Global Voices’ Israel Problem?

One of my favorite Arabic blogs used to be Haitham Sabbah’s Sabbah’s Blog. Haitham seemed to be a very passionate writer. He was not easily inclined to forgiveness and peacemaking, but he seemed nonetheless to try to see beyond his own horizon. I empathized with that because I think I’m a little like that myself. If Haitham talked about peace between Palestinians and Israelis, you could rest assured it was an effort for him and he wouldn’t take the effort for scant reason. But unfortunately, Haitham, like too many Middle Eastern bloggers, left off all pretense to civility once Israel invaded Lebanon in July of this year, in response to Hezbollah attacks.

Since that time Sabbah’s Blog has grown encrusted with “Zionist military regime” this and “Zionist terrorism” that. A shame maybe, a loss, but not a shock. Sabbah’s Blog has become just another conspiracy-riddled gossip sheet, typical unfortunately of a part of the world where independent news sources, and the critical thinking they inspire, are often in short supply.

I would certainly defend Haitham’s right to froth at the mouth all he wants. No government should interfere with the right of an individual to share his or her opinion on any matter, regardless of who gets offended in the process. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I think he should be rewarded. I stopped reading Sabbah’s Blog some time ago, and I encourage you to do the same.

What really bothers me, though, is not Haitham’s blog. It is the fact that he is, and remains, the Middle East and North Africa Editor for Harvard’s Global Voices Online project. According to the GVO site, this project is exists “To call attention to the most interesting conversations and perspectives emerging from citizens’ media around the world by linking to text, audio, and video blogs and other forms of grassroots citizens’ media being produced by people around the world.”

I don’t think it would be reasonable to require from Global Voices that it, or its editors, be impartial. I do think, however, that it is not out of line to expect them to be fair-minded. And I am unsure how someone who writes “Not an original idea, the Nazis had it first, but the part of the US paying, that’s original Israeli” is to be relied upon to bring a fair-minded review of the area’s discussions. Haitham has used the word “Nazis” 130 times on his blog and “facists” 60 times. I don’t recall him writing very much on European history so you can imagine what the terms are used for.

I’m not the only one who has noticed Sabbah’s veer into the warm embrace of hatred, and I don’t doubt that his bosses at GVO have been informed. But if likening Jews to Nazis never got a college professor fired, why would it result in the removal of an editor?

I just wonder if this is what Reuters meant when it said, announcing its monetary contribution to and partnership with, the organization, “The alliance with Global Voices enables Reuters to present a wider set of voices and commentary from around the world.”

Probably not.

Letting one’s emotions devolve into hatred is one thing, and a bad enough one at that. But when it leaks into and taints your capactiy for comprehensive and fair-minded coverage of a topic, it’s time to go. And if you don’t go, it’s time for your employers, or their funders, to show you the door.


Update: According to TechCrunch, that bastion of ethical business practices, Yahoo, is joining forces with Reuters to exploit the work of bloggers. Yahoo “is currently developing some sort of compensation method.” Yeah. And with their track record I’m sure bloggers will come out top. I wonder what the relationship is exactly between Global Voices, Reuters and Yahoo. Global Voices is an international blogging aggregator, Reuters licenses the GVO content and Yahoo, who helped the Chinese government send reporters to jail, uses it?

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