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+972 Magazine's policy for commenting

Duty Calls (image: XKCS/386)

We formed +972 with the intention of adding new layers to the discourse surrounding Israel and Palestine, because we felt there were too many pieces missing. Our guiding principles are: reporting facts on the ground, allowing multiple and often unpopular or unusual views to be expressed, and generating genuine, civil, intelligent dialogue among a range of readers.

To encourage broad thinking, we wanted to have a very open and accessible dialogue with our readers. We encouraged comments and placed no restrictions on how people can leave comments; we have tried to respond and engage, and we are proud to have attracted a wide political range of readers.

But among those who are genuinely trying to think through the issues, we have encountered readers who are mainly bent on sowing hatred, racism and disrespect. We, and even some of our readers, have become targets for some people who do not seem interested in the content of our ideas. Rather, they take any article as a pretense to attack one or the other side blindly, with invective instead of reason. Some of the comments were so offensive that we felt we could not condone their presence on our site by any reasonable standards of debate, and we have deleted or edited them. When we have not managed to catch these vicious attacks in time, other readers have rightfully taken offense.

We do not believe that fostering open dialogue means tolerating such behavior.

Our group has considered various options and we want to explain how we thought about the problem. We weighed very seriously the goal of inviting fresh dialogue and open minds, against the need to maintain standards of decency. There were a number of options available to us – such as: asking people to register on the site, to deter those who troll for quick targets; we considered developing a common 972 policy for editing or deleting comments (such as recognizing ‘hatefulness’, banning Nazi terminology (as Noam already did), banning personal insults or profanity; we thought about drawing up guidelines and letting each writer monitor his or her channel.

It was a difficult decision. Ultimately, we decided that we don’t want to deter any new reader with a registration process at this stage; we also doubt that it will really deter those bent on harming us. We would prefer a very minimalist comments ‘policy,’ because we want to give range to as wide a variety of opinions as possible, without inadvertently imposing political views on what’s acceptable. And most of all, we wanted you, our readers, to understand how and why we need to find an answer.

That is why we are writing this to make our thinking process transparent. We have thought through the kinds of responses appropriate for the level of debate we want to promote and they are listed here. At this stage, each writer will be responsible for reading comments, and has full discretion to edit or delete comments as he or she sees fit. This is the policy of the New York Times, the Guardian and many other respectable news organizations, and we feel it is the one that suits us best.

Please bear with us as we experiment with the right response. We want to create an atmosphere that promotes an interesting and constructive discussion. There might be a few hiccups as we experiment with various ways of maintaining a civilized, constructive dialogue.

Please do comment if your opinion differs from ours. Comment if you want to add to what we’ve written. Please respond constructively to one another. Please try to respond broadly to the topic in our article, rather than jump to unrelated issues that just distract others from the point our writers have worked hard to make.

Do not engage in name-calling, personal attacks, inappropriate use of WWII terminology or profanity – we will not accept those comments. Hateful tones are easily identified and don’t have a place on our site either. And please do not be needlessly argumentative or repetitive; best to reread your comment before you post, and keep it brief, relevant and courteous. If you find you have a great deal more to say, we encourage you to open your own blog so that you can express yourself without limitations.

Understanding these requests will lead to minimal editing and maximal substantive debate. If your intent is to stifle debate by trolling, provoking and driving away readership, we won’t let it happen.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

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    1. Good luck on the site; I think that it is already head and shoulders above the ‘talk-backs’ of even decent newspapers, for example, HaAretz.
      But, occasionally, so it seems to me, you will have to chose between open dialogue and comments which relate to the original articles in a serious manner. I am concerned, for example, that on facebook quite often the original purpose of threads are lost in comments which in no way advance the dialogue.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Elaine Meyrial

      Your site is a valuable resource in advancing dialogue on this most emotional issue. I agree that it is important to maintain civility with the understanding that, although I believe that an enormous injustice was imposed on Palestinians in 1948 and that they deserve a homeland , Israel is a legitimate state created and recognized by the UN. However, what do you mean by “inappropriate use of WWII terminology? If I believe that some Israeli policies directed at the occupied people of Gaza and the West Bank are militaristic, am I not allowed to express that opinion? How does one describe the occupation of Palestine and the feelings of ethnic superiority amongst some in Israel if vocabulary that describes that fact is denied simply because it recalls a brutal past history in Europe?

      I acknowledge that there are strong fascistic elements in American society, especially within the Republican Party. It also exists in Israel.

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      • “an enormous injustice was imposed on Palestinians in 1948” By Who? The UN that saw partition as a solution to sectarian violence? the invading Arab armies? the occupying Jordanian army? the wars of 55,67,73 and the 2 intifadas? Please be clear on who imposed what on whom!!!! “They deserve a homeland” Has anyone said they do not? Has anyone said they should return to Syria, Iraq, Egypt,etc where they came from? Do you believe that the history of man is found in the migrations of peoples? Do you believe that also applies to Jews regardless of what might be in their sacred texts. “Israel is a legitimate state” Very gracious of you! Whoever said Israel was not a legitimate state. How about N.Korea? N.Ireland? N. Cyprus.You use the word occupation. Does that apply to Western Sahara? South Azerbaijan (Tabriz)? Kurdistan (30 million people)? the Sultanate of Darfur? Does fascism apply to any state in the Arab League? Iran? Turkey? Do you believe Egypt can serve as a model for Palestinians

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    3. Elaine Meyria, Please excuse my jumping into the discussion at this point. Inappropriate language might include that which paints all Israelis with the same brush; there are tens of thousands of normal Israelis working daily to limit the damage caused to Palestine and the Palestinian people caused by our government.
      I suggest that the normal distribution curve exists in most most nations given similar circumstances, i.e., in times of stress or in time of peace and plenty.
      Even so, there is no reason not to condemn the slide toward fascism that we are witnessing in our country. I do not believe that +972 will censure ideas which make our politicians and/or right-wingers squirm so much as proscribe language which is unbecoming.

