issue of the government of Israel, I think the moral thing to do is to 'take a side' in the same way (now more than ever!). However, I don't anticipate that happening on this website at least right now. Despite that, I love it here and, and my ask is that posts that mention the occupation of Palestine be allowed to exist here, and comments that redirect those threads away from the posted topic be deleted. That will indeed cause sadness and anger for some users. That is real.

Another member here recently introduced me to the concept of "hasbara" - which was quite eye opening for me. Whatever decisions Jessamyn and the moderation team make about posts about Palestine and Israel should at least be made with eyes open about the propagandistic power of silencing discussion of Palestine. This is not about people's feelings or intent. My practice is to assume good faith in most everyone here.
posted by latkes at 3:21 PM on May 27 [17 favorites]


Why do people always bring up trans stuff like the site is super deferential and helpful and correct on trans stuff??

I was probably the first to do it. My brain works on analogy. I don't want to co-opt anyone's struggles or issues, so I draw analogy to the issues where I have skin in the game.
posted by Dysk at 7:15 PM on May 27 [4 favorites]


I’m coming in to this discussion late – it’s been the Jewish holiday of Shavuot and I’m only just back online.

I'm pretty sure there were two I/P posts within about week of each other. One was deleted and the other wasn't. I think calling this a blanket ban is part of the problem, and also part of why this MeTa has so many comments. The senseless killing going on practically every day makes people angry. Saying we can’t talk about it makes people even more angry. The ongoing crisis in Israel and Palestine is a multi-sided, entrenched and complicated tragedy. If it were simple, it would be solved already. Right before Passover, a man intentionally ran a woman and her two daughters off the road, then walked up to the car and shot each of them in the head. But while I’d like to think there are people reading this who are outraged at the murder, I suspect more people here are outraged when they saw that I centered Jewish deaths instead of Palestinian deaths to make my point, considering how exponentially higher the Palestinian death toll is. But that kind of is my point. In most if not all I/P posts here, Israeli deaths aren’t considered tragic, or even relevant. The two I/P threads that were posted in the last two weeks, both the one that stayed up and the one that didn’t, felt very much like the old “joke” of ‘have you stopped beating your wife?’ There was no way to have a discussion within either thread that wasn’t in agreement with the framing. Only one kind of violence mattered. Taking issue with any talking points would be flagged as a derail. In the one that stayed up, someone made the completely anodyne comment that people were killed on both sides, and it was flagged and moderated.

I am the person whose comment was removed in the deleted post. I have immediate family living in and around Tel Aviv, and my mother in law was born in Israel (not in Tel Aviv; in Jerusalem) in the 1930’s – her family’s story is among those that are regularly erased or treated dismissively when talking about Palestinian history, just as the writer of the narrative and at least one commenter did with the Jewish community of Jaffa. I understand if my comment was deleted because my tone was angry or because of my last statement. But the bulk of my comment was directed toward the points of the actual essay. I’d love to know if it was flagged for the tone, or because my pushback in itself was seen as a derail. Because if any dissension on an I/P post is seen as too fighty to stay up, the problem may not be the site. If I created a post about a study showing the psychological effects of rocket fire on Israeli children who have to run to bomb shelters in the middle of their school day or the middle of the night, sometimes dozens of times in a single week, would that post get the same moderation protection, so no one would be able respond in the comments about Palestinian kids being hit by Israeli missiles without their posts being moderated or deleted? What if, instead of a study, it was a personal essay by an Israeli mom about how emotionally wrenching it is for her kids? I have no interest in creating such a post (the first version, or the second). If I saw it, I would flag it. But I can’t imagine it would be treated or moderated with the same kid gloves as the latest I/P posts – or that people here would be upset if it were deleted.

Which brings me to the elephant in the room, because it’s always here. People talk about anti-semitism being on the rise because it is on the rise. Not just in the US - everywhere. But any mention of anti-semitic violence when talking about the situation in Israel / Palestine, and you’ve hit another third rail. Not just in Israel itself. The entire Jewish population of Yemen was ethnically cleansed from the country within the last 10 years. They are overwhelmingly in Israel now because that’s the only place they could go. But ethnic cleansing doesn't happen to Jews in the context of these posts. Similarly, talking about rising anti-semitism in the US does seem to be a huge out-of-nowhere derail when you’re talking about I/P. But for some Jews, if the second safest country for Jews in the world is suddenly significantly less safe, the existence of Israel as a Jewish state isn’t abstract. A one state solution that erases Israel isn’t the final solution we’re so jazzed about. If we can’t talk about that in a thread where it’s pertinent, we can’t have a realistic conversation about I/P at all. If violence against Jews never matters, is always a derail, what’s the conversation we are really having? There is this weird undercurrent here on Metafilter that there is 100% never any anti-semitism when talking about Israel. Anti-Zionism can never be called anti-semitism, no matter how it’s expressed or who’s expressing it. Which means any commenter here who sees something and says something is often ostracized, and / or attacked as being someone who thinks all criticism of Israel is anti-semitic and whose opinion should be ignored. Especially since not all Jews are always in agreement about what is or isn’t a dogwhistle. We had a huge thread about this, where a lot of Jewish members spoke up about how attacking and dismissing one (admittedly loud and reactionary) member who spoke up impacted us, and how we would like to see better from the site, and the main result of that thread seems to be that at least a few of those Jewish posters, including the poster and the person in contention, have left the site. I’m still here. I’m guessing there are people here who see me as a problem. Especially since absent these other, more vocal posters, suddenly my voice stands out more – something I never wanted and still don’t. I’d much rather FIAMO. I don't make I/P posts myself. But I personally don’t think that posts that make me afraid to speak up, or feel like my voice isn’t welcome even though I literally have skin in the game, are good posts. But at the same time, we really don’t need angry posts where people are fighting about what is or isn’t anti-semitic when people are just trying to talk about their Palestinian grandmother.

