In today’s Forward:
Scurrilous barbs and sharp-tongued insults are routinely tossed back and forth through cyberspace from one Jewish blogger to another, appearing in long threads in the sections reserved for reader comments. The invective often revolves around political stances on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with bloggers on the left and on the right painting one another into corners and caricaturing one another’s beliefs.
“Because of the challenging views I’ve expressed with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I’ve been called a Zionazi by Left-wingers and a self-hating Jew by Right-wingers,” Daniel Sieradski, founder of the blog Jewschool.com, wrote in an e-mail to the Forward. “I’ve had people write that I, personally, am why the Holocaust happened.”
In recent months, Sieradski said, he has begun editing reader comments on his blog to keep the conversation civil. But his first attempt at reconfiguring Jewish blogger etiquette came in 2005, when Sieradski, 28, launched a campaign to lift the language out of the gutter. “Jewish Bloggers for Responsible Speech Online” invited Jewish bloggers to insert a photograph of the Chofetz Chayyim, a 19th-century Lithuanian Jewish scholar who redacted the religious laws governing speech, on their Web sites. The picture would then link to an explanation of the edicts against speaking negatively of others, known in Jewish law as lashon harah. The move, Sieradski said, grew out of his frustration over verbal skirmishes with a competing Jewish group blog, Jewlicious.com, founded by David Abitbol. Dozens of Jewish bloggers have since added the link, Sieradski said, but Abitbol’s operation is not among them.
Abitbol, a 42-year-old Jerusalem resident, said that to adopt a code of speech for the Jewish blogosphere would tamp down the free and open debate that gives it its zest. “There’s a lot of testosterone on the Internet, a lot of swagger,” he said. What makes “the blogosphere interesting is the fact that it is dynamic and anything can happen.”