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    4. Kibbutznik

      ” banning Nazi terminology ”

      personaly I think you are asking for the impossible.
      question , is it okay to link to here ?


      [quote]This young neo-Nazi understood, in his racist wisdom, that there is no better place than the Israeli Occupation Army to find release for his violent racist impulses and at the same time to be accepted in Israel. He will do it with the permission, authority and backing of the State. The army will permit him to kill, beat, humiliate and abuse, and instead of seeking out migrant workers, three million Palestinians – babies, children, youths, women and old men – will be at his disposal as potential victims. And no less important, military service will convert religious Jews from “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” to allies instead of being victims of his frustrations. [/quote]

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    5. Kibbutznik: We have not banned Nazi terminology. We are saying that we won’t allow it to be used in order to insult, undermine, discredit or hurt others. Rather than engaging in a long argument about whether or not that type of terminology should be used at all, we are saying it should be used appropriately, in order to make a serious point, with the goal of provoking a respectful dialogue rather than a mud-slinging contest.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Bmfc

      You had me at “We”.

      If you ever need a correspondent in South America just let me know. We don’t have genocides (at the time) or Apartheid regimes. But we do have racism as in any other continent.

      Palestina Libre

      Reply to Comment
    7. Kibbutznik

      Ok Lisa , I do get your point but I still think you are asking for the impossible .
      Do you think Nick is using the term ‘Judenrein’ appropriately, in order to make a serious point, with the goal of provoking a respectful dialogue rather than a mud-slinging contest ?

      Reply to Comment
    8. We’ll decide on a case-by-case basis. Each +972 blogger can make her/his own decision regarding a comment. I might find that term offensive and delete it, while one of my colleagues might decide to keep it. I don’t want to argue about this issue anymore. Basically, if I don’t like a comment because it offends me or someone that I respect, I’ll delete it. I want the conversation on my blog to be thought-provoking and respectful. I think the best policy for a commenter is to re-read it before submitting it. Is it courteous, to the point and written to promote an interesting conversation? Good. Is it rude, insulting, longer than 100 words or off-topic? Not good.

      Reply to Comment

      1. If there is a word limit, that limit should be specified in the Comment Policy and in parentheses next to the words FREE TEXT or as a caption just below the blue-lined FREE TEXT comment box. As TWITTER already has a severe character limit protocol, +972 should have a liberal word limit, perhaps 250 or 500 words, if a word limit is really necessary in the first place, unless it is the intent of +972 to recreate TWITTER.

      2. While the individual choice policy to allow or disallow comments is a respectable policy, +972 should at least have each comment read by all of your contributors for their recommendations to allow or disallow any particular comment, then leave the comment approval decision to the article author (multiple readers offer the opportunity for more accurate and precise understanding of comments).

      The personal feelings and biases of +972 authors may easily interfere with free expression in several ways. It is easy to take personal offense, when a contrary opinion or a sharp/strong tone of voice is expressed; it is easy then to misapply a “personal offense” doctrine, when no personal offense may be intended; and in the more extreme case, where personal attack is utterly clear and intended, authors should allow all comments and should turn over to the police any comments that may exceed mere vindictiveness and may actually represent threat. +972 may achieve a high level of professionalism and respect by having an open and liberal comment policy.

      3. A personal note: I am new to reading +972 and I am sure that my opinions may in many respects be strong, sharp, and contrary to those expressed at times in +972. Unless +972 is devoted to creating a “mutual admiration society” of like-minded, like-blinded persons, then I look forward to reading and commenting to +972, and I hope you will show me the respect of publishing my comments, whether or not you agree or disagree with my comments. If the goal of +972 is free speech and not anarchic speech or name calling, the +972 may develop into a respectable source of journalism.

      Reply to Comment
    10. sos

      I want to comment that I think you have made a mistake in going the route you have. I want to explain my reasoning but first make a suggestion that you adopt some sort of comment ranking system. This way at least helpful comments can be promoted by the majority of followers on this website, and the trolls can be down-voted to the bottom. The current system allows a few full time disruptors (I am thinking of 3 or 4 users who post comments here more consistently than people who share a common perspective with this site) to essentially dominate all discussion.

      The reason I think your stance is mistaken is because of the inevitably polarizing effect that extreme comments have. They drag down the discussion to the same tired debates that leave people feeling defensive and hostile. By not sinking into these endless debates, we can begin to have deeper discussions that don’t simply involve fighting for and against the Hasbara agenda. I think it would be possible for a deeper more meaningful and adult type of conversation to take place in comments within this site, but at the moment it just is not happening. By limiting discussion to those who share a common viewpoint you actually wind up getting more interesting debates not less. I really hope you do consider this, because in their current form I believe the comment section on most of the great articles on +972 to be a tragic waste.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Geraldine Finkelstun

      Dear editors: if you would please if not a great imposition correct name on the thread on march 24th 2014. titled “you have to see it to believe it.” The correct name is Geraldine Finkelstun. Thank you very much. PS I love the magazine and the fine reportage.

      Reply to Comment