I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t think posts should always be deleted, but I also don’t think they always are. I do think the bar for posting them should stay high. Something that gives you the reaction “this makes me feel righteously angry; I should post it so it can make more people feel righteously angry” about a topic that people are already easy to anger about is probably not a good post.

If this comment made anyone angrier, I apologize. I'm not speaking for all Jews, just for me. And I'm not writing this to start a fight. I believe wholeheartedly that Palestinians need a country of their own, and that the violence has to stop – and having the people who care to keep talking about it, as much as possible, can only help that. But that takes work on our part to remember that no one’s murder is okay, period. The Palestinians caught in the middle are bearing the brunt of it, and it's unconscionable. But there are a lot of violent actors throughout the region who have a vested interest in keeping the status quo, and there's more than one set of perpetrators and victims here, and always has been. In my opinion, keeping I/P posts rare unless they're well thought out is a good thing. There isn’t an easy solution, and we can’t hot take our way into one.
posted by Mchelly at 11:43 PM on May 27 [20 favorites]


But that takes work on our part to remember that no one’s murder is okay, period.

Yes, I will say that I do think you are part of the problem. This is such a massive and incredibly insulting strawman and it's just one I picked out of many in your comment. They may be eloquently put, but comments like the above are equating centering the Palestinian experience with being okay with Jewish people being murdered. The thread you linked to included you repeatedly implying that Jewish people who don't agree with you aren't really Jewish. And, while you don't seem to count them as such, a number of Jewish people in that thread (and in this thread) simply disagree with your position. You seem to think this implies somehow that they are okay with the murder of Jewish people. Maybe not doing that would be helpful.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 3:54 AM on May 28 [15 favorites]


I’m guessing there are people here who see me as a problem. Especially since absent these other, more vocal posters, suddenly my voice stands out more – something I never wanted and still don’t. I’d much rather FIAMO. I don't make I/P posts myself. But I personally don’t think that posts that make me afraid to speak up, or feel like my voice isn’t welcome even though I literally have skin in the game, are good posts.

It feels like you understand that you have trouble commenting on this topic in an appropriate way. But at the same time, you seem to put all the agency on others: people who see you as a problem, the absence of others who provided cover for your comments.

When it comes to your voice not being welcome, it’s not about you not being welcome. It’s about you choosing to say things, or say things in a way that is not appropriate or constructive (hence the deletion). It’s not that you are unwelcome in a post. You are choosing to make inappropriate comments. I believe you are afraid to speak up because you know you will have difficulty doing it appropriately when it comes to this topic.

I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t think posts should always be deleted

I feel like you do kind of know what the solution is, FIAMO, or maybe just move on. Or, figure out a way that you can express your ideas without breaking guidelines. Your post in this meta thread, for example, is fine, even to someone who doesn’t agree with everything you are saying.
posted by snofoam at 4:43 AM on May 28 [2 favorites]


But for some Jews, if the second safest country for Jews in the world is suddenly significantly less safe, the existence of Israel as a Jewish state isn’t abstract.

Israel is only the second safest country for Jews if you are one of the chosen (pun intended), a category that seems to be shrinking by the day. Their supposed "Antisemitism Czar" just defended Elon Musk by repeating clearly antisemitic slurs against George Soros and Jewish liberals. Several members of the cabinet have long and nasty histories of angry and even violent outbursts not just against American Jews that disagree with them, but also against Jews of Color, the diaspora, LGBTQ Jews, Reform and secular Judaism, Jews who intermarry, Jews who believe in intersectionality, and just plain old social justice-adjacent Jews in general. One of these fascist bigots, who was a regular feature at violent anti-LGBTQ protests, has apparently been put in charge of security for Jerusalem's Pride parade. And that's just as of today, we have no idea how far Netanyahu will let the far right wingnuts--who have plentiful support amongst Israeli Jews--take their crusade against other Jews both in Israel and in the diaspora.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 5:21 AM on May 28 [10 favorites]


Metafilter: a.k.a. Monofilter
posted by zengargoyle at 5:35 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


Rock em Sock em, you repeatedly twisted my words in that post and now you've come here to do it again. As I repeatedly said, if you believe you're Jewish, you're Jewish, and your opinion on what is and isn't anti-semitism takes precedence. But that someone who has never stepped foot inside a synagogue or a JCC might not (not will not) know they all have advanced security in place because of active, ongoing terror threats. Or might not (not will not) know about old-world forms of anti-semitism like blood libel. I do think that as someone who doesn't hide that I'm Orthodox, my comments about Judaism are policed by some commenters who have issues with the halachic belief about who is and isn't Jewish and are determined to put them onto me, and discount me and my opinions because of that.

Centering Palestinian stories isn't the problem. It's what the overwhelming majority - possibly the entirety - of I/P posts here do. Changing or omitting facts to make a stronger case, is.

I don't believe I've had a comment deleted in an I/P thread before in my 14 years on the site other than in a group deletion, and I don't believe I've ever had one moderated before either. I appreciate your comment, snofoam. I know the site norms and how good faith works. The one that was deleted upthread was an outlier; I was angry and can agree that the way it was written was wrong (even though tone-policing is generally frowned upon here when other minority groups express feelings of oppression). This is not a problem I generally have. If your response to me was only based on reading Rock 'em Sock 'em's comment and taking it as a valid judgment on me as a poster, then I can thank them for proving my point. When you speak up in an unpopular way about I/P topics, you become a target. My point is that the definition of what is and is not appropriate on the subject, content-wise, is narrow and narrowing. And at a time when anti-semitic discourse entering the discussion is increasing, talking about it has become less and less acceptable here.

