An Open Letter to the Huffington Post

I am reproducing below an open letter written by Zach over at The Brothers of Judea sent to The Huffington Post. As you will see many of the problems Zach describes should resonate strongly with anyone that follows “Comment is Free”.

Dear Mr. ___________,
I am a Huffington Post reader who wrote you two days ago to express my gratitude toward the new comment policy. I would like to thank you and the other Huffington Post staff for your hard work in keeping our community a civil one, and I know that this new comment policy is a reflection of that dedication. I would particularly like to thank you for mentioning “anti-Semitism” specifically as a form of hate speech that is not to be tolerated. I have been reading the Huffington Post for almost a year now and in that time I have found anti-Semitism among the readership to be a huge problem, and I hope that these changes mean you do as well.
However, it is on the topic of anti-Semitism that I feel like I should write to you and communicate what I have been feeling. I would appreciate it greatly if you would spare some of your time to listen to what I have to say. I have always found the Huffington Post staff to be an open one that are receptive to the opinions of its readership. I write because I truly want this community to be an open one, so I hope you do not mind if I offer some suggestions.
Mr. you have told us that anti-Semitic comments will no longer be allowed on the Huffington Post, and that moderation will be used to end them. I think this is a great step in the right direction, but in my experience watching the HP I have found that anti-Semitism has never been tolerated, and yet many threads are still plagued with it. The moderators work hard, and stop anti-Semitism where they see it, but they cannot be everywhere at once, even with the “flagging” system. It is therefore that I must tell you that part of the problem is with the nature of the Huffington Post itself. And if you want to stop anti-Semitism on your site, some changes will be required for there to be a lasting effect.
Before I continue I wanted to be clear: I’m not telling you how to do your job, nor would I be so bold as to tell you how to run a newspaper. All I can tell you is what I have seen and what my experiences have been while reading and commenting on the Huffington Post. What I have found is that there are certain aspects of the Huffington Post as an internet newspaper that allows anti-Semitism to be welcomed and to flourish. If you don’t mind, I will provide some examples. As I am sure I don’t need to tell you, most examples of anti-Semitism today takes the form of criticism of Israel. There is a place at which criticism of Israel and its policies become anti-Semitism the same way there is a place at which criticism of President Obama becomes racism. Whether intentionally or not, the Huffington Post sometimes contributes to a negative image of Israel, which in turn leads to anti-Semitism in the talkback sections.
Here is the first example of this: On May 24th Palestinian militants from the Gaza strip detonated a bomb carried by a donkey near the border with Israel and then fired several mortar rounds across the fence. The next day Israel responded with airstrikes that wounded 15 people. The Huffington Post carried with story with the headline, “Israeli Warplanes Strike Gaza.” To someone who only read the headline it gives the impression that Israel attacked the Gazans for no reason, and in fact many of the HP readership said exactly that. You can look at the comments in the thread if you do not believe me.
I do not know who writes the headlines. Maybe the HP staff simply copies it from the Associated Press. But as it stands the HP could have used a less one-sided headline such as, “Israel Responds to Mortar Attacks” or even “Renewed Violence in Gaza Strip.” As it stands the headline (whether intentionally or not) promotes the myth of ‘Israel as the aggressor,’ which in turn leads to racist and anti-Semitic comments.
Let me reiterate: I am not asking you to ignore stories that make Israel look bad! You have an obligation to report the news to the best of your ability, no matter what the subject matter. What I am asking you to do is consider the effect that certain aspects of the Huffington Post subject matter will do to its readership before it goes up. Which in turn brings me to my next example: The Huffington Post blogger community.
The opinion section of the Huffington Post is broad and varied. It also holds quite a few bloggers who promote extreme anti-Israel and anti-Semitic points of view, which in turn gets passed on to the readership. Before I continue, let me provide you with a definition of anti-Semitism. Now here are some examples of real articles that have been published by the Huffington Post.
Would you consider it to be anti-Semitic to accuse Joseph Lieberman of being a double agent for Israel simply because he is Jewish? Because HP blogger Michael Carmichael did exactly that.
Would you consider a conspiracy theory that Jews control Washington through AIPAC to be anti-Semitic? Because that is practically all that HP blogger MJ Rosenberg writes about. Here is one example in which he tries to convince his audience that AIPAC gives “marching orders” to Congressmen and women.
Would you consider calling for the destruction of Israel, the Jewish state, and only Israel to be anti-Semitic? Because HP blogger Ahmed Moor has done that not once but twice. IN fact that is all he seems to write about, and he’s not the only one by a long shot.
Would you consider comparing Israel’s current actions with the slaughter of millions of people by the Nazis to be anti-Semitic? Because Uri Avnery did that just the other day as well as Kevin Coval a few months ago.
Would you consider denying Israel, and Israel alone, the right of self-defense to be anti-Semitic? HP blogger Jerome Slater covered that as well.
As if all of that weren’t enough, the Huffington Post also has in their blogger stable Ali Abunimah and Adam Shapiro, both of whom lead radical organizations and are dedicated to the destruction of Israel. And for months the blogroll has shown a clear anti-Israel bias. Perhaps you do not agree with me that the above examples are anti-Semitic or are even close to anti-Semitic. And that is fine, you are of course entitled to your own opinion. If you do agree that these are anti-Semitic viewpoints being expressed, I would suggest that if you are serious about fighting anti-Semitism on the Huffington Post, that you take steps toward a more toned down discourse in the opinion section. The choice in the end is yours, as are the consequences of that choice.
To conclude, the Huffington Post has allowed itself to be a megaphone for anti-Israel (and anti-Semitic) extremists. You cannot truly be surprised that anti-Semitic users are drawn to your website like moths to a flame. It is a welcoming environment for them, where their views are not shunned but encouraged and repeated. For anti-Semitism to be fought effectively there must be some manner of internal changes. The Huffington Post can show its users from the top down that radical anti-Semitic views are not acceptable. But as it currently stands, the message the HP is giving its users is that such views are not only acceptable but are quite mainstream and should be encouraged.
I thank you for your time and your consideration. I wish you good luck in this fight, and I hope you have a good day.

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