Glengrinof, your long history of attacking right wing and religious Jews here is well known. I think your comment is a derail of the conversation, and your "seems to be" projections of your - and my - worst nightmare an evil future for Jews in Israel is the strawiest of straw men. Saying that right wing bigoted people say right wing bigoted things applies everywhere. The current government is vastly, demonstrably unpopular (and btw Netanyahu is not prime minister anymore). Using that as a reason not to take my concerns seriously is par for the course, though - it's literally what I'm taking issue with. I think you'd agree that talking similarly about Abbas and his government and their views (don't forget Hamas is still the elected government in Gaza), or his refusal to hold new elections since 2005, would just make a bad conversation worse. But as with most I/P posts here, anything bad we say about Israel is on the table. Anything bad we say about Palestine is in poor taste. Everything we say is a potential fight waiting to happen if we actually dig deep and engage, because it's complicated. This thread, right here, right now, is exactly the thread that the mods don't want to have to deal with. Especially not on a regular basis.

I'm not an Israeli hawk, and I'm being turned into one here. I'm not a gatekeeper of who's a Jew or what a Jewish opinion is, and I'm being demonized for that too. I'm someone who is being told her voice isn't welcome, and other Jews here see that. I barely ever comment in I/P posts - you can check my history - and because I spoke up here, it feels like the mantle of that other poster is being ceremoniously transferred onto my shoulders. And I know that my thinking is in line with the majority of American Jews, if polls are any indication. That doesn't make it the truth. It doesn't make it universal. Jews aren't a monolith and I still only speak for me. I do believe that because my community is on the receiving end of the overwhelming majority of anti-semitic attacks, that I have some knowledge. People don't have to agree with me. But to argue that my lived experience of oppression is what makes my opinion about what oppression looks like less valid is something we only see in discussions of anti-semitism. But to get back to the actual topic of this thread, talking about I/P topics is difficult because they touch on so many difficult, hard-to-negotiate, angry-making flashpoints. If there's no baseline agreement on what makes an inflammatory post, asking for more sensitivity is not a bad thing.
posted by Mchelly at 7:40 AM on May 28 [6 favorites]


Mchelly, I feel like you're doing a thing where nobody can have a different interpretation of your words than the one you have when writing them.

Like, I don't think people are disagreeing with you because of long-term campaigns, or at least thing that's the not the only possibility; likewise, I agree with Rock'em's comment because I, too, have read a lot of metatalk thread over the years, and agree with their assessment - not because I'm basing it on just your one comment in this thread .

Maybe allow for the possibility that you're coming across much differently than you imagine, and that it's because of valid readings of the things that you post here.
posted by sagc at 7:55 AM on May 28 [9 favorites]


Glengrinof, your long history of attacking right wing and religious Jews here is well known

I'm proud to be a long time attacker of the right wing, but I have no idea where you get the idea that I have any complaints with religious Jews apart from where it intersects with being right wing shitstains.
posted by Glegrinof the Pig-Man at 8:03 AM on May 28 [4 favorites]


We had a huge thread about this, where a lot of Jewish members spoke up about how attacking and dismissing one (admittedly loud and reactionary) member who spoke up impacted us, and how we would like to see better from the site, and the main result of that thread seems to be that at least a few of those Jewish posters, including the poster and the person in contention, have left the site. I do think that as someone who doesn't hide that I'm Orthodox, my comments about Judaism are policed by some commenters who have issues with the halachic belief about who is and isn't Jewish and are determined to put them onto me, and discount me and my opinions because of that.

Speaking only for myself, mchelly, I remember how you and those dearly departed posters treated people like me in that huge thread. I don't miss them. I can't tell you how pleased I am that this thread is not going like that one did.

I wasn't going to post this but then I realized that, possibly without remembering, you're talking about me in your most recent comment:

Rock em Sock em, you repeatedly twisted my words in that post and now you've come here to do it again. As I repeatedly said, if you believe you're Jewish, you're Jewish, and your opinion on what is and isn't anti-semitism takes precedence. But that someone who has never stepped foot inside a synagogue or a JCC might not (not will not) know they all have advanced security in place because of active, ongoing terror threats. Or might not (not will not) know about old-world forms of anti-semitism like blood libel.

I am not Rock 'em Sock 'em. But, in that thread, I described myself as a secular Jew, and then I was subjected to a shower of insinuations by you and others that I wasn't really Jewish. Your insinuations in particular were characterized by the same slipperiness you exhibit here, carefully leaving room to deny what you were doing.

For example, there as here, you claimed to think that everyone who self-identifies as Jewish is Jewish. I don't know if you really think that or not (since you self-identify as an Orthodox Jew, you would have to reconcile your stance with the with the apparently contrary authority of the Mishnah). But, regardless, you go on to talk to secular Jews in a way that clearly suggests they are not Jewish. For example, below a direct quote from my comment, you wrote the following purported paraphrase:

What are all of you Jews so worried about? There's no reason to worry about extermination (on balance). Plus I walk past a JCC regularly! So what if maxsparber or some of your kids might be inside? It has a guard and a bomb-proof building!

This is obviously a ridiculous distortion of my original and only comment in that thread, which others are welcome to read. But what I want to call attention to is the highlighted phrase: to put the words "you Jews" in my mouth is obviously to imply that I am not Jewish. (By the way, this shows that Rock 'em Sock 'em is not twisting your words, and you owe them an apology too.)

I was surprised, also, to be remembered six years later as "someone who has never stepped foot inside a synagogue or a JCC." I have been to synagogue countless times since I was a child for occasions with friends and family. I have been a member of a JCC (the one I described in my comment, in fact; the one you characterize me as having "walked past"). Obviously I don't expect you to guess my biography based on a comment I made. But you have revealed an utterly fantasmagoric conception of what a "secular Jew" is: someone who has literally no connection to Jewish communal life at all, and who like the Wicked Son from the haggadah sees Jews as "you people." I'm sure Jews like that exist, but in your haste to apply that stereotype to others, you enact in yourself the alienation that you imagine in the other.
posted by grobstein at 9:48 AM on May 28 [12 favorites]


Relitigating a six-year-old Metatalk thread is definitely a good way to move this request forward.
posted by The Gooch at 10:08 AM on May 28 [6 favorites]


Your contribution rules too.
posted by grobstein at 10:10 AM on May 28 [1 favorite]


I think your comment is a derail of the conversation, and your "seems to be" projections of your - and my - worst nightmare an evil future for Jews in Israel is the strawiest of straw men

OK -- can you respond to the part where you implied a lot of people here were okay with murdering Jewish people? That was pretty bad, straw-man wise. I see that you did not address that in your long comment.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:18 AM on May 28 [4 favorites]


I can't tell you how pleased I am that this thread is not going like that one did.

Honestly, this MeTa has made me feel more hopeful about the community here than any in years.
posted by dusty potato at 12:03 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


To draw back towards latkes' request, I think the comments since Mchelly's comment of about 12 hours ago illustrate some of the challenges. Mchelly made a solid case for the complexity of the issue and the difficulty of addressing it on a site like this. She also advanced her views about Israel/Palestine, which was a derail, because this is a MeTa about whether we should have more I/P FPPs, not a discussion of the topic itself.

Regardless, I feel that Mchelly, with considerable emotional vulnerability, showed another aspect of why this topic is so hard to discuss on this site -- people have extremely strong emotional foundations for the stances they take, and understanding the emotional foundations of other member's positions is critical in topics like this. They are also really hard to see when your emotional foundations are equally strong. This is not saying all sides are equally true or valid; it's saying that a productive discussion is awfully hard to have when passions are high, which they are on many of the topics that MetFilter struggles with.

I expected the problem after that comment was that this would become an I/P thread by proxy, something that MeTa is not supposed to be for, but something else happened -- people started attacking Mchelly for having the opinions she had, she responded in kind, and comments from years ago were brought up to show that one poster or another is acting in bad faith, being hypocritical, and so on. This is the exact opposite of what we need if we are going to have FPPs on complex, high-passion topics.

Additionally, the replies have mostly been short reactions to parts of her comments or collections of short replies (and she responded in kind), which, again, I don't think is going to work with a topic as complicated as I/P. Long comments are often difficult to read and long replies are difficult to write, especially if you are on a phone, but I don't think that a few lines are going to be adequate -- we either need to have FPPs that are hyper focused to one aspect and where everyone maintains the discipline to keep that narrow focus, or everyone is going to have to write essays.

So I'm not defending Mchelly's stance -- my thoughts on I/P are too conflicted and inchoate for that* -- but I will say that the last 12 hours of this thread show off some of the reasons why we may not be able to have these conversations. They are complicated and have deep histories on this site even before we get out into the actual world and the actual topic, and, while I don't think people should forget what other members have said in the past, if throwing that past at each other is all we can do, I'm not sure we can discuss a topic.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:11 PM on May 28 [13 favorites]


It is profoundly unsettling to me that we can't even discuss this topic. Unsettling, and discouraging.

The I/P tragedies are tremendously and very personally pertinent to my life. I have dear friends and beloved family on all sides of the issue, people who fall politically on a spectrum from ultra peaceful to ultra violent, in several of the communities involved in the situations on the ground. My credentials for discussing this come from nearly lifelong involvement, which has settled into a focus on the search for a way forward that will not compromise the next generation. On ANY of the sides of these 120 or so years of disaster.

I try to take a broad perspective (and support the only explicitly non-violent suggestion I have seen, to date), but the inability to even *talk* about it, in this space or in any space, does not bode well for my nephews and nieces, whom the people who try to control the conversation expect to take up arms - against each other, on their behalf.
And this? This infuriates me.

MetaFilter was a very scary place for me to join, because I was afraid this would happen in it. I lurked here for 17 years (is this a record?) because I was afraid that this particular issue, which is so crucial in my life, would be silenced, and I was afraid of my feelings about such silencing. Would that make it Omelas? Does our silence here mean that the little girl born on the wrong side of a line expected to bear the weight of this lovely discussion space with these lovely people, at the cost of all her freedom and potential? What can I do (what can *we* do) for her and her generation?
I refer you to Tchernichovsky's poem, אני מאמין (the link is to Hebrew Wikipedia, the title translates literally "I believe" or "I have faith", and I am not happy with any existing translation, including my own, which was published in context of a blog post in 2014.) Tchernichovsky posits a future where everyone can live equally, thriving regardless of origin and community. The poem, set to music by Tevya Shlonsky, is often proposed as more appropriate for an anthem for Israel. Tchernichovsky wrote it in 1892, in Odessa, when he was ***seventeen***. But even as a young man, he knew the challenge, and his final verse invites the youth of the generation where his forecasted future becomes reality to lay a wreath on his grave.

The closing of the thread and the contemplation of an outright ban of discussing I/P hurts personally and politically, hurts backwards to my childhood and forwards to my fears for the next generations. How many generations of graves will those fortunate youths have to visit, how many wreaths will they have to lay?

I hope we can be the change, here, and discuss this.
posted by Shunra at 1:17 PM on May 28 [8 favorites]


In disability discussions, I've heard of a thing called "access clash", where two groups of people with different disabilities need opposite things. For instance, people with migraines or certain types of neurodivergence might need low lights in an area to make it tolerable, where people with limited vision might need better lighting to see to get around.

Reading this thread makes me think the problem with I/P threads on Metafilter is a kind of access clash between the needs/desires of different groups to discuss I/P topics and those around Judaism/Israel/Palestine/anti-semitism/BDS/etc. It's not just that different folks want to be "comfortable" but also that discussing some aspects of a very tangled set of topics without touching on other specific parts of those topics makes people feel unsafe. (Uncharitable readings of member responses might get called "axe-grinding" but I think that label is mean and unfair.)

I don't like that Metafilter is not a good place to have these discussions, but I don't want members to feel unsafe, and I don't want to relitigate previous discussions. I don't have an easy answer but I do want to say that the concept of access clash clarifies for me how people with different/opposing viewpoints can both be "right" and yet have competing needs that are difficult for mods and other members to adjudicate or respond to in a way that satisfies most members.
posted by gentlyepigrams at 1:57 PM on May 28 [22 favorites]


what good would come for the site if it was left up
I'm not sure this is the right question to ask in this circumstance. Deleting a thread should be on the basis that leaving it in place would do harm, otherwise it should be left. Providing a place where people can have difficult conversations, in and of itself, a good thing. On this particular topic, I do understand that the line between the two is very fine indeed.

I don't say this to criticise this specific deletion and I feel for anyone having to make this decision, because there's no action that won't lead to some form of angst. Finding a way to allow the community to lead the policy on what stays and what gets disappeared would help the moderation team make these decisions, noting that it's the moderation team that has to deal with the fallout of conversations that go sideways far more than the rest of the community does. I'm another that's disappointed we haven't yet found a way to have difficult conversations.
posted by dg at 3:48 PM on May 28 [3 favorites]


Additionally, the allegation that "any given article opposing Israel’s actions, you’re likely going to have either quotes from antisemites, antisemitic comments, or pictures of people with antisemitic signs" is demonstrably false.

Hi, so I didn't come to this in a vacuum or just inventing things. I come to this in part from being a part of organizations that have pro-Palestinian stances, having attended protests against Israel's actions, and subsequently engaging in committees and groups trying to solve the problem of antisemites and antisemitic activity in that movement, because it is a real problem outside of the issue of I/P itself. A major part of the problem that is ongoing is that there is not a firm stance that antisemitism is not welcome at pro-Palestinian protests. And I'll say only that if you think that my statement (that it is more likely than not - 51% vs 49% - that you will see antisemitic comments, quotes, individuals, or pictures on articles and links reporting on protests against Israel's actions) is provably false, I say, prove it, don't just make a lazy ad hominem.

The pro-Palestine movement is broad but it can’t be a home to antisemitism
When I talk about the popularity of the Palestinian cause then, I am referring not to the sum total of its impact, but to the diversity of supporters it attracts. And it is that diversity that leads not just to bitter conflicts over the place of antisemites within this disparate movement, but also to much wider – and rarely addressed – challenges in defining what international support for the Palestinians means.
I think that a nuanced I/P discussion is possible but it can't take place somewhere where we are denying basic reality, like that antisemites fucking love anti-Israel protests, and that many people in anger over Israel's actions tend to start making assumptions and statements about Jews overall.
posted by corb at 9:51 PM on May 28 [9 favorites]


Mod note: A couple deleted by poster's request (plus response).
posted by taz (staff) at 10:41 PM on May 28 [2 favorites]


corb, I don't think you're wrong, but you are also asking latkes to prove a negative, which is impossible.
posted by Dysk at 11:25 PM on May 28


Deleting a thread should be on the basis that leaving it in place would do harm, otherwise it should be left. Providing a place where people can have difficult conversations, in and of itself, a good thing. On this particular topic, I do understand that the line between the two is very fine indeed.

Why is this thread still up? There's a lot of personal anger in here, including callouts over posting habits from years ago. I wouldn't call it unsafe but it seems markedly more unpleasant than your average thread, even your average Metatalk thread.

What's so threatening about discussing Israel/Palestine that it's ok to have all the downstream effects of the discussion but not the discussion itself?
posted by kingdead at 4:48 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Way up at the top of the thread, skewed left the following comment:
The issue isn’t some weird quirk or failing of MF as a whole, it’s just a decision that we don’t tolerate discussion of contentious subjects unless there is a fairly well established orthodoxy among MF posters, e.g., gun control or abortion. Outside of the orthodoxy, you can argue about which bands suck, or what foods are tasty, just nothing that’s going to be that important to anyone. Those are the conversations we allow, but it’s not that MF is not good at ones we don’t allow, we just don’t tolerate the arguments about anything people here care about. [...] For whatever reason, MF doesn’t tolerate disagreement about anything important.
I was thinking about that final line as I read through the rest of the thread, because it feels like the crux of the issue about I/P threads and about MetaFilter "arguments" as a whole... and then the rest of this thread more-or-less reinforced the thing that was on my mind.

This isn't MetaFilter's problem—it's the Internet's. The Internet is a shitty fucking medium for having arguments. The only "solutions" that anybody has discovered involve threading and/or upvoting conversations, which are less "solutions" than "ways of organically generating an orthodoxy."

The Internet is a family fight at Thanksgiving, only it takes literally one person out of a four-or-five-digit readership deciding that they want to pick a fight to shatter civility altogether. The Internet is Comic Book Guy offering his opinion on literal genocide. Short-form text is a uniquely alienating and dehumanizing form of articulating thought, which is why Twitter celebrated "Meltdown May" every year long before it additionally turned into a Nazi superden. It's a fucking garbage medium without the benefit of a carefully-curated community, intensive moderation, or—again—pre-determined orthodoxy.

This is a community that once got so furious over other people's interpretations of a Ralph Wiggum quote that, months later, someone made a reference to that debacle in a MetaTalk and people started fighting out it all over again. It's a community that everybody wrongly remembers as a hallowed bastion for "intellectual conversation" when literally every era of the site has been defined by people up in arms by just how shitty members are to one another. Go ahead: name the Golden Age of MetaFilter. Name it, just so other people can get pissed off at your take. Everybody's Golden Age here is the one where their preferred orthodoxies reigned supreme—because the only times that we've had "civil discourse" were the times when either the site had a specific policy forbidding alternate takes or when certain conversations were so unpleasant for all but one kind of participant that everybody else bowed out.

I'm not saying this as a critique of orthodoxy, exactly. The users here who prefer "cultural heterodoxy" tend to be the ones who really like fighting, in my experience. I, too, like conversations where everybody agrees that I am right. And the reason why Israel/Palestine is an infamously contentious subject on MetaFilter is that it's difficult to establish a sufficiently nuanced "correct" orthodox take on.

The real solution would be to establish a culture in which conversation consists of more than trying to out-argue everybody else in the room. It is theoretically possible to read a perspective that you don't agree with, even one that bothers you on some level, and understand that civil discussion requires your saying your piece without specifically picking a fight. But even that's difficult, because of what I call The Paradox of the Paradox of Tolerance: because tolerance requires non-tolerance of intolerance, anybody who wishes to be intolerant must merely construct the argument that the thing they want to get pissed off about was the real intolerant thing. Which leads to the meta-debate that we're now all involved in, which is the question of which kinds of comments are really intolerant or offensive, and which ones are in fact completely acceptable. Only in the I/P discussion, you get people on both sides sincerely accusing the other side of being the one precluding any reasonable, tolerant conversation.

Maybe we could have something like the nuclear/no-nuclear threads about Ukraine, where certain strains of conversation need to be kept to certain threads. Only, based on my experience with the Ukraine threads, that mostly leads to a contingent of pissy people having the "why can't we discuss X in this thread" discussion as a way of slipping into a discussion of X anyway. And with I/P, things would be worse: can you imagine a thread that discusses Israeli trauma and prohibits discussion of abuses against Palestinians? You'd better believe that people in each thread would be reading the other just to lob veiled attacks against the other set of commenters.

When I was younger, I used to read and even reread some of the more contentious MetaTalk threads on this site. I've been involved in online community management since I was a pretty young kid; I'm really interested in attempts to create healthier, more inclusive communities. And the thing I eventually took away from reading all of that is that MetaFilter never really had a one-size-fits-all solution: its solution has always been a mixture of trying to have staff members who sincerely engage with the membership, slowly trying to evolve community norms and expectations over time... and, well, a set of orthodoxies that did a lot of the real heavy lifting. Even then, a significant number of the angriest conversations revolved around individual users who had a single heterodox worldview: a certain right-wing user with (imo) shitty attitudes about abortion and gay rights had multiple MetaTalk threads made about her spanning multiple accounts.

In my perfect world, we're capable of having a sophisticated, multifaceted discussion about exactly why the I/P situation is so complex that it doesn't easily reduce to the obvious-and-correct fact that Israel is committing genocide. In my slightly-less-perfect world, MetaFilter finds the exact right orthodox line to take, in which we all agree that this is a genocide and that genocide is bad, but in a way that also allows for nuanced empathy towards the Israeli people who suffer in this situation, discussions of how "anti-Zionism" describes both principled leftism and anti-semitic conspiracy theories, and so on.

In this world, I understand why Brandon deleted this thread, and think that a lot of the suggestions of "how mods could handle this" feel half-baked. Unless moderators are prepared to leave threads up but shut comments down completely, they're either going to be pushed to the limit handling the shit that ensues or they're going to wind up with a long ugly comment thread that festers. And what the moderators have said, not only recently but for literally over a decade, is that one reason they don't let long shitty threads happen is that that shit spills over into other threads, winds up on MetaTalk, and leads to people nursing grudges that they use as an excuse to pick new fights for literally years. (We have that happening IN THIS THREAD about a discussion from SIX YEARS AGO!) What's more, even heavy moderation leads to pushback, because every single user who gets a comment deleted will also try to create a MetaTalk thread, and every user whose MetaTalk thread doesn't get approved will bring that up in every single other MetaTalk from now until 2038.

"Conversations about Palestinians are maybe a thing MetaFilter can't handle" sucks ass from an ideology-and-principles standpoint, but it also might be true? Because the Internet as a whole sucks ass, this medium sucks ass, and there's a trade-off to be had between civility/community and the "freedom" to post shitty shit on the shitty-shit medium. (MetaFilter could fix this by deciding that "Israel 100% genocidal/evil" is the new orthodox take and treating any contrary response as delete-worthy, but that's real Chaos Mode shit and obviously it won't.)
posted by Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted at 5:04 AM on May 29 [33 favorites]


Many here have articulated, and this thread demonstrates, that discussions on Palestine and Israel are often controversial and result in conflict. We all agree there. But metafilter has changed moderation style on most conflict-producing topics over the years. Current policy means posts representing the perspective of people impacted by high conflict issues are welcomed, and then those posts are moderated aggressively when necessary by deleting derails, false equivalencies, & personal attacks. Yet metafilter has stayed in the past on the topic of Israel and Palestine, by simply deleting the majority of posts on the topic. Moderation of posts on Palestine and Israel does not align with current moderation norms.

My ask is to bring the moderation policy for these posts in line with moderation policy for most every other topic. On other topics, I perceive there was a transition period when users got used to the reality that certain behaviors will not be tolerated. I believe our much smaller, now older user base is capable of learning on this issue as well.
posted by latkes at 6:39 AM on May 29 [21 favorites]


latkes, I sincerely wish I believed that what you asked for is possible, but I'm afraid I feel more in line with what Tom Hanks Cannot Be Trusted just said.

My view is partly informed by the controversial upcoming vote that my academic community, the American Anthropological Association, is having on whether to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The debate about this, which is currently taking place among members, is just a nominally more polite and (literally) footnoted version of what I have seen in I/P threads on metafilter, and I just can't see how I/P discussions will go well on metafilter either, even with a lot of mod time and attention.
posted by gudrun at 7:33 AM on May 29 [6 favorites]


A couple deleted by poster's request (plus response).

This is unfortunate because it was an extremely informative post, hinting at recovering from childhood religious indoctrination. It also inadvertently exposed the other elephant in the room, which is conservative American support of modern Israel as both an anti-Semitic solution to post-war immigration fears, and the centerpiece to a fundamentalist end-stage of world history and Armageddon (a plan hatched before it was discovered that God gave Islamic territories all the oil). The side-stepping of these issues leads the conversation away from our own religious biases by pretending it is too complicated and confusing to understand, which only hints at the necessity of being converted to a belief first. Israel presents the opportunity to move past religion-based civics (as a culturalism that fails to create harmony from supernatural idealism). Such civics don't fail by design though, because religion unifies localities against outsiders to destroy one's enemies, an aggression humans don't naturally do well without religion, having evolved to cooperate in groups. The point being that if the vision for such a discussion goal doesn't exist, then there is no point in discussing it, because we will always be protecting a politically convenient ancient belief.
posted by Brian B. at 7:38 AM on May 29 [13 favorites]


There seem to be approximately three voices in this thread, those that know one version is correct, those the other and the few struggling to at least make a bit of sense.

The comparison to trans is telling, consider if we tried to have a calm balanced discussion between the trans and the terf communities. Would not last long.

We should grrrar this topic a bit and then let the mods mod.
posted by sammyo at 8:13 AM on May 29


It's worthwhile to remember that other topics that are allowed here, as difficult or un-nuanced as the conversations go, also have body counts. Black people are getting killed by police. Transphobia kills, through suicide and murder. Intimate-partner violence is the leading cause of death of pregnant women in the U.S. It's not like those are topics with no serious real-world implications. Saying that the Israel/Palestinian conflict is somehow more dangerous to this particular site or somehow more confusing than racism in the U.S. is bizarre.
posted by lapis at 9:17 AM on May 29 [6 favorites]


The comparison to trans is telling, consider if we tried to have a calm balanced discussion between the trans and the terf communities.

I feel the analogy breaks down here; the two 'sides' of the Israel/Palestine debate are not quite as cleanly just a group of people, and a group of people whose entire raison d'etre is opposing the first.
posted by Dysk at 9:37 AM on May 29 [12 favorites]


I know "TERF" as a term tends to be used now to just mean "anti-trans," but if we're talking about actual radical feminists who are trans exclusionary, I don't think they see themselves as only "anti-trans." They think trans people somehow threaten the "radical feminist" part. They're wrong, but I don't think it's a bad analogy. And we've decided (I think that's a "we") that radical feminism is fine unless it's used to attack and villainize a more marginalized group, at which point lines need to be drawn. There are some parallels here.
posted by lapis at 10:18 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I don’t think this thread needs a discussion of TERFs on top of everything else.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:30 AM on May 29 [24 favorites]


This is unfortunate because it was an extremely informative post, hinting at recovering from childhood religious indoctrination.

It was, but… it was more suited to an FPP on I/P than a MeTa about whether we can have FPPs on I/P. As I’ve said before, if we are going to try this, it would have to be with the understanding that the members are going to have to bring a lot more focus and discipline to the table, and, for this MeTa, that means staying fixed on latkes’ question. I hope that comment can come back in a different context, especially without the fight tone-liner response.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:35 AM on May 29


Jeeze “fighty one-liner.” Not saying I don’t see why it got made, just that it was not helpful n this thread.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:45 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


lapis, I know full well what TERF means. TERFs don't tend to see themselves as "just" radfems. They tend to use "gender critical". Because the only thing that actually unifies them is their hatred of trans people. That other flavours of transphobe might exist as well is irrelevant.
posted by Dysk at 11:05 AM on May 29 [5 favorites]


Well, after reading through this thread I’m firmly in the “we can’t do I/P threads worth a damn” camp. Maybe we could open one every six months to see if things change.
posted by AdamCSnider at 2:47 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


leads to people nursing grudges that they use as an excuse to pick new fights for literally years. (We have that happening IN THIS THREAD about a discussion from SIX YEARS AGO!)

in the conflict resolution/management world there's a phrase that's relevant to this:

"You cannot negotiate the past."

And in my experience, it sort of works. I find myself getting sucked back into an unresolved battle from years ago. I decide, NO, NOT GOING THERE. And then I say as much to whoever it is I'm conflicting with.

Not saying, you're wrong. Not saying I'm right. Am saying that us going back there can only hurt both of us, stir up hungry phantoms of grievance and enmity that cannot be sated, because you cannot sate a phantom.

Maybe we need another flagging option.

"Rehash of old grievance"
posted by philip-random at 3:11 PM on May 29 [12 favorites]


I would like to point out very gently that for some of us, "old grievance" doesn't feel like the correct word for situations that are still ongoing. I could bring up a few (on several "sides" of the tragedy) - people whose current conditions are dictated by the effects of those things that happened in the past.

There is room for compassionate conversation on this subject. There is a scope for listening to what people feel and becoming acquainted with the art and history that flows from other priors. Just: not if we delete threads as soon as someone starts shouting. And not if we ever forget the ongoing hurt of people still affected by what some others feel ought to be deemed "old grievance" rather than ongoing hurt.

Does it have to be here? Probably not. But shutting out historically marginalized voices does have a history of its own, in the U.S. and elsewhere, and there is a question of whether MetaFilter's leadership wants to do that.
posted by Shunra at 10:29 AM on May 30 [8 favorites]


I would like to point out very gently that for some of us, "old grievance" doesn't feel like the correct word for situations that are still ongoing.

I believe that what philip-random was talking about wasn't "The historical forces that have caused the current states of Israel and Palestine to exist in their current forms", but more like "Someone said [shitty thing] here on MetaFilter six years ago, so it's only fair that I get to say [mirror version of shitty thing] now."
posted by Etrigan at 10:42 AM on May 30 [16 favorites]


The question remains, IMO, what good is being done for the site in terms of having these posts?

Because it can be and has been done properly in the past -- so why not now?

MetaFilter shouldn't have to be some nerfed out safe-for-toddlers padded playground with swing sets no taller than 6 feet.

Some topics are hard topics but... with common courtesy, care and attention we can step up to the occasion if we try hard enough. I do believe that.
posted by y2karl at 6:13 PM on May 30 [10 favorites]


The equation of having conflict about an issue with "not doing something well" is directly linked to the culture of the site and to the reason why I/P discussion is disallowed. Metafilter is a bastion of a particular kind of left-liberalism which runs on a collective fantasy that We The Smart People Have Figured It All Out and its corollary, We'd Be Living In Utopia By Now If Not For [the GOP/Berniebros/CEOs/Russia]. This allows everyone on here to pretend that we're all equally enlightened members of the elect.

I/P is a direct challenge to that fantasy because American (and European) liberalism has had a long and storied history of cozying up to, enabling, justifying, and white/pink/greenwashing Israeli apartheid. Unlike the case of trans people and POC, though, it's been much more difficult to say "well, I'm with the REAL liberals who were on the right side all along," because plenty of liberals today continue to do the same thing, and as Israeli society descends further and further into outright fascism it can still reliably draw support from both sides of the US political spectrum.

That's a conundrum: if you allow public discussion on the issue here, you end up having to admit that a substantial proportion of your fellow Enlightened Progressives either supports a brutal apartheid terror regime or "justifies Hamas terror/persecution of LGBT people/etc." Much easier to just silence all discussion of the question and direct our critique at two-dimensional cutouts of Alito and Putin instead, who are much less likely to rub our faces in our own complicity with all the shit we claim to hate. Just don't ask too many inconvenient questions about who's fighting alongside you.
posted by derrinyet at 3:54 PM on June 1 [26 favorites]


A thread should be shut down if it devolves into toxic chaos rather than because its very nature is a magnet for polemical views. Mod wear and tear and budget stuff intersect all posts and comments, and not always in a way that pleases us, the great unwashed.

I'm afraid I have to disagree with a comment far up in the thread, opining that most of the former troublemakers have moved on to greener pastures, so it's okay to revisit the I/P situation. This topic should be reopened, but not because we believe "troublemakers" won't bother us.

As I understand Brandon's reason for closing down that threat, he used past performances to inform his decision. That seems reasonable, although I didn't see any particularly disturbing comments, which is not to say I agree with them all.

So, the problem boils down to directing rules of discourse while balancing technical issues such as mod burnout, bandwidth, and budget--culture intersects the system. I agree with points made upthread about ignoring such issues as apartheid, genocide, and endless warfare. We tackle brittle themes regularly--political overreach, the "warrior culture," and more. Suppression always favors oppressors.

Can we create an enforceable rule to help avoid the death spirals that sap our site's energy and resources? Maybe we could limit comments in certain threads to, let's say, three per person. You could then make a comment about the post, and two more, perhaps a response to another comment, then a reply, or some other variation. This could allow you to amplify or clarify your position.
posted by mule98J at 8:35 AM on June 2 [7 favorites]


Jessamyn linked to the Palestine and Israel tags. I read alot of them and they are good, informative, stuff of life. I find no irony in Palestine tag and Israel tag being separate.
Is there a tag for the I/P itself?
those posts tell me mefi does either well enough but as to the ongoing political, societal topic of both, mefi has a mixed past. I believe a lot of consternation etc. started in 2001. I've seen a post prior to 2001 and it got heated. It is probably one of the most difficult topics in the world.

Do another one and moderate it close.
posted by clavdivs at 2:39 PM on June 2


I still remember ParisParamus going at it hammer and tongs. Good times.

Wait, not good. What's the other word I'm looking for? "Fuck no". Yes, that's what I meant.
posted by some little punk in a rocket at 3:34 AM on June 3


Can we get a mod response to this discussion? To me it seems like, despite some ugliness upthread, more than half of commenters believe that we are able to have conversations about this without total chaos.
I appreciate that moderating this kind of Convo is a lot of work, and I'm making kind of a big ask here.
posted by Summers at 3:53 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


that we are able to have conversations about this without total chaos.
I agree as this is one of the better threads discussing the topic at hand.

some little punk in a rocket is apt in linking that thread though even treading Paris out, again is, eh, yeah, well. another aspect to these posts, beign really is the vast amount of data, history, etc. presented and it can become a battle of the bibliography. I see it's an aspect and not really a problem because if it was only just that, a discussion that perhaps questions sources and whatnot that would be a more positive conversation but when it gets personal, when it gets warrish, those vibes can extend into the community at large and spill over into other threads. I've seen it before, I think everybody else has too. But the thing is chaos in conversations in other I/P posts. The topic which can be chaotic in itself almost begs the question, what is the goal, to somehow unravel the chaos or to inform about the chaos either way it's chaos.
I thought about this for years. what is the spark that would pause the chaos on both sides what aspect of humanity would loom to make both sides stop and look just for a moment and there was a story many many years ago of a suicide bomber who was approaching her target stopped and surrendered not because of fear and for a moment that righteousness was larger than both sides and how fragile and fleeting those moments are.
posted by clavdivs at 6:55 PM on June 3


« Older [MeFi Site Update] May 17th   |   I only met a Gately once.... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments